I am surprised at the ending of the speech of the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell). Up to now the debate has been remarkably good-tempered, and free from party bias, but those last remarks of the hon. Member can hardly remain unacknowledged.
We inherited an extraordinary economic situation. When Ministers took up their posts on 16th October—61 days ago, a little more than eight weeks, which gives us 12 years and 44 weeks to go before we would have a record such as hon. Members opposite—we found the country in an alarming state. That reflected itself in all activities of Ministers in relation to plans and the natural process of administration going on in the Department. One thing we found was that negotiations by the officials at the Scottish Office, which had begun in the summer, were coming to the stage when Ministers with knowledge of the position within the Government and appreciation of the economic situation had to meet the local authorities and come to a final agreement with them on the Increase Order and the subsequent Order which we are now discussing.
In the light of that it is quite remarkable that local authorities should show themselves so fully appreciative of the difficulties which the new Government faced. They were more fair than the hon. Member and his hon. Friends in making criticisms. The testimony of their fairness lies in the fact that very few hon. Members opposite can take from their pockets letters of protest from local authorities or local authority associations saying that these arrangements are quite outrageous. As my hon. Friend the Mem- ber for Rutherglen (Mr. Gregor Mackenzie) said so well, we are facing a situation today, in terms of the balance of payments crisis, which is even more serious than the difficulties faced in 1961.