§ 24. Mr. Norman Hogg
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate he has made of the impact on the manpower of Scottish local authorities of the revenue support grant settlement for 1997–98; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Kynoch
Provided councils maximise the benefits from the reorganisation and efficiency savings, and budget in line with the priorities my right hon. Friend set in determining the settlement, it should lead to a continued improvement in front-line services.
§ 26. Mr. Stewart
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his latest assessment of the economic consequences of his policy towards non-domestic rates in Scotland; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Kynoch
Ratepayers have saved more than £1.4 billion in the past 5 years. If the Government had not harmonised rating, next year's bills would be at least double their current levels. We are further freezing the business rates for all small businesses in 1997–98; direct support in that year alone will total over £170 million.645W
The success of the policy is clear. In the last decade the number of companies registered in Scotland has increased by almost 14,000. Business births in Scotland continue to exceed business deaths.
This is good news for Scottish business.
§ 33. Mr. Charles Kennedy
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent representations he has received on the projected level of local government expenditure in the highlands. 
§ Dame Jill Knight
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about the recent Coopers and Lybrand report on local government spending in Scotland. 
§ Mr. Michael Forsyth
The report confirms that after adjustments for non-comparability Scottish councils are spending £285 more each year for every man, woman and child than English councils are spending and £181 more than Welsh councils are spending.
I now intend to start the next stage of the study to find out whether there is any justification for this excess.