SCOTTISH DEVELOPMENT AGENCY (No. 2) BILL [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th June 1975.

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Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Glasgow Cathcart 12:00 am, 25th June 1975

I will engage with no one, not even the Scottish National Party, in an auction for votes when the country faces serious problems. Unlike the Scottish Nationals, I do not believe that the best way of spending money for Scotland is extending State enterprise and nationalisation.

In an excellent speech, my right hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) asked where the money was coming from. I asked the hon. Member for Glasgow, Queen's Park this question twice and did not receive a clear answer. The Government have no money of their own. They have no great piggy bank. In fact, their piggy bank was bust a long time ago. The only ways to get the money are by cutting spending in Scotland in other directions, by printing the money—which the Government have been doing very successfully—or by taxing private industry, taking money from successful, profitable industry and putting it directly into firms which the Government or bureaucrats choose. It is a transfer transaction.

The hon. Member for Fife, Central and others said that the Bill was right, because if State money were pouring into industry they should have control. Have they looked at the amount of taxation that industry in Britain is paying? It is paying £8 million a day into the Treasury. Only recently I saw an estimate by Professor Lawson of Manchester University that about 63 per cent. of corporate profits were being taken in taxation.

When the country faces such acute financal problems, we do not believe that it is helpful to suggest that the answer is to extend State control of industry. In this, unfortunately, we appear to be alone. For the Liberals, the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles said that he did not like the wording of Clause 2. He agrees with the general sentiment, but would like to express it differently. This shows the normal delightful confusion and inconsistency of the Liberal Party, which was also shown in the other place when the Liberal Peers surprisingly supported the removal of industrial democracy from this Bill but opposed it in the Welsh Bill. That is the appropriate Liberal way of supporting both sides and getting credit for it.

The Scottish Nationals are in a different situation. It is unfortunate for them, because often minority parties find people wooing them and seeking their support. Today, despite their efforts, they have both major parties seeking their enmity instead of friendship. We on the Conservative Benches do not just hurl abuse at the Scottish Nationals but point out to the people of Scotland that on all the crunch Socialist issues we have discussed in this Parliament their votes have been with the Labour Party.

Here is a clear and specific issue of the power to spend. The only new power in the Bill which is not included in existing legislation is that of spending public money on State intervention in industry. We oppose that. The Scottish National Party side with the Labour Party on this issue, as it does on other State control measures.

We have many objections to the Bill. The powers contained in it should not go unchallenged. The Minister of State will cite a host of precedents. The Bill is unique. It brings together all the most objectionable parts of other Bills affecting the freedom of the individual.

Clause 9 gives the new agency the power to acquire land compulsorily. Clause 10 gives it the right of access if it is considering the purchase of land. It has the right to walk into land in Banffshire, Ross and Cromarty or West Renfrewshire, to bore holes and to search. That applies to all land except that owned by the nationalised industries, where the approval of the Secretary of State is required.

I am worried about the Bill because it promotes a major extension of bureaucracy. Our people are not aware of the dangers to our economy from the enormous growth of bureaucracy. My right hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew-shire, East was right. I looked up some recent Answers to Questions about the growth of bureaucracy. The figures are frightening. On 6th May we were told that the number of workers in Britain employed in the public service was 6,500,000, which is over 26 per cent. of the working population.

The rate of increase is even more alarming. The latest indication of the rate of increase in the numbers of people employed in the public service—which includes Government, local government and the nationalised industries—shows a rate of 60,000 per year. That means about 1,000 every week. When a nation such as ours faces acute financial problems, it is appalling that the Government should seek to solve their problems by adding to the numbers employed by the State, which must be carried by the other sections of the community. The Bill will set up an agency which I believe to be unnecessary, bearing in mind the other powers available to the Secretary of State. It will create a further 253,000 jobs. That is an estimate, and I am sure that the final figure will be higher.

Our third objection to the Bill is that there is a danger of confusion arising between the job-seeking and the job-providing agencies. There will be many agencies to which people in Scottish industry can look for help. The National Enterprise Board will operate in Scotland, as will the Scottish Development Agency. The Scottish Office will exercise, in co-operation with the new body, powers under Section 7 of the Industry Act. There is also the Highlands and Islands Development Board. In view of the number of agencies already existing to give help to industry, there is a danger of people standing on each other's toes and of the agencies not enjoying that degree of co-operation for which we might hope. If we continue with this we must set up a co-ordinating agency, with a chairman, staff, a computer and a large number of public employees.

Our other major worry is that there is increasing State intervention in Scotland. It will be almost impossible for there to be fair competition with Government-supported industry. It is impossible for there to be proper and fair competition with a State-owned firm, as it will not follow the normal financial disciplines. There is nothing in the Bill which gives adequate safeguards to private industry.

My fear is that by attempting to save jobs and putting State money into industry we shall destroy jobs because of the unfair competition thereby created. We shall once again give more power to a non-elected body.

I hope that the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. Gourlay), who joined me this morning in defeat577ing the Government on the matter of giving more powers to a non-elected body, will bear in mind that this Bill will give immense powers to a non-elected body.

The House should remember that there is an urgent problem in Scotland. If the Secretary of State has £25 million to spare there are plenty of ways it can be spent to the advantage of Scotland and its people. One way in which that could be done would be by relieving the tax burden on industry and allowing private industry to have more to spend on investment.

I will summarise our case against the Bill. First, the Bill is not needed. If cash is there to spare, it can be spent now. As the Secretary of State said, the amount of money available this year will be relatively small and larger amounts will not be available for some time. Secondly, the Bill is inevitably bureaucratic, when we should be concerned about the number of people employed in the public service. Thirdly, it will create confusion because of the multiplicity of agencies. Fourthly, we have to bear in mind the Government's pledge to restore interventionist powers in the Bill which, at a time of financial crisis, is crazy.

We do not argue that the Bill in itself will create a Marxist nightmare, but it is a further small step along the road to State Socialism. It is being brought forward at a time when the Government are contemplating—unless they are stopped by the more sensible people in their ranks—the nationalisation of shipbuilding, aircraft, oil, ports and development land. It is folly for the Government, in the light of our financial nightmare, to combat which measures will be introduced which will harm the livelihood and security of every working person in the land, to go forward in this mad way splashing money around and imposing interventionist policies. Although I believe that the Labour Party will receive the nation's answer when next it faces the electors, in the meantime it is damaging the nation and the people.