HC Deb 30 June 1982 vol 26 cc876-7
2. Mr. Grimond

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what action he proposes on the latest report of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. George Younger)

I am considering the report. I shall respond to the Select Committee as soon as possible.

Mr. Grimond

Is the Secretary of State aware that that excellent man the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie)—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"]—deserves the congratulations of the whole House on the report, which has been even better received in my constituency than the determination to extend development area status to Orkney and Shetland? Will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that it will not be allowed to moulder in that revolting building, New St. Andrew's House, and in particular that he will pay attention to the proposals on road equivalent tariff and on reducing the price of petrol? What proposals does the right hon. Gentleman have on those two matters?

Mr. Younger

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his warm compliment to the work of my neighbour in Ayrshire, which I, too, greatly appreciate. I am also grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's reference to the assisted area status in Shetland. I join him in welcoming the Select Committee's excellent report. I shall study all of its recommendations with great care and respond as soon as possible.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Is the Secretary of State aware that I join in the congratulations on this very useful and helpful report? However, as he has gone some way towards assisting shipping services on the West Coast, will he now set a deadline for the introduction of the road equivalent tariff?

Mr. Younger

I am not very keen on setting a deadline. As the right hon. Gentleman acknowledged, we have moved a long way towards the road equivalent tariff, as we undertook to do. The grant has been more than doubled in cash terms and stands at £10.6 million, which is a great advance.

There are many different views about what would be the best form of road equivalent tariff. Some areas think that they might gain while others think that they might not gain so much. We must get the answers right before we finalise the matter.

Mr. Myles

Despite the praise that he gives the report, does my right hon. Friend agree that the suggestion to zero rate petrol and transfer the cost to petrol duty would be a retrograde step in country areas?

Mr. Younger

I note what my hon. Friend said. I would prefer not to make a detailed comment about that until I have had the opportunity to study it. I greatly welcome the fact that the Select Committee has gone into the problem of the price of petrol in rural areas.

Mr. Lambie

I accept the congratulations of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) and of the Secretary of State for Scotland on the Select Committee's report. I do not know whether the Secretary of State is congratulating me on the good report or on the fact that I am giving him 7,000 Tory voters from Troon following redistribution of the boundaries. May I draw the Secretary of State's attention to the fact that this was the unanimous report of a Select Committee with a Conservative majority? I hope that he will implement its findings as quickly as possible. As a means of making progress towards that aim, will he provide an opportunity for hon. Members to debate the report?

Mr. Younger

The latter point is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I am sure that if the hon. Gentleman wants a debate, he can make a request. I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that it is best that such an important document should be carefully considered. I shall do that as quickly as I can.

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