HC Deb 17 June 1997 vol 296 cc104-5
7. Mr. Forth

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about the implications of the forthcoming public expenditure survey for Scottish Office spending.[Interruption.] [2335]

Madam Speaker

Order. Question 7 has been called.

Mr. Dewar

My apologies, Madam Speaker. I was distracted by certain happenings, but I am sure that that was unintentional.

There will be no public expenditure survey in 1997, but I shall carry out an internal review of the plans for 1998–99.

Mr. Forth

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his post and I remind him that the last time we faced each other in a debating chamber was during my maiden speech in the Glasgow university union in 1962. I have waited a long time to face him again, but I welcome the opportunity. In his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton), he said that the existing imbalance in per capita expenditure between Scotland and England was a system that has been "well established". Does he accept that his devolution proposals could or should change that? Does he accept that a Scottish Assembly should use its discretion to raise taxes to justify and to pay for any imbalance between Scottish public expenditure and its level in the rest of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Dewar

I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman remembers Glasgow and that the memories have not been obliterated by his pleasure at being in Bromley and Chislehurst—a pleasure which, I suspect, was acute on 1 May. If he considers his Glasgow memories, he will understand some of the reasons for the differential to which he refers. It is not the intention that revenue-varying powers for a Scottish Parliament are meant, in some way, to compensate for a punitive raid on Scottish finances. I regard that as a perverse and eccentric view.

Mr. Welsh

Why are the Labour Government continuing the Tory Government's policy of self-financing public sector pay awards which can only be funded by service cuts or rising unemployment, which affects both the private sector and local authorities? Why is Labour supporting the fourth and fifth consecutive years of that destructive Tory policy?

Mr. Dewar

We have made clear what our spending limits mean and we shall stay within the announced limits. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will support that.

Mr. Maclennan

If there is to be no increase in expenditure on roads in Scotland during the next two years, will the Secretary of State at least consider a reordering of priorities to enable the north coast road of Great Britain to become a proper two-lane road and to improve the A9 north of Helmsdale into Caithness, as those roads are well below standard and ought to be beneficiaries of a reordered programme for Scotland?

Mr. Dewar

I have on several occasions driven those roads—sometimes to visit the hon. Gentleman—so I understand his point, and no doubt those carrying out the review of the roads programme will bear that in mind.

Mr. Alan Clark

Since the Secretary of State's hon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson)—a real friend this time—would not tell The Herald yesterday the cost of putting a Hyundai factory in Fife, will he confirm here to the House of Commons that it will cost the taxpayer £120,000 per job?

Mr. Dewar

I often read what the right hon. Gentleman writes and I have come to the conclusion that I can class it largely as fiction. That figure is not accurate. I hope that he will support the efforts of Locate in Scotland—as well as the efforts of the present and previous Governments—to attract investment to this country.