HC Deb 04 December 1991 vol 200 cc261-76 3.30 pm
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Ian Lang)

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

In his autumn statement on 6 November, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced his public expenditure plans. I should now like to tell the House how I have decided to allocate the £12.4 billion available for Scotland among the various spending programmes. As usual, a table summarising my decisions is available in the Vote Office and will be published in the Official Report. Full details will be included in my departmental report, which will be published in February.

Overall net spending plans for the Scottish Office and associated Departments total £12.4 billion in 1992–93. In addition, there is £0.1 billion for the Forestry Commission. Those are significant sums. Of that, £7.2 billion will be spent directly by my departments or as capital expenditure by local authorities. That provision is 9.2 per cent. higher than was planned for 1991–92, and the increase is twice as high as inflation. The remainder comprises grants to local authorities totalling £5.2 billion in 1992–93 and the external financing limits of the nationalised industries.

Earlier this year, I announced that local authorities would receive aggregate external finance of £5.13 billion. After allowing for the community charge grant, which is now part of aggregate external finance, that is almost £300 million more than this year—an increase of 6.1 per cent. In the light of our success in containing inflation, it is a very fair settlement. It is £50 million more than the formula consequences of the England settlement, with the result that I have that much less available for other programmes.

My hon. Friend the Minister with responsibilities for industry and local government announced last week a further reduction of £60 million in business rates next year. That is £14 million more than previously planned, reflecting the importance that I attach to this policy. Again, that reduction will make a call on the resources that I have available to increase our programmes.

I shall announce shortly details of rate poundages and the level of industrial derating for next year, but this reduction will ensure a cash decrease in the average poundage in Scotland, compared with an increase of 4.1 per cent. in the national non-domestic rate for England and Wales.

I have increased resources for local authority non-housing capital expenditure to £620 million next year —an increase of more than 18 per cent. on this year's planned figure. Total resources available to Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the local enterprise companies will be £531 million in 1992–93, compared with this year's planned total of £489 million. That is an increase of 8.6 per cent.

Of that total, the Scottish Enterprise network will be able to spend £453 million and the Highlands and Islands Enterprise network £78 million. These figures include £21.4 million for the employment action programme, which will be operated by the local enterprise companies in Scotland.

The total includes additional resources for Scottish Enterprise of up to £25 million to help deal with the industrial problems of Lanarkshire. I intend that Lanarkshire Development Agency should continue to receive special additional funding in subsequent years. I am also providing additional funding to Highlands and Islands Enterprise specifically to tackle the effects of the winding down of the Holy Loch naval base. This level of provision represents a very substantial commitment of resources to the enterprise bodies and it should be sufficient to enable them to carry through the wide range of tasks expected of them and to build on their excellent first year of operation.

I have been able to give particular priority to spending on the health programme. Next year the programme will amount in gross terms to more than £3.7 billion. This is more than 10 per cent. higher than the plans for the current year and will provide for further expansion in health services. It will also mean that gross expenditure on the national health service in Scotland in 1992–93 will be as much as 44 per cent. higher in real terms than it was in 1979–80. Within the total health figures, recurrent expenditure on hospital and community health services in 1992–93 is planned to increase by £230 million over this year. When planned savings from increased efficiency are taken into account, the year-on-year increase in resources will be 11 per cent. Further increases in health expenditure, to over £4 billion, are planned by 1994–95.

The resources devoted to my law and order programme will be substantially increased. Provision will rise to £406 million in 1992–93, an increase of 17 per cent. over planned expenditure in the current financial year. This increase underlines my commitment to improvements across the whole range of law and order programmes, consistent with the undertakings outlined in the recently published "Justice Charter for Scotland".

I have also been able to make significant extra resources available to safeguard the environment, on which expenditure is planned to increase by more than 27 per cent. next year compared with this year's plans. I intend to launch Scottish Natural Heritage, which will combine and enhance the functions of the Nature Conservancy Council for Scotland and the Countryside Commission for Scotland, with a starting budget of £34.6 million, an increase of more than 28 per cent. over the combined budgets of its predecessor bodies this year. I also secured a special addition to the block to help fund improved water quality and sewage treatment standards. Planned provision in 1992–93 will be £221 million, 33 per cent. higher than that for the current year.

I have substantially increased the roads and transport programme by nearly £40 million or 10 per cent. next year compared to this and made further increases which will bring the programme to over £450 million in 1994–95. Our investment level next year will be 50 per cent. greater than it was four years ago. I have been able to boost the Scottish roads programme at both the national and local level. This will be welcomed by all those who are concerned to see an improvement in Scotland's infrastructure. It enables continued good progress on the A74 and further improvements to the M8 and other trunk roads and local roads.

My plans for 1992–93 provide for an overall increase in my education programme of some 15 per cent. over that for 1991–92. I announced in the House on 26 November my plans for recurrent and capital expenditure on grant-aided colleges. These measures will allow for almost one in three of all young Scots to enter universities and colleges next year. My plans also allow for an additional £30 million to be spent over the next three years on improving our school buildings, an increase of 17 per cent. over previous plans for these years.

On housing, I have increased Scottish Homes' grant in aid next year by £27 million compared with 1991–92 planned expenditure—excluding repayments to the national loans fund—more than double the rate of inflation. I have also made available to local authorities resources to enable the level of expenditure per council house to be maintained and to enable further measures to be taken to tackle the problems of homelessness and dampness in council housing. Local authorities will also be able to sustain their expenditure on improvement grants this year in real terms.

The provisions I have announced today will allow us to continue the progress we have made in our important public services. Public spending has to be at the level the taxpayer can afford, but through our prudent management, we are able to increase spending for 1992–93 by more than the rate of inflation, allowing significant improvements in health, education, law and order, transport and the environment, amongst others. I look to those responsible, including local authorities, to use these resources wisely and to improve the value for money in the services they buy. I commend the proposals to the House.

Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

When the Secretary of State made the equivalent announcement a year ago, I congratulated him on his promotion to the Cabinet. I remember welcoming in particular his pledge to "dialogue and accord" in Scotland. A year on, I cannot repeat that courtesy. Dialogue and accord have been translated into government by diktat. Dialogue with the Scottish Office is dialogue with the deaf, as yesterday's statement on the health service underlined.

Planned public expenditure for the next financial year is up by 7 per cent. in cash terms over this year's estimated outturn. In real terms, that represents an increase of 2.4 per cent. Does the Secretary of State accept that the real-terms increase across the United Kingdom on the same basis in the next year is 3.5 per cent., which is a considerably higher figure? Is that not the real measure of the Secretary of State's influence in the Cabinet?

There is apparently some good news. [Laughter.] always give clue credit. The Scottish Natural Heritage figure is up over the grant in aid for 1991–92 for the Nature Conservancy Council for Scotland and the Scottish Countryside Commission by 21 per cent. in real terms. However, as the Secretary of State will understand, there are substantial start-up costs, and conservation interests will be disappointed because of the enhanced responsibilities that they are taking on board and the increased staffing to which they are committed.

Will the Secretary of State specifically consider protecting the new body's budget against the extraordinary awards made recently to landowners for not planting trees on sites of special scientific interest? That has reached the proportions of a scandal and those non-trees give a new meaning to the term "invisible assets".

Does the Secretary of State accept that, if the special measures designed to help Lanarkshire and the Cowal peninsula are discounted, there is in real terms a cut of £7.6 million—or 1.6 per cent.—in the budgets of Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. It is little wonder that Crawford Beveridge, the chief executive of Scottish Enterprise, when searching his heart for charity, described his network's provision for next year as broadly the same level of resources as this year. It is at best a standstill and does not measure up to the problems of dereliction and rising unemployment.

With regard to the industry budget as a whole, there is a cash cut of £16 million in real terms between the net planned outturn and planned spending for the coming year. In real terms, that is a cut of £40 million, or 7.2 per cent. A further cut is planned for 1993–94.

The Secretary of State surely cannot justify a cut in the industry budget when, in the past year, unemployment has risen by almost 30,000. This is bad news for the Scottish economy. Does the Secretary of State agree that the individual totals announced today do not in all cases stand up to comparison with real-terms increases south of the border?

The Secretary of State made a particular point about the health service budget. Looking at the figures, I understand that the increase in real terms in England is 4.8 per cent. between the net outturn and planned expenditure. In Scotland, it is only 4.2 per cent. From what the Secretary of State has implied about the performance of opting-out hospitals, I take it that there is likely to be a weighting in their favour. If that is true, those figures bring little consolation to the national health service as a whole.

Yet again, housing is the main sacrificial victim. The cut in cash terms is £65 million on the same basis of comparison that I have used throughout my comments. In real terms, it is £93.1 million, or 13 per cent. Even allowing for the technical adjustment for repayments to the national loans fund that is mentioned in the footnote, that is a depressing story.

The Secretary of State rather coyly referred to the increase in Scottish Homes' total funding, but not to the overall position. I am not surprised by that. Does not the right hon. Gentleman have any appreciation of the problems of dampness, the reduction in choice and the spiralling and ever-increasing tragedy of homelessness? A total of 34,521 families and single people have applied to the local authorities under the homelessness legislation in 1990–91. There is no hope for them in today's announcement. The only good news and the only real cheer that I can take from today's events is that this is the last occasion on which such an announcement will be made by this Secretary of State or by a Conservative Government.

Mr. Lang

We have just heard the usual mixture of muddle, confusion and gloom to which we have become accustomed from the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), who tries every year to prove that more equals less. Year after year, he tries to compare like with unlike. He should be comparing planned expenditure last year with planned expenditure this year. If we look back at what was spent in 1978–79 under the last Labour Government, we find that it was £3.7 billion, but we are now talking about a budget for next year of approaching £.12.5 billion, which is a real increase of 19 per cent.

The hon. Gentleman asked me a number of specific questions. The Scottish Natural Heritage budget is being increased by 28 per cent. over the combined budgets of its two component parts. By anybody's standards, and even by the rather disorganised measurements applied by the hon. Gentleman, that is a substantial increase. It includes provision for any obligations that may arise as a result of the management agreements relating to the sites of special scientific interest.

The hon. Member for Garscadden then considered the Scottish Enterprise and the Highlands and Islands Enterprise budgets and, because that was good news, he immediately tried to take the Lanarkshire component out of it. However, to a large extent, the Lanarkshire component is part of that budget, and it would be wrong to take it out. Our proposals for Scottish Enterprise and for Highlands and Islands Enterprise for the next year amount to an increase of £37 million, or 8.8 per cent., above the planned expenditure for a year ago. That is a substantial increase by any criteria. That figure contains substantial provision for the needs of Lanarkshire.

On the industry budget, regional selective assistance, which is led by demand on the part of applicants for assistance, is expected to be down next year, which is only to be expected in the present economic circumstances. However, the budget will increase from £619 million in 1991–92 to £636 million in 1992–93.

The hon. Gentleman made comparisons with south of the border to try to imply that we have somehow done less well in Scotland. However, the fact is that the bulk of the budgetary figures flow from the formula consequentials arising from the statement of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. As I said at the outset, spending plans in Scotland are 8.1 per cent. higher than a year ago. The hon. Gentleman may like to know that spending per head in Scotland will be 22 per cent. higher than in the rest of the United Kingdom.

The hon. Gentleman then referred to housing, which he regarded as a depressing story. If he wants a depressing story, he should look back to the housing expenditure of the last Labour Government. In 1974–75, the last Labour Government spent £1,425 million in real terms at 1991–92 prices; by 1978–79, that had fallen to £918 million.That means that there was a cut of 35 per cent. in real terms under the last Labour Government, whereas in the past 12 years there has been an increase of more than 19 per cent. in the housing budget.

In addition, we are making provision for an increase of 10 per cent. for Scottish Homes next year to provide more money to cope with dampness and homelessness. We shall be spending more than £1 billion gross on the housing budget. The figures that I have announced today represent very good news for the people of Scotland.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. Yesterday, I was able to call all the Scottish Members because there was little pressure on the subsequent debate. That is not the case today. As there is a great deal of pressure on our subsequent debate, I shall allow questions on the statement to continue for half an hour, until 4.20 pm, but we must then move on. I ask hon. Members to ask brief, not multiple, questions, please.

Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries)

Unlike the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden, who made a typically miserable response, the people of Scotland will realise that this is an excellent statement. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the emphasis that he has given to housing, bearing in mind the homeless problem, and to Scottish Enterprise, will be valuable in terms of employment? The additional money that he has given to health and school building and repairs will also be welcomed by the people of Scotland. I wish my right hon. Friend's plan every success.

Mr. Lang

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend. Of course, the reason why we are able to increase those programmes is the efficient way in which the economy has been run. We have reduced inflation and enabled the economy to grow and yield the necessary revenues in taxation, even at the lower level of taxation imposed by the Government. Thus we are able to devote increased resources to various deserving programmes.

Mrs. Ray Michie (Argyll and Bute)

It is a matter of regret, indeed something of a disgrace, that the spending plans have been announced today in the House when there is still no Scottish Select Committee to scrutinise what the Scottish Office is doing.

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)

And no Scottish Parliament.

Mrs. Michie

Indeed, as the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) says, the spending plans should be announced in a Scottish Parliament.

May I ask the Secretary of State specifically about the extra resources to compensate for the running down of Holy Loch? I welcome the money that he announced the other day. Could he use his influence with the Secretary of State for Defence to persuade him to hand over the Ministry of Defence buildings so that the money that the Scottish Office has allocated is not used to pay for them? That would be a great help.

I am disappointed—

Mr. Speaker

Briefly, please.

Mrs. Michie

I am disappointed that the statement does not contain a commitment to get rid of the poll tax in Scotland a year earlier, because it was inflicted on Scotland a year before everyone else.

One other point, Mr. Speaker. I am also disappointed at the amount that has been given to Scottish Homes for housing. Perhaps the Secretary of State is not aware of the severe problems, particularly in rural areas and in Rothesay in my constituency.

Mr. Lang

The hon. Lady suggested that a Scottish Select Committee could scrutinise the figures. During all the years that the Scottish Select Committee existed, I do not recall it undertaking that task. However, I am grateful to the hon. Lady for welcoming the announcement that we have made of increased resources for Holy Loch, following the withdrawal of the American navy. It has not been possible for the American navy to leave behind the assets that it had developed there, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will certainly take note of the point that the hon. Lady raised about Ministry of Defence assets in the area.

On the community charge, the funding for local authorities has been increased by 6.1 per cent. for next year —well above the rate of inflation. That should enable local authorities to maintain sensible spending programmes without any need for a real increase in community charge levels.

The hon. Lady may not have heard what I said about Scottish Homes. I announced an increase of grant in aid of 10 per cent., roughly two and a half times the present rate of inflation. That will be valuable to that body.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)

Does my right hon. Friend know that I gave up the opportunity of becoming a solicitor like the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) because accountants put the losses on the right and the profits on the left? The hon. Gentleman appears not to understand the vast opportunities that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has announced today and the profits that Scotland is getting. Those of us who are citizens of the United Kingdom who live north of the border have benefited from my right hon. Friend's sagacity and influence in the Cabinet and are vastly privileged by the statement that he has made today.

Mr. Lang

I am most grateful to my hon. and learned Friend. Soliciting's loss was clearly advocacy's gain. He was absolutely right to welcome the substantial increases that I have announced today for a range of programmes. My hon. and learned Friend will be glad to welcome the 16.7 per cent. increase for the law and order programme. There has also been a 10.1 per cent. increase in the health programme, a 15 per cent. increase in the education and sport programme, an 18 per cent. increase in the environmental services programme, a 20 per cent. increase in the agriculture programme and an 18 per cent. increase in the local authority capital non-housing programme. Those are examples of some worthwhile increases in the spending programmes in Scotland.

Mr. William McKelvey (Kilmarnock and Loud nun)

How much has Strathclyde regional council asked for to improve the roads programme, how much has the Secretary of State given, and how much has been earmarked or ring-fenced for the extension to the A77 to meet the M8?

Mr. Lang

We have made provision within Strathclyde's budget for funds to enable it to undertake development of the A77 How those resources are apportioned is a matter for the council. Within the increased roads programme that I announced today—a road programme which will have increased by 50 per cent. in a four-year period—I have also included provisions to enable work on the A77 Ayr road route to start within the planning programme period.

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)

Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating the 200 people who will be sleeping out in Glasgow on Friday night to highlight the plight of the homeless? Does he realise that, on every working day last year, 84 Scottish young children became homeless? Would he mind spelling out precisely what he is going to do to help the homeless? He failed to do so in his brief statement from the Dispatch Box. We would all like to hear about a far larger programme than any he has managed to announce since the Government came to office; otherwise, they stand convicted of hypocrisy and bad faith.

Mr. Lang

We made special provision for the homelessness problem last year, and my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for housing will be making a further announcement in the next day or two about the homeless figures for which we are making additional provision in the current year. One has to acknowledge that homelessness is not merely a housing problem but is also a social problem, which requires not merely money but an approach to discourage and prevent young people from becoming homeless.

Mr. Alexander Eadie (Midlothian)

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider a proposition that would increase public spending in Scotland without costing the Government anything? We are a signatory to an EC agreement which Germany, France and Spain have honoured—the grants given by the EC to areas of industrial dereliction, especially mining areas like Midlothian, which would qualify for such grants. There is £100 million available for grants in mining areas. Why does he not convince the Cabinet to be good Europeans and to obey the rules like France, Germany and Spain? Then that money could be made available to areas in Scotland where coal mining has contracted, such as Midlothian.

Mr. Lang

The Government have an unrivalled record of achievement in securing grants for Scotland under the various European Community schemes. If anyone needs to be convinced about the need to release the money for grants, it is the hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friend, Commissioner Milian, who is now attacking the additionality rules that he defended when he was Secretary of State for Scotland. He should face up to the need to release those much-needed funds for Scotland.

Mr. Gordon McMaster (Paisley, South)

Is the Secretary of State aware that, by the admission of his hon. Friend the Minister responsible for Scottish industry, the Paisley postcode area lost 76 per cent. of its manufacturing jobs between 1979 and 1989? Is he also aware that further job losses are in prospect at Coats' in Paisley? In that situation, why is he not taking the chance to make an announcement on a special economic initiative for Renfrewshire? As part of that, the European social fund could have been used to give twice as much money to the area, because that is what Commissioner Millan wants to do, using the additionality provisions.

Mr. Lang

The hon. Member will know that Renfrewshire is within Strathclyde and therefore within the Strathclyde integrated development operation, which is the largest single area for assistance identified by the European Community. For a number of years, the Government have secured substantial funds for the area. He will also be aware of the fact that the Inverclyde enterprise zone is within Renfrewshire, and will be aware of the existence and extreme competence of the Renfrewshire enterprise company. All those bodies are able and available to help meet Renfrewshire's problems, using the resources of central Government, which will be substantially increased as a result of my announcement.

Mrs. Irene Adams (Paisley, North)

The Secretary of State said in his statement that he would maintain the level of spending on council houses and would make extra funds available to combat homelessness and dampness. Is he aware that, in Renfrew district, the council estimates that, during the next five years, it will need £300 million to bring houses up to a tolerable level? Will he put a figure on the amount that he intends to make available to deal with homelessness and dampness?

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend the Minister responsible for housing will make an announcement about that figure shortly. It will be in addition to the £9.5 million that we made available to deal with homelessness and dampness last year. That figure will be part of a programme through which we will spend more than £1 billion on housing next year. We might have been able to put more into housing this year, but we had to put £50 million out of the block into local authority spending. Had I not had to do that, to meet the high spending levels of local authorities, that £50 million could have been available for housing.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

When will the Secretary of State wake up to the realities of public finance in the United Kingdom? Is it not the case that his departmental budget is increasing less quickly than that of any other major spending Department? Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why the Department of Transport, whose budget has increased three times the rate of that of the Scottish Office, can find £1.5 billion for additional railway improvements in the south of England, but cannot find £80 million to electrify the Edinburgh-Aberdeen railway line? When will public finance in the United Kingdom stop being a ramp for the subsidy junkies of the south of England?

Mr. Lang

The hon. Gentleman is wrong if he seeks to characterise the Scottish budget for next year as somehow lower than the spending increases for other Departments. The increase for the Scottish Office will be 8.1 per cent. higher than the current year, and spending in Scotland will be 22 per cent. higher per head than that in England. If the hon. Gentleman wants a level playing field between Scotland and England, he will have to face up to a substantial drop in spending by central Government in Scotland.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

If that sentiment was intended to sound like the deathbed conversion of Scrooge, I am not sure that it was entirely convincing.

The Secretary of State mentioned roads, but he did not refer to the A1. The right hon. Gentleman now has figures available that reveal that the A1 in East Lothian is carrying as much traffic as the A74, so when can he make an announcement about the timetable for dualling the A1?

Mr. Lang

We shall be making an announcement on more of the detail of our roads programme in due course. In the meantime, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will welcome the £38 million increase in the roads programme next year—an increase of 10 per cent. Within that programme, it should be possible to make allowances for work at Tranent and on the dualling to Haddington on the Al.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

Why did the Secretary of State keep using the qualifying phrase: I have … less for other programmes in his budget? What is he trying to hide?

On the distribution of moneys, can the right hon. Gentleman assure me that resources for the health service will not be skewed towards the new NHS trusts as a bribe and a reward to those who took the bids?

Mr. Lang

Leaving aside the phrase that the hon. Gentleman attributed to me in the early part of his question, I can reassure him that the budget for the health service will be £3.7 billion, an increase of £342 million, or 10.1 per cent. Earlier this year, his hon. Friend the Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith) called for a £500 million increase in the health budget. Since then, we have increased it by £225 million and have now raised it by a further £342 million. We are already spending, or propose to spend, more than the Opposition have called for. Those resources are equivalent to a 44 per cent. increase in real terms since 1979; that is why we are able to deliver such improved health care in Scotland.

Mr. Calum Macdonald (Western Isles)

The Secretary of State mentioned school buildings. Is he aware that Western Isles is contemplating the closure of as many as five secondary schools next year because of the revenue shortfall faced by the council? The right hon. Gentleman properly mentioned the difficulties faced by Holy Loch. Is he completely insensitive to the economic, social and financial crisis that now threatens to engulf the Western Isles?

Mr. Lang

Certainly I am not, which is why I gave it consent to borrow such a substantial amount of money. We have committed ourselves to increase the programme on school buildings by 16 per cent. for each of the next three years. I believe that that will be welcomed throughout Scotland.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)

What exactly is the Secretary of State doing to redress the increasing problem of homelessness as revealed in the recent Shelter survey, which showed that the number of applications from homeless people throughout Scotland has more than doubled in the past seven years, bringing the Scottish total to a shameful record of more than 34,000? Bearing in mind the fact that, in Falkirk district, for example, the number of homeless applicants is now more than 1,300, the district council has received hardly a penny in housing support grant in the past decade or so, and the capital allocation is so inadequate that council house building is at a standstill, will the Secretary of State take urgent action now to provide the resources to house those homeless people instead of cutting the housing budget by more than £90 million in real terms?

Mr. Lang

Gross provision for housing in 1992–93 will be up by £33 million—as the table to be published in the Official Report will reveal—after making allowance for the repayment to the national loans fund of £170 million. We shall make extra money available next year, on top of the extra money that we have already made available this year, for homelessness, and my hon. Friend the Minister responsible for housing will make an announcement about the details very shortly.

Mr. Mike Watson (Glasgow, Central)

Is the Secretary of State aware that the real capital spending increase per house allowed in respect of Glasgow city council's stock in the past 10 years has been less than half that permitted in respect of Scottish Homes and its predecessor body? How does the Secretary of State justify that? He must by now have had time to digest the city council's recently published housing plan for 1991. Will he therefore undertake to carry out one of the major recommendations of that plan by increasing the council's housing revenue account spending allocation per year to the £162 million that is vital to begin to redress that imbalance?

Mr. Lang

Individual housing balances are matters for local authorities, and we shall apportion resources to them at the appropriate time. Our record on housing stands good comparison with that of the Labour party. More than 235,000 houses have been built since 1979, the number of sheltered dwellings has almost quadrupled to more than 31,000, and the number of amenity dwellings has more than quadrupled to more than 15,000. That is part of a record of which we are proud.

Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton)

The Secretary of State will be aware that his cruel statement will be received tragically in my constituency, where £93 million-worth of housing cuts in real terms will affect my constituents and where, in the past seven years, homelessness has increased by 400 per cent., and now stands at the record level of 1,725. What message does the Secretary of State have for the 30 or so constituents with young families who will come to my surgery tomorrow for advice on housing? Is his advice that they should stand on their own two feet? Is the Secretary of State entirely cold about their plight? Is that the Christmas message that I must give families in such tragic circumstances?

Mr. Lang

I think that the hon. Gentleman should point out to his constituents the dramatic increase that has taken place in housing expenditure in real terms since the Government came into office, compared with what we were left with by the outgoing Labour Government in 1979.

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)

The Secretary of State has repeatedly claimed this afternoon that he has made and is making special provision for the homeless. How then does he explain the survey published this week by Shelter, which shows homelessness at record levels in Scotland last year, with up to 35,000 homeless applicants in a single year alone? Against that background, how can he justify this afternoon's statement, slashing millions of pounds from Scotland's housing expenditure? As the homeless can have no hope so long as he holds on to his office, why does he not do the decent thing and resign now?

Mr. Lang

The hon. Gentleman obviously did not hear me point out that the gross provision for housing will rise by £33 million and that the budget for Scottish Homes will rise by 10 per cent. He asked about the increase in homelessness. The answer is that that is a social rather than a housing problem. He may like to know that we intend to increase the social work training budget by 18 per cent.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

I am sorry to sound parochial, but it was the Secretary of State who mentioned the Inverclyde enterprise zone. Are funds available within those figures to help the conservation and renovation of the Gourock rope works? If that building were renovated and the Land Registry were to set up home there, possibly creating several hundred jobs, that would be a remarkable measure for Inverclyde and might give some substance to the Minister's claim the other night, when he spoke in such glowing terms of Inverclyde's economic prospects. The Land Registry located in the Gourock rope works would be a marvellous Christmas present for my constituents.

Mr. Lang

I certainly know the Gourock rope works building. One cannot avoid seeing it as one drives into Greenock and Port Glasgow—

Dr. Godman

It is a mess.

Mr. Lang

Indeed it is a mess.

There is provision within Scottish Enterprise budget of resources for Renfrew Enterprise, and no doubt the hon. Gentleman will wish to put his case to that organisation. I know that the hon. Gentleman is in correspondence with my hon. Friend the Minister responsible for the environment.

Mr. Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh, South)

Having frozen the tourism budget, how can the Secretary of State justify the cut in it of 40 per cent. that he has announced today? Does he not realise the damage that that will do to the promotion of the beautiful districts of Scotland, including its capital city, Edinburgh?

Mr. Lang

The tourism budget is being increased by £300,000 next year and will be up by 30 per cent. in real terms since 1979.

Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)

Coming from the country that has to foot the bill for this largesse, may I ask my right hon. Friend how I am supposed to justify such expenditure to my constituents in Teignbridge, given the ungracious and grudging attitude with which today's announcement has been received? If we have to spend 23 per cent. more than the United Kingdom average on the people of Scotland, perhaps a balancing adjustment should be made and we should reduce the number of Scottish seats to that of the United Kingdom average.

Mr. Lang

Let me assure my hon. Friend that the current spending levels in Scotland reflect the needs of different categories in that country, which is as true in some parts of England as it is in Scotland. Nevertheless, my hon. Friend identifies a problem that will have to be addressed by those who seek to upset the present financial and constitutional arrangements in the United Kingdom as they affect Scotland.

Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East)

I always welcome additional public expenditure, although it may not be enough, but I am extremely disappointed that the Secretary of State did not mention any additional expenditure to promote and develop the ports at Cairnryan and Stranraer. I deeply regret that he does not appear to have a commitment to maintaining the Larne, Stranraer and Cairnryan corridors as the Euro-route from Northern Ireland to the mainland. Will he give us a commitment and evidence in the near future that he has the same commitment to his constituents as we in Northern Ireland have to ours?

Mr. Lang

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman and am happy to give that commitment. On Monday of this week, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and I issued a joint statement underlying the continuing high commitment that we give the Stranraer-Larne route. There has been speculation, fed by scaremongers in other parties, suggesting that that route was being downgraded. That is not the case, and I am happy to reassure the hon. Gentleman of that.

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

May I start by congratulating my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland on his excellent financial statement on committing resources to Scotland? I do not take umbrage at the fact that the taxpayers of Scotland are receiving 22 per cent. more per head of population than those of the United Kingdom. I like the Scottish people; they are nice. I am also pleased that I have—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Let us have a question, please.

Mr. Dickens

Oh yes, it is just coming—I have waited so long, Mr. Speaker.

I do not take umbrage at the fact that there are two thirds of Scottish Conservative Members in the House, as opposed to a smaller percentage of Opposition Members. What is all the nonsense about wanting to break up the union, when the resources of United Kingdom taxpayers are being poured into Scotland? Why on earth do the Scottish people want to break away from us when they are doing so jolly well?

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend puts his finger on an important point that the people of Scotland should address. It is undoubtedly true that, when 22 per cent. more of public expenditure is spent per head in Scotland than in England, the Scottish people should reflect on whether it is sensible to run the risk of upsetting that unfavourable financial arrangement. I have no doubt that, if they addressed that issue and realised the massive rise in income tax that they would have to pay to a Scottish Parliament or Scottish Assembly, they would decide that the present United Kingdom arrangements were more favourable to them.

Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)

When, during the last year, the Secretary of State announced special measures for Lanarkshire and Dunoon and for employment action, it was said that it was extra money, extra funding for the Scottish economy because of need. When one takes out the money for Lanarkshire, Dunoon and employment action, one sees that there has

£ million
1991–92 Estimated Outturn 1991–92 Planned Provision 1992–93 Planned Provision 1993–94 Planned Provision 1994–95 Planned Provision
gross net gross net gross net gross net gross net
Central government's own expenditure (including public corporations other than nationalised industries) and local authority capital expenditure
Agriculture, fisheries and food 258 250 255 250 307 300 310 300 310 300
Industry, energy, trade and employment 629 553 612 527 616 537 620 530 620 580
Tourism 14 14 14 14 14 14 10 10 220 20
Roads and transport 383 379 384 381 423 419 440 440 460 450
Housing 1,246 719 1,162 719 1,029 654 1,050 690 1,110 760
Other environmental services 425 333 415 318 475 375 500 390 500 400
Law, order and protective services 347 331 348 312 406 386 410 380 420 400
Education 545 545 545 545 627 627 670 670 710 710
Arts and libraries 41 41 41 41 49 49 60 60 60 60
Health 3,422 3,321 3,383 3,282 3,725 3,615 3,900 3,780 4,030 3,910
Social Work services 51 51 51 51 61 61 60 60 70 70
Other public services 198 158 196 159 206 164 230 180 230 190
Total central government and local authority capital 7,557 6,695 7,407 6,598 7,937 7,203 8,250 7,510 8,540 7,830
Central government support to local authorities' current expenditure 4,892 4,396 5,203 5,480 5,700

been a cut in real terms in the Highlands and Islands and Scottish Enterprise budget of 1.5 per cent. How can the Secretary of State justify that cut in his industry budget at a time when the needs of the Scottish economy are becoming even more grave?

The Secretary of State said that he intended to increase the amount for capital building on schools. If my calculations are correct, it means that, next year, £80 million or thereabouts will be spent on Scotland's schools. At 1992–93 prices, in 1979 we spent £134 million on Scotland's schools. That is a cut of 40 per cent. over 12 years. How can the Secretary of State justify such a cut in school building?

Mr. Lang

The hon. Gentleman seems to have forgotten that there has been a substantial reduction in school rolls. If he compared like with like, he would find that spending per pupil has increased over that period. The hon. Gentleman spoke about Scottish Enterprise. Of course, if part of its budget is taken out and the reduced level compared with something else, a different result is obtained. Scottish Enterprise's budget will be up by £37 million compared with the planned figure a year ago, an increase of 8.8 per cent.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned Lanarkshire. Taking into account trunk roads, local roads and local authority factory building provision, the figure for next year is £29 million, including the Scottish Enterprise figure of up to £25 million for Lanarkshire. The following year, that would increase to £44.4 million, and in the year after that it would increase to £58.9 million. On top of that, there is provision for more expenditure by local authorities, local enterprise companies and other Scottish Office budgets in the Lanarkshire area. Therefore, it can look forward to a continuing commitment of Government funds as we tackle the problems in that area.

Mr. Nigel Griffiths

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

No, I shall take first the application under Standing Order No. 20.

Following is the table:

1991–92 Estimated Outturn 1991–92 Planned Provision 1992–93 Planned Provision 1993–94 Planned Provision 1994–95 Planned Provision
gross net gross net gross net gross net gross net
Nationalised industries financing limits 49 48 32 -10 -20
Total expenditure within the Secretary of States responsibility 11,635 11,042 12,437 12,980 13,510
Forestry Commission 83 83 99 90 90
Total 11,718 11,125 12,536 13,070 13,610


1. 1991–92 and 1992–93 rounded to nearest £1 million. 1993–94 and 1994–95 rounded to nearest £10 million.

2. Figures may not add due to rounding.

3. Central government support to local authorities comprises revenue support grant, grants to local authorities for specific purposes, and income from non domestic rates.

4. Housing figures for 1991–92 include repayments to the National Loans Fund of £170 million (gross) and £38 million (net). These are technical adjustments and the amounts were not available for spending on programmes. The comparable figure for the other years is £4 million (gross).