§ 4.23 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, my first words will be to express appreciation to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, for the kind and exaggerated words in which he referred to my own work in your Lordships' House. They are, none the less, acceptable for being, in my opinion, over-generous. I should also like to thank him for the equally kind, but certainly not too generous, way in which he praised certain aspects of the success which has attended the work of the previous Government. I am tempted, with so long a list of speakers, to leave certain subjects in the way in which he has spoken of them, because anything that I might say would not necessarily be couched in any stronger terms than he has used.
I, too, should like to join the noble Earl in his congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir. I would not wish your Lordships to believe for one moment that I vacated the office of Minister of State of my own free will, but it having so happened that way. and the Office having to pass into the hands of one in another Party, I can think of no one whom I would rather see in the job than the noble Baroness. I never had the opportunity of debating with her in what we describe as "another place"; but I have debated with her in other places, particularly on television. I wish to inform your Lordships that I have frequently disagreed with the noble Baroness, but I have never quarrelled with her, and I do not intend to quarrel with her to-day.
749 My Lords, the Scottish Ministers in the last Administration set themselves certain objectives in the economic field: That there should be the maximum creation of new jobs in Scotland; that wage rates, by comparison with English wage rates, should improve; that housing conditions should be made better; so that if these things were done properly, emigration from Scotland would fall. I am quite certain that to none of these objectives would any Scottish Minister of any Government object. They should not, therefore, be the subject of any political disagreement. Where there may be disagreement is as to the methods adopted to achieve these objectives; and if there is to be praise or criticism, to-day will not be the occasion for either praise or criticisms of the present Government, because time has not permitted either to be possible. When there is to be praise or criticism, it ought to be on the results which the methods bring about.
The noble Earl said certain things about what had happened in some of these directions. The first one to which I would direct your Lordships' attention is the somewhat misplaced view (but understandable at a General Election) that what we ought to look at is the net position on jobs. The previous. Government issued a White Paper, The Scottish Economy 1965 to 1970. In that Paper there was an objective to seek to have created approximately 130,000 new jobs in Scotland in five years. It was anticipated that during that time there would be a run-down in the older industries which might mean the loss of some 70,000 or 75,000 of the existing jobs. Unfortunately, because of the usual desire to oversimplify, the criticism was made that there was a net loss of jobs, and an inference drawn that the incentives and regional policies if the last Government were, therefore, not as successful as they might be.
The first point I should like to draw to your Lordships' notice is that the creation of new jobs and the loss of old ones are entirely different matters. It may not be desirable in certain cases to prevent old jobs from disappearing. I doubt whether it could be argued that it was in the interests of Scotland that pits that were completely uneconomic and would never again, in any of the years which remained to them, produce coal at a price 750 which was other than heavily subsidised, were an advantage to Scotland. When the number of jobs lost turned out to be twice as great as was foreseen, this merely brought the necessary correction into an earlier and more concentrated period than otherwise would have been the case. The jobs would have gone in any event. Instead of going over five or six years, the 153,000 jobs have gone in three or four years. The incentive side, the giving of assistance to attract industry, the making of the whole of Scotland—other than Edinburgh and Leith—a development area, has achieved a remarkable degree of success. Because of the obscuring of it by locking at net figures, I do not think it is appreciated even in Scotland itself that the growth of jobs during the period between 1965 and 1970 was at a greater rate than ever known in our history.
I re-read the other day an article in the Scotsman by the present Secretary of State, Mr. Gordon Campbell, in which he referred to the number of jobs created during the period 1960–64, when a job creation of some 40,000 jobs a year resulted in a plus at the end of some 35,000 jobs. The creation of jobs under the last Government's policy resulted in a figure in excess of 40,000 jobs per year—at a quick calculation I think the rate was about 43,000 jobs—but there was a net deficiency because of this accelerated loss. So if the new Government accept that one of their prime responsibilities is to keep on with this business of attracting industry to Scotland, particularly the industries which are going to be important at the end of this century, rather than to try to preserve the industries which were important at the end of the last century, they must be certain that any changes which they make in seeking to attract industry are related to this question of bringing new jobs and are not complicated by any reference to net figures.
If changes are made, and they result in an improvement of the position in Scotland, I, for one, will not quarrel. I am not so much interested in methods as in results; and if other methods bring better results, then, whatever we may think as politicians, as Scots we shall not disagree. What I would urge upon Her Majesty's Government is that if they 751 are making changes they should remember that they are Conservatives and should not change just for the sake of being different; they should not change just because something was done by the previous Government and they want to rush to do something different. One interesting figure I saw the other day referred to the period to mid-1969. I do not have all the details—as the noble Baroness appreciates, my access to information is not now so ready as it once was—but I understand that last year, for the first time for a number of years, there was in fact a reversal of this trend and the new jobs created exceeded the new jobs lost. So we may well be at the end of this pattern of accelerated job loss. I certainly hope so.
The second point which we thought was important was the rate of wages that could be earned by men and women working in Scotland. Everybody knows that wages for a given type of job tend to be higher South of the Border than they are North of the Border. In 1964 the gap between Scottish and English wage rates was 7.3 per cent. It fell progressively through the years and in 1969 the gap was only 2.48 per cent. I certainly hope that the new Government will be successful in continuing this trend to a point where most people in Scotland will earn as high a rate of wages for doing a given job as they would South of the Border. We certainly have left the Government a very much narrower gap to be bridged.
Thirdly, there is the question of housing. I do not necessarily subscribe to the view, which in part is true, that housing in Scotland is the worst in Europe. It is perhaps true that some of the houses we have in Scotland are the worst in Europe, but the general pattern of housing in Scotland does not fall into that category—although a great deal remains to be done. I would remind your Lordships that, whatever the position may have been in the United Kingdom as a whole, the position in Scotland was relatively satisfactory. I say "relatively satisfactory" because I do not think it is possible to achieve the very high target which the Government set for themselves in Scotland of 50,000 houses this year; although I believe that a fourth new record for housing in Scotland 752 is still possible this year. It was in 1967 that we first managed to beat the figures obtained I think during the period at the Scottish Office of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, when we topped the 40,000 mark for the first time. In 1968 the figure was higher still; and in 1969 we were just a few houses short of 42,000. I think that in due course the noble Baroness will be able to inform your Lordships that 1970 is an even better year. Certainly from 1972 the noble Baroness will be working on the figures for which her Government must accept full responsibility. Following a change of Government there is an inevitable time lag when blame or praise is apportioned with some doubt.
Policies will not succeed if there is any slipping back in the total number of houses provided. While in Scotland for a very long time the emphasis must remain predominantly on providing houses to let, we certainly wish that every success will attend the effort to increase the number of houses provided for sale. In this field also we had a measure of success. The 1968 and 1969 figures were the highest attained in Scotland, but very far short of what they might have been, and certainly very far short of what they ought to have been. So there is tremendous opportunity for improvement in this field.
It was the success or otherwise that attended these efforts which would determine whether or not migration from Scotland was to continue at a very high level. The Government believed that if migration figures could be brought down, that could rightly be taken as a measure of their success. In the year to June, 1969, for the first time since 1959, the figures were down to a net migration of 25,000. They fell progressively from the peak year of 1965, when they reached the all-time high of 47.000. In the second half of 1969—that is, the first half of the current emigration year—the figures have fallen to about 9,000. So the likelihood is that the figures for the year to June, 1970, will have fallen below 20,000. These are not necessarily satisfactory figures in themselves, but by comparison with those of the past they are going the right way.
I do not believe that we shall ever have a situation in which Scots will not wish to go to other parts of the United 753 Kingdom or to other parts of the world; and I should not wish to stop them from doing so. What I certainly wish to stop, and what I am certain Her Majesty's present Government wish to stop, is that Scots should go away not because they want to but because they feel they have to, to get a job, to get a decent wage or to get a decent house. If the Government can continue to build on the foundations which we have handed over to them, then I think the migration figures will continue to fall.
I do not want to weary your Lordships with a lot of statistics, but I referred to the regional policies, and it is very important that we ought not to abandon the idea that all growth in Scotland cannot be contained in the central belt. If I see any danger in the concept of Oceanspan, it is that there might be a temptation to regard this as a substitute for doing things over Scotland as a whole. I thought that in a way the biggest compliment that was paid to the previous Government's regional policies was when the Conservative Party in Opposition clamoured for the inclusion of Edinburgh as a development area, because Edinburgh was one place which had never suffered in the past, and yet when incentives were brought in for the rest of Scotland it was found that industries were leaving the Edinburgh area when they needed to expand. It was not just as a whim, but when expansion was necessary they found it better to go a dozen miles or so to one of the smaller towns in the Lothians.
I wish to draw to the attention of your Lordships, and in particular to the attention of Scottish Ministers, how difficult it must have been in the years before 1964 for the outlying areas of Scotland to get industry when they had to compete with the selective growth points without any of the incentives which are now available o them, I believe that one set of figures will be sufficient to show how this change has come about. There are three areas in which there are economic planning consultative groups: Tees-side, to which the noble Earl, Lord Perth, referred; the Borders in the South-West, and the North-East of Scotland. In order to simplify the figures I will quote them as percentages. In Teesside the amount of industrial building approved in the period 1965–69 was 233 per cent. 754 of the amount approved in the period 1960–64; in the Borders and South-West the amount approved was 170 per cent. of the previous period, and in the North-East the amount approved was 224 per cent. of the earlier period. These figures could not possibly have been accomplished if we had not spread the benefits of development incentives over a much wider area than formerly had been the case.
There is one other aspect in which, because of the importance of infrastructure, the new Government must not relax, and that is in the spending of money on roads. So much of the new development that will take place in the periphery must depend on the importance of roads. All I would say in this connection is that in 1964–65 the total Government expenditure on the construction and improvement of roads in Scotland was £17 million. The Vote provision for the current financial year is £38.9 million—well in excess of double the 1964–65 figures; and even making allowance for the fall in the value of money it reflects a considerable expansion in the mileage of roads being undertaken.
I do not put these figures forward in any sense of complacency, because there was one thing of which I was conscious during my tenure of the Scottish Department, and that was that whether we doubled, trebled, quadrupled or multiplied by ten the amount of money which was being spent on roads in Scotland, there would still be people and areas who would feel that they had genuine grievances that nothing was being done in relation to the roads in their area. But there must be priorities, because there cannot be unlimited amounts of money available for even such vital things as roads. I hope the present Scottish Office will follow the pattern we laid down in seeking to make the best use of our roads programme and furthering the expansion of our industrial opportunities, and I would not exclude from that the helping of tourism in particular parts of the country.
My Lords, I have nearly finished. However, I do not wish to conclude without a reference to Oceanspan. The noble Earl, Lord Perth, invited the Minister of State to endorse this imaginative project. I myself do not go so far as that, because I have a strong feeling that if 755 I were still sitting in the place the noble Baroness now occupies I should not be too willing to do so, not necessarily because I have any doubts about the value of the project—it is undoubtedly an imaginative scheme—but because in its repercussions in other directions we must be certain that in seeking to bring about something new we are not destroying something which exists and is working. I am not saying that this would happen, but it is a possibility. May I give an example?
At the present time there is a large and successful container terminal at Greenock. Goods go in there and then go by the freightliner trains to the South and in due course find their way to the Continent by way of Harwich and Felixstowe. It is well known that this is the biggest single success that has attended the efforts of British Rail in Scotland in seeking to bring the railways into the second half of the 20th century and to earn money instead of losing it, and we must not readily take a leap in the dark which might destroy that successful complex.
I have had only a brief look at Ocean-span. One of the figures which impressed me was that in the cost of transporting goods across the Atlantic—that is, general cargo—it was reckoned that 70 per cent. was the cost of handling at the ports and not of crossing the Atlantic. At the present time no container ship carries more than 2,000 containers, but Ocean-span looks forward—perhaps not necessarily too far forward—to the possibility of ships containing 10,000 containers. If those are to come into Scotland and are to be divided up and transported, whether by canal, by rail or by road, across Scotland, and then perhaps transferred from the 200,000-ton or the 500,000-ton, or the million ton cargo ships to which the noble Earl referred, to the 80,000-ton ship which would then move across to the Continent, there will be two other handlings, and we have to be quite sure in our own minds that we are not substituting a greater cost for a lesser one.
Having said that, I certainly would urge upon Her Majesty's Government that they should, compatible with all reasonable precautions, give the fullest and quickest possible consideration to this scheme. We have had not too much of 756 this imaginative thinking in Scotland and it would be wrong for us to adopt any unnecessarily cautious attitude in looking at it. But in my view it would be even more dangerous, simply because we have had so little of it in the past, if we were to say, "Here is a wonderfully imaginative scheme" and were to go for it—if I may in the present majority attendance use the expression—"like a cock at a groser": the translation, for the uninitiated, being "like a cockerel at a gooseberry".
Those are the only views which I would express on Oceanspan, except to say in conclusion that I endorse what the noble Earl has said about the work done for Scotland by the Scottish Council (Development and Industry). I do not believe there is one man or woman in Scotland who has the slightest knowledge of the work done by this voluntary body and who is filled with other than admiration, not only for the work it has undertaken but for the remarkable degree of success which has attended its efforts.
I am not certain that the noble Baroness will make a record in the maiden speech on which she is about to embark, it being also her first speech as a Minister. I have a feeling that that has already been accomplished. What I am certain about is that no one will have accomplished what she will have done at the end of the day, by making her second speech on the same day as her maiden speech. I wish her well in both of them.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, SCOTTISH OFFICE (BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE)
My Lords, I hope very much that your Lordships will grant me the same measure of indulgence for my maiden speech as I received when I first spoke in this Chamber 23 years ago. Your Lordships will no doubt recall that when during the last war the Chamber of another place was bombed this House offered its Members the shelter of these walls. So it came about that I worked here from 1946, when I was first elected M.P. for South Aberdeen, until 1950, when we returned to another place in the new Chamber rebuilt upon the original site. If in some ways these walls are familiar, I can assure your Lordships that somehow this Chamber is most unfamiliar, and particularly at this Box. I 757 feel that it is hardly fair to ask the indulgence of your Lordships for a maiden speech from the Front Bench, so I wonder whether it would be acceptable if I were to try to be uncontroversial now, and then, if I have leave from your Lordships to speak again, I can be as controversial as your Lordships would no doubt wish.
I should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Perth, very much for his most generous welcome, and also the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. Perhaps I may also take this opportunity of saying that I have had a wonderful welcome from all your Lordships. I feel very much, like the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, that, because we are both Scots, although no doubt we may argue about methods, there will be a great many occasions when we might well make common cause.
I am sure we are all indebted to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and to your Lordships for having found time at so early a stage in this Parliament's life to discuss the pressing problems of our Scottish economy. It is fitting that we should do so associated with the Report, Oceanspan, because it has as its main theme the economy of Central Scotland, and in particular our transport system and its relation to the great estuaries of the Clyde and Forth.
It is discouraging, but not disheartening, that this debate on the Scottish economy should be overhung by a national docks strike. The Government are of course very concerned about the possible effects of the strike on essential supplies to the Scottish Islands, but your Lordships may be assured that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is keeping himself closely in touch and has done and will do everything necessary to deal with this difficult situation.
It is certainly well that we should take stock of our position, although your Lordships would not expect me, after only three weeks, to lay before you detailed plans for the economy. Indeed, you would be properly disturbed if I attempted to do so. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made clear, we are more concerned to get our decisions right than to impress by the speed with which we reach them. Your Lordships can be sure that what is said 758 here to-day will be listened to with great care. I listened in particular to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, because all of us in Scotland certainly recognise the long hard work that he has done for us over a period of five years. I am very conscious, too, of the time and effort that many of your Lordships on both sides of the House have given to our problems and I can only wish that you will continue to give us your counsel, for I feel that I myself have much to learn.
I should like to pay tribute also, as both noble Lords who have spoken have done, to the Scottish Council in presenting the Report, Oceanspan. It is of very great interest to me. It reminds us that one of the greatest of our assets in Scotland is the deep water of the Clyde. As the noble Earl, Lord Perth, said, it can accommodate even the largest ships now under construction anywhere; it can afford them, without dredging, safe, deep anchorages right into the lee of the shore. We have an asset of such scarcity that it is increasing in value daily.
Oceanspan also forces us to take a hard look at our West—East links across the central belt of Scotland. Whether we enter the Common Market or not, we need modern communications across Scotland, just as we must improve them to our large markets in the South. As far back as 1963, during the last Conservative Government, we published a plan for Central Scotland and laid down a pattern of public investment in roads. ports, airports and other services which recognised these key facts of geography. That plan provided for an expanding programme of investment which has governed the development of Central Scotland ever since. The key elements in this programme are now on the way to completion, although it is certainly true that faster progress might have been made. But we cannot, I suggest, afford to ignore the critical importance of our communications to the South, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said, three out of the four cities already have freight-liner terminals and efficient road haulage services.
The importance of the Clyde as a base for ocean container movements is self-evident. As many noble Lords will know, the Clyde Port Authority already have a flourishing container terminal at Greenock, to which the noble Earl, Lord 759 Perth, referred; and, as my right honourable friend announced in another place on Tuesday of this week, he has decided to approve the Authority's proposals to extend the berth and to provide extra handling facilities. Noble Lords may know that, for the last four years I have been a director of the shipping company, Cunard, and part of our operations lie in a consortium known as the Atlantic Container Line, or A.C.L. I may say that to us Greenock, in terms of efficiency—that is, speed of operation and little damage to equipment—is rated highly. The labour relations in Greenock are as good, in our view, as anywhere in the United Kingdom, and a high degree of flexibility enables a good throughput rate to be maintained.
On the other hand, so far as the Ocean-span idea of a land bridge between the two estuaries of Clyde and Forth is concerned, we have some practical reservations. This is really because our first calculations suggest that the costs of trans-shipment, and even more of cutting a new canal, as the Report suggests, would be very heavy. But we do feel that there is a great deal in the idea of the Clyde as a reception area for raw materials, Central Scotland providing the conversion economy, and the Forth the outlets to Europe. To give your Lord-ships one example, if I may, from my own experience in Cunard, if containers were to be discharged at Greenock with an overland move to Grangemouth before proceeding by North Sea ferry, this would incur, at present rates per 40-foot container, a discharge cost of £10 8s. 0d., with a road haulage cost of £27 10s. 0d. The North Sea ferry charge, presently being at 7s. 0d. per sq. foot, would increase the cost to approximately £150 per 40-foot container. For commodities not suited to containerisation there exist many additional problems which require a good deal of technological development before this type of operation could be looked upon as feasible.
The noble Earl, Lord Perth, referred to Hunterston. Your Lordships will be familiar with the various schemes that have been put forward for potential development on the Clyde, particularly here. They include a possible iron-ore discharging and trans-shipment terminal, a major oil refinery project, and possibly 760 an entirely new steelworks on the North side of the Hunterston peninsula. These schemes would have a fundamental effect on the Scottish economy for many years to come. The British Steel Corporation explained that a possible ultimate capacity of steel production of about 8 to 10 million tons a year could be achieved from the Scottish steel industry, in comparison with to-day's production of about 3 million tons. I am afraid that I cannot comment further this afternoon, because the Report is not yet ready, but it should be available within a month. It is clear, however, that schemes of this order of magnitude would have very considerable implications in terms of employment, housing and other essential facilities and services, as well as on the amenity and character of the area.
We accept the importance placed by Oceanspan on the need to strike a proper balance between development and amenity. We are determined to welcome development, if only because we realise that, as the old crofter said, "Ye canna live off the view". Nowadays this does not mean destroying either the beauty or the recreational value of an area. I am personally keenly aware that good industrial design can bring a striking asset to new commercial ventures. The most advanced companies who employ distinguished architects and designers can improve an area to an extent which attracts men and women not only to work, but to live. I am glad to inform your Lord-ships that the Scottish Office have already held useful discussions with the Scottish Council on the Oceanspan Report. We shall certainly take part in the further studies which will be given to it by the Council and many other interests, notably of course the Clyde and Forth Port Authorities.
All last week we discussed the state of the United Kingdom economy. To-day, as we debate the Scottish economy, it is set, as always, in the context of the wider whole of which we are a part. So your Lordships will expect me at least to outline the major facts, both good and bad, that will affect our judgments in the months to come.
I always like to take the problems first, and, as we are only too well aware, we have cost inflation and low growth. Over the last five years prices rose by an 761 average of 3.7 per cent. a year. The average growth rate over the same period is just over 2 per cent. The noble Earl, Lord Perth, called the economy "stagnant". Our short and medium term debts total £1,461 million. The pound has been devalued. Unemployment in the United Kingdom is the worst since 1940. Scotland has 3.9 per cent., or 84,000 men and women, out of work. In the Glasgow area alone the unemployment rate for men is 6.7 per cent., which means 19,440 men without a job. I accept a great deal of what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, that much of this is clue to the nature of our second industrial revolution in the run-down of traditional industries and, happily, in some areas higher productivity and also lower emigration. But in the last three years alone there has been a net loss of 52,000 jobs in Scotland, and there are more to come. These are figures which must guide us when we discuss the economy here to-day.
Let us turn to the encouraging facts. It appeared at first that the surplus on the balance of payments was reasonably strong, but now I must temper this by saying that the latest trade figures are disappointing. However, in Scotland there has been an increase in new industry, built over the years on the strong base that was given by such industries as the steel strip mill To give but one example, I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will be happy with the latest results of his efforts and those of the Ministry of Technology and the Scottish Office in the attraction of Michelin to his home city of Dundee, just as I am indeed glad that they are coming to my own city of Aberdeen. But, of course, the foreign investor is no man's servant: he comes to us because we are ready with land, facilities, and an able working force and a stable society.
We have much to encourage us, my Lords, but set against our problems, both in Scotland and in the United Kingdom, the general scene is very difficult indeed. So how are we to set out about our task? At the root of our philosophy is the deceptively simple belief that people count. For example, it must be made worth while to work and to save. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made clear, in the lifetime of this Parliament we will reduce the burden of 762 taxation, not in order that the Chancellor shall give away certain sums like some benefactor, but to be sure that people keep more of their own earnings. We shall abolish selective employment tax, which has borne so hardly on Scotland, because we believe that these measures will slow down the endless rise in prices and the wage demands that try to keep pace. In order that these things can be done, a searching review of public expenditure is being undertaken, as well as a careful probe into any proposed price increases in the public sector.
At the same time, we are looking at the effectiveness of the various regional incentives. We shall phase out the regional employment premium, taking into account our existing obligations and commitments. I hope that I shall reassure the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, when I say that we attach the greatest importance to an effective regional development policy, and intend to retain the present development area and incentive area boundaries unless and until the problems of any particular area are on the way to solution. Naturally we shall have a careful look at the position of Edinburgh.
The fascination of the Scottish Office is the vast range of its responsibilities. If I were to deal with all those that impinge directly on the economy I should greatly weary this House. But there is one which seems to me vital, and which has appeared vital to both the noble Lords who spoke before me; and that is the need for homes: not just because of the scandal of some of our housing, not just because men and women cannot change their jobs without adequate housing, but because to provide for one's family is one of the oldest driving forces in human nature. Therefore we have made a start.
We have told local authorities that if they apply to sell their houses we will approve their application in all but exceptional cases. We are about to meet the Glasgow Corporation to discuss how best we can, together, tackle their problems, which are probably worse than any other. We are sure that many more Scots would like, as the expression goes, "to own their own front door" We believe that the State should build for those who really need such help but can afford to set aside only a small part of their income for shelter. While there must 763 always be a large proportion of homes to let, we believe that all who can afford it should pay more reasonable rents than is the case now, and I can assure your Lordships that we shall give a very great deal of time and thought to this vast and difficult problem.
A modern industrial structure must be backed by strong regional and local government. We are now studying the enormous amount of evidence that has been submitted concerning the Wheatley Report. We shall of course continue consultations, and hope to publish a White Paper by the end of the year which will give our decisions on the main issues. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has asked me to conduct the negotiations, and I shall certainly try to get the largest possible measure of agreement.
Your Lordships will recall that it was a Conservative Government which first created the post of Minister of State for Scotland, the first holder of the office being the present Foreign Secretary. We felt at the time, and do so still, that the Minister of State, apart from being general deputy to the Secretary of State, should take on certain specific tasks from time to time. We also felt that the Minister of State should be a Member of this House, in order to give greater opportunities to be in Scotland, and I understand that for this reason your Lordships have always been most helpful to my predecessor in trying to secure that Scottish business is not taken every week. In any case, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Mowbray and Stourton who has undertaken to deal with any Scottish matters if I have to be in Scotland. We have designated my honourable friend Mr. Younger as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Development. This was one of the recommendations of the Committee on "Scotland's Government" chaired by my right honourable friend Sir Alec Douglas-Home, and on which Committee I had the honour to serve.
Your Lordships will have noticed the phrase in the gracious Speech which states:At a later stage plans will be laid before you for giving the Scottish people a greater say in their own affairs.This will of course come after the publication of the White Paper on Local 764 Government Reform, and when the financial structure has been decided. It will be based on my right honourable friend's report on Scotland's Government—naturally taking into account any views that the Crowther Commission may have.
All those who worked upon the Report were convinced that the people of Scotland, of all political Parties or of none, felt that the central Government was remote and out of touch. Alas! this is not new. I well remember Mr. Walter Elliot, when he was Secretary of State for Scotland about thirty years ago, telling me a true story which he felt showed the sturdy independence of the Scots. Apparently, the Department had decided to give away a number of ploughs free to certain crofters to help produce modern cultivation. Soon afterwards, when the Secretary of State was touring the Highlands with a Gaelic interpreter, they came upon one of those ploughs lying in the open and obviously never used. Mr. Elliot asked, "Why does he not use his plough?". After a long discussion between the interpreter and the crofter, the reply came, "The man says he has no inclination to use it". So, my Lords, we must guard against St. Andrew's House itself being out of touch as well as Westminster.
There is much in the great variety of our interest on which I have not spoken up to now, but I shall listen carefully to all your Lordships say and, if I have leave, will reply as best I can. For it is in the nature of our democracy that men and methods should have their alternate chance. None of us can say that we have the answers to problems, some as old as time. But one thing I can pledge to this House to-night, that in the allotted span of our responsibility we will work, we will care, we will do our best.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ LORD HOY
My Lords, I ask for your indulgence for this my maiden speech. I find myself in a little difficulty, because normally there would have been an intervening speaker, and it would be sheer presumption on my part to seek to congratulate the noble Baroness on having delivered her speech before I have delivered my own. I am also slightly reticent, because this will be my second maiden speech in this House. I delivered 765 my first maiden speech from this very spot nearly 25 years ago, when this place was then another place. So as I return with the noble Baroness this afternoon, I feel that the surroundings are not really unfamiliar.
I was told when I came here that I might find the procedure a little different from another place, so I thought I should guard against getting into any difficulty and should seek to confine what I have to say to what I thought was the subject on the Order Paper, and should concentrate on Oceanspan and shipping and ports, rather than discuss housing, education and other matters. I should also like to express my thanks to Sir William Lithgow and his Committee, who prepared the Report for the Scottish Council (Development and Industry). This is not in any way to detract from the Scottish Council's work. Indeed, I should be the last to do so as the Director of that very distinguished Council was a constituent of mine for 25 years, and though I have left another place he still remains a resident of Leith.
I think we ought to understand that this is not a detailed plan that we are dealing with in Oceanspan. This was a study which was requested, and the Lithgow Committee who went into it made it perfectly clear that this was not a plan, it was not a rigid programme. It was the result of their findings and they thought it was something which was well worth discussing, not only in Scotland because of its Scottish benefit, but also because of the very large contribution it might make to the United Kingdom's economy as a whole. I think its whole purpose was admirably described in an article in The Accountant's Magazine of March this year, which reported on Oceanspan in this way:The basic Oceanspan strategy is, therefore, to develop an industrial corridor in Central Scotland, fed by an ocean terminal in the West and supplying Europe through a distribution terminal in the East. An excellent example of this integrated planning of port facilities can be seer in the Randstad in the Netherlands, which considers Amsterdam. Rotterdam. The Hague and Utrecht as an overall unit for development purposes.That is what they had in mind when they were making this Report. Also, I would say to my noble friend Lord Hughes that they had not overlooked 766 the position of Greenock in this respect, because the following two lines state:This linear port development will link the ocean terminal at Hunterston and the Greenock container terminal to the Forth ports".The last couple of lines quickly bring forth the obvious question, which is this. Hunterston is talked about as an ocean terminal which exists, and what we want to know, and what I am sure the noble Baroness will expect us to ask is: when are we likely to get the decision in this respect? Hunterston is extremely important not only for ocean-going traffic, not only as one end of a corridor between the West and the East, but possibly for the whole future of the steel industry in Scotland Obviously, therefore, Scotland will want to know what is Government thinking on this point, and as I am sure the noble Baroness will appreciate we shall wait to hear with tremendous interest.
But not only Hunterston is concerned in this respect. What we must consider is the organisation of ports as a whole. Obviously, even in the Clyde and Forth complex, one has to consider what is Government thinking on those areas. Are we thinking of them as two completely separate units, or are we thinking that in the days that lie ahead there will be a new ports authority which will see the unification of these two areas? It is argued that, if we are going to do ever-increasing business overseas, we shall have to unify these ports so that those inquiring about business and business transactions will be dealing with one port and one ports authority, rather than having to make inquiries of two or three which inevitably causes delay. I am certain your Lordships will agree that if we are in fact to make any contribution to restricting price increases in this or any other country, then it is of tremendous importance that our transport costs be kept at the very lowest level possible. So these are things that those inquiring will want to know.
The question of costs, as I have said, raises the future development of the whole of the ports industry overall, and in fact one cannot discuss this without discussing the financial problems which are involved. As we know, at the present time it is every port for itself—and I assure your Lordships that I indulged in this practice when I was the Member 767 for Leith. One thing you did without thinking of all the other ports was to go for a plan which would suit your particular port. Indeed, we had a very long battle with the noble Baroness's Government before we got permission to go ahead with the deep water development in Leith itself. It is true that the decision came very late in the day (we were grateful for it), but it is also true to say that it was the Government of which my noble friend Lord Hughes was a member which had to provide the cash to pay for it. In any case, I know that we take this view, and as a good Parliamentary representative it is one's job to look after one's constituency. On the other hand, if we want to take the broad view and the one which quite possibly is the correct view, we have to consider what is in fact economically best for the industry and for the country as a whole.
The National Ports Council realised their limitation in this respect. They could consider the value of a proposal or of a proposed project only in relation to its value to a particular port; and I have no doubt at all that it was with this in mind that they stated in their Annual Report in 1969:…the present organisation of the industry cannot in the national context be wholly satisfactory on a long-term basis. They are satisfied, therefore, that there is a case for a more effective form of national organisation. It is all to the good that the setting up of a National Ports Authority will do much to remove the anomalies and unsatisfactory limitations within which the Council have had to operate without executive powers or responsibilities".Your Lordships will know, of course, that the new Government have decided that the N.P.A. must go. But what they must do, I think, in fairness, is to say what they propose in substitution, because I think noble Lords on all sides of the House will agree that the National Ports Council has more knowledge than perhaps any other single section of that industry. The words I have quoted from their Annual Report set out what they say should be done if we are to make a success of our reorganisation.
There is one other thing. If we are to have these tremendous developments, let us face up to the fact that they are going to be very costly—very costly indeed. So it is more essential than ever that the monies which are spent 768 are spent to the greatest advantage of the country, and it will require an overall look at the whole position to see how and where investment can best be made in the interests of the national economy.
My Lords, I did not intend to say much more, but I should like to add one word about manpower within the industry, because the National Ports Council also felt that if this problem was to be tackled, and tackled successfully, it had to be tackled on a national basis. The Report says:The Council are not equipped with powers to plan manpower recruitment, selection and development for the industry but they are nevertheless aware that this is one of the most intransigent problem areas … Indeed, with some 25 per cent. of the industry's managers, 30 per cent. of its foremen and supervisors and nearly 30 per cent. of its dock workers over the age of 55 … it is apparent that it will be necessary to establish planned recruitment and management development policies if the industry is to develop a well-balanced labour force in the next quarter-century … The lack of a recognised career structure throughout the docks … is a constant handicap to mutual understanding.My Lords, these are serious words, but I think they are correct because, if we take these two things together, what the Council were saying was that if we are to have a real future, if we are going to equip the docks of this country to compete with our competitors overseas, then this is the way in which they recommend it ought to be done. They are saying at the same time that if we expect men to go in and take over these jobs, then they have not to be taken over in a piecemeal fashion but that the men ought to be able to plan their careers, as in other walks of life. Surely that is not asking too much in an industry which is so vital to our economy. If the Government reply to-night that they cannot accept these proposals, I hope that your Lord-ships will hear what they propose to put in their place.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ LORD CLYDESMUIR
My Lords, I have two very pleasant duties to perform—one might describe them as a "double first". First, I have to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, on her maiden speech in this House and on her Ministerial appointment. Her work in another place was recognised, and her great knowledge of affairs in Scotland will be of 769 inestimable value in this House. I congratulate her on her appointment and wish her well in the arduous tasks which confront her. The second of the "firsts" is to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hoy—and again I am in the pleasant position of congratulating a fellow Scot. In another place he represented Leith for many years, was interested in the Ministry of Agriculture, and was a spokesman for the other side in another place. I am sure we welcome him here in this House, and we also welcome him as another noble Lord who has knowledge of Scottish affairs who will be able to speak from the Benches on the other side.
My Lords, it was felt that my part in this debate this afternoon might best be played by trying to outline some of the background and some of the realities of the survey which was carried out on behalf of the Scottish Council and now goes under the title of Oceanspan. As the Chairman of the Scottish Council, I must declare an interest and at the same time express thanks for the kind remarks made by noble Lords on both sides of the House this afternoon on the activities and work of the Scottish Council. I also declare an interest in this survey; and I do so happily because it has gone further and to a greater depth, and with, I think, a broader vision than was expected when such an exploratory work was commissioned a relatively short time—some eighteen months—ago.
As to the background, one might take the enormous change in the Scottish economy since the war and perhaps one might describe the scene as a group of people climbing up a steep slope who have reached a platform or plateau from which they can get a better view of the land that lies ahead. To continue the analogy, it seemed that now was an appropriate time to send up a scout or scouts to try to probe the way still further ahead. The scout chosen to undertake this task, instead of confining himself to the short view from the ground, rather took off in a helicopter and took a view much further ahead, trying to explore some of the routes that we might take in Scotland leading further ahead towards the year 2000.
The changing pattern of world trade, and particularly the exploitation of these giant ships in this process, seemed to open up new and great opportunities for 770 Scotland, and indeed for the United Kingdom as a whole, in the wider context of a European and international trading community. It was through a recognition of the rate at which ships, and particularly the enormous tankers, were growing so rapidly in size and presenting a unique opportunity for those areas capable of handling them. It was perhaps more than this. The Clyde could and does obviously meet the requirements of any ship presently in existence; indeed, it could handle ships two or three times the size, including the million-ton tankers now being spoken of and actually on the drawing boards. The Clyde, however, has something else to offer as well. It is linked to the Forth by this narrow waist of land which has a strong industrial tradition.
The remit given to this group, to examine the situation, asked them to take account of the unique geographical situation, with, on the West coast, this deep water, the flat land in between and the industrial belt, all in close proximity to the East Coast ports; and it asked them to try to develop a strategy which could exploit these advantages for a maritime-based industry. The authors of the document, Oceanspan, chose to carry out the task by looking towards the end of the century and to look outwards from Scotland to the sources of supply and raw materials and, in the other direction, to look at Europe as a growing market. This was the scale of thinking necessary if we were to recognise and choose some of the opportunities opening up for us. At the same time, they were conscious that people's aspirations were themselves subject to change and that the choices made had to take account of the overall need to improve the quality of life in Scotland. If I may quote two or three lines from the documents, it says:The whole purpose of economic progress is social betterment.Or, to put this into sharper focus:It is no longer acceptable to create financial prosperity among environmental squalor.My Lords, I believe that in Oceanspan we have a strategy which, if firmly grasped, could bring great benefits to the economy of Scotland and the United Kingdom as a whole, and at the same time could open up areas of opportunity for creating an environment of which in the future we could all be proud. Your 771 Lordships may have gathered that I am enthusiastic about this concept—and I mention this now because enthusiasm is probably one of the main ingredients that will be needed for its success. Having said that, I would hasten to add that this is not all just a pipe-dream, a concept which, to be translated into reality, would cost vast sums of additional Government expenditure. Much of what is described in this strategy already exists or is programmed to happen. For example, as has been mentioned this afternoon, the container terminal on the Clyde is in existence. There is an inland container depot about 10 miles further inland. These exist. The ports at Grangemouth and Leith do a substantial and growing trade with the Continent. There is a steadily developing road system across Central Scotland linking the main industrial areas with the new towns.
Oceanspan offers a chance to restructure the economy but also points, I think, to the need, first, to restructure the thinking about the complementary role which the different elements can play. At the same time we need a new and positive attitude to planning, so that opportunities can be seized quickly to realise the maximum benefit. In recent years perhaps we have tended to forget that in the past it was our ports on which we depended so much and which helped to make Britain great. It is tragic that we are to-day in this situation of a national strike. But, that apart, I believe that the Oceanspan concept can help us to rediscover some of our maritime advantages—and I mean this in a United Kingdom sense and not only in Scottish terms. In fact, I would go further and claim that the benefits could well extend to the Continent.
The West of Scotland could be a focal point for the import of bulk raw materials from all over the world. This is what the country depends on and it is happening to some extent already. The processing of these could be carried out in or near the central belt and then transported to the other side of the country, to the Forth ports, whence they could be transshipped to the Continent. Some of the bulk materials could be dealt with on the Clyde for trans-shipment by the huge bulk-carrying ships or by smaller ships 772 or barges around the coast of the United Kingdom.
Perhaps I may dwell for a moment on what has been done to try to develop this strategy further. I have suggested that there is a need to restructure our thinking if we are to grasp the full implications and the opportunities which this strategy opens for us. We shall need enthusiasm, vision and, perhaps most of all, a lot of hard work by many different organisations, by Government and by individuals, if we are going to refine this strategy and take it nearer a plan. There is work in hand already, and this fact may help illustrate that this concept is not all just a pipe-dream.
The group under the chairman whom we asked to take on this task and to formulate steps to try to identify the major industrial opportunities which might be opened up in the years ahead, have undertaken to look not only at the industrial but also at the social and environmental implications. In the exercise of this document it is not intended to look just to Scotland, or indeed to Britain, but to the European concept as a whole. This has begun already. In the last six weeks there have been many visits paid to the Continent, one might say on a staff level, for discussions with port authorities, with Government agencies and with industrial concerns. Without exception, these visits have met with a great degree of co-operation in relation to information furnished or promised, and this was far in excess of the original expectations of the authors of this strategy. From such visits, and the programme which is in train, information on port development plans, markets and transportation links, is being collected in order to select the most likely projects; and at the same time an assessment is being made of the factors affecting the local decisions of the main industries and their methods of handling bulk raw materials.
In conclusion may I say that I have endeavoured to sketch for your Lord-ships something of the background to the concept of Oceanspan; to identify some of the positive factors already in existence, or in the course of being created; and, finally, to outline the work which is already going on to make this concept nearer to a reality. In normal circumstances this would have been a more or 773 less impossible task for a body such as the Scottish Council, with its limited resources, to carry out; but I believe that the circumstances are not normal in that many different bodies on the Continent are already co-operating and collaborating wholeheartedly. They do not see Oceanspan as representing competition, but rather as a means of bringing benefits by increased trade to them as well. At the same time, the Scottish Council has the full support of the port authorities in Scotland and of the many companies and organisations with whom they have been in touch. I should like to finish by reminding your Lordships that the sub-title of the Oceanspan Report is that it is:a maritime based development strategy for a European Scotland.If this strategy can be successfully turned into a reality—and I believe that it can—we may look forward to the year 2000 with a degree of optimism regarding benefits which will spread much wider than just to the boundaries of Scotland.
§ 5.43 p.m.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, may I add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, on his maiden speech. I remember him when he and I were on the Edinburgh Town Council; and he, as I do, may rejoice in to-day's events in Edinburgh. I hope that they will be a very great success—I am sure they will be. The common sense and knowledge with which the noble Lord addressed the House will always be acceptable, and I hope that he will speak to us on many occasions.
My Lords, I should like to add my warm congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, not only on her appointment but also on the manner in which she spoke. If I may say so, it was a first-class speech, delivered with fine diction and a deep understanding of the problems to which she had to speak. We are grateful to her and happy that she has come here as Minister of State. It took us some years to persuade the late Government to make the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, a Minister of State, but I think that the noble Lord will recognise that we did try very hard for quite a number of years; and we were grateful to be successful in the end. 774 I hope that this is a tradition which will be followed.
I must warn the noble Baroness that she has a very difficult task. The Scottish Office covers many things and frequently she will be asked questions which will be well outside the purview of the Scottish Office, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will agree. Indeed, it is difficult to discuss the Scottish economy without going quite a long way outside it. Oceanspan deals with much more than simply a Scottish problem. It contains all kinds of other problems. I would add to what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Perth, about our gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for the assiduous way in which he attended to Scottish affairs during: the last four years. We did not always agree with him, but we were impressed not only with the trouble he took but also with the ingenuity with which he answered the questions we put to him. We are very much in his debt.
The noble Lord said, and I think it is important, that as a result of what was said by Scottish Peers in this House some things were actually done in the Scottish Office. That is, of course, immensely encouraging, though perhaps it will persuade their Lordships to speak at excessive length. I was a little surprised to hear the noble Lord say that he had taken only a brief look at Oceanspan. This was referred to twelve months ago in the discussion which we had at that time. It is, of course, important, because the only channel for action we have is through the representative of the Scottish Office in this House.
As was indicated in the report made by the noble Baroness, with others of her Party, on the constitutional issues, Scottish affairs are not well understood here. I know that this is something about which the Scottish Council has done a great deal but the image which continues to exist is not as good as it should be. It is a sort of mixed-up image of—what shall I say?—grouse moors, unemployment and irrascible trade union leaders. That is the sort of picture which people very frequently draw. Of course there are irrascible trade union leaders, but there are many others in an entirely different category. There are grouse moors which everyone may walk over. They are among the finest scenery in 775 Scotland and they are immensely popular with the tourists. Of course there is unemployment, to which we have referred and to which I shall refer again, but it is worth remembering that something like a revolution has taken place in the last twenty years.
I readily concede to the Labour Government that they have kept the impetus going—there is no doubt about that—and to-day productivity in Scotland is rising more rapidly than in the United Kingdom as a whole. Certainly we have more than our fair share of the American companies, who have settled in Scotland successfully and, I believe, to their great satisfaction. I was glad to hear from both Front Benches a recognition of what the Scottish Council have done. Here I should declare an interest, for I have been associated with it and its predecessors for, I suppose, 35 years. Much of what has been achieved has come about through the leadership, the hard work and the ingenuity of that Council. It has been full of ideas and dedicated to its task. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, that, relatively, the Scottish Office has done better in housing than has its English colleagues; but I am disturbed at what might be called the deterioration of housing and its general maintenance. I am sure that in the long run the answer to this is home ownership; the only people who maintain their houses properly are people who own them. In Scotland, where we are lagging behind England, the importance of that is considerable.
I was disturbed when one of the noble Lord's colleagues passed off the problem of unemployment by saying that it was only a regional problem. That was perhaps a regrettable phrase, because it does not matter very much where the unemployment is, the hardship that inures is everywhere the same, and it makes it no lighter if the unemployment is spread in different places. Our population over ten years has remained roughly static. As has been said, there is no reason why migration should not go on—I see no reason why it should not. It will certainly go on. What is disturbing is that it is now recognised—we made this point twelve months ago—that there is something like 50,000 fewer 776 jobs available in Scotland. That is a serious falling away, and the position would be very much worse if migration had not taken place. As the noble Lord said, the standard of revenue income in Scotland is still lower than in England.
My Lords, I want to get away from the principle of looking at Scotland on the basis of the jobs available; I want to go rather deeper than that. I wish to refer to the point which I made last year. I believe that difficulties will continue to exist as long as the centres of decision are outside Scotland. I would make two points which I think are of real importance in trying to get over this difficulty, which has been with us for some time but is becoming cumulatively more difficult. We want a framework in which science-based industries can prosper, so that modern technology can be most easily employed. I wonder whether the five universities in the central belt of Scotland are being adequately used. There are few countries, perhaps, where there are five universities reasonably close to each other so that their facilities may be used in common to make a joint contribution to industry. Yesterday we heard fine words of praise from the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, of the quality of the Scottish universities. He might have been speaking partly as Chancellor of the University of Stirling, but I do not think so. Without disturbing what I will describe as the general breadth of university education, are there not angles of specialised training which could be dovetailed together so that there could be co-operation in these special fields?
Last year I brought up the question of a business school which we were anxious to establish. I am given to understand that it has been spread among two or three universities. I wonder whether that is the right course and whether it would not be better to have, instead of two or three modest schools, one first-class business school at one university. I should like to ask the noble Baroness who is organising this. Is it the Economic Council, the Scottish Planning Board or the Scottish delegate to the University Grants Committee? Is it important that we should have some idea of what is happening.
May I turn to the question of research? Is adequate research being carried on 777 by the universities? We were told yesterday that research is an essential element in any first-class university, but I am told that only something like 1 in 50 of aided research projects have been established in Scotland. Are the Government making enough effort to see that research institutions are established in Scotland? Because I think that this is essential if we are to establish that framework upon which modern industry can play its full part.
Another point is the question of transport. The noble Baroness has stressed the importance of communications, and I entirely agree. Scotland has good communications by air with North America but bad or non-existent air communications with the Continent of Europe and inadequate air communications with the rest of the United Kingdom. Much of this arises from the British Airports Authority's policy of making London the cross-roads of the whole country. There is not one single British direct service from Scotland to the Continent, though there are two or three foreign ones. I am sure that this is wrong, and here a contribution can be made which is essential for the proper development of responsible leadership in Scotland.
It is a compliment to the over-congested character in London that bigger developments should take place outside it, and into this field of communications comes the scheme which my noble friend Lord Clydesmuir so fully and ably described. I was interested to note the cautious ministerial attitude that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, took towards the suggestion. He saw difficulties in it. I wonder whether we are giving sufficient importance to the moment at which this requirement has become essential. The London docks have to be replaced. In any case the London docks would never do what could be done by Oceanspan. I have tried to make two suggestions, which I think are vital, for retaining the authority to decide in Scotland, without which the aid for regional development—payments which amount to subsidy—will go on. We should look forward to the time when subsidies will no longer be necessary because the natural strength of our economy itself will make them unnecessary.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
My Lords, I should like to add my word of congratulation to the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, on her maiden speech in this House and also on her appointment. It has given enormous pleasure to everyone, and I am sure, judging by the admirable speech she made to us to-day, she will be a most excellent Minister of State. May I also say that our noble friend, although sometimes our opponent, Lord Hughes, was also an admirable Minister of State. With him I often used to have arguments but never except on the most friendly terms, and I am grateful to him for his help during the years when he was Scottish Minister in this House.
This is a brilliant Report and I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Clydesmuir, the Scottish Council, and in particular their Chairman, Sir William Lithgow, on the way in which it has been written and produced. It is beautifully produced and highly readable, as many reports are not, as those of us who have to read them know. I agree with my noble friend Lord Selkirk that what we have to do in Scotland is to raise our sights, to think in terms of a new dimension and new types of work in the industrial area. This Report puts before us—certainly before me and I think I am typical of many people in Scotland—a new vision of what could be done in this new decade. The Report concentrates almost exclusively on the central belt, but although we have in this belt only 5 per cent. of the total land of Scotland, 95 per cert. of the population live there. This concentration of population shows that within the central belt there is an enormous potential for development.
If I speak a little about the land which is not described in this Report, some of the 95 per cent. of the rest of Scotland, I hope I shall not be boring your Lord-ships. I like the concept in the Report of Scotland being closely allied to Europe. Historically, Scotland has always been close to Europe. There was a period in our history, of some 300 years, when we fought the English pretty consistently and were closely linked with France and Europe. I can see no inconsistency in our looking to Europe. If we go, as I hope we shall, into the European 779 Economic Community, then Scotland is a natural place from which much of the trade of the United Kingdom could go into Europe.
I find the descriptions in the Report of these huge tankers and container ships fascinating. For these Scotland can provide admirable accommodation, if we think in terms of the deepwater harbours which are vital if we are going to meet this demand for enormous ships in the present age. I should like to say a word or two about the 95 per cent. of the land area—a small part of it, anyway—which I know well, and in which some of the rest of the population of Scotland live. I was glad to read in the Report, at Chapter 6, paragraph 47, these words:The countryside is not just open space for the town dweller to relax in, but the location of the farming industry, and still the country's largest industry. In the United Kingdom approximately 1,000 acres of farmland is lost to development every week.As if to emphasise something of this, we have to-day received the Second Report of the Countryside Commission. This is an important document, because it is the second year of the life of this Commission, which is concerned with the preservation and development of the countryside in the proper context. I shall read this with great interest. I am sure that one of the things the Oceanspan Report will refer to is the fact that in development they are extremely anxious hat amenities should be studied; that development should not be just haphazard and, as very often it has been in the past, ugly and not concerned with preservation; that is to say, with the beauty of our country, as well as with its development.
Perhaps I may say just a word or two about one of the beautiful areas of Scotland, the Border area where I live. I want to draw the attention of the Minister to the importance not only of industrial development, which we are anxious to carry out there, but also to agricultural development. Industrial development in the Borders is now really going ahead, with new factories which have been established in some of the Border towns. such as Hawick, Kelso, Selkirk and Galashiels. These are all important focal points of that area, and we are delighted that in the last year a considerable 780 amount of development has taken place. Although I do not think an increase in population has taken place, the drift away from the Borders has been halted. This is all to the good, and I hope that the Government will encourage these developments.
There is another plan which has been halted at the moment, and that is the development on a major scale at Tweed-bank, near Melrose. It has not yet started, and there are difficulties connected with it. I think we must look at this development very seriously. I am sure it is necessary to have an area where we can bring in a large number of people in order to have some new industries there; and I hope that the Government will consider this in the light of the development which has taken place in other parts of the Borders. I hope that, with all the industrial development, we shall not forget agriculture and the subsidiary industries which it engenders—agricultural engineering, and so forth.
This debate is not an agricultural debate, and I will touch on it only lightly. In the context of developing industry do not let us forget the development of agriculture. There is an enormous and serious shortage of agricultural labour. It is necessary to encourage young people to go into the farming industry, otherwise in ten to fifteen years' time we shall be in a very bad way through not having enough labour. It is not because of a shortage of housing. Many farms in the area which I know well have good houses, in excellent condition, to let or for use by agricultural workers; but there is this serious shortage of agricultural workers. Maybe we do not pay enough wages. We in the Borders pay a great deal more than the ordinary standard rate, but perhaps an even higher wage should be paid. Yet clearly it is not possible to pay higher wages in an industry where the end product is being sold in 1970 at the same price as it was sold in the 'fifties. This is something that the industry cannot take. It is not that we do not want to pay high wages, but simply that the industry is not in a position to do so. In thinking of the future of Scotland we should not forget that we have this large and extremely important agricultural industry, which must be considered as well as all other developments.
781 In the Borders, too, the contribution to the export trade is well known and is one that we encourage. The increased communications which are recommended in Oceanspan would, I am sure, be of help to us. I was distressed, as your Lordships know, when it was decided that the railway which passes through the Border had to be closed. We were promised that we should have compensating transport arrangements which would serve the Borders as well as the railway did. This has not happened. It is all very well for people to talk in terms of buses going backwards and forwards to other centres like Edinburgh or Carlisle, but these are most unsatisfactory. They are so unsatisfactory that they are hardly used because they are too slow and unattractive to travel in, and they take such a long time to get from the central Borders to Edinburgh, Carlisle, Newcastle or wherever it may be.
If development is to take place on a big scale in the central Borders something will have to be done about transport, because the present arrangements are not satisfactory, and new industry will not be attracted to the Borders if the roads are inadequate and the transport for people also is inadequate. I can honestly say that at the present time if you cannot travel in your own motor car you are very much handicapped. Many people have cars, but there are still a number who have not. I believe that a study of transport in the Borders is now vital if we are to see the development that we wish to see. Clearly, there is no intention to reopen the railway, but I think that a better means of transport could be provided than there is at the present time. Earlier in the afternoon we talked in terms of air transport. But air transport is, at best, 60 miles away from most of the Border towns: whether you go from Carlisle, Newcastle or Edinburgh you still have 50 to 60 miles to drive to get to these places.
To sum up my few remarks, I would say that I entirely endorse the plans in Oceanspan. They are imaginative and original, and would be of enormous help to Scotland. I am all for the close link with Europe. I think that our trade in many exports, including our agricultural exports, would increase—because I firmly believe that if we were to export beef and mutton to the Continent we 782 should do it as cheaply, or even more cheaply, than they sell it on the Continent at the present time. These things will be a great help to us. Transport is something that must be looked at seriously, because it is not satisfactory at the present time; and the needs of the agricultural industry, which is as efficient and as good as in any other part of the United Kingdom, or in any other country, must not be forgotten when planning for the future of Scotland.
We should also consider in the developments the beauty of our country-side. We have the Countryside Commission, and that should be supported. Our countryside, too, is one of the attractions for people coming to Scotland, because the scenery in so many parts is so varied and lovely. If we had better transport, and opportunities for inviting people and accommodating them in Scotland, they would appreciate it. I wish the Government the very best of good wishes in their policy upon which they are embarking, and from me they will have all the support that I can give them on the proposals that we are discussing this afternoon.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LAUDERDALE
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to listen to the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, not only for what she says, but because she is characteristically holding high the banner of raised sights and broadened vision. As she knows, I always seem to fancy when I listen to her that perhaps I hear overtones very dear to me of her late and valued husband.
Surely we should all begin by thanking Sir William Lithgow and his team. Naturally holes can be picked. May I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, "Beware of civil servants whom she must protect on the one hand, but whose job is often to pick holes on the other". There will be holes picked in this project, but we have an outline of a vision which is great, spendid and exciting. One wonders whether all of us are quite up to the effort required. How happy I was to hear the noble Lord, Lord Clydesmuir, tell us that at any rate the Scottish Council are one jump ahead of the Government down here. They have not just 783 sat upon the Oceanspan report. They have set up what I choose to call—and I hope Whitehall hears this—a Scottish anticipation of the Peston Study long overdue down here, and promised in the South several months ago. They are setting to work—and we should hail this news with delight—to trace the freight desire lines, and other economic factors, which will turn Oceanspan into a reality so far as private enterprise can do so. This is a mark of what can be done by a public body almost wholly inspired by private enterprise, and it is a model which others could study with advantage —not least the inter-departmental study which has been in existence down here for a year or two looking at the parallel problems of MIDAS.
When I heard the noble Earl, Lord Perth, kindly referring to myself I was flattered. But I did have some difficulty believing my ears when he seemed to suggest that the emigration picture from Scotland was anything less than very grave indeed. In the past forty years, the 5 million people of Scotland have twice lost a net total of a quarter of a million—that is 10 per cent. During the four years ended last year, according to figures which the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, was so kind as to make available in the Hansard of February 3, column 531, the net emigration from Scotland was for the first time for a long while—if not for ever—greater than the natural increase. Although the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, is not at this moment in the Chamber (he was kind enough to warn me that he had to leave) I should like to join with others in saying how much we all appreciated his attention to Scottish affairs, and his friendliness towards all Scots as well as to others.
My delight that the noble Earl, Lord Perth, put down this subject for debate and secured a day for it is matched only by the pleasurable anticipation of maiden speeches by two persons whom I count as personal and old friends. When one thinks of the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, one cannot help thinking of the inscription on the Apple o' Discord: "detur pulchriori"—Let it be given to the fairest. To participate to-day with a maiden speech on Oceanspan reminds one of that line from 784Plautus: "Mare ditat rosa decorat"— the sea enriches; the rose adorns.Of the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, I cannot help but say that, despite his youthful appearance, there is a certain rugged-ness about him which reminds me of another Hoy, the Old Man of Hoy, a rock in the North. He is a rocky person, almost petrine. He has long been associated with the port of Leith and, indeed, as again it was said: "Mare quidem commune est omnibus"—the sea is surely common to us all. A man interested in the sea is a friend common to us all.
For a decade of urgency the Oceanspan issue is not a mean one.Others may use the ocean as their road,Only the British make it their abode.In simple terms it suggests that Britain can be an offshore platform for the trade of all Europe, and to tackle this could give Britain a critical cost advantage in export against all the rest of the world.
The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk (how rightly I thought), looked ahead to regional policy, leading finally to the abandonment of any need for regional economic subsidies. Any advanced industrial economy hinges upon steel, oil, chemicals and power. These are the things that set the parameters of any successful development policy. As to the British Steel Corporation, if Scotland needs a steel industry (as indeed it does) the steel industry surely needs Scotland. It needs Scotland's deepest water whence at least the steel industry, of Scotland, Cumberland and North Wales, could be supplied. This explains B.S.C.'s recognition of the need for a Clyde ore terminal.
As to the oil industry, out of a United Kingdom consumption of around 83 million tons a year, Scotland uses about 8 million, and Scottish consumption is going up even faster than the English—at about 12 per cent. a year. Little wonder then, that Murco and Chevron have cast their eyes upon the Clyde. This should indeed be welcome not simply because it is good to have a refinery, but also because a refinery generates other things. A deepwater refinery pumps good money into circulation. It gives the prospect of cheaper fuel from waterside power stations and, therefore, cheaper power. A refinery, through the sale of its middle 785 distillates, offers a spin off in petrochemicals. The petrochemicals industry of Western Europe is now expected no later than 1980 to exceed in scale, scope and value the steel industry itself. The Oceanspan idea has what one might call an "illegitimate cousin" down South in the shape of the MIDAS concept—the Maritime Industrial Development Area—which came from the National Ports Council in 1966. The two ideas are similar in that both think of deep water and both think of industry beside it. But whereas Oceanspan thinks of primary industry sited on relatively small amounts of flat land by deep water (and on the Clyde we do not have a great deal) then secondary industry straggling across the country in a kind of open weave lineal pattern, MIDAS pictures primary and secondary industry together, on larger areas of flat land, and perhaps even exporting from the same point.
But these are differences really without a fundamental distinction, though civil servants will make the most of them. What is important is that this is the kind of waterside development that Britain needs not only on the Clyde but in other places as well. Just to take an example: on Teesside, some 5,000 acres of land have been reclaimed at a cost of £1,000 an acre, re-sold to the chemical industry for £5,000 an acre, and the export tonnage of Tees-port in three years has risen from 11 million to 21 million tons. We do not have to look at Rotterdam to see what a MIDA can do; we can look nearer home. This is the kind of development which is needed all over Britain. The narrow neck of land between the Clyde and the Forth gives a special opportunity, and this is where we have to direct our minds to the possible means for bringing it about.
Our planning machinery is just not good enough. Failing advance warning to the local authorities by a farseeing, but I am glad to say out-gone, Government to identify suitable sites and zone them from industry—what do we find? Since none had been zoned in advance there were piecemeal planning applications. Two major industrial propositions, whose attraction to the Clyde was the zestful, energetic, resourceful enterprise of the Lower Clyde Industrial Development Group, we found submitted to the cost and the delay of a public inquiry and, 786 I think one can say in the case of Murco, even almost to the humiliation of being turned down: in the case Chevronof, they face long delay awaiting an answer.
Two things are clear. First, if we do not get these oil companies to the Clyde we shall lose critical economic generators. If we do not make provision, or make it possible for provision to be made, for an ore and coal terminal suited to the ships of to-morrow, then the Scottish steel industry will wither away in a decade or so. The second point is this: the projected developments at Hunterston are utterly irreconcilable with amenity. As I see it, we have some of the most beautiful coast line certainly in Europe, perhaps in the world, down to Ardrossan; and Ardrossan is really the frontier of the amenity consideration.
But there is deep water at Ardrossan. It is true that a pier—and it would need to be a harbour mole in that case and therefore more expensive—would need to go further out to the deep water, perhaps a quarter of a mile or so. It is true that back-up space, whether for oil refineries or for an ore stacking yard, blending and sintering yard, and production plant, would need to be inland and uphill. These things together might well increase the capital cost of a terminal something like 30 per cent. But in place of piecemeal planning applications to put one pier here and one there and a third somewhere else, surely a combined if more expensive terminal suited to the needs of oil companies and the British Steel Corporation together would make a great deal of economic as well as amenity sense.
Common user terminals are known to the oil industry, even indeed—and there is one at Immingham now—joint user refineries. It is in engineering terms, I am assured, technically possible to design a pier which would suit the needs both of oil companies and of the British Steel Corporation. Naturally, none of the three parties concerned is going now to go publicly on record that this is what they would like, because they would not prefer it; it would be for them second best—but it might very well be better for Scotland. What surely matters is that when the Secretary of State eventually receives the many millions of words—and I am told there are 40 volumes of evidence—that have arisen from the 787 Hunterston inquiry, and when he has the rapporteur's report, I beg him most seriously to consider the merits of Ardrossan, which needs industry and which has deep water, where a combined terminal might be the sensible answer.
Implementation of the Oceanspan land-bridge requires modern communications. We are not thinking only of a motorway. One is thinking of the overland barge possibility; of the capsule pipeline; of the conveyor belt, of the merry-go-round train between the two estuaries. It should also mean—and I beg the noble Baroness to ask her Department to look into this matter closely—upgrading the A 72/A 721 road to trunk status from Galashiels to Lanark and the Clyde, so that a West/East road transport system is available from the Clyde down to the developing Borders and indeed to the North-East of England.
The Scottish Development Department hitherto have argued that it would not be useful to carry out a cost benefit analysis of raising these roads to trunk standard, on the ground that it would not be "worth while". To say that a study is not worth while is, in this case, putting the cart before the horse. How do you know the result before you start? Indeed, the Scottish Development Department's reluctance to look at other West/ East links, apart from the Clyde/Forth neck, surely illustrates one of the major difficulties about bringing Oceanspan to life. None of the bodies interested at present is able to combine both the vision and the power. The Clyde Valley Planning Committee has no authority. The Clyde Estuary Development Group omitted Glasgow, and still omits the new town of Irvine. The Clyde Port Authority, though friendly with the Forth Ports Authority, can do no more under present conditions than to seek to liaise with it—and the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, about a Scottish Ports Authority was very relevant. To accomplish Oceanspan, and to elicit both State and private investment in the infrastructure needed to realise this concept, we need a planning and entrepreneurial body embracing both Forth and Clyde, something alike in power and scope to a new town which might be a sort of central 788 Scotland Oceanspan development corporation.
The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, seemed to treat the Oceanspan Report as if it concerned Central Scotland only. But the mental approach of Oceanspan goes far wider. It is a fresh geo-political viewpoint, and it could be applied to the Great Glen and bring there the prospect of a new axis of Highland employment. Not many weeks ago a director of Norddeutscher Lloyd expressed the view. speaking of the container traffic of the future, that Europe's great container port of to-morrow has not even been identified. The simple box we call a container has thrown up a radical new pattern of distribution, of manufacture and, above all, of stock control. When one thinks of that one realises that second and third generations of container ships possibly carrying as many as 10,000 containers, instead of the 2,000 at present, will need deeper water.
Deep water exists at Fort William with, may I add, a double race tide for disposal of industrial effluent. The Caledonian Canal could be a West/East land-bridge in the Highlands to shorten and speed the passage of 500-ton container barges designed, having passed through the Canal, to traverse the North Sea and float away up the waterways of Europe into the heart of Eurasia. If Wiggins Teape at Corpach find it is cheaper now to send paper to Amsterdam than to London, something of the transport possibilities of the Great Glen deserve to be more closely examined. Although the Annual Report of the Highlands and Islands Development Board, paragraph 33, page 94, published the other day shows little awareness of this, at any rate the British Waterways Board is quoted by the Oceanspan Report itself, at paragraph 230, as being very much alert to this possibility. If some kind of container handling facility (no doubt a simple one) were provided at Fort William, containers might be drawn there with loads of materials, either for machining or for assembly, put together there or given added value, before onward transmission, and export firms using containers might well find a new interest in Inverness. Thus might the Great Glen well become a new axis of Highland employment.
789 There are other Highland applications. The Highlands and Islands Development Board may have been slow to spot Oceanspan the day it was published. They were certainly not waiting to pounce on the first 20 copies off the press, as I and some others were, but they have raised a point implicit in Oceanspan in that they have done a careful study of some 14 deep water anchorages on the West and North coasts of Scotland. But at a time when we should be seeking to attract international investment and industry to our deep water anchorages, the Highlands and Islands Development Board appears to be keeping this information to itself. I plead with the Government to use their influence with that Board to publish its information on the Scottish sea lochs, many of which are very deep indeed, and also to see whether the National Ports Council cannot be persuaded to publish the parallel material assembled by the Halcrow Consultants into possible Scottish sites for maritime industrial development areas. These assemblages of information do not contain anything essentially secret in themselves. It is their assembly which is a costly and important business and is of interest to international investors. I can think of one group with great resources that would be interested to have all the information that is to hand.
The combination of the deep water and the latest land bridge technologies allied with indigenous power and its application to local raw materials and skills is surely the very heart of Oceanspan. So I am interested to see that the Highlands and Islands Development Board has shown interest in the quartzite deposits near Loch Eriboll, one of the anchorages that could be of great interest. At the present time Britain spends £8 million importing something like 300,000 tons of silicons and silicates every year—which are smelted from quartzite with cheap power. This is not a time when we should sneeze at saving £8 million worth of pressure on the balance of payments. So here is a case for pressing for power resources to be developed in the Northern Highlands, and particularly near the deep-water anchorages which have yet to be developed
790 There is thus, surely, a case for ensuring that, when the prototype fast reactor at Dounreay (due I believe to come on stream in 1972) is followed eventually by a commercial fast reactor of about 1300 megawatts, that should be sited on the North-West coast close to these anchorages where it would provide an attraction for industrial investment, whose product could be piped to the railhead at 1s. 6d. a ton or less and furnish a south-bound freight for railways subsidised at £1.6 million a year.
The point which has not been made as clearly as it might have been in the Oceanspan Report is that the Scottish Highlands offer the first European deep-water landfall on the great circle Arctic route which has been opened up by the S.S. "Manhattan" to the Alaska North Slope—and may I remind your Lordships that this is no further from Scotland than it is from the United States Eastern Seaboard.
No one could expect that Dounreay could continue to employ the same number of expert scientists now that the first job of proving the fast reactor principle is completed. It has become an establishment of applied technology and the prototype fast reactor goes on stream in 1972 and running it for the first five years will give a certain amount for the Dounreay expertise to "bite on". Surely the availability and the siting up there of the commercial fast reactor some time after 1974 ought to commend itself to the Government, also, nor. only on grounds of safety, as I believe is being argued by the Ministry of Technology's nuclear inspectorate, but on Oceanspan grounds as well. This opens up the further possibility that the present courses in chemistry, metallurgy, physics, mathematics and engineering for degree-level, sandwich and other students carried on at Dounreay could be so extended as to make it a college of advanced further education and thus sustain the kind of economic growth commonly associated with university development. I should like to ask the Government whether consideration is being given to the suggestion that Dounreay might well develop as a focus of higher education not unlike that of a university. Are the Government fully seized of this aspect of the case and will they exert pressure to that end?
791 Before leaving the subject of the Highlands, I should like to make one point in regard to Highland transport. I only regret that it was not brought to my attention early enough to raise it with regard to the Borders. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland's predecessor, Mr. Michael Noble, became interested at one stage in the rail/bus dual-mode vehicle as something which would be more flexible and more profitable in the Highlands than the conventional train. Can the Government say—and if not will they find out—anything about this, and will they exert pressure on British Rail to order experimental vehicles of this kind, and which were suggested to them by Mr. Marples, akin to those in use in New South Wales and in the United States of America? Will the Government also refuse to allow further Highland railway closures before such vehicles have been fully tested?
Oceanspan is a theme for a maritime nation which has now become a great marine headland, thanks to the bounty of nature alone. As La Fontaine said:We forever take credit for the good and attribute the bad to ill-fortune.Oceanspan indeed reverses Shakespeare's lines:When I have seen the hungry ocean gainAdvantage on the kingdom of the shore.We shall have ourselves to blame, and only ourselves, my Lords, if we now neglect the chance that these sheltered deeps within our rugged and jagged coast confer upon those willing to see the ocean as the mighty harmonist she is.
History and contemporary experience alike warn us that under-used assets invite a sometimes brutal takeover. Should a wanton, lazy Britain bestride the deep water crossways of great power interest on Europe's Atlantic seaboard, the Eastern question of the last century will grow to be the Western question of this century, and the chroniclers would then re-echo Shelley:Sun-girt city, thou hast beenOcean's child and then his queenNow has come a darker dayAnd thou soon must be his prey.
§ LORD STRANGE
My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl, in view of the importance of the tourist trade in Scotland, whether he has consulted the monster what he thinks about all this?
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, I should like to add my welcome to my noble friend Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie on her appearance on the Front Bench, and add my congratulations on her maiden speech, and also to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hoy. I wonder whether it is because we Scots people are so used to speaking to each other in a gale, but it seems to me that, added to the excellence of their material, the fact that they were clearly audible was another benefit which accrued from the fact of their being Scots. Talking of audibility, my mind turns to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and I will not spare his blushes by adding my thanks to him for what he has done for Scotland in the last few years. I would also mention something which has not been mentioned: his quick wit and the many good laughs that he has given us.
It is not my intention to refer to the long-term basic strategy of the Oceanspan Report. One welcomes such a bold conception. It is clear, if only from the speech to which we have just listened from the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, that much deliberation lies ahead. Complexities like the Common Market have not even been mentioned. So, as others are much better equipped than I am to deal with the long-term strategy of the scheme, I propose to mention only briefly one or two factors in the Scottish economy which lie ready to hand. I propose to leave the strategy to others and speak on minor tactical matters. The problems I propose to touch on are to-day's problems, and one was mentioned by the noble Earl when he spoke of the roads A71 and A72.
My first point concerns East/West and West/East road communications, which of course are an integral part of the Oceanspan plan. Your Lordships will not be surprised that my subject is the bottleneck of city traffic on the free flow of long distance industrial traffic by road. Professor Buchanan, in his monumental report, Traffic in Towns, emphasised the importance of orbital highways, and Edinburgh is a classic example of the need for such. You have only to turn to page 1 of to-day's Glasgow Herald to see what is happening. With Edinburgh 793 thronged with people attending the Commonwealth Games, the industrial traffic superimposed upon the city streets is a matter of grave inconvenience. I do not refer to those there for the Games, but to the industrial traffic, the industry that we are now considering. The traffic situation there is a burden and an expense, and it is a danger, which could have been avoided.
When the Forth Road Bridge took shape, for reasons of false economy the southern bypass road which was an integral part of Abercrombie's original plan was neglected, and huge sums were spent on leading a dual carriageway into the heart of the city. The outline of the bypass is there. The requisite land has been sterilised for the purpose. And yet hundreds of thousands of pounds are being spent in Edinburgh on controversial and abortive plans for inner ring roads, based on traffic estimates that I believe to be erroneous. This makes, to my mind, economic nonsense. I choose the word "erroneous" deliberately, because the original census of traffic was in my view misleading. I think it was taken in 1960. So, misleading or not, this traffic census is ten years old and was taken a number of years before the Forth Road Bridge was opened.
As it is, this orbital highway is scheduled for the 1980s, and I beg the Government to look into the matter again and to treat the southern Edinburgh bypass as an urgent necessity. Is it possible that a bypass would save massive expenditure in the centre of Edinburgh? Could not this be a contribution to meet the needs of many widespread areas where better roads are urgently required? As the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, pointed out, the need for roads is insatiable. It all sounds simple, but I understand that it is not easy, in view of the multiplicity of authorities concerned.
Look at the map in the summary of Oceanspan, and in the centre of this black patch over Edinburgh is a jewel which you do not see. Admittedly, it is in the centre of an industrial setting—and I dare say that other noble Lords will refer to the industrial setting of Edinburgh: but this jewel acts as the lodestone for one million visitors a year. I get this figure from to-day's supplement in The Times.
794 Surely, with the City of Edinburgh second only to London as a tourist attraction in the United Kingdom, this is an economic angle, from Scotland's point of view and from Britain's point of view, which is of great importance. But the brilliance of this jewel is being tarnished and its setting is impaired by the pressures of the traffic. I only mention the steady erosion of the beauty of the city in its economic sense. That brings me to Scotland's most important invisible export, which the noble Lord, Lord Strange, has just mentioned—the tourist trade. The noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood also spoke about it: which brings me to my next point, the railway services in Scotland.
I do not propose to go over again the ground we covered in the debate on my Unstarred Question on April 22, but, thinking over that debate, there are three matters which have crystallised in my mind. The first is that, within their narrow remit of making the railways pay, the railway authority in Scotland, technically speaking, run the railways well. But they fall short of Scotland's social needs, and that is not altogether their fault—though surely more could be done to smarten up a number of station premises, especially minor stations still in use. I think of Hugh Blantyre, for instance. Why must some railway buildings be apparently wastefully destroyed in and about stations which are now unmanned or likely to be deserted? Indeed, some of us are not satisfied with the standard of rolling stock, either passenger or freight, on some routes in Scotland. Is this because: Scotland is fobbed off with England's throw-aways? I got in a passenger coach the other day and found that there were: still maps of Sheffield on the walls.
The second factor that has crystallised in thinking over that debate in April is how do the Railway Board do their sums? It seems to me that this matter requires to be examined at the very highest level. Are the Government satisfied that the calculations of cost, especially of capital charges, are fairly applied when the Board are calculating profitability or otherwise of a railway? Talking of the Scottish Council—and may I add my praise to them for all the assistance they give—I have a letter 795 from their traffic expert, the last paragraph of which says:Finally, I am informed by the British Rail Board that the Ministry of Transport has laid down the costing rules. Therefore they "—that is, the Scottish Railways Board—must conform. Maybe with a change of administration a re-examination may take place.That is what I ask.
Thirdly, my sympathies are with the noble Baroness, as they were with the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and with the Secretary of State in their relations, or absence of relations, with the Ministry of Transport. The situation is that the Scottish Office have not the power (I had written that they have not sufficient power, but I do not think that they have the power at all) to insist that the Railways Board in Scotland is able to fulfil Scotland's social and tourist requirements. To go off at a tangent, we had an instance to-day in regard to Turnhouse Airport. The wretched Scottish Office have also to worry with the Board of Trade, not to mention the Edinburgh City Council. I believe that this whole problem must be dealt with at really high power if we are going to get the transport system in Scotland perfectly organised. In regard to that matter, may I refer to concessional fares? In travelling from Carstairs to Glasgow I can purchase a one-day return at a reduced rate; but there are no reduced rates between Car-stairs and Edinburgh. This defeats me.
My noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood mentioned the fact of the buses being empty. Of course they are empty. First of all, they run at unsuitable times. The bus passes my gate and twenty-five years ago it cost me 4d. to go the three miles to Biggar, and 7d. for a return ticket. It is now 1s. 8d. each way. The result is that people use their cars; they just do not travel by bus. Then the bus people say that there is no traffic. Cannot something be done to take some sort of overlord control over the question of fares, particularly of concessionary fares which include return fares?
Reverting to tourism, may I refer to the Dingwall—Kyle line, and then I have done. The Secretary of State will have to decide by next year upon the matter of grant for this line. Will he now insist on a critical analysis of the Railways 796 Board's sums? In the letter from which I have quoted, there appear at the beginning of the second paragraph these words:The real question appears to us"—this is to the Scottish Council—to be, what will it cost British Rail over 'x' number of years if they do not include replacement costs in their calculations. The track, the stations, the signalling equipment, etc., all exists and should be regarded as a natural asset of the region. This asset should be exploited until it is used up, unless the cost of exploiting it is too high. The grant payable under the Transport Act 1968 is calculated on the basis of long-term costs and allows for the cost of replacement. The cost on which the grant is based is therefore not relevant to the Kyle case. Obviously, there is no case for not exploiting the existing asset simply because it will not be economical to replace it.My Lords, is enough enterprise being shown to make this line pay? Why is the observation car at present touring the U.S.A. with the Flying Scotsman? Why has it not been replaced? Why should not there not be two of them? And why is there not another observation car on the Mallaig line, both with a refreshment car attached?
The noble Baroness does not need to be reminded that the massive grants made to bolster some of England's un-remunerative lines—such as, shall we say? the London commuter services or the Scarborough line—make Scotland's requirements appear utterly minuscule. I hope that the new Administration will be able to address themselves to this major problem of getting the Railways Board's sums down to something which is really practicable and apt in regard to the needs of Scotland to-day.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to the noble Earl, Lord Perth for initiating this discussion. I think that never before have I learned so much in so short a time about my native land as I have in this most extraordinary debate to-day. Before I add another, and different, aspect to the debate, may I join with others in my felicitations to the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, for her maiden speech and the delightful way she got our debate moving. We look forward to her controversial winding up. The noble Baroness comes from the North-East of Scotland, and her family have some connection 797 there with the Gordon Highlanders. I would therefore remind your Lordships of the saying in those parts, that "the Gordons ha'e the guide of 't"—in other words, the Gordons have the guiding of it. Therefore we should be particularly happy that we have Lady Tweedsmuir as our Minister of State in the guidance of Scotland.
I should like also to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for all that he did when in office, particularly for his most patient attention to some of the problems with which we used to confront him and for his kindly consideration of them. But, even more, I admired the skill with which he could turn the flank. One did not realise that he had done it until at least five minutes later. I also welcome to this House an old friend and, I might say, an old adversary, in the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, whom I have known for a long time. I am only sorry that the noble Earl, Lord Elgin, is not here, because he is the President of the Boys' Brigade. Not only was the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, connected with the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, on the Edinburgh City Council, but in the old days he also worked with him and with me in the Boys' Brigade. I therefore welcome this latest recruit of the "B.B." to your Lordships' House.
My Lords, for many years there has been a running sore in the East of Scotland by the quite arbitrary exclusion of Edinburgh and Leith from the rest of Scotland in relation to help for the development of industry. This was one of the most unfair decisions of the late Government. It has resulted, as the late Government possibly intended it to result, in an increase in unemployment in that area. For whatever other reason that decision was taken, I suppose the Government at that time did not appreciate the most extraordinary anomalies that they were thereby creating. Leith became the only major port in Scotland not to be backed by a full development area to its landward side. In consequence, there is a growing anxiety about the persistently high rate of unemployment there. Any port denied the opportunity to develop will inevitably waste away.
To me, as a citizen of the County of Midlothian, there is another, even worse, anomaly with equally serious consequences. It is the arbitrary inclusion 798 of parts of Midlothian within this apartheid area. At first sight this act seems quite incomprehensible—and the more incomprehensible when it is disclosed that the green fields of the county and the ancient mills of the Water of Leith just happen to be within the administrative area of the Edinburgh Labour Exchange. My Lords, the mills of the Water of Leith are grinding to a stop. The Water of Leith was once described as the busiest and most productive river in the whole of Europe. With enlightened management, hundreds of persons have enjoyed full employment, and there has been happiness and prosperity in hundreds of homes. I ask your Lordships' indulgence if I make a special plea for the village of Balerno. The enlightened management of the paper mills there have secured full employment during the years of depression—the early 'thirties especially. But a paper mill, like a port, unless it can develop will die. It is a matter of urgency regarding the Galloway's Mill in Balerno. Bureaucratic anomaly lays a dead hand on the valley of the Water of Leith.
This dead hand lies also on the young, emergent Heriot-Watt University, now moving out from the City of Edinburgh to the fresh fields of Midlothian, with room for development—for the development of those technologies without which all industry will die. Essential to a technological university is an adjacent industrial research park, where science-based industries can set up their research laboratories and plant in close association with their relevant science. In addition, there is art important "feed back" to the university scientists, which also helps them to keep their feet on the ground. Now this penniless university of Heriot-Watt is putting out over £100,000 that it has not got in venturing to establish such a research park, and it can recoup only when firms come up and use the sites which it is preparing for them. At the moment there is a positive disincentive for firms to come to the university.
I would ask the Government to treat this as a matter of some urgency. Alternatively, can the University get a development grant for what they are doing, for it is not within the scope of the University Grants Committee? The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, asked some 799 penetrating questions about the five universities in the central belt. Certainly they have not got all the facilities they need in order to provide all the services, initiative and inspiration for these new science-based industries that have, during the past thirty years, been established and are flourishing in Scotland, and which have indeed been the very salvation of the Scottish economy in these port-war years. I would assure the noble Earl (who unfortunately has had to go, but who will perhaps read it in Hansard to-morrow) that there is a certain collaboration between the universities so that they do not unduly overlap. I think this could be bettered. There are always certain professional jealousies, but I believe that on the whole we try to be complementary to each other in the fields of our endeavours.
There is, however, one point to which the noble Earl referred, and it is the establishment of the Scottish Business School and the decision to scatter it over the three universities of Strathclyde, Glasgow and Edinburgh. It is a decision which has utterly astonished most people—to think that an advanced graduate business school can be effectively organised over three disparate universities, even though the mileage between them is not all that great. I submit that the Government should consider restricting this new business school to the one university, the university for which pressure was put on ten years ago when the Manchester Business School was set up. I can remember the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, on those Benches pressing hard for an additional business school to be set up in Scotland, and to be set up at the then emergent Strathclyde University.
My Lords, I put great faith in the noble Baroness. I feel it is not necessary at all for me to labour any of these additional points. I recall how efficiently and how understandingly she discharged her duties when she was last in office in charge of Scottish education.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ LORD BURTON
My Lords, I, too, should like to start by congratulating my noble friend Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, and also the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, on their maiden speeches. I particularly 800 welcome the noble Baroness, for her reputation for hard work is well known. I think her speech was all that your Lordships would have expected from her, and I am sure that it holds forth much promise for the future. Several speakers have also mentioned their gratitude for the actions of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. I should like to echo their words on a slightly more personal note. When I was standing trembling and stuttering on the other side, it was a nod or a smile from the Front Bench here which I found most helpful and reinforcing. In saying that, I must add that the retorts that sometimes came back in his winding-up speeches were not perhaps always as flattering as one had expected from the kind smiles he gave when one was actually speaking.
At this time, when the Government must be trying to sort out much of the mess that has been left for them, it is perhaps hard on the Minister to saddle her with additional problems. However, at a time when the Government are looking for economies, I hope that I may be able to offer some ideas. Furthermore, the expenditure of local authorities is of such public concern and such magnitude that it is only right that it should be fully ventilated. Indeed, local authority expenditure represents more than one-sixth of the total net public expenditure in the country. The method by which the average individual is hit is, of course, by steeply escalating rates. County councils within which there is a burgh are particularly badly hit; and your Lordships will all be aware of the manner in which your rates have risen sharply in recent years. I found it very difficult to get here to-day, but the presentation of our county budget last week shocked me so badly that I felt it essential that I should come to see whether I could help in any way to throw some light on matters.
Local authorities have been saddled—as indeed have all of us—with very heavy interest rates. The private individual has some control over borrowing but the local authorities have very heavy capital borrowings, dating back for periods of up to 60 years, so that they have only very small control over their interest charges. The Inverness County Council is having to pay over £200,000 801 per annum in selective employment tax (I am not sure what the total sum must be throughout the country, but it must be considerable), and even though much of this is recovered, there is all the administration attached to collection for payment, and then the recovery later on. There have been staggering wage rises mostly to meet the galloping inflation. Vehicle licence costs have rocketed. For instance, the cost of the licences for the vehicles of our County Roads Department has risen over the last two years by 125 per cent. Of course, this was largely for lorries, as opposed to cars, but it is a pretty staggering increase.
What did the last Government do? They said, "We are going to try to curb local authority expenditure by restricting the grant payable to them. County councils should curb their growth, and to do this we are going to pay grant on a sum which will permit growth of not more than 3 per cent. to 4 per cent. per annum. If expenditure exceeds this, then it must be met from the rates." Any of your Lordships who has tried to deal with local authority finance knows how one is set in a straitjacket, with little room for more than a slight wriggle here and there. Take education, my Lords. The vast proportion of the expenditure is on teachers' salaries. Where can one cut—school equipment, or further education courses? We all know the howl that arises at such a suggestion. What then is left?—maintenance of school buildings. That is invariably the section which is cut. But can this be sound economy?
Then we have had legislation poured upon us. Dare we ignore the instructions involving increased expenditure brought about by extra social work, extra expenditure due to the Water Act and so on? The noble Baroness has forestalled me. I was going to ask what will happen on the reorganisation of local government, and I was pleased to hear that this matter is being considered in some detail. But I still wonder whether the situation will be the same as in the case of the; Water Act, where there has been a multiplication of officials and an increase in expenditure. It seems that we have discussed possible boundaries, but we have not examined the financial implications upon which the economy of the country as a whole is based. Rumour has it that there is a depart- 802 mental committee sitting on this subject, but I wonder whether that is the best method of dealing with the matter.
A circular letter from the Scottish Development Department in March last year stated:Since local authorities' estimates allow for a steady increase in loan charges, the estimates for the two years of the grant period imply a reduction in current highway and lighting expenditure of about 5 per cent. below the current year level in 1969–70, and a return to something still slightly below that level in 1970–71. While it is appreciated that to achieve savings of this order local authorities will have to cut back their normal maintenance programme severely in the next two years, it was agreed during discussions on the estimates that there was a higher degree of flexibility in this area of expenditure than in many others, and therefore more possibility of short-term economies.Thus, eventually, when discussing the budget, the county treasurer turns round and says, "We must now cut unclassified roads expenditure." As chairman of the roads committee of the county council covering the largest land mass of any local authority, I say this with some feeling and leave the wisdom of this policy to the inspiration of your Lordships. I have said so before, and make no apologies for saying again, that roads are the key to Highlands development. Of course that applies to all the counties, but it applies in particular to the Highlands. We cannot afford to 1st up on the maintenance of our existing roads, nor can we afford to continue with the parsimonious expenditure on new roads and improvements. This does not mean that there is no room for economy. I believe that there is vast wastage of public money on road works. St. Andrew's House is told that there is so much available for road improvements, and instead of using this to the best advantage it is divided up into little packets for various types of road, and then little bits are dished out here and there to keep various councils happy, or as happy as possible.
To give an example of this, one can drive in stops and starts up the Fort William/Mallaig so-called trunk road, much of which is single track but is very heavily trafficked. One can then turn off at Inverailort for Glenuig, and proceed along a truly beautiful road—beautiful in all respects. It is scenically beautiful and it has been very well engineered. I travelled for twelve miles along that road the other evening and I saw only two cars 803 the whole time, yet that lovely road turns off from an awful track which is very heavily loaded. I know of one section of trunk road where a little bit has been nibbled off a corner almost annually over the last three years, and now the corner is almost more dangerous than it was in the first place.
All over the country one can see roadworks partly completed because there was insufficient money to complete the work in a current year. What private individual could afford to make such investment, and then leave it unused because of insufficient funds to complete the work? There is a section of the A.9 just South of Dunkeld where this is particularly noticeable. A great deal of money has been spent and yet it is lying unsurfaced and unused. During the last three years over £264,000 has been spent on the A.9 in Inverness-shire, and what is there to show for it?—a few earthworks here and a few yards of footpath there. Then last week we were asked to spend £24,500 on surveying all the bridges between Inverness itself and the Perth county boundary, even though many of those bridges will eventually be bypassed.
I wonder when we are going to get some of our badly needed realignments. Only yesterday I had the misfortune to traverse the Fort William/Mallaig road and found that in the height of the tourist season they are playing around with the road verges on the section of road which is single track. Another matter requiring attention is the manner in which the Post Office lays cable in our roadways, frequently involving substantial extra road expenditure. Apparently the Post Office has a statutory right to undertake this type of work, but I feel that there are grounds here for considerable economies.
In previous debates on Scotland, I have referred to the lack of planning of our future roads. This has been brought even more forcibly to my notice in recent weeks because in a number of cases in Inverness-shire development is being held up because it is not known where our so-called trunk roads are to run and plans of their routes are not available. Housing and other matters are being held up, and this is something which really should be looked at. Let us stop playing about 804 with bite of road here and there, and get on with reconstructing our road system and investing our financial resources to the best advantage.
Mention has been made of the railway, and I should like to ask whether the Perth/Inverness line is in jeopardy. I gather that the signalling has been doubled on the line from Perth to Aberdeen, and the only reason that can be given for doing this is that there will be increased traffic on that line. I wonder where the traffic is going to come from, if it is not to come from the Perth/Inverness line.
§ LORD BURTON
Finally, I should like to make one point about the remark of the noble Lord, Lord Strange. He referred to the creatures in Loch Ness as "the monster". But the laws of nature dictate that there is more than one, and therefore they should be referred to in the plural.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF CROMARTIE
My Lords, first of all I should like to welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie. It is not often that we get both ability and glamour at the same time, and we welcome her very warmly. Also I should like to add many thanks to the late Minister—not late in life, but late in office—the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. For a good many years we have had a very pleasant association. He has always been extremely helpful, both in your Lordships' House and outside when I have met him on county council work in various parts of Scotland. That does not mean that we have always entirely agreed with each other, but if we disagreed it was always a friendly battle.
I make no apology for omitting any reference to the project, Oceanspan. That has been dealt with at some length, and will continue to be dealt with by noble Lords better qualified than I am to cover that area of the Scottish economy. I propose to confine myself to a matter of extreme and immediate urgency in the Highlands. Oceanspan deals with an area where there are already too many people. I wish to say something about many thousands of square miles where there are too few and which are losing 805 far too many of their native sons and daughters. I refer to the Western Highlands and the Islands of Scotland.
My Lords, for many decades we have had with us the much-debated question of the absentee landlord, but we are now faced with perhaps the more serious issue of the absentee population. For the last few years, in the event of a croft house ceasing to be needed as the dwelling-house for the croft, perhaps because of an enlargement of the holding, or through some other cause, this house—and, indeed, many crofter township houses—has come on to the open market. Whatever the condition of the building may be, and however desperately a local person may want to purchase the place, he will not be able to do so: within a matter of hours the house will be snapped up by some person from the South, at many times its value, to be turned, alter further considerable expense, into a holiday cottage, which will be occupied by the purchaser for some two months in the year. Apart from these summer months, it will remain locked up and empty.
The seller of the property has every right to sell for the best price that he can get, while it is equally understandable that the purchaser longs for a change from the probably overcrowded and polluted regions from which he may originate. But, my Lords, is this to the benefit of the indigenous population, and is this the way to halt depopulation? The amount of money thus introduced into the region is negligible, and the eventual answer is that the native population will be replaced by strangers who remain in residence for a few summer months. Will the noble Baroness the Minister say whether the potential seriousness of this trend is appreciated, and whether she will consider the possibility of helping financially would-be local purchasers to buy this kind of property; and at the same time consider the possibility of imposing a special rate in certain areas on this type of property, used in this way?
A further blow to the Highland economy is the decline in public use of rural bus services. On the East side of my own county the nationalised concern, Highland Omnibuses, has of course taken over all the formerly privately owned bus services, so that there is presumably 806 an element of cross-subsidisation helping the less economic services. Nevertheless, the services in some outlying places are getting so infrequent that one must wonder whether they are not cutting their own throats. In certain areas which once were adequately served by private contractors there is now no service at all. My Lords, not everybody has a car, and this loss of services causes the maximum inconvenience and hardship in our remote Western areas, where the townships are far apart and, unfortunately, have populations consisting largely of older people.
Here again, Highland Omnibuses have taken over one or two services, though there are still several privately owned operations which carry little passenger traffic and survive by having other sources of income, such as Post Office mail contracts, parcels traffic, milk supply and the like. Recently, on the North side of Loch Torridon the service to an isolated community at Diabaig was withdrawn as being uneconomic and difficult to run. After something of a row, in which I had the honour to take part, it appeared that a composite service might be reintroduced by tie Post Office; but I fear that this is not now to continue.
There are many similar areas, and all this adds up to the fact that financially poor county councils will shortly have to try to subsidise the continuance of vital services under the 1968 Transport Act. This will be a complicated business, as undoubtedly the most satisfactory solution is to have a single service carrying both goods and passengers. In the past, the Post Office have virtually subsidised many such services, but they may not continue this; and if they do stop the results will be disastrous and will do much to speed the already tragic depopulation from the Western Highlands and Islands.
As at least some of your Lordships will realise, ferries can be of major importance, and I would refer to one which has recently been mentioned in the Press and which plies between the Kyle of Lochalsh and Toscaig, on the Applecross peninsula, now threatened with extinction. This ferry does not carry much traffic but is vital to the community it serves when bad weather closes the only route, which rises to 2,054 feet, into the 807 area. On May 7, the B.B.C. gave a Scottish broadcast on this problem. The first speaker, being a local county council member, made an excellent and, to my mind, irrefutable case. We then had a member of the Highlands and Islands Development Board, who said nothing very much except that probably money would eventually be forthcoming. Perhaps the idea is to wait until there is no longer a native population to serve but when, no doubt, newcomers from the South will have taken over, who will be well served by the numerous and costly tourist bodies which have blossomed of late in ever-growing numbers. How one wishes that some of the money spent on these Boards could be used for the desperately needed caravan parks and conveniences in the areas where the tourists congregate! The next to appear on the programme was the chairman of the Scottish Transport Group, to whom everything was for the best in the best of all possible worlds, and the clamour was really a storm in a teacup. Needless to say, he spoke from a great city, and I doubt whether he had ever seen the communities affected in Applecross, let alone during a period when the only road was snowed up.
I wish, my Lords, that some of our urban-orientated controllers could gain some knowledge of what really happens when roads are blocked, and sick or very old people have to be evacuated to the Eastern mainland; and also of the difficulties and considerable danger to which our wonderful district nurses are subjected. Ferries and access roads so desperately needed to keep alive and save Western seaboard communities will cost money, but I submit that the amount will be very small when compared to the £200 million-plus spent and to be spent for the benefit of London Underground users. Again, the costs for this essential work would help to save the existence of people who are giving and have given great service to Scotland, and indeed Britain. It is far more worth while than any suggested road across the last genuine desert in the United Kingdom, the Moor of Rannoch, which would be solely for the benefit of the motorised tourist because there is no resident population for it to serve.
808 My Lords, I am asking my noble friend the Minister to press the Government for greater help to these areas by saving and improving communications and encouraging the introduction of suitable industries.
§ 7.27 p.m.
LORD BELHAVEN AND STENTON
My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations to those expressed to my noble friend Lady Tweedsmuir, both on her excellent maiden speech and on her appointment as Minister of State for Scotland. I hope that her tenure of the Office will be long, happy and prosperous. I want to make only a brief intervention on a subject which I think has not been raised this afternoon. We have heard a great deal about roads and the necessity of roads, with which I entirely agree, but I should like to say a very few words about the schemes we have for new trunk roads and for rerouting old ones, and to put in a plea on behalf of the people whose homes and livelihoods are affected by these operations, which we all agree are necessary. There is a danger that in the matter of trunk roads and in the other cases which have been discussed this afternoon—probably like Oceanspan if it came off—the interests and wishes of local people are brushed aside by the central Administration, and I would ask that more regard should be had for the very serious human problems that can arise, and that local opinion and sentiment should be given its due weight. I do not think that at present this is always done, and though I have found that the authorities are always prepared to listen, all too often that is all they are prepared to do.
I am very concerned at present with a particular case in my own district with which I will not bore your Lordships, but I have found, in dealing with these authorities, that while there is invariable courtesy, there is also a tendency to an undue rigidity of procedure and a confusing complication of procedure. I am thinking particularly of people who may be very good at their jobs—mechanics, farmers or other people—who are assets to the communities in which they live, and who find themselves, through no fault of their own, caught up in complicated negotiations with the powers that be. Whether justifiably or not, many of these good people often conclude that they are up against an inhuman Juggernaut. If 809 only they could be here to see the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir! Anything less like an inhuman Juggernaut would be hard to imagine. I am quite sure that she will bring all her humanity and understanding to these problems when she has to deal with them.
Finally, I would plead that the rules laid down for the construction of roads and other public works should be interpreted, and be seen to be interpreted, with regard to local opinion and needs and that the powers that be should be flexible in their approach. Otherwise, particularly in view of the increasing developments, I think there is a real danger that the advantages of these new roads and other developments will appear to be outweighed by the legacy of bitterness and frustration.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
My Lords, at this stage in what has been a very interesting debate my intervention will be, I hope, commendably brief, but may I at the outset join with those noble Lords who have already spoken in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, on her appointment as Minister of State—an office of great importance to our country and one which I hope still carries particular responsibilities for the welfare and economic development of the Highlands and Islands. I wish her, as other noble Lords have done, every success in that and in all other directions which come within the province of her office. I also wish to pay my tribute to the Scottish Council to which we owe so much, and to Sir William Lithgow and those who have worked with him in compiling this factual and farsighted Report, Oceanspan, which may well prove to be a turning point which will put Scotland once again on the road where high endeavour will lead to the greater prosperity and happiness of her people. I am happy to note that in his concern for the future of this country and the well-being of her people, Sir William is following in the footsteps of his father, Sir James Lithgow, and his uncle, the late Mr. Henry Lithgow, who did so much to help Clydeside and the West of Scotland through the dark days of the early 1930s.
Scotland has been favoured by nature, in that there are many places around our coasts where deep water is to be found 810 in sheltered situations which enable ships of the greatest size to berth close inshore. Indeed, at places such as Fiunart on Loch Long they can berth within a stone's throw of the shore. Many such places are also places of great natural beauty, and I am glad that the Report stresses the importance of ensuring that development in the name of economic advancement be reconciled with the aspirations of our people who look to economic advancement as enabling them to enjoy a fuller and happier life. The Report stresses the advantages of the Hunterston Peninsula as the key terminal on the Clyde. I happen to know that part of the coast very well. To me it is a place of beauty which the power station, built with great care for the amenities by the South of Scotland Electricity Board, has not spoiled. I had hoped, therefore, that a suitable site might be found in the vicinity of Ardrossan which, with its hinterland, is already industrialised. I hoped for that, although it would be much more open to the prevailing winds and not nearly so sheltered as Hunterston, and the deep water is considerably further off-shore.
Those who framed the Report must obviously have considered all the aspects of the matter and they have settled for Hunterston. My plea is: do let us avoid development along the coast; let us say that industry to be served by the terminal be situated inland except where there are insuperable obstacles to that course; and do not let us countenance industrial development all around the Clyde Estuary, such as the siting of an oil refinery adjacent to Toward Point. In that connection I was sorry that for one reason or another it has been decided to build a power station at Inverkip, presumably as a convenient point for supplies of oil to be delivered by tanker; but when oil is pumped all the way from Fionart and Loch Long to Grangemouth or further, surely there would be little difficulty in supplying a power station situated in a less conspicuous, less desirable and less visited place than Inverkip.
While not forgetting the vital need to provide suitable industries for that part of Scotland which lies North and West of a line joining roughly Dundee and Dumbarton, by following energetically the course set for our consideration in this most admirable Report—so far as the 811 Clyde, at any rate, is concerned—while avoiding the hideous destruction of amenity which we have inherited from the first Industrial Revolution great benefits can accrue to our country and people. Let us then hope that this project may be speedily and thoroughly examined and that decisions followed by action may not lag.
Before I conclude I wish to echo all that has been said in regard to the great service to Scotland and to this House rendered by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. I would also wish to say a word of welcome to an old friend, Lord Hoy. I wish to welcome him to this House and to congratulate him most sincerely on his maiden speech.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
My Lords, may I have the leave of the House to speak again? I should like first to join with all those who have spoken before me in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, on a speech of great excellence and, if I may say so, a speech such as we became accustomed to in another place. The noble Lord never spoke unless he had something definite and concise to say and as I hope that we shall take part together in Scottish debates in the future, it is very good indeed to be able to welcome him here.
This has been a very fascinating and wide ranging debate. I tried to equip myself for it by reading an economic debate on Scottish affairs which took place about a year ago. As the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, is my mentor in these matters, I noticed that he counted the number of subjects which had been dealt with on that day and totalled twenty-one. Well, when I got to thirty-eight, I gave up! I gave up in particular because at that point the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, was speaking, and the range of his speech alone was something which I think I will have to study at leisure. I think also that it was the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, who said that it was quite likely that the Minister of State might be asked all kinds of questions which did not affect her Department. Perhaps I may put the question of the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, in that category: how do the railways do their 812 sums? I beg to say that I do not know in detail the answer to that question. But as the noble Lord, Lord Clydesmuir, and many other noble Lords have said, Oceanspan has great merit; and if I may say so I loved the enthusiasm with which it was greeted by my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood. I think that a little enthusiasm in Scotland is what we really need.
My Lords, I should like to say that we accept in principle the main ideas behind Oceanspan but with certain reservations which I made clear at the start. It will obviously take time in the economic climate of to-day to realise all the hopes contained in that Report, and just because technological change is so rapid there are bound to be changes in the application of the Report. But I think we can all agree that the need for better communications and adequate housing and the development of our natural resources must be a charge on any Government.
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, seemed concerned about the possible destruction of amenity, and the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, said that if the Hunterston Report found in favour of the proposed developments the preservation of amenity would be impossible; the beauty of Scotland would be destroyed. As I said in my earlier speech, I do not believe that to be inevitable nowadays, given first-class designers, and, particularly, a clear policy of pollution control. For the last two years, among other activities, I have been chairman of a pollution control commission under the British National Export Council, and I can assure all noble Lords who have expressed fears about amenities that I am very conscious of this. I know there is much to do, but I do not think that in Scotland we can afford always to refuse development, particularly if it is of a major basic character around which other smaller industries may very easily grow.
The noble Lord, Lord Hoy, asked me in particular what would happen now that the national ports authority, as envisaged under the Ports Bill, would no longer be created, since, of course, that Bill is no longer before us. I feel that the best way to reply to him is to say that we have always felt that the question of the ports is really a United Kingdom responsibility and should come under the Minister of 813 Transport. There is very close consultation with the Secretary of State. Perhaps the clearest indication that consultation does work is the announcement of the extension of the Greenock terminal, something which was begun—as of course it must have been—by the previous Government. Noble Lords have asked—I think that the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, also asked about this—whether it would not be wise to have an amalgamation of the Forth and Clyde authorities. My right honourable friend the Minister of Transport is willing to listen to any arguments on these lines, but at the moment both he and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State welcome the fact that both authorities are working together very well and are having closer consultations, probably, than ever before. The noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, asked me about MIDAS. He will know of course that Professor Peston of Queen Mary College, London, is going to examine this question over the next year or two and will look at the costs and benefits of a project such as that in this country, and notably of course in Scotland.
It is probably true that a clear strategy for west central Scotland is overdue, and we shall consult the local planning authorities concerned. The previous Administration had reached an agreement with the Clyde Valley Planning Advisory Committee whereby that Committee, which was recently reorganised, would act as the focus of this work; and central and local Government were to share equally the cost of preparing a plan. The Government will carry out these arrangements as quickly as possible by setting up, with the Clyde Valley Planning Committee, a steering committee to control the preparation of the plan; and they will appoint to the steering committee leading figures in the economic and industrial life in west central Scotland.
While we are on the problems of planning and transport may I deal with the question of the Edinburgh southern bypass, a point which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier. The responsibility for taking and carrying out decisions on roads in and around Edinburgh clearly rests in the first instance with the City Corporation, and I am sure that my noble friend will recognise that it is only right that 814 the Secretary of State should await the outcome of their studies, which are taking place now, and their decision, before reaching any further conclusions about the by-pass. My noble friend, Lord Balerno, questioned the wisdom of excluding certain parts of Midlothian from the development area because, as he rightly said, they are included in the boundaries of the Edinburgh employment exchange area. The noble Lord will appreciate that lines, because they have to be drawn somewhere, were drawn by the previous Labour Government—and supported by ourselves when last in power—in what are the most practical and convenient means of defining areas which should receive assistance; and that, of course, is the employment area exchanges. But as I said earlier, we are examining the position of Edinburgh in the whole question of regional development areas.
Many noble Lords have spoken on our road transport system. I think it true to say that much of the basic motorway and trunk road network linking the main centres of population and industry in Central Scotland, and the English motorway system, is either open to traffic or nearing completion. The M74-A.74 Glasgow—Carlisle route to the South is open as far as Gretna. At the end of this year, with the opening of the final motorway section from Newbridge to Dechmont, the dual carriageway through the trunk route linking Edinburgh with Glasgow also will be fully operational. Taken with the major schemes which are also being carried out by the Glasgow Corporation and the continuation of the M.8.-A.8 Edinburgh to Glasgow motorway route to Port Glasgow and Greenock, the provision of a major through artery from East to West is, therefore, well under way.
Perhaps I should also remind your Lordships that the Minister of Transport affirmed in another place yesterday the promise made in the Conservative Election Manifesto that the quantity licensing provisions of the Transport Act 1968 would be repealed as soon as an opportunity occurred. Meanwhile, Sections 71 to 80 of the Act will remain inoperative. These sections, as your Lordships will know, provide that vehicles of more than 16 tons gross weight must be specially licensed to operate journeys of more 815 than 100 miles, and this of course removes the choice of transport from the consignor.
As my right honourable friend stated last week, we want very much to ensure that we strengthen the Borders as a whole. Here I should like to thank my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood for her very interesting and, if I may say so, human description of the problem of the Borders. We have already started a review of current plans to see how we can, perhaps, improve them. She referred in particular to Tweedbank. I think she will know that the appeal was refused on technical grounds. She may rest assured that once discussions with the local authority are completed a statement will be made as soon as possible.
My noble friend Lord Selkirk asked why the proposed new business school in Scotland is to be split between the universities. The noble Earl sent me a note to say that he could not be here to-night owing to another engagement. The short answer is that the business school is not going to be split. The object of the University Grants Committee's discussions with the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Srathclyde has been to explore the possibility of combining the best elements and experience, and the separate disciplines, in the separate universities in order to provide a school and a programme of advanced business studies of the highest possible standard; and the universities are working together to this end.
My noble friend Lord Balerno asked about the Heriot-Watt research park at Riccarton. I am unable to give the noble Lord the answer which I am sure he would like to hear but, as he is aware, the Departments concerned have looked at the University proposals in considerable detail. So far as I am aware, there are no powers under which Government Departments could give direct assistance to the University for a development of this kind at Riccarton, but I hope that the absence of Government financial support will not make my noble friend feel that we are indifferent to the merits of the proposal.
My noble friend Lord Burton spoke about local authority finance. He was perfectly right in saying that there is a Departmental Committee examining the whole question of local government 816 finance in relation to local government reorganisation. We have not yet seen the result of these studies. Therefore I am not at this moment able to give him any clear statement of policy on this vast subject, which will have to come together with reorganisation on Wheatley lines as a whole.
My noble friend Lord Belhaven and Stenton said that he hoped when we were considering any matters in the Scottish Office, we would try to bring as much true consultation and consideration as possible into any decision which was made. I can certainly give him that promise. We really do want to try to have a two-way system of ideas. We are open to suggestions from anyone. We may not always accept them, but we will certainly study them. We hope to make a reality of what I could call an open system of Government.
My noble friend Lord Cromartie spoke about the problems of ferries and particularly mentioned the Kyle-Toscaig ferry. The Scottish Transport Group have given notice under the procedure in Section 156 of the Transport Act 1968 to discontinue this service, as a means, I understand, of securing a full-scale review of it by the Scottish Transport Users' Consultative Committee. Since this procedure is now started, I cannot comment on the matter in detail but I can say that in terms of the undertaking with MacBraynes, the service cannot be discontinued without the Secretary of State's approval, and that approval will not be given if any serious hardship will result to the people living in the Applecross peninsula.
Many noble Lords spoke of the problem of housing. It is clear that this is going to be one of the most difficult problems before the Government. At this moment the construction industry, which is the largest employer of men in Scotland, has an unemployment total of some 16,800 of whom over 5,000 are craftsmen. This recession is due to a reduction in demand in general construction because of the economic climate, including the high interest rates. The latest figures on housing are: houses completed, all sources, both private and local authority, in 1969, 42,629. We have under construction now 39,132 and the authorised starts are 20,621. So the figures speak for themselves. Private housing has lagged, but 817 we are hoping that with some easement in interest rates and more money becoming available from building societies, it will go ahead. We also intend to place a great deal of emphasis on home ownership for its own sake. The contribution which housing has made to the expansion of the economy is very great. That is why we will pay a great deal of attention to the replacement of slums and of sub-standard housing when we are speaking of industrial change.
One or two noble Lords spoke about the Common Market, and I think that this may be the moment to refer to the fact that in some quarters fears have been expressed that our regional measures will not be so effective if we join the Common Market. My Lords, we are confident that not only will they lit well into the European pattern but that our long experience in this field will be a real asset to a community which is increasingly conscious of the importance of effective regional development policy to the success of their own plans. for economic and monetary union. A factor greatly in Scotland's favour is that we should expect the success we have had throughout the years in attracting American and European investment to gain further ground: because we shall be able to offer to the Americans, for example, a base which will provide the advantages of operating within the Common Market without their finding the very considerable disadvantages associated with differences of language, customs and education in the labour force and the general environment.
I have spoken on some of the important matters raised in this debate. There have been a great number, as I said earlier, and I will certainly write to every noble Lord in detail on the specific suggestions they have raised in their speeches. I should like to thank all speakers for the welcome they have been good enough to give me at this Box, and I hope that, with experience, I shall learn to undertake the work better. I would only say that it has been a great privilege to take part in this debate and to have had the benefit of your Lordships' advice. There is a great deal to do, but I hope that at the end of this Parliament it can be said of us all that we had the courage and the industry to take 818 advantage of our opportunities and that we made the most of our time.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, this has been a very good debate, notable for two really remarkable maiden speeches and, if I am in order to add, a brilliant winding-up. For us old Scottish hands in this House, it is a great comfort to have two recruits such as we have here now, with the knowledge and the skill which they are going to bring to our debates.
The debate has ranged somewhat wider, I must confess, than I expected, from the Highlands to the Borders, not forgetting the monsters, but it has concentrated mainly, as I hoped it would, on Oceanspan. It has been a great comfort to me to find that almost all noble Lords have welcomed this Report as representing something which is of great importance for the future of Scotland. I know that all noble Lords share with me the satisfaction of hearing from the noble Baroness the position of the Government in relation to it—namely, that they accept it in principle. I do not think that at this stage one could ask more. I feel encouraged also by Lord Clydesmuir's Report. The Scottish Council have not waited for advice or for reactions but have gone ahead: they are already consulting potential customers (if that is the right expression) on the Continent, and have had encouraging responses. This is important. I would ask the noble Lord whether he would take back to the Scottish Council an account of all the tributes that have been paid to the Council by noble Lords taking part in the debate this afternoon.
I should like to thank all those who have taken part in the debate. I will not touch on the various points raised by noble Lords, because I know that the noble Baroness will make sure that the attention of the Scottish Office is drawn to what has been said; and that is the best thing that could happen, I want to finish by repeating my gratitude to the Government for hiving a debate on Scottish affairs so early in this Parliament, and I hope and believe that this augurs well for the future. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.