HL Deb 30 October 1990 vol 522 cc1773-5

2.50 p.m.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they propose to appoint a Minister of State to answer in the House of Lords on Scottish affairs.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, Her Majesty's Government have a ministerial team in the Scottish Office which is well able to cover the full range of its responsibilities. Those responsibilities of course include the important duties of representing the Government on Scottish affairs in your Lordships' House.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, will the noble Lord the Leader of the House accept that the Question is not designed to reflect on the Parliamentary Under-Secretary who will answer for these affairs in this House and whose grandfather answered similarly in 1955? However, is the Minister aware that since January 1957 successive governments have had a Minister of State for Scottish affairs answerable to this House? Does he accept that the transfer of the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson—I am delighted to see the noble Lord in his place today—to the thankless task of repairing the conflicts within the Conservative Party in Scotland is an untidy way of dealing with the internal troubles of the Conservative Party and at the same time diminishes the status of an important office in this House?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I understand why the noble Lord asked the Question. I am grateful to him for what he has said about my noble friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary. However, the noble Lord was not entirely right in referring to a continuous period of Ministers of State for the Scottish Office in this House. For about five years during the 1960s when the noble Lord's party was in office, the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, was a distinguished Parliamentary Secretary for the Scottish Office. He became a Minister of State in 1969.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, the noble Lord the Leader of the House has not answered part of my noble friend's Question. How does he justify depriving this House of a good Minister of State merely for the purpose of seeking to resolve the dire political problems of the Conservative Party in Scotland?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, it is important to ensure that the Government are well represented in your Lordships' House. I am the first to say that we were very well represented by my noble friend Lord Sanderson of Bowden. We continue to be well represented by his successor, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, in whom I have complete confidence.

Perhaps I may make this point to the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition. Ministers in Scotland have been putting forward a wide range of reforms on such important subjects as education, health and housing. I think I am right in saying that they have put forward what have become a dozen Acts in the last three years. That does not represent division; it represents a ministerial team working in concert.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the Question raises a wider issue: the gradual diminution of Ministers of State from our noble and notable Front Bench? Some of us are very anxious about the lack of a Minister of State for Energy.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, your Lordships' House has exactly the same number of Ministers of State at the moment as our predecessors had when we succeeded them in office in 1979. My noble friend Lord Lauderdale states that the Question opens a wider vista. It is important to look at the sum total of government representation in your Lordships' House. One of the good things about this Government—I refer back to 1979—is that for 11 years in addition to a Scottish Office Minister we have always had a Lord Advocate in your Lordships' House. Looking towards the Woolsack, it can hardly be said that the Government have neglected Scotland in the highest reaches of government both in Cabinet and in your Lordships' House.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, is the noble Lord not aware that the removal of the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson—whom I much admire—to his present very difficult task which takes him out of the government of Scotland will do the Tories far more harm than good?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Sanderson of Bowden does good wherever he goes.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, does the Minister accept that diminishing the status of this important position in the House of Lords is causing some dismay in Scotland? It is generally regarded that the Prime Minister is totally insensitive to the needs of Scotland and has already written it off in electoral terms.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, has been very fair this afternoon. However, I believe that he has fallen over his own feet at the last fence. Public spending in Scotland per head is almost a quarter higher than it is in England and Wales. I call that fair to Scotland.

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