HC Deb 07 May 1980 vol 984 cc269-71
13. Mr. Eadie

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what new circulars giving guidance to newly elected district councillors he intends to issue.

Mr. Rifkind

None. It is our policy to issue only essential circulars to local authorities, and I know of no need for circulars to individual district councillors of the kind proposed.

Mr. Eadie

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that he has given great offence today to the Lothian region? It is a matter of simple geography that Edinburgh does not comprise all the Lothians. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the local election results, he will discover that in West and East Lothian his party was slaughtered and that in Midlothian there is not even a Conservative on the council. If the hon. Gentleman should consider amending the decision about sending cir culars to newly-elected councillors, will he consider following the dictum of his right hon. Friend, who believes that leaders of nations should respond to public opinion? Why does not the hon. Gentleman respond to the ballot box and change the policy which the Government are at present pusuing so disastrously?

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman ought to check his information. He will appreciate that in the Lothian region the Labour Party hardly won a seat from the Conservative Party, and that any successess it had in West Lothian or Midlothian were entirely at the expense of the Scottish nationalists. If the hon. Gentleman is concerned about the public's views, he should appreciate that the Government were given a mandate for their economic strategy at the general election. Unless he subscribes to the doctrines of the Scottish National Party, the only party to believe in a separate Scottish mandate—whose views have been rejected by the Scottish public on every occasion during the past 12 months—he should realise that the Government's mandate is extant.

Mr. Henderson

Does my hon. Friend recall that the Labour Party has never had a majority in Scotland? Does not my hon. Friend agree that if the Labour Party wants the Conservative Party to maintain its majority in Scotland, it should oppose the implementation of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Bill?

Mr. Rifkind

My hon. Friend is correct. Since the last war, the only party to gain the majority of the popular vote in Scotland has been the Conservative Party.

Mr. Grimond

May I congratulate the Minister on his determination not to give any guidance to local councils? Does not he accept that that would certainly be wrong? Should he be tempted to do so, will he put a sentence piece on the bottom of all such circulars saying that his advice should be disregarded in all circumstances?

Mr. Rifkind

The Government have great sympathy with that view. During the last year of the previous Administration 500 circulars were issued. We have issued only 200 circulars in our first 12 months in office. We are seeking to reduce the amount of unnecessary advice that is given to local authorities.

Mr. George Robertson

Does not the Minister think that local councils should be given advice on how to understand the Government's arithmetic? Did he not say earlier that COSLA was quite happy with the shortfall of £93 million in this year's cash limit, which is intended to cover the cost of inflation? Does he not realise that I received a letter from the secretary of the convention stating: The opinion of the Convention that the cash limit was totally inadequate has therefore been confirmed. Is there not a case for saying that the Government's arithmetic is different from that of everyone else?

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman's hearing is somewhat deficient. I said that the convention was satisfied that the Government's cash limits—however inadequate the convention might consider them—were enormously more realistic than those provided by the Labour Administration.

Forward to