HC Deb 27 April 1983 vol 41 cc352-3W
Mr. Murphy

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will set out the principal achievements of Her Majesty's Government within his Department's responsibilities since May 1979.

Mr. Younger

Among the more important achievements relating to my wide-ranging responsibilities in Scotland, I would list the following:

  1. (a) Central Government: following the report of inter-party talks on the government of Scotland, improvements made in the procedures and arrangements for debates in the Scottish Grand Committee, including provision for experimental sittings in Edinburgh.
  2. (b) Local government: rationalisation of functions between regions and districts in the light of the Stodart report; modernisation of legislation relating to civic government; the setting up of the Montgomery committee to review the functions and powers of the Islands councils; and extension of the Government's powers to control overspending by local authorities.
  3. (c) Law and order: reform of criminal justice procedure; maintenance of support for the police service and provision of additional resources for more police; approval of an £8 million project to computerise the Scottish criminal record office; reforms relating to rights of occupancy of matrimonial homes, court fees and legal aid fees; control of alcohol at sporting events; and a review of the powers and procedures of children's hearings.
  4. (d) Education: the introduction of a new right to parents to choose their children's school; the introduction of a requirement on education authorities to supply information about schools under their management; an assisted places scheme; the introduction of improved educational provision for handicapped children and those with special educational needs; a decision to introduce new curriculum and assessment arrangements for 14 to 16-year-old pupils based on the Munn and Dunning reports; an action plan for reforming education for 16 to 18-year-olds, with emphasis on non-advanced vocational education and links with the youth training scheme; the establishment of the Scottish Community Education Council; and the decision to introduce arrangements for all-graduate entry to the primary teaching profession.
  5. (e) Health: additional resources have been provided which have enabled services to expand by about 5 per cent., one result of which is that the numbers of doctors and nurses employed are higher than under any previous Administration.
  6. (f) Industry and economic development: the setting up of "Locate in Scotland" to promote inward investment into Scotland; the encouragement of the Scottish Development Agency to stimulate or accomplish worthwhile projects in partnership with the private sector — such as the Scottish Exhibition Centre and the Leg-Up scheme; the establishment of Clydebank enterprise zone and the preparatory steps necessary to establish two further zones—in Tayside and at Invergordon; an industrial development drive; a business plan service; construction proceeding on the South of Scotland Electricity Board's nuclear power station at Torness, East Lothian; reconstruction of the A9 north of Perth substantially complete; dualling on the A94 and steady improvement of other roads; financial expenditure in respect of island ferry services increased in real terms; and progress with Civil Service job dispersal, with over 700 jobs being moved to west central Scotland.
  7. (g) Housing and urban programme: significant increase in the size of the Scottish urban programme which is focused on areas of severe deprivation in towns and cities; 21 projects granted £3.7 million support under first tranche of local enterprise grants for urban projects, allowing work to a total value of £17.25 million to go ahead; increase in the Housing Corporation's 353 capital programme to record levels; and provision for public sector house sales—about 75,000 tenants of local authority, new town or Scottish Special Housing Association houses have applied to purchase their homes, with sales completed in about 30,000 cases.
  8. (h) Physical planning: emphasis on planning for the release of enterprise, for example, land for private housing and high technology industries; and advice for small businesses.
  9. (i) Agriculture and fisheries: the successful negotiation of a common fisheries policy which has provided good fishing opportunities on long-term basis; launching of the integrated development programme for the Western Isles; and success in reversing the decline in fanning incomes.
  10. (j) Since the Government came to power, the number of staff employed in the Scottish Office—including the prison service and the state hospital which have increased substantially in line with the Government's law and order policies — has been reduced by 872 or 7.8 per cent. These savings have been augmented by increased efficiency flowing from Rayner and other scrutinies.