HC Deb 15 May 1991 vol 191 cc264-5
2. Mr. Eadie

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many requests he has had for a meeting with the Scottish Trades Union Congress since he became Secretary of State; and what has been his response.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart)

My right hon. Friend has received one such request and has indicated his willingness to meet the STUC at a suitable opportunity. I myself met the general council of the STUC on 15 February for a general discussion on the Scottish economy.

Mr. Eadie

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for that reply, but it is not consistent with the information that I have received, which is that the Secretary of State refused to meet the STUC to discuss reopening Monktonhall colliery. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that yesterday a lobby of thousands of miners and other interested people presented to No. 10 Downing street petitions requesting that Monktonhall colliery in my constituency be reopened? In the light of the hon. Gentleman's answer, the apparent confusion in the Scottish Office and all that we heard from the Secretary of State for Scotland at the Conservative party conference in Perth, which was nothing but rhetoric, will the STUC be driven to ask for a meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss the perilous state of the Scottish economy?

Mr. Stewart

Decisions on the future of individual pits are a matter for British Coal. The corporation is permitted to review the position of Monktonhall in mid-1991. I can absolutely assure the hon. Gentleman and the House that my right hon. Friend has agreed to meet the STUC for a general discussion, following its congress. That meeting will take place.

Mr. Bill Walker

When my hon. Friend meets the STUC, will he draw its attention to the responsible way in which the shop stewards at Rosyth naval base have lobbied for their base and contrast that with the way in which the Transport and General Workers Union behaved over Ford in Dundee? The STUC, with its socialist and nationalist attitude, is opposed to directors representing trade unions in our finest Scottish companies.

Mr. Stewart

I understand my hon. Friend's latter point, but I do not think that I should intrude on the internal grief of the STUC. As for Ford at Dundee, while my hon. Friend's criticism of the Transport and General Workers Union is correct, it is worth putting on the record the fact that the Amalgamated Engineering Union did its best to achieve that major project for Scotland. I echo what my hon. Friend said about the shop stewards at Rosyth, whom, I, with a large number of hon. Members, have met.

Mr. Galbraith

When the Secretary of State finally meets the STUC, will he discuss opt-out hospitals—a matter on which its affiliates must be consulted? Will he explain why yesterday in the House the Prime Minister said that decisions on opting out should be made by "medical people"? Is the Secretary of State aware that in Scotland more than 80 per cent. of medical people—the doctors—voted against opting out? Why does the Secretary of State, in the Prime Minister's words, have "so little faith" in the doctors? Why does not the Secretary of state, even at this late stage, listen to the doctors and stop the opting-out nonsense?

Mr. Stewart

The Ayrshire NHS trust is led by a consultant. When I saw the first 25 questions on the Order Paper, I came to the conclusion that the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith) and his collegues were running scared of my hon. Friend the Minister of State because there was not a single question on education or health.

I can assure the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden that my hon. Friend the Minister of State has agreed to meet the STUC on that matter.