HC Deb 20 December 1989 vol 164 cc339-40
1. Mr. Maclennan

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has any proposals to locate a centre for climatic and other environmental studies in Scotland.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton)

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister recently announced the Government's intention to set up a United Kingdom centre for the prediction of climatic change.

Mr. Maclennan

The north of Scotland has outstanding centres of scientific excellence. Do Scottish Ministers back the proposal that the EC Environmental Protection Agency should be located there or do they back the Prime Minister's proposal that the centre for the prediction of climatic change should be located there? Both would be welcome.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The hon. Gentleman raises two separate issues. It is likely that the centre for climatic study will have close links with the Meteorological Office near Bracknell. That is still to be confirmed. We ane spending £1 million on environmental studies. With regard to a centre for environmental studies in Scotland, we always support locating the headquarters in Scotland. The attractions of Aberdeen and Edinburgh were carefully considered, but eventually the choice fell on Cambridge, for the simple reason that several factors were of influence, including the fact that the world conservation monitoring centre is located there.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Does the Minister recollect that I wrote to him to advise him of Grampian's bid for a European environmental agency to be sited in Aberdeen? He replied that it was too early to have a meeting on the bid, because the matter was still under discussion. A couple of days later, we discovered that it was proposed to site the centre in Cambridge. Has not the Minister fallen down badly on the job? Should he not have allowed us to push the case? Why did he abandon his responsibility in such a cavalier manner?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Ten per cent. of the British population live in Scotland. We compete with the rest of the British population for European institutions. All the factors are weighed on their merit collectively by the Government.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my hon. Friend agree that while the location of any centre to examine climatic change is important, it is more important that changing climatic conditions in Scotland are carefully noted? In particular, such matters as the short days in the winter months and changes in lighting-up time—and, indeed, the time when anything else happens—are important. We do not want dayrise to occur at 10.30 am, as the proposals put forward by the European Commission envisage.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

We particularly note my hon. Friend's point on lighting-up time and changes to summer time. With regard to cold weather payments, we have a common test throughout Britain, which starts at 0 deg C. People living in areas where cold weather is more prevalent stand to benefit most.

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