HC Deb 07 May 1980 vol 984 cc258-60
3. Mr. O'Neill

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when next he intends to meet the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

15. Mr. George Robertson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when next he expects to meet the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)

My right hon. Friend will meet the convention on 20 June.

Mr. O'Neill

Before the Secretary of State meets the convention will he reflect on the results of last week's elections and the Labour victories which were achieved on the basis of a programme of opposition to cuts in Government expenditure and the tenants' rights legislation? Will he reconsider the provisions in the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Bill which will compel local authorities to sell houses? Will he withdraw those provisions and allow local authorities to determine their own housing policies?

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman would be advised to consult the detailed analysis of the Scottish local elections in The Times of yesterday. The analysis concludes that the Conservative and Labour share of the vote remains the same as at the general election. The Government take great satisfaction in that. The hon. Gentleman must appreciate that the vast majority of council tenants in Scotland are anxious that they should be allowed to purchase their own homes. The Government have not the slightest intention of making any alterations in that proposal.

Mr. Robertson

Since the Government's cash limit and their allowance for inflation in relation to Scottish local authorities in the coming year is, according to the convention's estimate, almost £100 million short of that needed to cover inflation, may I ask what he will say to Mr. William Fitzgerald, the Tory president of the convention, when he next meets him? Is the Minister aware of the statement made by that gentleman a fortnight ago— I think most authorities would regard further drastic cuts as being physically impossible "?

Mr. Rifkind

The first thing that I shall say to Mr. Fitzgerald is that the cash limit provided by the Government compares very favourably with the cash limit of the previous Administration which presumed pay increases of 5 per cent.—woefully below the reality. The cash limits which the Government have provided for take wage increases into account. The figure is more realistic than that of the previous Administration; and that view is shared by the convention.

Mr. Lang

When my hon. Friend reflects with COSLA on the local government election results will he bear in mind that the SNP was thrashed in the local government elections and that the Labour Party did worse three years ago than the Conservative Party did this year? Will he remember that Labour councillors remain in the minority in Scotland? Will he therefore undertake to persevere with the Government's policies?

Mr. Rifkind

My hon. Friend is correct. Three years ago the Labour Party suffered a net loss of 177 councillors in Scotland. Last Thursday the Conservative Party had a net loss of 43. It is an interesting comparison and my hon. Friend can take great satisfaction from it.

Mr. Foulkes

When the Minister meets the convention will he put right the misleading impression created by the Secretary of State at the recent annual general meeting of the Disablement Income Group? Is the Minister aware that the Secretary of State said, cruelly, that the disabled were not doing badly under a Tory Government when the reality is that major cuts have been made in the health and social work services, and that the Secretary of State for Social Services has said that the disabled must take their cuts along with everybody else? Will he put right that wrong impression?

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman must check his facts before making accusations. If he checked his facts he would realise that the real level of spending on the Health Service in Scotland is increasing compared with previous years.

Mr. Bill Walker

When my hon. Friend next meets the president of COSLA, Mr. William Fitzgerald, will he ask him to draw to the attention of the other members of COSLA the action of Tayside region, which has shown how a thrifty region can cope within its budget? Will he also ask Mr. Fitzgerald to look at the proposals for a £76 million overspend and draw attention to the fact that this overspending creates no new money? Does he agree that the money has to come from rates and that will affect business prospects in Scotland?

Mr. Rifkind

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. It is significant that the one Labour Party group in Scotland—in the Lothian region—which set out to defy the Government found itself totally rejected by the electorate of Edinburgh. It failed to win a single seat from the Conservative Party in that city.

Mr. Foulkes

The boundaries were changed.

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