HC Deb 25 May 1988 vol 134 cc316-8
10. Mr. McLeish

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has assessed the likely impact on Scotland of the Cecchini report on the single European market; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Rifkind

The Cecchini report supports the view that the internal market will create major opportunities. I have no doubt that the Scottish business community will rise to the challenge of 1992.

Mr. McLeish

Is the Secretary of State aware of the recent speech by Mr. Hamish Morrison, chief executive of the Scottish Council (Development and Industry), in which he said that he resented the fact that Government advertising on this issue represented Scottish business men as introspective bumpkins? He went on to say that British industrial policy did not match the realities of 1992 More important, is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware of the implications of the Channel tunnel and the need for infrastructural development? Is he also aware of the lack of regional policy and of the tremendous contribution made to Scotland by the financial services sector in Edinburgh? If he is aware of all those aspects, will he prepare a report on 1992 so that the Labour party can take advantage of the opportunities, as the Labour party wants to do, unlike the Conservative party, which is complacent and seems to be uninterested in Scotland benefiting from the single European market?

Mr. Rifkind

I welcome the Labour party's latter-day conversion to the EEC because, with almost the sole exception of the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes), the Labour party campaigned against Scotland's membership of the EC and was thoroughly repudiated by the Scottish electorate when the referendum on the Community took place. I also welcome the hon. Gentleman's passionate support for the Scottish financial sector. It would be nice if his Labour colleagues could show the same spontaneous enthusiasm for the development of financial institutions in Scotland as a means of creating employment and boosting our Scottish economy. I agree that the internal market will be in Scotland's interests if we can prepare ourselves in a suitably professional way. For example, it is encouraging that it was a Scottish company that acquired the contract for the initial work on the Channel tunnel. Anything that enables our exports to reach continental markets more quickly and effectively can only be in the interests of the Scottish economy.

Mr. Douglas

As one of the Labour Members of Parliament, numbering 69, who voted for the Heath Government's White Paper, I have reasonable credentials to enable me to speak on Britain's membership of the EC, and I have the scars to prove it. However, this is a serious matter. The Secretary of State surely has an obligation to report particularly on the economic implications for Scotland of the 1992 proposal. Will he also take into consideration the fact that the economic effects of 1992 are likely to strengthen the case for a Scottish Assembly as a counterpoise, in terms of political decision-making, to the over-centralisation of the United Kingdom decision-making process in London?

Mr. Rifkind

I acknowledge the hon. Gentleman's European credentials and his entitlement to speak with some authority on matters involving the EC. However, I must disagree with his latter observation, because I cannot see, in the context of a European internal market, why a Scottish Assembly, with the power to impose additional taxes on Scottish industry, could do anything other than weaken Scotland's ability to compete effectively within that European market.

Mr. Fallon

Will my right hon. and learned Friend also welcome the Labour party's conversion, not just to the idea of Europe, but to the idea of a market? How does he square the Labour party's new-found enthusiasm for the single European market with its constant wittering about the need for a closed Scottish economy?

Mr. Rifkind

My hon. Friend rightly draws attention to the fundamental inconsistencies of those who argue on the one hand that Scotland must be protected by law and by Government from any action of the market, while on the other they expect Scotland fully to benefit from that same market. The Labour party must identify where Scotland's interests truly lie. Few people in the modern world would argue that some form of siege economy could be anything other than intensely damaging to Scotland's economic future.