HC Deb 19 December 1988 vol 144 cc17-8
77. Mrs. Margaret Ewing

To ask the Lord President of the Council what estimate he has of savings resulting from the failure to nominate a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs during the parliamentary Session, 1987–88.

Mr. Wakeham

No precise estimate of the savings is possible, but the expenses borne by the House of Commons Administration vote for the Scottish Affairs Committee 1986–87 were £22,774. In addition, the gross costs of printing and publishing the proceedings of the Committee were £44,985.

Mrs. Ewing

Does the Lord President of the Council accept that that is a very small sum to pay for the scrutiny of a major Government Department? If the problems in setting up the Committee relate to the political dynamism of Scotland rather than to a cost-paring exercise, would it not be appropriate for the Government to recognise the political aspirations of the people of Scotland, shown recently both in the Govan by-election result and in opinion polls which suggest that the alternative is to establish a Scottish Government with communications to the European Community?

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Lady anticipates to some degree the debate that we are to have tomorrow. I assure her that cost is not the reason why it has not been possible to set up the Committee; there are other reasons, which will be revealed in the debate tomorrow.

Mr. Gow

Would it assist my right hon. Friend in setting up the Select Committee if he knew that my hon. Friends the Members for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body) and for Crawley (Mr. Soames)—and even the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow)—would all be prepared to serve on it?

Mr. Wakeham

No doubt my hon. Friend's contribution will be valuable tomorrow night, but I do not think that it will help me to answer the question today.

Mr. Neil Hamilton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us are surprised that there have been reductions in expenditure on any aspect of Scottish affairs in recent years? Might not these savings therefore be regarded as a desirable precedent?

Mr. Wakeham

The level of public expenditure per capita in Scotland is substantially above that in the rest of the United Kingdom.