HC Deb 06 December 1989 vol 163 cc320-33 3.50 pm
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about public expenditure in Scotland.

Following the announcement of the Government's public expenditure plans by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 15 November, I have now completed detailed decisions on the allocation of resources to the expenditure programmes for which I am responsible in Scotland. The total resources that I am able to deploy next year amount to just over £9.5 billion. That is £525 million greater than the latest estimate of outturn in the current year. Plans for future years will take the total to just over £10 billion in 1991–92 and to almost £10.4 billion in 1992–93, the third year of the survey.

In making my decisions on the resources to be allocated to individual programmes over the next three years I have, of course, had close regard to what are known as the "formula consequentials"—that is, the amounts that reflect the increases in the relevant comparable programmes south of the border. However, my final decisions reflect very clearly the priorities that I and my colleagues attach to particular Scottish needs and the requirements of particular programmes. The overall effect of my decisions is summarised in a table which is available from the Vote Office and will appear in Hansard. However, I should single out a number of key priority areas.

We are all concerned to see a significant improvement in our drinking water and in the quality of our environment. To achieve that, the Government will provide substantial additional resources, over and above the operation of the normal formula arrangements, for increased capital expenditure on water and sewerage services. That will enable me to boost capital expenditure above this year's level by more than £100 million over three years. That will take our investment level to no less than £190 million in 1992–93, almost 50 per cent. above this year's level, and provide a programme of £500 million over three years. I am sure that that will be widely welcomed.

I have also substantially increased the transport programme, by nearly £30 million next year compared with this, and made further increases which will bring the programme to over £400 million in 1992–93. That will enable us to make a significant start on the new M74 and further improvements to the M8, to the A96 and to other important trunk and local authority roads.

In housing, the resources available to Scottish Homes will be some £36 million—11 per cent.—greater than for the current year. I have substantially increased the public sector contribution to the funding of the local authorities' capital programme. The provisional net capital allocations for council housing will increase in total by £25 million, or 15 per cent. That will allow authorities to maintain the capital programme of improvement and repair of their own stock at the level per house announced this time last year, notwithstanding a forecast reduction in the level of receipts from sales. If local authorities wish to finance higher programmes of maintenance or new construction, they can increase receipts by speeding up council house sales, as Scottish Homes and the new towns have already done so successfully.

My decisions on housing also recognise the importance of the four partnership areas, Castlemilk, Wester Hailes, Whitfield and Ferguslie Park. I am including in the increases an extra £11 million for those areas, split almost equally between Scottish Homes and the local authorities' capital programmes. Those decisions on housing in Scotland clearly respond to the major priorities at the present time.

The priority that we attach to the partnerships in the peripheral estates and to similar deprived areas is underlined by the 50 per cent. increase in the urban programme in 1990–91, which will inject an additional £16 million of Government grant into projects improving the social infrastructure and employment opportunities in those areas.

The Government's strong commitment to education is underlined by my expenditure decisions. Spending on my education programme will rise by 12 per cent. next year to £439 million, and to £500 million in three years' time. Expenditure then will be more than 25 per cent. higher than it was this year. In recognition of the fact that more of our young people and mature students wish to enjoy the benefits of higher education, I am increasing support for students by £134 million over the next three years. This means that we shall be planning for an extra 6,000 students in Scotland next year, and 8,000 in 1991–92.

My spending decisions also reflect the Government's firm commitment to improving the quality of our environment and supporting the maintenance of our heritage. There will be an increase of 10 per cent. in funds for the Countryside Commission for Scotland next year and new provision of at least £3 million over the next three years for projects within the central Scotland woodlands initiative. There will be a 16 per cent. increase in historic buildings grants next year, an extra £2.5 million over three years for repairs to the Royal Scottish Academy building in Edinburgh, and a 25 per cent. increase in the National Library purchase grant to enable it to make heritage purchases and fill gaps in its collection.

£ million
1989–90 Estimated2 Outturn 1990–91 Planned Provision 1991–92 Planned Provision 1992–93 Planned Provision
Net Gross Net Gross Net Gross Net Gross
Agriculture 200 210 233 233 240 240 250 250
Industry 265 340 251 352 260 350 250 340
Water 130 133 142 143 170 170 190 190
Tourism 12 12 13 13 10 10 10 10
Transport 352 359 382 387 380 390 400 410
Housing3 621 1,109 639 1,024 650 1,140 660 1,030
OES4 141 211 133 194 140 200 120 180
LOPS 274 288 302 317 300 320 320 340
Education (including Sport) 390 396 439 440 490 490 500 500
Arts & Libraries 28 28 35 35 40 40 40 40
Health 2,714 2,821 2,937 3,041 3,090 3,190 3,240 3,330
Social Work 38 38 38 38 40 40 40 40
OPS 128 149 139 169 160 190 160 190
NI external financing -60 -60 -118 -118 10 10 10 10
Sub-Total 5,233 6,033 5,560 6,268 5,980 6,780 6,190 6,860
Central Government support for local authority current expenditure 3,818 3,818 4,016 4,016 4,110 4,110 4,210 4,210
Total 9,051 9,851 9,576 10,284 10,090 10,890 10,400 11,070
Note: Owing to rounding, individual figures do not necessarily sum to the totals. Figures for 1991–92 and 1992–93 are rounded to nearest £10 million.
The figures for each service consist of central Government's own expenditure, net capital expenditure allocations and grants to local authorities and public corporations' expenditure.

Finally, I would single out health for a particular mention. The health programme is, of course, the biggest single programme within my block and it accounts for almost one third of the total resources that I have at my disposal. Indeed, expenditure per head on health in Scotland is well over 20 per cent. above the comparable level in England. I continue to attach a very high priority to the Health Service. I have therefore allocated to it an additional £220 million over this year's expenditure, which is more than the formula consequentials from comparable expenditure in England. Overall, it takes spending on the health programme in Scotland to a figure in excess of £3 billion for the first time—almost three times the size of the programme that we inherited on taking office 10 years ago. By 1992–93, the total expenditure will be fully £500 million higher than in the current year.

In addition to these key decisions on programmes, I have, as already announced, set aside resources to enable a significant start to be made in bringing business rates in Scotland into line with those south of the border. Business ratepayers will be paying £80 million less next year than would otherwise be the case.

I have also already announced details of the provision I am making for the Scottish Development Agency and the Highlands and Islands Development Board. The gross expenditure of the Scottish Development Agency will reach a new record level of £180 million next year, while the Highlands and Islands Development Board will have an additional £9 million over the next three years, in recognition of the particular problems of Caithness. Both bodies have welcomed the generous provision being made.

The decisions that I am announcing today represent good news for Scotland. They will enable us to address the real priorities and needs of the Scottish people. I commend them to the House.

Following is the table:

2 The introduction of the new planning total means that it is not possible to make precise comparisons between the expenditure plans for 1990–91 and those for 1989–90. It is for this reason that the above table shows comparison between estimated outturn and plans. The estimated outturn figure for 1989–90 is higher than that shown in the Autumn Statement because it takes account of supplementary estimates and supplementary capital allocations since the figures for the Autumn Statement were compiled.
3 Scottish Homes' estimated gross outturn, excluding NLF repayments, in 1989–90 is £313 million: the proposed figure for 1990–91 is £349 million. Local Authorities' latest net capital allocations for investment in their own stock in 1989, including the recently announced supplementary allocations, total £164 million. The provisional net allocations for 1990–91 will be £189 million.
4 Estimated urban programe grants in 1989–90 are £32 million; the proposed figure for 1990–91 is £48 million.
Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

The Secretary of State has made his annual appearance as Santa Claus. He is not very convincing in the role. Certainly no self-respecting department store would employ him to dispense Christmas cheer, and I know of no grotto that would be prepared to house him.

On detailed examination the right hon. and learned Gentleman's message this year once again falls far short of the expectations of the advance publicity. Does he remember last year's confident talk of generosity, and has he seen table 1.12 in this year's Autumn Statement, which shows that general Government expenditure in Scotland is expected to fall by £100 million in real terms between 1988–89 and 1989–90? Does not the Chancellor's own testimony in this year's Autumn Statement make it clear that Opposition Members were right in the comparable argument last year?

Last year central Government support for local government expenditure was included in the individual programmes. This year it has been excluded from the tables and appears as a single unallocated block almost as an afterthought. As that total of about £4 billion in real terms will be at a standstill next year, if the figures had been allocated as they were in the past, they might well have depressed the individual spending increases that the Secretary of State is now parading. It gives some reality to the figures if we remember that central Government support for local government expenditure is expected to fall in real terms both in 1991–92 and 1992–93.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that if we take estimated outturn for 1989–90 against net planned provision in real terms for 1990–91, the increase is less than I per cent.? That is anything but generous and is a programme which in no sense measures up to Scotland's needs.

I am happy to welcome certain decisions on priorities such as the increased expenditure on water and sewerage services and the money allocated to the urban programme. However, there are sad omissions and, given the largely standstill budget in real terms, inevitably casualties. Expenditure on the Health Service is planned to increase, as I calculate it, in real terms by under 2.5 per cent., or less than 1 per cent. if we apply the more realistic National Health Service deflator. Will the Secretary of State accept that, having spent a morning earlier this week with some of my colleagues considering the problems of the Greater Glasgow health board, I can see no reason for taking satisfaction from the figures?

Is it not extraordinary that next year the net industry budget is cut in cash terms by £14 million and in real terms by £25 million, or 25 per cent.? Is that not an incomprehensible decision when the economic outlook is so difficult? Does the Secretary of State remember telling the House on 13 December last year that Detailed provision for Scottish Enterprise will appear in my future public expenditure plans."—[Official Report, 13 December 1988; Vol. 143, c. 770.] He went on to talk of an increase in next year's provision for both net and gross expenditure in the industry programme. What has happened to the provision for Scottish Enterprise? How can the cuts over the next year or two give any grounds for confidence in the Secretary of State's ability to honour his recent hints on television that he would be able to persuade the Treasury to go beyond the imposition of a standstill budget on Scottish Enterprise?

I want to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman specifically about the problem of homelessness. The Secretary of State for the Environment recently announced a special package of £250 million for local authorities and housing associations in areas of particular need south of the border. The figures released by Shelter and local government for Scotland are frightening.

Does the Secretary of State accept that homelessness is significantly worse in Scotland than it is in the rest of the United Kingdom? If that is so, why has there been no equivalent Scottish announcement? Will he accept that it is not good enough to argue that provision has been made within the overall figure, particularly when the net increase in his contribution to the housing budget from £621 million to £639 million next year is, in real terms, an increase of only 1 per cent.? That would be a cruel mockery when gross expenditure actually falls next year by £85 million, or by £126 million in real terms. Every Opposition Member will remember the callous slight to the homeless contained in the Government's original White Paper on housing. The absence of any specific finance to tackle the problem can only confirm the accusation of complacency and indifference.

The Secretary of State's announcement does not add up or measure up to the problems of Scotland. If, as some fear, recession bites, his announcement will be seen as a tragic lost opportunity.

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) referred to me as Santa Claus. I am always happy to play Santa Claus against his Scrooge. Yet again he seeks to dismiss a superb settlement as one which should be subject to criticism. He sounded today even less convincing than usual in his argument.

The Government have been so generous to Scottish local authorities that I have been required to divert money from other central Government programmes to sustain local government expenditure. The hon. Gentleman should acknowledge and appreciate that fact. I welcome his support for the announcements on water and sewerage and on the urban programme. That will be widely welcomed.

The hon. Gentleman referred to problems that he has identified in the Greater Glasgow health board. He might like to emphasise the fact that the Greater Glasgow health board is, and will remain, probably the best funded health board anywhere in the United Kingdom. If it has problems, I have no doubt that, under its present management, it will seek to rectify them at the earliest opportunity. It is worth remembering that my announcements today represent an 8.2 per cent. increase in expenditure on the Health Service, compared with the outturn in the current year. In the case of family practitioner services, an increase of no less than 13 per cent. has been announced.

The hon. Gentleman bewailed the absence of any reference to Scottish Enterprise. It would have been rather astonishing if there had been a reference to it. The Bill is yet to be introduced into the House. Scottish Enterprise will not come into effect at the beginning of the public expenditure survey. Obviously the appropriate time to determine resources for Scottish Enterprise will be when Parliament approves its establishment. As the hon. Gentleman has indicated that, unlike the rest of Scotland, he is opposed to the creation of Scottish Enterprise, he is hardly the best person to bewail the alleged lack of resources for it.

We fully recognise the seriousness of homelessness. That is why I have provided for an increase of 11 per cent. to Scottish Homes—a substantial increase on top of the significant resources that were provided for its first year of operation. In addition to local authorities, there has been an increase in the Government's contribution—more than double the rate of inflation. I have told local authorities that, if they wish to increase their gross expenditure, they should realise that, in Scotland, they have the full benefit of receipts from council house sales. If they were to apply the same energy to assisting their tenants to acquire their homes as the new towns and Scottish Homes have done, it would be entirely to the benefit of their housing expenditure opportunities.

Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries)

I warmly welcome the huge expenditure in Scotland, including a far higher cost per head than is available to England. I welcome also the fact that there is to be a big increase in expenditure on roads, housing, health and education. Bearing in mind the vast increase in local authority expenditure, does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the quality of life in Scotland should be far higher than ever before, and achieved without any increase in the community charge?

Mr. Rifkind

My hon. Friend is correct. A large number of local authorities in Scotland will be able to contemplate reducing the community charge for next year, given the removal of their contribution to the safety net and the fact that the vast majority of local authorities will therefore receive an increase in revenue support grant. That will mean than any decision not to reduce community charge levels, particularly on the part of district councils, will be almost impossible to understand or justify.

Mr. Alexander Eadie (Midlothian)

The Secretary of State placed great emphasis on spending on education. May I take it that, as a consequence of his statement, he will look favourably at the proposals by the governors of Newbattle college, in Dalkeith, Midlothian?

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman will recall that the problem relating to Newbattle college arose out of the unwillingness of local authorities and trade unions over the years to continue their contribution to the support of Newbattle, which left the Scottish Education Department as the only body providing any substantial support. Naturally, one will look with interest at any proposals coming from the college, but I cannot anticipate any change in the Government's position, because the reasons for that policy still appear to be substantiated by the present situation.

Mr. Allan Stewart (Eastwood)

I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on his statement and on his rejection of the wilder assertions that were made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) in his annual appearance as the spectre at the feast. I welcome what my right hon. and learned Friend said about increased investment in water. He said that the increases were outside the block and that, in effect, Scotland has benefited enormously from privatisation receipts from England and Wales. I assume that my right hon. and learned Friend used some pretty good Unionist arguments for that, as it seems a considerable political achievement.

I should like also to ask my right hon. and learned Friend about transport. My understanding of his figures is that, in effect, expenditure on new motorway and road construction will have increased by 50 per cent. by 1992–93.

Mr. Rifkind

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, but I do not think that I can claim that the resources allocated for water and sewerage arise out of privatisation receipts from the sale of the industry south of the border. Rather they reflect a willingness by my colleagues—and I am grateful to my right hon. Friends the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer—to appreciate the need for a substantial increase in expenditure on this important area to improve the quality of our environment in Scotland. There are similar schemes elsewhere in the United Kingdom and I think that we all agree that this is a crucial priority.

Likewise with roads: we have identified an exciting roads programme, especially the upgrading of the M74, which has been widely welcomed.

Mrs. Ray Michie (Argyll and Bute)

I welcome the announcement about increased expenditure on water and sewerage. However, will it be sufficient to help the rural areas in Scotland where most of the sewage is discharged straight into the sea as raw sewage and often returns straight on to the shore?

I am still concerned about what the Secretary of State said about homelessness in Scotland which remains unacceptably high, especially in Argyll and Bute, where it has risen by 55 per cent. in the past five years. I know that the council finds it difficult to cope with that.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman also referred to increasing support for students, which I find a bit false in view of the top-up loans that are supposed to be imposed on them. The right hon. and learned Gentleman talked about support and about trying to plan for an extra 6,000 students next year. What proportion of that 6,000 are likely to be Scottish students and which countries will the others come from?

I should be grateful if the Secretary of State would give some detail about the subsidy for Caledonian MacBrayne. Will it be increased or decreased? If it is to be decreased, I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman realises what he is doing, because he would be forcing CalMac to make more and more money from tourism, which would mean that in the end it will become a tourist service instead of remembering that its first priority is to serve the islanders.

Mr. Rifkind

I thank the hon. Lady for her warm welcome to my announcement on water and sewerage. We certainly hope that Argyll, as well as other parts of Scotland, will substantially benefit from it.

On the question of homelessness, I am very conscious of the fact that the reduction in receipts from council house sales would, by itself, have led to significant problems for local authorities. Therefore, it is appropriate for both Government and local authorities to do what they can to respond to that problem. That is why in our Government contribution we have provided a substantial increase that is well over the rate of inflation to help local authorities. However, I hope that the local authorities will show more enthusiasm than they have up to now in assisting and encouraging their tenants to use the opportunities of the tenants' rights legislation, because that will also work to the benefit of their housing programmes.

With regard to what the hon. Lady said about students, it is obviously for the universities to determine admissions, but the point of the increased resources is to enable a higher proportion of people in Scotland to benefit from higher education. That figure has already reached 22 per cent., compared with the United Kingdom average of 15 per cent., and the figures announced today will allow for further improvements in that area.

We are not making any announcement today with regard to CalMac. The hon. Lady should recall that support for CalMac is based on the deficit subsidy approach, which means that we cover the difference between revenue and expenditure. We obviously take into account the pattern of use of the service and the need for a fair and reasonable tariff structure.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

My right hon. and learned Friend's statement will be welcomed in Scotland, and especially his choice of priorities. However, that choice of priorities could well be affected by other factors. Is he aware that in Tayside, for example, the region's Labour administration has handled the education policy in such a way that it has not dealt with the problems in Dundee, where there is 40 per cent. over-capacity and consequently Alyth school in my constituency has been forced to consider the possibility of becoming self-governing?

Also, general practitioners in Scotland may find that they will not benefit from the additional funds because their representatives on the Scottish BMA are not prepared to have special discussions on the needs, aspirations and wishes of Scottish GPs because they do not want a separate deal.

Hon. Members

This is a speech.

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is not a debate but the time for questions. The hon. Member must ask a question.

Mr. Walker

I was following the example of earlier questioners. I was present throughout Question Time, but this is the first question that I have asked today.

Mr. Speaker

Unfortunately, that does not entitle the hon. Member to ask a series of questions.

Mr. Walker

I am simply following an example. I trust that you, Mr. Speaker, will accept that I usually endeavour to follow your instructions to the letter.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that he does not always control where funds finally go and that the activities of others could impede his wishes?

Mr. Rifkind

That is indeed the case. We provide resources to several organisations, and ultimately it is their responsibility to decide how those resources are used.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)

What adjustment will have to be made to Government expenditure plans if large numbers of people continue to refuse to pay the poll tax? Despite the Secretary of State's brave words to Edinburgh business people the other day, is it not a fact that bankers as well as local authorities are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the resultant chaos? That chaos is likely only to worsen until the Government come to their senses and replace that iniquitous tax with a fairer system of local government finance.

Mr. Rifkind

I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Gentleman. I do not recall him complaining a year ago about administrative problems caused under the old rating system when Strathclyde regional council had to issue more than 78,000 summary warrants to owner-occupiers and private tenants who had not paid their rates on time, apart from what warrants were necessary for council tenants. The hon. Gentleman found it unnecessary to comment on those matters under the rating system. Similar attempts to delay paying the community charge should not surprise the House, even if it surprises him.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend—perhaps I should declare an interest—for the enormous and welcome increase in historic building grant.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

The hon. and learned Gentleman will be able to buy a new suit.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

I thought that my suit had an historic appearance.

I also congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on increasing the expenditure for Scotland, once again increasing the quality of life in Scotland beyond that of any other part of Europe.

Mr. Rifkind

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend. The Government attach great importance to Scotland's natural and national heritage and the Historic Buildings Council, so ably chaired by my hon. and learned Friend, makes a splendid contribution, supported by the whole of Scotland, to ensuring a splendid future for Scotland's national heritage.

Mr. Adam Ingram (East Kilbride)

Does the Secretary of State agree that one of the real tests of his announcement will be whether homelessness is reduced and the housebuilding programme is stepped up? What specific sums has he allocated to those worrying and growing problems, and by how much does he estimate that homelessness and housing waiting lists will be reduced over the next four years?

Mr. Rifkind

I said that resources to Scottish Homes were being increased by £36 million, an increase of some 11 per cent. In addition, we have provided £11 million particularly for the partnership estates, which are primarily local authority council estates. The £36 million will be divided between the local authority allocation and Scottish Homes. In addition, local authorities will receive an increase in their net allocation for their capital programmes of about 15 per cent. That reflects the difficulties that would otherwise arise from the reduction in receipts from council house sales. I make no apology for repeating that local authorities also have an obligation to do what they can to increase their resources, as the new towns have done so successfully.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Does the Secretary of State recall that, in previous years when he has come to the Dispatch Box and made glowing announcements about his generosity, it has almost always been followed after Christmas and the new year by Members for Aberdeen and north-east Scotland telling him that he grossly underestimated and misrepresented the sum which was to be available to my part of the country? Will it be the same this year? Can he give us the figures for the north-east? Can we spare ourselves our annual trip down to see him to get justice for our part of the country?

Mr. Rifkind

Naturally, each local area, not just the north-east, would like to get the lion's share of the resources available. Today's announcement is of the global sums available. Over the next few weeks my hon. Friends and I shall determine the individual allocations to individual local authorities. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall continue to treat fairly the needs of Grampion region and district councils in the north-east. Each local area believes that it should have more than any other area, but that is not always possible, as the hon. Gentleman will appreciate.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

When will the Secretary of State take time to educate English Tory Back Benchers and some Scottish ones about the enormous flow of funds for defence procurement, mortgage interest tax relief and transport subsidies which are siphoned off into the already overheated economy of the south-east but mysteriously do not appear in any of the identified public expenditure tables? Is he aware that an analysis from the Library shows that from his period of office to the end of the forecast period in 1992 the Scottish Office budget will increase by 39 per cent., overall United Kingdom public expenditure by 42 per cent. and the Welsh Office budget by 57 per cent.? Why is it that every time the Secretary of State claims a miracle on public spending it turns out to be a mirage?

Mr. Rifkind

If the hon. Gentleman is advocating on behalf of his party levels of public expenditure for Scotland which correspond to those of either England or Wales, he must explain to his constituents why he advocates major cuts in the present level of provision for health, housing, education and roads, all of which are substantially higher for Scotland than for England or Wales. He should escape for a moment from the paranoia associated with his party.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I must have regard to the subsequent business, but I shall endeavour to call all hon. Members provided that they ask brief questions.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

As everything is so rosy in the financial garden, why is it necessary to introduce the principle of toll roads from Edinburgh to the M74? Is it because there is a fall in real terms in the money allocated to transport between 1991 and 1992?

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman is misinformed. There is no proposal for toll roads from Edinburgh to the M74. There are several projects that may include the use of tolls in various parts of the United Kingdom. Our recent discussion document on routes south of Edinburgh suggests that there may be a case for a fast link between part of the M8 and the M74. The proposal has not been previously suggested by other interests, nor does it appear in the existing roads programme. Rather than defer such a project for the good number of years that would be required, given our other transport priorities and initiatives, we have suggested that it might be worth considering whether the fast link could be provided in the form suggested. I stress that it is only a proposal at this stage.

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)

The Secretary of State told us this afternoon, as he told us in his statement last year, that the health programme has been identified as an area of priority. Yet we learned only this week that during the past year 200 patients at the Lennox Castle psychiatric hospital suffered undernourishment as a result of staff shortages. He can say what he likes at the Dispatch Box, but how does he expect anybody to believe him when so much evidence in Scotland flies in the face of his claims?

Mr. Rifkind

I share the hon. Gentleman's concern about reports of undernourishment at that or any other hospital. Suggestions that it is due to staff reductions cannot possibly be justified. Apart from anything else, staff numbers at that hospital have increased rather than decreased recently.

Mr. Ron Brown (Edinburgh, Leith)

Although the Secretary of State has been addressed as Father Christmas, does he not understand that there is no sanity clause in his statement? He has told us that Scottish Homes and local councils should sell public housing in Scotland, but the Government, through the quango, the Scottish Development Agency, have bribed Barratt's with more than £300,000 to develop the West Pilton Circus site in my constituency. Worse still, they have kept that secret and they will not divulge the facts, but it is all true. Why does not the Secretary of State speak up, or does the kick-back system still operate? Does he support it as part of the capitalist system?

Mr. Rifkind

If the hon. Gentleman wants to pursue that point, he should either put down a Question or write a letter to either myself or to my hon. Friend the Minister concerned, as his question today is somewhat confused.

Mr. Alistair Darling (Edinburgh, Central)

Does the Secretary of State recall that, last year, he painted ari optimistic picture of National Health Service funding? I have in my possession a confidential memorandum that shows that Lothian health board has stopped filling vacancies because it does not have the cash to do so. Surely the promises that were given last year were untrue. What reason do we have to believe the Secretary of State this year? A lot of the money that he has announced today will be used to oil the wheels of privatisation and to introduce the health reforms that the Government are so keen to support.

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman should be as aware as anyone that the introduction of, for example, competitive tendering in Lothian and elsewhere has led to substantial savings which have remained with the health boards and have been used by them to improve services for their patients. It is true that some of the resources announced today will be used for the NHS review. That is right and proper, because that review will be a further means whereby we can improve the quality of service and therefore the well-being of patients in Lothian and elsewhere in Scotland.

Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)

Will the Secretary of State admit that, against the background of the Government's high-interest rate economic policy, and taking into account the likely level of inflation next year, the public expenditure he has announced will not be sufficient to stop unemployment rising again next year in Scotland?

Mr. Rifkind

Before the hon. Gentleman reaches such conclusions, he should look at some recent reports and surveys. This morning The Scotsman quoted the chief economist of the Royal Bank of Scotland as predicting that economic growth in Scotland will outstrip the rest of the United Kingdom next year; presumably because, in part, the effect of high-interest rates, although undesired in any part of the country, has its greatest impact where mortgages are highest—in the south-east of England. That report this morning corresponds with reports and surveys by the Fraser of Allander Institute and the Scottish Confederation of British Industry, all of which point to the fact that growth in Scotland is likely to be higher than the United Kingdom average for the forthcoming year.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

Did the Secretary of State consult COSLA on his statement, or does he plan to do so? In view of the absence of any reference in the statement to community care, how does that match with the Government's rhetoric on the subject? There are problems of homelessness, poverty and fuel poverty as well as problems arising from the notorious social fund, and social work departments experience those problems day after day. What recognition has the Secretary of State given in the statement to those social work departments that are trying to operate and to respond to people's needs under the sort of pressure that they know, and the Secretary of State should know, to be totally unacceptable?

Mr. Rifkind

Central Government provision for social work is planned to rise from £16 million in 1991 to £20 million in 1992—93, which is a substantial increase. As for consultation with the local authorities, my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for housing met COSLA on Friday and discussed the housing allocations with it.

Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell, South)

Will the Secretary of State confirm that he has received a major hospital building programme from the Lanarkshire health board? Will he confirm that it includes a proposal for a new district general hospital in the Motherwell district to replace the temporary wartime emergency hospital which is incapable of development because of mining subsidence on the site? Will he confirm that there is room for a start at least on the planning expenditure on this hospital in the next financial year?

Mr. Rifkind

Proposals such as those to which the hon. Gentleman refers have not yet been drawn to Ministers' attention. However, I assure the hon. Gentleman that when that happens I shall take into account the point that he has made.

Mr. Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh, South)

How does the Secretary of State justify the cut in public services of £100 million revealed in last month's Autumn Statement—table 1.12, page 30—and what confidence has he that the future spending increases he announced will bring about the desired results over the next year?

Mr. Rifkind

I have already informed the House that expenditure in Scotland, for which the Scottish Office is responsible, will increase by more than £500 million next year compared to outturn for this year. That answers the hon. Gentleman.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

In drawing up his budget allocation for the Scottish Development Agency and the Highlands and Islands Development Board, did the Secretary of State take special account of the possible need to assist the hard-pressed fishing communities on the coastlines of Scotland?

Mr. Rifkind

I share the hon. Lady's concern about the problems faced by the fishing industry, and I have already made clear my total opposition to the latest proposals from the Commissioner in Brussels with regard to haddock quotas for the industry. Clearly we shall have to await further developments to see exactly what the scale of reduction in fishing entitlements might be. The hon. Lady can rest assured that we shall do our best to protect the fishing communities from any unreasonable proposals made by the Commission.

Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

Does the Secretary of State seriously believe that the people of Scotland will be deluded when he uses terms such as "superb", "generous" and other over-flowing adjectives to describe the settlement when examination of the figures will show that the settlement will mean a policy of cut, cut and cut again? Is it not clear that his evasively complacent answers to my hon. Friends' questions about homelessness in Scotland show that he is cruelly and callously indifferent to the plight of thousands of Scots with no roof over their heads at this time of year?

Is he not aware that to use the increased allocation to Scottish Homes is totally irrelevant because Scottish Homes has no statutory obligation to the homeless? Does not the recent Shelter survey show that there is a major crisis of homelessness in Scotland which he can solve only by dealing with it as his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment did—by allocating special funds for the purpose and allowing local authorities to get on with the jobs that they are best able to do?

Mr. Rifkind

Only the hon. Gentleman could describe an increase of £500 million as a cut. He seems unaware of the work that Scottish Homes is doing and proposes to do with its resources. Far from operating in a vacuum separate from local authorities, Scottish Homes already works closely with many local authorities in Scotland, and a substantial proportion of its resources is being used in the local authority estates in co-operation with local authorities. How the hon. Gentleman, representing as he does the Castlemilk estate, can be ignorant of that fact is extraordinary when Castlemilk is—

Mr. Maxton

What about homelessness?

Mr. Rifkind

Yes, there is homelessness in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. He should know that, even if he is not drawing it to our attention.

Castlemilk is one of the partnership areas into which substantial new resources are being put in co-operation with local authorities. The hon. Gentleman does his constituents a grave disservice by appearing to be ignorant of that fact.