It is an interesting fact—perhaps not inappropriate—that the debate is being held on Independence Day—American Independence Day. Despite the opposition of Lord North, George III and others, the American colonies achieved their independence, as Scotland assuredly will, despite the spiritual heirs of Lord North in this House.
The Declaration of Independence speaks of Governments
deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
This debate concerns a Government abusing their unjust powers, with the dissent of the governed.
My remarks will be confined mainly to the Scottish situation. That does not imply that the Government have acted in an acceptable way in Wales, England or Northern Ireland. I have no doubt that other hon. Members will be bringing that to the attention of the Government. Nor does it imply that we on the SNP Bench expect a Tory Government to be any improvement. It is extremely difficult to attack their policies. As Churchill said in another connection, they are
a riddle, wrapped in mystery, inside an enigma.
The manifesto of the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Conservative Opposition appears to be simply "Won't you please buy my pig in a poke?" I shall say no more about the Conservative Party because today I want to fight on one front. I do not want any of the reserve troops deserting.
I turn first to devolution and to the legislative Assembly to which the Labour Party in October 1974 promised to give
high priority in the next Parliament.
It is true that we did have a Bill of sorts. On the guillotine motion, the Government exposed their lack of real concern. That has not gone unnoticed in Scotland. Nor has the fact that although Scottish MPs, or hon. Members from Scottish constituencies, voted two to one for the guillotine, that expression of opinion counted for absolutely nothing.
In 1974 the Tories said,
Devolution can free Scotland from the frustrations of centralisation.
To show their attachment to that principle, they have just merged their Scottish organisation with the English one.
What is this Government's record on social welfare? According to the—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Tuck) is in a hurry to deliver one of his carefully prepared and usually damp squibs. I have not said anything really controversial so far.
According to the report of the National Children's Bureau, Scotland has the highest proportion of disadvantaged children in Britain—five times the ratio of disadvantaged children in the South-East of England. In the words of the report, they are
doomed to become failures from the day of their birth
because of overcrowded or deprived homes, parents with low incomes, and so on. What has Labour's rhetoric on compassion and caring done about that? Incidentally, what has happened to the £120 million announced to deal with deprived areas in Glasgow?
At the other end of the scale, we have the old people. Age Concern in Scotland has campaigned, so far without success, for an increase in the funeral grant. The average funeral in Scotland now costs about £120. The Government's contribution remains at £30. [Interruption.] Government supporters may think that that is a laughing matter. It is not a laughing matter for many people in Scotland who cannot meet these expenses, especially under this Government. Where is the trumpeted concern for old people in that fact? The position is not helped by rising prices, reduced living standards and a pound in the pocket which has shrunk to 50p since this Government came to office.
As for education, recently the Secretary of State for Scotland produced a paper proposing widespread and catastrophic cuts in training colleges in Scotland. Following very strong opposition from all parties in Scotland, including some members of his own party, the right hon. Gentleman has been obliged to reduce the extent of the mutilation of Scotland's education system.
It has been pointed out in the past that education is not a function, like roads which can be halted for 10 years and then resumed. In that period, a large section will have been deprived of educational opportunity, to the permanent loss of society and themselves.
A week or two back, the Child Poverty Action Group reported that younger children were missing lessons because their parents could not afford to buy them school uniforms. In some authorities, the average grant is £9 a year, which is a ludicrously inadequate figure. The same report stated that 16-to-18-year olds were forced to leave school because their parents failed to get adequate help with the cost of maintaining them at school.
The March figures show that 580 teachers are registered at unemployment exchanges in Scotland. The Government, like their predecessors, induced people to go into the teaching profession, even asking people of mature age to leave their jobs to become teachers. Therefore, they have a moral obligation to see that these people are not left on the dole.
What is the Government's record on transport? I deal with this briefly because I hope that one of my hon. Friends will be fortunate enough, Mr. Speaker, to catch your eye in order to spell it out in detail. The recent transport document is a severe blow to Scotland. It is geared to the English dimension. I refer only to two items in that document which affect my constituency. Paragraph 161 says:
In Scotland air services are an important basic means of communication, particularly to and from the islands.
That is very true. What have the Government done to live up to that sentiment? They have permitted British Airways to charge £116 to fly from Stornaway to London, although it will fly anyone to
Athens for £85. They have permitted British Airways to increase charges on flights from Stornaway and Benbecula to the south by a third inside one year, so its aircraft are flying with 50 per cent. of their seats empty.
It was a great relief in Scotland that the proposed 5½p tax on petrol had to be scrapped. However, it should be noted that the Government promised to withdraw it in time for the holidays. That covers the English holidays, but it is too late for the school holidays in Scotland. The rejection of road equivalent tariff is a severe blow to the Scottish Islands, which are as entitled to economic transport costs as any other part of the United Kingdom.
I turn now to the area of the greatest betrayal—unemployment.
Back to work with Labour".
What a sick joke that is now. There were no reservations or caveats when that slogan was produced. There was no suggestion then that unemployment was a worldwide phenomenon.
Scottish unemployment has been rising steadily during the lifetime of this Gov ernment. In June 1974, 77,900 men and women were unemployed. That figure represents 3·6 per cent. of the working population. By June 1976, the figure had risen to about 144,000 or 6·6 per cent. of the working population. By June 1977, last month, the figure had risen to 186,000, or 8·6 per cent. of the working population. That was an all-time peak and an increase of about 22,000 on the previous month. It is, in fact, the worst figure since the 1930s. There are young people today who are experiencing a situation unknown in Scotland since their grandfathers' time in the 1930s.
The prospect for school leavers is desperate. There are 24,997 of them unemployed and only 1,574 jobs notified to careers officers. Youth unemployment is particularly severe in Scotland, and 13·3 per cent. of Scottish unemployed are teenagers, compared with a figure of 9 per cent. for the United Kingdom as a whole.
Mr. James Kirkwood, Assistant General Secretary of the STUC, said recently:
The fact that 24,997 school leavers are unemployed in Scotland is a sad reflection
on the importance society attaches to the needs and aspirations of the country's future.
The sad reflection is on this Government
The previous Secretary of State for Scotland, the right hon. Member for Kil-marnock (Mr. Ross), said that a holder of that office should leave it when unemployment reached 100,000.
The right hon. Gentleman told his Conservative counterpart in a debate that he should be ashamed and should demit his office if unemployment reached 100,000. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman has heard this said on many occasions in this House, and I have never heard him repudiate it before.
I cannot keep that sort of information in my head. But I have no doubt about it. The right hon. Gentleman said that a Secretary of State should leave office if unemployment reached 100,000. However, when unemployment reached that figure, he did not leave office.
It is a well-publicised statement, and it has never been repudiated by the right hon. Gentleman until today.
It is totally unacceptable to put forward the excuse that unemployment is a worldwide phenomenon. The facts are that in April, when unemployment in Scotland was running at 7·4 per cent., in Sweden it was 1·7 per cent.—
I was making the case—and I think that I have proved my point—that unemployment was not a worldwide phenomenon. I stand by that. I do not want to be too difficult with the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind). As I said earlier, I do not want any of the reserve troops to fall by the wayside.
I am especially bitter about unemployment because my constituency with an unemployment level in the region of 15 per cent., should be a test case with this Government. An hon. Friend of the Secretary of State said, after he returned from my constituency with a Select Committee a few days ago,
These islands have been neglected by successive Governments.
Vague replies about plans by the Highlands and Islands Development Board and the job creation schemes will not do. What we require are permanent job creation schemes for the Western Isles and for Scotland as a whole.
All that deprivation is totally unnecessary in Scotland. It is a nation that can ensure the basic foodstuffs for its own people. It is a nation that, from one industry alone—I know that the hon. Members will find this funny—has produced over £100 million every day in 1976 from whisky for the British Exchequer. It is a nation whose trade deficit is small.
A project carried out by the Scottish Council Research Institute, the Fraser of Allender Institute, and the IBM scientific centre, shows that the deficit on the Scottish balance of trade was running at only £253 million in 1973—less than half the figure accepted by Ministers in their arguments against the case for Scottish independence. The United Kingdom visible trade deficit in the same year was £2,332 million.
Scotland is a nation of vast oil resources. The Prime Minister bases his optimistic future on oil. I want to say seriously that he should not depend too much on oil. He cannot blind the Scottish people to the enormous resources from their own area and at the same time tell them that there are no finances to do the things that are so urgently required in Scotland.
It will not go unnoticed that these enormous resources, leaving aside the question of ownership, are in the Scottish sector or the North Sea, by the British Government's own designation. At the same time Government spokesmen are telling us, when we are putting forward all these deprivations in Scotland, that the funds do not exist. That bluff cannot be continued indefinitely.
Therefore, we charge the Government with failure and neglect on education, on the devolution Bill, on social welfare, on transport, on unemployment, and on falling living standards. They ought to be getting the message by now.
In the 1974 Election the Labour Party lost 10 deposits in Scotland—more than it had lost in the whole of the United Kingdom at any election since 1935. The recent by-elections and opinion polls all point the message to the Government. Their heads are in the sand.
The hon. Member talks about Craigentinny. To point to Craigentinny as the sign of the road back makes building bricks without straw a fairly rational occupation.
The Government's head is in the sand, and the Government have an appalling obtuseness that keeps their heads in the sand when their behinds are being so frequently and so heartily kicked. On previous occasions in the House, Governments have been told that they have been sat there too long for any good they have done. Let the House complete the message tonight.
One of the few things that the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) did not mention was the salary of the Prime Minister. He covered a fairly wide area, although whether we had anything new from him I would very much doubt, because what we had from him seemed to me to be a rather tired recital of the normal stuff that we get slightly less distilled in a series of speeches from members of the Scottish National Party.
I want to pick up at least one or two of the points that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned. This is a rather extraordinary debate, because the way in which the motion has been tabled is such that it is presumably intended to be some kind of motion of censure on the Government. I suppose that that is the reason for the extraordinary decision, as I understand it, of the Conservative Party to go into the Lobby with the SNP at the end of the debate. I hope that, having listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, the Tories feel pleased with themselves.
Another extraordinary feature of the debate is, as I understand it, that the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacCormick) is to wind up for the SNP, but he does not happen to be here.
I understand that the competence of the hon. Member for Argyll to run the country does not extend to getting here at the start of the debate. [Interruption.] It would help considerably—[Interruption.]
It would help if we were to know who is to wind up the debate for the SNP and Welsh nationalist party, because it is an extraordinary situation as well that apparently the debate was to be opened and wound up by the SNP with the Welsh nationalists nowhere.
I should have thought that the SNP, whose members normally complain about small parties and small nations being badly treated, might have allowed the Welsh nationalists to wind up tonight. I do not know why the Welsh nationalists are being treated in this disgraceful way.
Despite that, whoever winds up for the motley collection opposite tonight, it is the intention that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Wales will wind up from the Government Front Bench because we took this debate as a matter of some seriousness, although that might have been a mistake on our part.
I want to say something about the economic situation and unemployment particularly as it affects Scotland, because that is a very serious matter. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned a number of other matters. I do not intend to cover them all, but perhaps I should say something about one matter that he mentioned, which concerns teaching. We have had a debate on Scottish teaching and the teacher supply position on a number of occasions in recent months. I will not cover the whole of the ground because we shall be discussing this matter also during one of the Scottish Estimates debates. I should like to give a couple of figures to demonstrate the absolute absurdity of the assertions that were made by the right hon. Gentleman.
For example, I will give the number of teachers and lecturers in Scottish education in March 1977, which are the latest figures we have, compared with March 1976. I think that it is on the basis of full-time equivalents. The figure has increased from 62,600 to 63,900. In other words, there has been a substantial increase over the past year despite the fact that there is a strong assertion that the numbers have fallen. The numbers have risen considerably over the past year.
I would also like to give figures for the pupil-teacher ratio because, again, the right hon. Gentleman would have us believe that the figures have deteriorated in the past year or so. That is not true. In the September 1976 school census, the pupil-teacher ratios in Scotland were 22·4 in primary and 14·7 in secondary schools. Those were the best figures we have ever had. Incidentally, if I make the English comparison to this mixed audience of Scottish, Welsh and English Members, the fact is that the figures of 22·4 and 14·7 for primary and secondary respectively compare with figures of 23·9 and 17 in England. Therefore, the Scottish position is, in fact, considerably better than that south of the Border.
Could the Secretary of State tell us when he intends to reach a conclusion on his deliberations about the money that should be spent on deprived areas to improve the pupil-teacher complement? All educational authorities in Scotland do not accept that the pupil-teacher ratio there is the best guide. This was reiterated in a letter that was sent to me today from the NAS and the NWT.
I am considering that, but at the same time I must answer some of the wilder assertions made about Scottish education by the right hon. Member for Western Isles and some of his colleagues. He consistently suggests that everything is deteriorating and that the teacher supply position is disastrous. That is not true at all. It is better than ever before and the figures compare favourably with those for the rest of the British Isles.
I am trying to do so, but I am grateful for help, Mr. Speaker, from whatever quarter it comes.
It is true that one of the problems with which we are dealing at present is that the world economic situation presents difficulties. The right hon. Gentleman quoted certain unemployment figures, but when he was asked to quote other comparisons with other countries, he did not do so. The Scottish seasonally adjusted figure which, in June, was 7·7 per cent., is far too high. But it compares with, for example, Belgium where the figure is 9·4 per cent; Denmark with 11·2 per cent; and Ireland, where in January the figure was 12 per cent.—considerably higher than either the Scottish or the United Kingdom figures as a whole.
These figures are a reflection of a number of things, particularly the very difficult world economic situation that we have had over the past two or three years.
I do not have the figures offhand but what my hon. Friend says is absolutely true. We have been dealing with a world situation of considerable seriousness. If one looks at Scotand—and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales will speak for that country later—one sees that in recent years we have been very much more successful. We have had a relative improvement in the Scottish economy. The average earnings of male manual workers in Scotland exceeded those in the United Kingdom as a whole for the first time in 1975 and then again in 1976. It is absolute nonsense to pretend that the Scottish situation is, in all these matters, so much worse than that of the rest of the United Kingdom. That is simply not true.
The Government are very concerned about the present level of unemployment. I have never disguised my view that it is unacceptably high. The figure for the month of June, in particular, was disappointing. It was very much affected by the influx of summer school leavers, who leave school rather earlier in Scotland than they used to do. But the figures would have been very much worse had it not been for the special measures that the Government have introduced to alleviate the worst experiences of those—particularly young people—who are unable to get jobs in the present difficult time. At present, about 320,000 people are being assisted by these schemes, including 44,000 in Scotland.
Of course, there is no substitute for a permanent productive job, but at a time when we have been going through deep world recession, it takes time for economic policies, aided by regional policies, to have their effect in the creation of new job opportunities. That is why we must act now to try to combat the worst effects of the situation. Against that background I am sure that people in Scotland, especially parents of young school leavers, will welcome the imaginative scheme announced last week by the Secretary of State for Employment which will provide an integrated programme of work preparation, work experience and training for young people who are at present unable to get jobs. With a target of 130,000 places by September 1978, it will double the places provided under the existing programmes for helping young people.
On adult unemployment, particularly the young adults or those over 25 who have been out of work for a year or more, the introduction from 1st April of the special temporary employment programme, to provide 25,000 places in areas with severe problems, also will be welcomed in Scotland. I hope that these measures ably demonstrate the Government's concern—shared in all quarters of this House—about the plight of the unemployed in Scotland and in other areas of high unemployment. Naturally, we shall press on as fast as we can with these measures, recognising that they are important in the present situation but also recognising that we wish to have a situation as soon as possible where we can rely on the general state of the economy to provide additional jobs rather than relying on temporary measures.
We must recognise that there are certain elements in the unemployment situation at present—particularly youth unemployment—which show signs of structural unemployment. I believe that some of the measures we have taken that were announced last week are more than temporary. We shall need elements of special effort of this kind on a permanent basis to deal with the serious problems.
To come back to the point of the unemployment rates, those quoted by the Secretary of State were in countries that are members of the EEC. Those quoted by my right hon. Friend were in countries that are not in the Common Market. In terms of unemployment, what benefit has it been to Scotland to be a member of the EEC?
I believe that there is more than one point of view about the Common Market on the SNP Bench.
It is part of the Government's efforts to reduce unemployment, and, within that, to give priority to industrial strategy. There are a number of figures which I shall quote to illustrate the way in which Scotland has benefited from this strategy in recent years. In the new sectoral schemes of assistance under Section 8 of the Industry Act, Scottish firms have been obtaining their share. For example, grants of more than £5 million were paid to 23 Scottish firms under the ferrous foundry schemes. This is on top of the additional funds announced for the SDA and the continuing high level of expenditure on regional development grants—£108 million has been spent in Scotland in 1976–77 and selective assistance to industry under the Industry Act—about £20 million paid in interest relief grants in 1976–77.
Scotland is continuing to attract important developments by overseas companies. Within recent months we have had the new project announced by Cummins at Shotts; there has been the opening of a new plant by Polaroid at the Vale of Leven; and within the last week JLG Industries has announced plans for a new and substantial project at Cumbernauld.
These firms have been attracted by the availability of suitable factories and selective assistance from my Department. But there is also a good deal of evidence of continuing confidence in many parts of the industrial structure in Scotland in indigenous firms and this shows confidence in Scotland's industrial future. I should mention in this context Ferranti of Edinburgh which has engendered an additional 1,200 jobs, and Nairn Floors at Kirkcaldy, a large project which has also provided an additional number of jobs. Therefore, there is considerable evidence of increased confidence in the Scottish economy
I should like to mention the CBI industrial trend survey in April which produced the most optimistic figure of costs in terms of industrial investment in Scotland we have had since October 1973.
Regional policies have continued to improve, witness the increases in assistance in special development areas in respect of improvements in interest relief, grants and rent-free factories announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry on Monday of last week. Perhaps I should also mention that the Scottish Development Agency, in the 18 months of its existence, has had a creditable record of success. In industrial investment the agency has announced the expenditure of over £8 million in companies whose activities range from knitwear to domestic appliances. About 7,000 people are, or will be, employed in companies in which the SDA already has an interest. It has also announced three advanced factory programmes, and it has been involved in most of the major industrial developments in Scotland in the last year or 18 months.
The right hon. Gentleman appeared to dismiss the important rôle; of the SDA in the Glasgow East End urban renewal project—a project the importance of which I should like to underline. It is a massive scheme which has received assistance from the SDA and the SSHA. That scheme is on a scale that is greater than anything we have in the rest of the United Kingdom.
As for the SDA's total budget in the current year, we have budgeted for expenditure of over £66 million which will represent a considerable increase over last year. I am glad to say that I believe the SDA will show increasing success in the next few years.
May I draw attention to what was said in Friday's Scottish Daily Record when its political reporter said that representatives of the SNP had visited the Scottish Development Agency and had been told by its chairman that he was very worried about the organisation's future and the fact that it might be centralised under the National Enterprise Board. Is there any foundation in that report?
There is no foundation in that report. I have checked the matter, and the SDA is not worried in that respect. There is no question of a takeover by the NEB, there never was, and I think there never will be in the life of this Government.
Let me say a few words about the subject of North Sea oil, which was mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. The situation is that in 1976 the United Kingdom consumed practically 90 million tons of oil, nearly all of which was imported at a net cost of £4,000 million on the visible trade account. This represents a staggering increase compared with only two to three years earlier. By 1980 we estimate that the annual savings to the visible trade account will amount to between £5,000 million and £6,000 million at estimated 1980 prices.
The benefits to Scotland are apparent, and any hon. Member who visits Scotland can see the situation for himself. A total of 50,000 to 65,000 jobs have already been created directly or indirectly by the North Sea oil activities. It is particularly encouraging that many of these jobs have been created in areas of high technological development and geographically in areas of historic high unemployment. Therefore, it is absurd for anybody to claim, as the right hon. Gentleman constantly does, that there has been no benefit in Scotland from North Sea oil. There has been very substantial benefit from North Sea oil in terms of development in Scotland. The only thing that could prejudice that situation would be the adoption of SNP policy on North Sea oil. I understand that SNP members wish to phase down the production of North Sea oil so that it reaches a maximum of no more than 30 million to 40 million tons a year.
The hon. Gentleman is certainly not an authority on fish and, as far as I know, he is no authority on North Sea oil either. The effect of the SNP's policy would be an immediate loss of many thousands of jobs in Scotland. Incidentally, jobs provided by North Sea oil activities which have come to the Stornoway area, would under SNP policies almost certainly disappear very rapidly indeed.
We can expect in future an increase in the number of jobs arising from North Sea oil, which has shown annually an upward trend. We appreciate that whereas there is now a situation of comparative stability, it is important that we maintain employment at something like the present level in North Sea oil activities directly or indirectly in Scotland. This is why we have been encouraging industry to look abroad to where important markets exist for offshore oil equipment—for example, to South America and South-East Asia. The potential has already been illustrated by the recent winning of an order for Petrobras in Brazil, to be built by McDermott at Ardersier. We also have prospective developments in petrochemicals which in the longer term will have even greater significance for Scottish industry.
On all these fronts there has been considerable advance in the last two or three years—advance which is well recognised by the people of Scotland. We intend to see that the advances of North Sea oil will be felt generally in Scotland, but there is nothing in the right hon. Gentleman's policy or in the SNP policy generally which will lead to anything other than what I believe could be potential industrial dereliction. The kind of destructive policies which the SNP have been proclaiming, whether on North Sea oil or on industry generally, would lead to a mass exodus of industrial development in Scotland.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman admit that many regional and district councils have had to borrow over a 60-year period? Therefore, SNP policy involving a slow down in the amount of oil would at least last over the lifetime of that debt. Surely that is sound business by any standards.
On the subject of oil and industrial strategy in general, will the Minister remind SNP Members that in this House they opposed the setting up of BNOC, they opposed the public enterprise rôle of the SDA and they also opposed public ownership of aircraft and shipbuilding—all of which were wanted by trade union- ists because of the effect on the job situation in Scotland? In other words, by opposing those measures they voted against jobs for Scotland.
I do not need to remind the House about those matters because my hon. Friend has done it for me. The record of the SNP on industrial development in Scotland is deplorable. It is not only in the area of North Sea oil but Chrysler as well, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) reminded us. At best the SNP has played an equivocal rôle. At worst it has voted in this House in a way detrimental to the maintenance and expansion of jobs in Scotland.
I was drawing to a close. I wanted briefly to mention devolution. I repeat what has been said in this House: the Government are utterly determined to put a devolution proposal on the statute book. We intend to introduce legislation on devolution in the next Session of Parliament and to see that that legislation goes through in the next Session of Parliament. I want to state in the most categorical terms that that legislation will be an essential feature of the Government's programme for next Session. We intend to get that legislation on the statute book.
We have a number of other policies that we also intend to get on the statute book. We intend to legislate for parts of the new housing strategy that I announced to the House last week. We have proposed legislation on a number of other matters that will more than keep Scottish Members busy during the next Session of Parliament.
I repeat, the Government intend to get the devolution Bill through. We have a full programme of work for the next Session and we intend to continue to govern this country.
This debate concerns the life of Scotland and of Wales. Therefore, I was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Wales in his opening say that he did not know why he took the debate seriously. We have the best of reasons for taking debates of this kind seriously. Anything that concerns and can help the future of Wales and of Scotland is of great importance to us.
Today we find ourselves part of a State—sometimes called Britain, sometimes the United Kingdom—which is a multinational State. In recent years we have seen the Government of this State in something of a shambles. That is why we have proposed the reduction of the salary of the Prime Minister, who is now presiding over that situation.
Britain is a unitary centralist State. Although it is responsible for the government of a group of nations, it has never developed into a truly multinational State.
Two or three generations ago there was talk of home rule all round. That was supported by the Labour Party for a whole generation and it was also supported by the Liberal Party, but, when they had the opportunity of acting, they did nothing.
The more the power of the State has increase, the greater the State has been centralised. That is doing the life of our countries the greatest harm in every respect.
Policy decisions concerning the whole of Wales are made in Westminster or Whitehall, particularly by the bureaucratic section of the Government. No policy decisions are made in and for Wales by the elected representatives of Wales.
Much power over Wales has now been transferred outside the United Kingdom altogether to Brussels, but none has been transferred to Wales where the Welsh Office administers London-made decisions.
Behind these London-made decisions lies the powerful Civil Service in Whitehall. Its membership has grown since the disappearance of the Empire, but its nature has not changed. For the most part, its members are Oxbridge men and women who attended the same schools—Harrow, Winchester, Eton, Rugby and so on. About three-quarters of the members of the Civil Service in London attended those schools. They are tenaciously determined to cling to and to keep power in their hands in Whitehall. Those who want power transferred to the hands of the people of Wales and of Scotland have no more tenacious opponents than the civil servants in Whitehall. However much Governments may change in colour, this public school Mafia, as it has been called, remains constantly in the background and, to a great extent, remains constantly in control.
When we last debated the present and future of Scotland and Wales, two other European States could be associated with Britain as the last bastions of unitary centralism. They were France and Spain. But a few weeks ago the land of Franco's long dictatorship amazingly proved that it could become—and become in a peaceful way—a democracy. That would have been utterly unthinkable a couple of years ago. But now it is possible that the Catalans and the Basques will enjoy a measure of autonomy before the Scots and the Welsh.
The results of the elections were extraordinary. I should like to quote from The Times of 20th June, which stated that
Basque congressmen and senators, elected in the general election, demanded the re-establishment of their autonomous government, which was suppressed by General Franco.
More than 30 of the 42 congressmen and senators from the Basque country went to Guernica, the spiritual centre of the region, and swore allegiance to their traditional rights. …
In the Basque country the Workers' Socialist Party won nine Congress seats; the Basque nationalist party eight; the Democratic Centre Union, seven; the Basque left, one; and the neo-Francoist Popular Alliance, one.
When I have finished this point, I will give way to the hon. Gentleman.
In the Senate the autonomous Front, comprising the Workers' Socialist Party, the Basque nationalists and others won 10 seats and the Democratic Centre Union five. These results were an overwhelming victory for the movement in favour of autonomy. …
In Catalonia, the other area with strong aspirations to autonomy, a similar move is taking place. The election results there, as in the Basque country, were a clear victory for the forces favouring autonomy. The Workers' Socialist Party, which formed an electoral pact with the Catalan Socialist Party specifically over autonomy, won 15 Congress seats. …
In the Senate almost all of the 16 seats went to the parties favouring autonomy, including the Socialists.
The fundamental point that the hon. Gentleman misses is that the autonomous parties in Spain, whether the Catalan or Basque parties, are winning seats, whereas, at the last General Election, over three-quarters of Plaid Cymra candidates lost their deposits. There lies the essential difference. In Spain they want autonomy; in Wales they have rejected it.
The hon. Gentleman would not like to see Wales enjoying self-government even if my party won all 36 seats there. He opposes self-government for Wales on principle.
Among the facts that emerge from the article that I quoted from The Times are, first, the strength of Basque and Catalan nationalism—
Labour Members must wait until the next General Election. If they want to see what is happening they need only look at the happening they need only look at the results that our party has been achieving in local elections. It has won a higher proportion of the seats than our friends in the Scottish National Party in Scotland. We have done extremely well and we are making tremendous progress. Our position will be still further improved in the next General Election and the next round of local elections.
A further point that emerges from the article that I quoted is the positive response of the Spanish Government to the demand for autonomy from the nations of the Basques and Catalans. A third point that emerges—which some Labour Members will not like—is the close liaison between nationalists and Socialists. Already in this context Spanish democracy is beginning to show signs of greater maturity than British democracy, but it is still very new and the power of the Army lurks in the background there.
The influence of British leadership could be considerable. A swift advance of Scottish and Welsh autonomy could not fail but help Spain. It could have a profound effect on Europe in leading to a more flexible European order. Therefore the nationalism of Wales and Scotland must be seen not in a narrow British context, but against the background of Europe and the world.
Am I right in thinking that the hon. Gentleman recently visited the conference of the Scottish National Party, where he swore eternal Celtic brotherhood in the fight against English imperialism? Does he not now feel nauseated that they then should have said to him "But watch it. No Welshman will get a halfpence worth of Scottish oil"?
I do not think that that is a true representation of what our SNP friends have said. No doubt that point will be answered later in the debate.
I repeat my point about the value of British leadership in Europe. Welsh and Scottish nationalism must be seen against a European and world background, and that is how Welsh and Scottish nationalists see themselves. A recent book of note by Tom Nairn says that
the Welsh national party is without doubt the least parochial or 'narrow nationalist' mass movement in British politics".
It is true that we have always seen our country and our nationalism against a wider background than the background of these islands alone. But the move towards full national status for the small nations of these islands must start somewhere.
Of the two parties which contend for Government status, the initiative can come only from the Labour Party. The Tories have opposed almost every advance that has been made—
Irrespective of the views of individual Labour Members on devolution—I do not want the hon. Gentleman to dwell on that—he has stated that devolution can come only with a Labour Government. Can he explain for what conceivable reason he and his party voted with the Conservative Party on a vote of confidence to bring down the Government and to establish a Tory Government?
That vote of confidence concerned the whole record of the Government, and nobody who knows the facts about Wales can express any confidence in a Government with such a record, although I shall not pretend that the alternative is any better.
It is a matter of historical fact that the Tories have opposed almost every advance towards giving more power to the people, from the Reform Act of 1832, past the Chartists and the story of Ireland, to the Welsh Radicals at the end of the nineteenth century, to disestablishment, and, in this century, their opposition even to a Secretary of State for Wales and the establishment of the Welsh Development Agency. The opposition of the Conservative Party now to any concession on self-government for Wales or Scotland is consistent with its historical reactionary opposition to more power for the people.
Modern Welsh Conservatives are no more burdened with a sense of loyalty to Wales than were their fathers and forefathers. It is not that this loyalty has been eroded—it never existed. One is not surprised that they are as unaware of the long and fascinating past of Wales as they are unconcerned about ensuring a national future for Wales, and that they are strangers to the value of Welsh civilisation and to the quality of life that that represents. The chauvinist ethos of past British imperialism still dominates their attitude.
In view of what the hon. Gentleman has been saying, very philosophically, about the present Conservative Party in Wales, will he give an opinion whether, in this circumstance, it is better for the Liberal Party to co-operate with the Government in seeking to establish a measure of self-government for Wales, or whether it is better for his party to co-operate with the Conservatives in seeking to prevent it?
The best thing that can happen for the future of Wales is that Welsh nationalism should have a bigger representation in this House. That is why we should welcome an election as soon as possible, but we are not likely to have one very quickly.
This attitude of the Conservatives did not matter so much when the State was weak and peripheral, but now the State has become dominant and almost all-powerful. It is now the nation which is peripheral, and as such its very life is threatened.
That is what we in Wales are now fighting for—the life of the nation.
Despite this, there is reason to think that a Tory Government led by the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition would provide the biggest boost that Welsh nationalism could possibly have. It would unite radicals and nationalists in Wales as they have never been united before, just as they are united now in the Basque country and amongst the Catalans.
The choice for the Welsh people between Labour and Conservatives in Wales is like the choice between Scylla and Charybdis. It is seen not only in the history of unemployment, depopulation and migration from our country over generations, but in almost every aspect of our country's life today.
I have asked a series of Questions which have adduced answers such as the following. The gross domestic product for England still far exceeds that for Wales. The estimated income and wealth per head is still considerably higher in England than in Wales. The activity rate for males in England is 81·6 per cent. and in Wales it is 78·5 per cent. For females in England the figure is 43·27 per cent. and for females in Wales it is 35·7 per cent. Hidden unemployment is thus worse in Wales than it is in England. Thirty-one per cent. of English schools were built wholly or partly before 1903. In Wales it is 37 per cent.
The expectation of life is lower in Wales than in England. Expenditure on housing has been considerably lower per head of population in Wales than in England throughout the years. Information is available on this. According to a parliamentary answer given to me, about 5 per cent. of the total stock of housing in England is estimated to be unfit for use, while in Wales the figure is 10 per cent. Almost twice as much has been spent per mile on roads in England as on roads in Wales during recent decades. Again, according to the Answer that I was given a short while ago, £5,469,000 has been spent on civil aviation aerodromes in England and Scotland compared with £182,000 in Wales. In England more than 2,000 miles of railways are electrified while not a single mile of railway has been electrified in Wales. In Norway 58 per cent. of the railway track has been electrified and in Sweden the figure is 62 per cent.
In spite of the situation that I have described, the Government have not yet devised an economic development plan for Wales. Such a plan has not even been attempted. If one looks at cultural matters one finds that the Government know well that television is doing the most damage to the Welsh language today especially among children and young people. The Government have decided that Wales should have the use of the fourth television channel, and yet they are taking no action. However, in Western Germany the Government have set up an English television system for the British troops in recent years at a cost equivalent to that which would have to be spent on a Welsh television channel.
In these circumstances, Wales urgently needs a Parliament of its own. Such a Parliament should be more than a strong voice. It should be a legislature with adequate economic powers. That has been demanded by the NUM, the Transport and General Workers Union and the Welsh TUC. Such a legislature would give Wales a place in all the institutions in Brussels. The people of Wales must become responsible for their own lives. We have a form of representative Government, but most colonies had a form of representative Government in the past. Our demand is for responsible Government and, just as each human being must have responsibility for his or her own life, so must a nation be responsible. Wales and Scotland are nations. That was recognised in the dead Scotland and Wales Bill and by the Kilbrandon Commission. What is needed, and is lacking, is the will to allow Scotland and Wales to act as nations.
I must admit that we are sceptical about the Government's intentions—in spite of their declarations. If the Government yield to the demand for two Bills we shall take that as an indication that the Government are cynically playing for time. There has already been a delay of a year and if there is more delay there will be grave consequences for the economic, social and cultural life of Wales. There is reason to suspect that the Government will continue to play for time while the gallonage of oil flowing from off the shores of Scotland mounts by the million. The Government could even delay the measure long enough for it to be bogged down in the House of Lords. The Prime Minister might then decide that it was time for a General Election and would go to the country saying that the Government had kept their word, had done their best, and had acted according to their manifesto promises. The Government would claim that it was the House of Lords that had held the measure back.
It is not surprising that we are rather cynical about the Government's intentions because we have had long experience. We know what hapened to the home rule all round movement and what has happened since the early 1960's. It is since then that the Labour Party has decided that we must have an elected Assembly or Council. We know what has happened since the Crowther or Kilbrandon Commission has been sitting. We recall that during the last 25 years—while Wales has remained constitutionally in the same place—some 36 countries of the British Empire have received self-government The one thing that would encourage a sense of trust in the Government would be for them to introduce an early timetable motion for another Scotland and Wales Bill and for them to make that Bill an issue of confidence.
I believe that I am right in saying that the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford), who will reply to the debate for the Scottish National Party, has only just arrived and that he has therefore missed the two opening speeches of the debate by the so-called nationalist party leaders. The hon. Gentleman has not missed anything but a first-class comedy act.
I cannot believe that this is supposed to be a censure motion. I wish that the procedures of the House were broadcast on television and radio so that people could see the performance of these two great leaders of the so-called great national parties and hear them orating. I never heard such rubbish. There was not a single mention of the Government's economic policies or of the national parties' alternatives. Instead there was an argument about whether the Government have introduced devolution plans
One point that I have not heard mentioned is that if the motion were carried the Prime Minister's salary cut by half—and I assume that that is a motion of censure, because I know of nothing more terrifying—the Government resigned and the Tories became the Government of the day, the nationalists would be further away from devolution than they ever have been in their lives. That is the stupidity of the argument. I much regret that those speeches were not broadcast so that decent Welsh and Scottish people could hear the stupidity that has been talked by Scottish and Welsh national party leaders and their supporters today.
I wonder whether my right hon. Friend took the point that was made by the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans). The hon. Gentleman said that he envisaged that if there were an election and a Government formed who were led by the present Leader of the Opposition, that would lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom. That is what the national parties were thinking of in tabling a censure motion.
That only goes to show how thick they are, does it not? Of course I heard the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) mention that, and I understand it. I bitterly resent that the hon. Member for Carmarthen said that there are those of us in the House and in the country who are not multinational. I was born in London and have lived here all my life and I have news for the hon. Member for Carmarthen: we have more Welshmen and Scots in London than there are in Scotland and Wales. We Londoners have had to put up with something over the years. I understand that conditions in Scotland and Wales in past years under consecutive stinking lory Governments have driven these people south to obtain work and decent conditions. However, to say that we are not multinational—well! There is not a street in my constituency—
My memory goes back a considerable while. The poverty of the 1930s should never be seen again in this country. The slogan of the Labour Party yesteryear was "Work or maintenance". At least the Government have carried out the promise of maintenance. Indeed, the argument today is not so much about unemployment as about the rate of unemployment benefit being as much as is received by those at work who are low paid and about that equality being removed.
I have seen and lived through the poverty of yesteryear and I have seen the stinking record of Tory Governments. It was that which brought the Scots and the Welsh to London. The national parties are impertinent to talk against this Labour Government, knowing that their motion today could bring in a Tory Government and knowing the history of Tory Governments. The national parties would do that and claim that it was in the interest of the Welsh and the Scots.
The hon. Gentleman can claim to know more about Scotland than I could ever hope to know. But I cannot believe that the intelligent, decent people who live in Scotland accept that as a simple statement and do not give a tuppenny damn whether there is a Labour or Tory Government in this House just because they are concerned only with self-government. I do not believe it; I cannot believe it. Certainly with the great traditions of the Welsh I would not take it from any Welshman on the Opposition side of the House that that is what is in their minds.
I have said what I think about that lot on the Opposition Benches and on the nationalist Benches. I hope that the silly motion is defeated. It is not really worth discussing. However, we might as well talk about that as anything else, I suppose.
Now, may I talk about devolution as I see it as an ex-Chief Whip? I believe that the Government made a great mistake in introducing the devolution Bill without a timetable motion in this Session of Parliament. I know what was said—that it was asking too much to introduce the guillotine motion. I have always argued that with an issue of this kind there has to be a different form of timetable motion. It cannot be the one that we usually have, which says that certain parts of a Bill must be dealt with at a certain time, when the Chair will rise and the guillotine fall. That type of motion must be out. This is a great constitutional matter and a considerable amount of time must be given to it.
Devolution involves changing the constitution of our country and therefore must be considered carefully. What type of guillotine motion are we talking about? I have always believed that we should say to my hon. Friends and Conservative Members who are anti-devolutionists "The Government are to bring in a devolution Bill." I never supported that principle, but once the Government brought in the Bill, I decided to support it on Second Reading and I would have supported a guillotine motion.
Supposing that the next devolution Bill is introduced in November of this year, just after the Gracious Speech, I suggest that the Government say that the Bill will have a Third Reading on 3rd June 1978. On so great an issue it is important that we have the time to discuss it. The Government should say that on 3rd June 1978 the Chair will rise, irrespective of the state the Bill is in, and put the Question, "That the Bill be read the Third time." That is the sort of guillotine I would propose.
There is no man or woman in the House who could deny that this issue is not worthy of a lengthy debate, whether they are for the Bill or against it, whether they are Londoners, like me, who are aghast at the thought of Scotland and Wales claiming more power than London, or regional Members. On a matter of this kind a lengthy period should be given for debate.
I say to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench "All right, you have had one try and you have mucked it up. You have messed that right up. If you really believe you are to introduce another Bill, which will have to be in the Gracious Speech, and are hoping that, with a bit of luck, somehow it will work out all right, you are wasting your time unless you go for a guillotine." I have listened to many of the debates on devolution, although I have never taken part in any of them. I concede that there is a special case for a referendum in Wales and for a separate Bill for Wales. It may be that that is the way we should tackle the situation.
I do not expect the Tories to be constructive about anything. They are concerned only with a General Election. They hope and pray, almost hourly, for such an event. The Leader of the Opposition is on her bended knees at night praying to her favourite saints, hoping that there will be a General Election soon in case the economic conditions improve and she does not get power.
The lack of patriotism of that shower over there is incredible. They do not want the economic position to improve. The very thought that Britain will get out of its financial problems is a disaster for the Tory Party so much are the Tories concerned with power. Patriotism means nothing to that silly crowd.
What the Scottish and Welsh nationalists do not understand is that the Tories are like—I was about to say "bugs in the bed" but I cannot say that. There will always be Tories with us, no matter what we do. I say to those who have tabled this motion "Watch your actions carefully if you want devolution. You will not get devolution by a change of Government or by silly motions and stupid speeches."
It is an excellent thing that the nationalist parties in the House should have a whole day to raise the questions which they believe to be the most important. However grudgingly and insufficient is the recognition of the Labour and Conservative Parties that attitudes different from their own not only exist but are able to attract significant support among the electorate, any movement at all is welcome.
This recognition is all the more a comment on the sluggish illogicality of the situation when the Liberals, with about 5¼ million votes at the last election against about 1¼ million votes polled by the nationalists, receive only a half-day for debate compared with the nationalists' whole day. This is not a criticism of the nationalists. They might reasonably remark that our parity with them in Scottish Estimates is unreasonable. It is simply an observation that this Parliament is not very good, as an institution, at reacting quickly to political change. The two parties which are accustomed to take turns in Government have been rather slow to respond to democratic change as expressed in the ballot box.
While I am still in the business of not criticising the nationalists, let me say that I do want to criticise their choice of motion. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher), who has left the Chamber, quoted the Daily Record. May I take the opportunity to do likewise? After all, it has the greatest circulation in Scotland. Stewart MacLauchlan, the political columnist of that paper, suggested that it would have been better for the nationalists to concentrate specifically on unemployment, hoping in this way to win some support in the Division from unhappy Labour Members. I do not think that that would prove anything at all. We know perfectly well that there are Labour Members who are rightly unhappy about the unemployment situation, in precisely the same way as we in the Liberal Party are unhappy, and in the same way as those in the Tory and the nationalist parties are unhappy.
It is old-fashioned to argue that somehow one group of people in politics is more concerned about unemployment than another. I do not argue that at all. If the nationalists have the opportunity of a day to present their case it is reasonable for them to adopt a general approach. I do not criticise that. Let me consider the motion. One could say that it is not exactly devastatingly original. It is obvious, if one does not see any way of working with a Government that one is unlikely to have much confidence in that Government and thus might sympathise with the idea of reducing the Prime Minister's salary.
The important question is whether, under our system, which allows a Government to go on for five years, that Government is under an obligation, faced with by-elections and opinion polls which are not very good, to go for a General Election. That is the argument with which we are faced and with which we are being presented day in and day out.
It was not an argument that appeared to have a great effect upon the Conservative Government in 1962 and 1963, as I recall. I was an active candidate in the field at the time and, naturally enough, as all candidates in that situation did, I was calling for a General Election. The Conservatives were being hammered in the opinion polls and by-elections. They did not then take the view that this necessarily meant that they had some obligation to go to the country.
It is a piece of absolute utter nonsense, not to mention humbug, to suggest that a Government unpopular in mid-term, operating within a constitution in which it is normally accepted that a Government can run for five years if they can maintain their majority in the House, have any moral obligation to call a General Election. That is humbug. There is no precedent for it and no justifiable argument to support it.
I take it from what the hon. Gentleman has said, with what might be some significance, that the Liberals are determined to keep the Government in power until the last possible moment for the full five-year term.
I am not a betting man at all, but if I were I would normally take bets that I would win.
I return directly to the motion and the speech with which the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) introduced it. It is very important to disentangle the reality from the rhetoric. It is worth saying—and I am here being critical of the Labour Benches—that if at present we had a Tory Government—let us imagine that prospect—and if everything else was exactly the same, exactly the same unemployment figures, the same deprivation figures that the right hon. Member for Western Isles quoted, the teacher surplus and the rest, the attacks made upon the Government by the right hon. Member for Western Isles would have been cheered by Labour Members. That is a fact, and we ought to remember that if we are to take any lesson out of the present situation and perhaps work out some better way of doing things.
I have been listening with great interest to the most serious contribution that we have had from the Opposition side of the House. However, with all due respect, I think that the hon. Gentleman is wrong in his last remark. We would not have welcomed a speech that suggested that the only unemployment with which we were concerned was Scottish unemployment, that the only transport problems with which we were concerned were Scottish problems and that the only children with whom we were concerned were Scottish children. On the contrary, we take a rather better view than that, as I think the hon. Gentleman accepts.
Let me put it another way. I am sure that the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) will accept that if we were having a debate on the Scottish economy, with a Conservative Government in power, and speeches critical of the Government on these issues were being made, there would be rather less reticence on the Labour Benches.
The Liberal view, which was determined in March when we entered a short-term agreement with the Government—which is now under further discussion—is that it is reasonable and rational in a Parliament in mid-term, following two General Elections in one year, to try to find agreement, if we can, about tackling the serious and difficult problems that the right hon. Member for Western Isles catalogued. That is our opinion. It is not an opinion which some have regarded particularly sympathetically, but that is our opinion.
Given an acceptance of the gravity and the deep-seated nature of our economic problems, we think that to look for ways of working together is more important than emphasising differences, magnifying failures and exaggerating expectations. It was for these reasons that, despite many differences in objectives, we looked for areas of agreement with the Government and are continuing to do so.
I want to spend a little time in looking at the motion, specifically in regard to its effects if it were carried.
I have been listening carefully to what the hon. Gentleman has said. May I ask him specifically about one of the issues of agreement, the issues under discussion? If there has been one point that has been reiterated by Liberal spokesmen over and over again in the last three years, it is that there should be a continuing statutory incomes policy. Liberal speaker after Liberal speaker, the last Liberal manifesto, and so on, have all made the point that it is absolutely essential to have a statutory incomes policy. The Government claim that they have never had a statutory incomes policy, although, of course, there is a statute that embodies such a policy. However, if the Government now have no form of incomes policy, will the Liberal Party smile and run along with them or stand by the policy that Liberals have enunciated so frequently?
It is perfectly true that we fought the last General Election on a statutory incomes policy. It is equally true that in entering the agreement with the Government we said that we looked to the Government's success in achieving some form of phase 3 negotiations with the trade unions. We did not say—and we recognise the situation, as successive Governments of both major parties have recognised it—that one could ask in the present circumstances for a statutory prices and incomes policy, because it would have been quite lunatic to try to do so. That is the short answer.
I return to what I was saying. I should like to look briefly at the motion and its effects if it were carried on two things—devolution and economic matters, which are of fundamental importance.
I come first to devolution. If the current opinion polls are true—one can never be certain of that—a General Election now, after the necessary formalities taking between three and five weeks would result in a nationalist majority in Scotland—God preserve us—and a Conservative majority in the United Kingdom. That is what the polls tell us. I am not commenting on whether they are true, but that is the spectacle that is laid before us as a tasty bite. I am talking about devolution at present, and the choice for Scotland offered would be all or nothing—literally so. "All the way with D. Stewart"—which unfortunately does not rhyme—or "Not so steady with Teddy"—which does rhyme.
There is conclusive evidence, I think, that across the board people in Scotland want self-government, want it to be established effectively, and want it firstly within the ambit of the United Kingdom and, secondly, within the ambit of the EEC. There is a lot of evidence to argue that that is so.
I accept that the situation in Wales is not exactly the same. The Leader of Plaid Cymru knows that that is so. The degree of pressure for Welsh self-government is different, and it is different in each party. That is the fact of the matter, and we should recognise it.
Liberals were criticised very much by nationalists for voting against the guillotine on the original double-headed devolution Bill. We were rather categorised as traitors to the whole self-government cause. [Interruption.] I thought that the applause would be rather louder.
I remember that Margo MacDonald descended on my constituency—she is a lady who will be within the recollection of the House—rather like Brunhild from Valhalla and told my constituents that she regarded me as a reasonably decent chap but one who could never be forgiven for his betrayal and his killing of the Bill. One rather got the impression that if I had voted for the guillotine she would never have rested until she had canvassed the last constituent in the furthest isle to vote for me.
The reality of the matter was that on the guillotine vote the nationalists were prepared to accept anything, because it suited their political book. Our opinion was, and remains—this is what we have been trying to do in the last three or four months—that we regard the discussions that we have been having with the Government on whether an effective devolution Bill can be established and whether we can reach some reasonable compromise—and I spoke about the area for compromise when we had the first debates on the original Bill—as having been throughout of a constructive and positive nature. Having condemned us for voting against the guillotine motion, it is not reasonable to condemn us for trying to work with the Government to make things better. The SNP cannot have it both ways.
I have indicated that I have no great faith in opinion polls. I regard them as transitory. They are a reflection of matters as they are at the moment. I do not deny that the Liberal Party is under pressure. That is a fact.
The hon. Member mentioned a young lady who had chided him for not supporting the Bill. Is she the same young lady who says that she wants not devolution in Scotland but independence?
I think that she is. Obviously the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), like so many others, asks a question only when he already knows the answer.
I turn to the economy. That is an important matter. I was concerned that neither the right hon. Member for Western Isles nor the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) spent much time on that subject. The whole of the United Kingdom is engaged in a difficult situation. The Government are seeking to control inflation and negotiating with the trade unions. There is also the problem of the level of price and wage increases next year. All those matters will affect each of us and each of our constituents. They are tied in with the future of the country.
In March we faced the possibility of a General Election immediately before the Budget and some months before an attempt to negotiate Phase 3. Her Majesty's loyal Opposition failed to produce any coherent strategy for prices or incomes and they have still failed so to do. It is not many days since they led the House through many weary hours in their attempt to prevent any type of price control. In that situation, whatever the differences—and we recognise that differences exist—we believed that it was better in the national interest as we see it to try to work with the present administration.
We have not yet had the delectable pleasure of listening to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor). I shall wait for that promised moment. We are in negotiation with the Government and we wish to find agreement. Unless that is our aim there is no point in entering negotiation. First, we want to see an effective and acceptable devolution Bill on the statute book. We do not want any messing about. We want something that will work. We also want to see the economic problems of the United Kingdom resolved without the bitterness of which the Grunwick dispute is but the tip of the iceberg.
I thought that this was to be a serious debate. We must thank the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) for injecting a rational tone into the debate. I do not think that I have ever attended a debate involving a confidence motion that was put forward in a worse manner. It is a shame for Scotland. There is a strong argument about Scottish unemployment. There is an even stronger case to be made against the Government's economic policy. It was not made.
Why was the decision made to have this debate? Was it merely because the Scottish National Party is on a popularist trend? Was it because nationalists allied themselves with the Tories or because they want to provoke a General Election? None of those possibilities makes sense. Ally themselves with the Tories? The Tories have come out against devolution. Was it because they object to the failure of the devolution Bill? Whoever else's fault it was, it was certainly not the Government's. The Scottish National Party Conference recently came out in favour of total independence rather than devolution.
Do the Scottish nationalists think that they can now convert the Tories into believing in complete independence? What other explanation have we? We are still waiting to hear why they wish to reduce the Prime Minister's salary. I have a decided interest here because I am one who at another time cut his salary because of disagreement with his own Government's policy, so I have certain rights. We still do not know which policies they would put in the place of present policies. The first requirement of a no confidence motion is to demonstrate why no confidence exists. They have failed to do that. The corollary to a no confidence motion is that the party proposing it must suggest a better alternative. We have not had an alternative. I wonder whether the SNP is fit to form an alternative government.
If there is a growth industry in Scotland today, it is in the publication of books about Scotland. I recall that "Scotland 1980" and "Input-Output Analysis" by the Allander Institute were hailed in advance by the SNP as proof of their case. They said that those publications would demonstrate the successful viability of an independent Scotland. The input-output analysis was going to prove that Scotland was in surplus. But that did not happen. Indeed "Scotland 1980" is not a good book. It is the first attempt for some time to try to make an economic analysis of the possibilities of an independent Scotland. It was drawn up by people outside the SNP although they were sympathisers of that party. They made the best possible assumptions. They assumed the continued membership of the EEC and that Scotland would get 70 per cent. of oil revenues.
The SNP promised that with the oil revenues they would abolish not only hypothermia but virtually old age. They regarded the book as a blueprint for their policies. Then they discovered that none of this can be done, that oil revenues cannot be used immediately to increase wages, nor to create social benefits. A horse and cart has been driven through the entire SNP policy, and we have had silence ever since. I should have liked to hear a withdrawal of the SNP's premature hailing of that book, with all its weaknesses, of which it has plenty, or at least a withdrawal of the previous welcome to it.
The truth is that the SNP is in a fundamental difficulty in relation to the economy—a difficulty which it has never faced. The United Kingdom economy is now a highly integrated economy. This is rather different from the question of centralised decision-making. There is also a much deeper structural integration of the entire United Kingdom economy. Second, there is the new phenomenon of the development of the multinational company. Third, there is the intermeshing between Government institutions and the economy itself.
All these factors create a paradoxical situation for the Scottish National Party. The integration will remain even if Scotland goes separate. The intermeshing of the remaining nine-tenths of government, that is, English and Welsh government, with the single economy will remain. All the Scottish nationalists will succeed in doing by withdrawing any say on their part in the single United Kingdom economy will be to reduce the influence of Scotland upon that economy and, by definition, put Scotland into a neo-colonialist position. The truth is that that which they believe they can operate with more independence they will in fact be unable to operate at all. That is the reality facing them.
No. I pointed to three strands, and one of them is extremely important, the intermeshing of Government institutions with the economy. That still existed as we entered the EEC and, since I believe that some of our national interests are rather different from those of the EEC as a whole, I want that continued intermeshing to remain in a United Kingdom context. Whether it will if the hon. Gentleman and his party have their way is another question, but that is another reason why I am opposed to our further involvement in the EEC. But I am dealing with the situation as it is, not with the situation which the hon. Gentleman and some of his right hon. and hon. Friends wish it to be.
The truth is that there is hardly a problem to which the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart), the Leader of the SNP, referred which would be easier of solution if Scotland was a separate State. Thus, the Scottish National Party is led into an increasingly contradictory position. I heard the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford), in one four-line ques- tion, enunciate, on the one hand, a call for devaluation of the green pound and, on the other, a call for a strengthening of the Scottish pound. This, of course, would bring about the worst of all possible worlds—higher prices for the farmer and therefore a bashing of the housewife, with higher import costs for the farmer—showing that the SNP is the only party which can succeed in enunciating in four lines a policy which would clobber both farmer and housewife. This sort of thing goes on all the time.
How is the SNP shown up by its record in facing these difficult and subtle problems? There is a simple solution for it. It could recognise the inhibitions which such a position creates and say that it is prepared nevertheless to go along with it. But it does not do that. It is basically a Poujadiste populist party, and either through intellectual failure, which is a considerable feature within the party, or through a deep ingrained dishonesty, it is impelled to believe that, because anything which it enunciates is in its interest as a party, it must be true. In fact, the truth is that SNP has a bad record of populism.
I recall the Scottish nationalists' attacks on the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill, a Bill vital to the well-being of thousands of working people in Scotland, on the Clyde, in Aberdeen and in Dundee. Not only did they not support it but they treated it with the grossest contempt. Moreover, they contemptuously rejected the protests made to us by workers in the industry. They contemptuously rejected the protests made to them by the Scottish Trades Union Congress. I was astonished to hear the right hon. Gentleman quote the STUC this afternoon in support of his case after what he and his colleagues did to the telegrams arriving from the STUC, calling them bogus, tearing them up and throwing them across the Floor of the House of Commons. That is another indication of the SNP's attitude.
The same sort of thing happened when we were discussing a Bill in Committee at a time when a group of workers, 5,000 of them at a factory in my constituency, were fighting for the expansion of the electricity generating industry. The SNP energy spokesman attacked the idea of more money going under that Bill to our generating programme, although his policy would have meant an immediate cut in the Scottish electricity generating industry and consequently a threat to the jobs of 5,000 Scottish workers.
We see the same problem facing the SNP when it asks for separation and ignores the relationship between industry in Scotland and the nationalised industries in the United Kingdom as a whole. A separate Scotland would mean that Babcock and Wilcox would close at once, although 80 per cent. to 90 per cent. of the output is for English and Welsh nationalised industries. That would all be finished tomorrow.
We see it also where the SNP is coming to power in local councils. In my district, one of its first propositions was to call for the postponing of the arts centre in Paisley, yet during its campaign it had had that project as a matter of criticism of the existing district council, saying that it had failed to build an arts centre. The moment it came to power the SNP led the attack against it. Incidentally, on the very same afternoon it demanded that the Renfrew District Council should pay for the hire of bands for the SNP for its Wallace Day celebrations.
We see the same attitude displayed towards Chrysler, where 7,000 workers were fighting to preserve their jobs. The SNP spokesman who turned up at the factory where a fight was going on for Scottish jobs and Scottish industry arrived in a Datsun. When the workers objected to this as a pretty poor gesture, he said "It is not my Datsun; it is my wife's. I drive a Volvo." That sort of insensitivity and stupidity, if I may say so, parallels the insensitivity and stupidity of SNP policies generally.
As regards Chrysler, the SNP produced, I think, four contrasting and contradictory solutions. It was opposed to the Government's solution. It then voted for the Government's solution. It then said that the whole of Chrysler in the United Kingdom, except at Linwood, should be closed down, ignoring that we should then have had no cars because the engines came from Coventry. This was more than just stupid and insensitive, for many of the workers in Coventry—this is a regrettable fact, and the reasons are not palatable—came from Scotland, and a good many of the shop stewards and workers' leaders in Coventry are Scots. The SNP said that Coventry should go to the wall. That is hardly a nice thing to say to the children and relatives of other Scots workers at Chrysler in Scotland.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) was attacked and challenged about the date, place and time of a statement which he attributed to the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross). Would the hon. Gentleman give us the place, date and time at which the statement about Coventry which he attributes to the SNP was made?
Yes, the quotation was that "Coventry should go to the wall". That was it, and many hon. Members now here heard it. The hon. Gentleman shall have his quotation. We on this side do not make assertions of that kind without the record to bear them out. I can take the matter a little further if the hon. Gentleman wishes to provoke me. The SNP spokesman on the motor car industry, after voting for it, attacked the settlement and said that the £162 million should have been used to plant trees in Scotland. That was the sort of opinion which he was prepared to enunciate in this place, and I shall produce the date for that, too.
As I say, we see evidence of the SNP attitude at district level. We see it, for example, in its opposition to the Craigmillar festival. It shows a hatred for any cultural manifestation in Paisley, and we see the same attitude in Edinburgh. There was also the SNP attack in Edinburgh. When the populist line was to be on the ratepayers' side, the SNP attempted to stop old people's concessionary fares. We do not hear a similar argument in areas where there is a predominance of council problems.
There are also the errors of omission of the SNP. Nothing has been more shameful in the great intellectual tradition of Scotland than the succession of letters which appeared in Scotland's national newspaper, the Scotsman, throughout January and February, which were directly racialist, Anglophobic and printed without demur or editorial comment, but, furthermore, were printed without demur from the SNP. Not until months later did a member of the SNP, Professor MacCormick—not Iain but Neil—demur about the tone of the letters.
The mainspring of many of the arguments of the leadership of the SNP is Anglophobia. I heard Margo MacDonald say that if she had a holiday, she would like to go to see the Basques or to see the Catalonians in Catalonia. Has she forgotten that the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) was one of the few members of the European Parliament who failed to support a motion condemning the Franco Government—incidentally, a movement led by the Pope—for their killing of five Basques by garrotting in Madrid? That was a shameful moment for Scotland.
We remember the SNP's silence about a football match which took place in Chile when, in spite of opportunity after opportunity, its members failed to show where they stood. Two days before the game, the SNP's Chairman, Billy Wolfe, had the impertinence, in a letter, to criticise British Ministers for not objecting to the match. They had objected. But we heard nothing from the SNP until that moment. [Interruption.] If it is not true, please tell me—
Plainly the hon. Gentleman does not study Hansard very frequently. Presumably he was absent when the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) asked a Question about the Scottish Football Association and Chile and my right hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Stewart), in a supplementary question, supported him.
Appeals were made to the SNP—and I know because I led the campaign. [Interruption.] Let us have less of this nonsense. The whole of Scotland knows the position.
We know the attitude of the SNP even on matters affecting Scotland, and not only the shipbuilding industry. Its Members talk most about prices in Scotland, yet last week, in the vote on the Price Commission Bill, they refused to support the Government's attempt to introduce price control and abstained. In Committee they voted with the Tories to block the expenditure of more money on consumer advice centres for Scotland. The SNP has a tawdry record. It is a shameful record, and it gives little credence to a motion of this kind.
I am not proud of the Lib-Lab pact. I am against it. I do not think that we should have entered into an agreement of that kind. I am a Socialist and I want to achieve a Socialist majority which will follow Socialist aims. That will not happen through proportional representation.
Almost the first thing for which Councillor Stuart Ewing of Glasgow called was the creation of a public house in the city chambers. He said that the purpose was to prevent other councillors from having to go across the street for a drink. He gave us great reassurance by saying that he was a strict teetotaller, like the rest of his family.
Even more damning is the SNP's notorious canvasser's manual. If someone at the door says "I like Willie Ross", canvassers are told to answer:
A fine man! Then ad lib!
The manual also says:
The Golden Rule is: 'Find out the Voters views First' …".
One then tells them the benefits they will get by voting SNP on the basis of these views. One finds out the
motivating interests and needs of each Voter before trying to sell"—
I like the word in a political context—
the benefits to them and then showing him that he must vote SNP to get them.…. The advantage of this technique is that it is flexible"—
[Laughter.] I have not finished the quotation; hon. Members are pre-empting my punch-line—
while sounding natural and believable.
When an interviewer ends an interview, he should say
'Can I put you down as a Scotland Supporter then' (Smiling)".
The SNP compares politics with the selling of a car. The manual sets out what one needs to do. One shows how
related benefits might be presented to a particular Voter. It simply involves putting the 'product feature' and the derived voter's benefit into a compact and easily understandable sentence using the conjunction '… which means that …' Examples. Having found that the customer desires a high performance car for frequent motorway business trips, the sentence might come out thus: 'This car is fitted with the latest model V8 engine which means that you can maintain high cruising speed to get there quickly …' Similarly, having found that the Voter has some distance to travel to work each morning, the sentence might be delivered thus: 'The SNP is very concerned about inadequate public transport in Scotland which means that we are committed to act in the interest of all commuters such as yourself, Mr. Smith.'
The approach is certainly flexible. I hope that it is natural. I am afraid that it is not at all believable.
Then there is the curious business of the Tories' support for such a party as the SNP and such a motion as this in such a situation. They had to learn their populism somewhere. I do not believe that they have learned it from the great tradition of the democratic intellect in Scotland. It puzzles me trying to discover from where they have gained their skilful opportunism. We have an example on the Opposition Front Bench, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor),
Who in the course of one resounding tick
Runs the whole gamut politic
And in the course of the succeeding tock
Runs just as briskly backwards round the clock.
The hon. Gentleman started this Session of Parliament as a devolutionist. He is ending it as a true blue Unionist.
Now that the Opposition have rejected devolution, I hope that the hon. Gentleman today will take the opportunity of saying that he is committed to devolution. We want some explanation for the Opposition's vote today. Are they seeking to ally with the SNP in introducing an even tougher devolution Bill or in order to help illustrate how they should make allies even with those with whom we disagree most profoundly?
It has been a shoddy experience this afternoon. The SNP are a very poor lot. There must be better people available. I wish the SNP would find them and send them here.
As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland criticised my right hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) for not developing serious themes, and as so far the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) has only attacked the SNP, I was wondering at what point of his speech he would get on to developing serious themes.
In the first place, the hon. Lady was not here. Secondly, I note her reassurance that my right hon. Friend is her right hon. Friend. But I give about as much credence to what the hon. Lady said as I gave to the statement of the councillor in Glasgow who wants to see a pub in the city chambers.
The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) has done the same as everyone else in the debate. Everyone has said that all the speeches except his own have been rotten. Quite frankly, the hon. Gentleman's speech did not add a great deal, apart from showing his rather poisonous hatred, which is a rather sad thing, for the SNP.
I do not believe that the kinds of issue raised today, and the arguments put forward by the nationalists and others, will be beaten simply by calling names. We should be looking at the motion seriously, and looking also at the ways in which we can solve Scotland's problems.
The right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) was accused by the Secretary of State for Scotland of saying nothing new. The Secretary of State said nothing new in his rather lengthy speech. It is a sad reflection on the utter complacency of the Government that, faced with all the problems, the record unemployment and the bankruptcy of economic ideas, we have, on what should have been a major occasion, the Secretary of State saying nothing new.
We had the advantage of hearing from the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans), who talked about many problems in Wales, including a low expectation of life. According to what my Welsh colleagues have told me, the comment about a low expectation of life cannot be applied to the hon. Gentleman's speech, which I am told he has been making for 30 years with hardly a change.
The right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) talked about the bad times under Tory Governments. Here again, the Government have to face up to the responsibility that there has not been a time in Britain when unemployment and inflation, to my knowledge, have been as high as now. That is the way in which we can judge the success of a Government.
However, the motion is about reducing the salary of the Prime Minister—a subject which no one seems to have mentioned in any great detail. Perhaps it is rather ungracious of the House to suggest that the Prime Minister's salary should be reduced when, as an above-average wage earner, he must have suffered from the policies of his own Government.
The Prime Minister has a basic salary of £20,000, plus a parliamentary allowance of £3,000, plus other allowances coming to £2,500, and certain other benefits. According to my calculations, he has seen his take-home pay reduced to less than £9,000 at 1974 prices. The main reason is that during the three years of the present Government we have seen inflation running at record levels, largely because the pound has been reduced to 56p in real value compared with when the Government came to power.
We heard the Prime Minister's latest forecast on Sunday, when he said that things are going to get a good bit better. When we are considering the position after three years of a Labour Government and in particular the record of the Prime Minister, we have to ask where is the evidence of all these remark- able prophecies that things are going to get better.
There was the famous Healey inflation rate of 8 per cent. at the time of the 1974 General Election. This, too, has never happened. Indeed, the position has got much worse.
There was the statement from the Prime Minister in March 1976 that he regarded the present levels of unemployment as intolerable and unacceptable. A few months later he said that he would reduce unemployment. Since then, in the country as a whole it has gone up by 800,000, and the number of school leavers seeking jobs has increased by 12 times. If we exclude school leavers altogether, the numbers of unemployed in Scotland and the rest of the country are about twice what they were when the Government came to power.
Another good guide is living standards. According to parliamentary answers which I received on Wednesday of last week, real living standards for the average British family have gone down over the entire period. People are worse off in real terms.
As to tax, the Prime Minister said that something had to be done for middle management. The average family in Britain now finds that, whereas it was paying less than £8 a week in income tax when the Government came to power, it is now paying more than £17 a week.
I can well recall, as no doubt can many hon. Members, the Prime Minister attacking us by saying that the Conservative Government had piled up an alarming amount of overseas debt. But whereas in March 1974 the overseas debt was about £3 billion, it has since increased to over £16 billion.
When we look at the international assessment of the Government, we find that the pound has gone down by a quarter in three years. We therefore have unemployment and prices rocketing, real living standards going down, production static, and growth non-existent. We certainly cannot have confidence in a Government who have created this kind of position.
I am also worried a great deal about the extent to which the Prime Minister appears almost to have given up the battle against the Left-wing takeover of the Labour Party.
It is a very real worry for democracy as a whole when we find standing for the National Executive of the Labour Party a Labour Member who wrote the kind of article that we saw in the Morning Star last week. This should interest the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston), in view of his party's pact with the Government. In this article the hon. Member wrote:
I propose that the Communist Party stops contesting against Labour candidates electorally in local and national elections and, clears the way to seek re-affiliation to the Labour Party ".
One of our greatest fears is that the Prime Minister, by abandoning the principle of collective responsibility and by enabling the Left wing gradually to take over the National Executive and all the other organs of the Labour Party, is paving the way for a Left-wing takeover of the Labour Party to such a degree as will certainly not be good for democracy.
I am afraid that the Prime Minister has just been stumbling along, hoping that his economic sins, like those of the hon. Member for Inverness, will be washed away in a flood of oil.
I certainly hope that my sins will be washed away. As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) indicated that his quotation was of relevance to me, will he say who wrote the article and when?
It was a Labour Member of Parliament, the name of whose constituency escapes me for the moment. The hon. Member concerned is standing for the National Executive of the Labour Party. He is a prominent Member of the House. The article is rather significant of the move of the Labour Party to the extreme Left. This is what worries me about the Lib-Lab pact. I hope that the hon. Member for Inverness has thought about it, and also his electors.
The only real achievement of the Lib-Lab pact is to give the Prime Minister an opportunity of choosing the right date for the Socialists to hold a General Election. If by chance they are returned with an overall majority, all the moderation that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues may think they have persuaded the Labour Party to accept will be thrown away. Instead there will be five years of red-blooded Socialism.
All the hon. Gentleman is achieving by this silly and rather shoddy pact is to save the Liberal Party for a short time from extinction and to give the Socialists the opportunity to choose their right time for the General Election, so that we shall have five years of real Socialism and not the kinds of policies that we are having at the present time.
I apologise for interrupting again. The hon. Gentleman has been somewhat swingeing in his comments. With regard to the article that he quoted I would say that that member of the Labour Party in no way approved of the agreement between the Labour Government and the Liberal Party. To blame us for the views expressed in that article is a lot of rubbish.
We shall get some idea of what the feeling about the Liberal Party is if that particular hon. Member—the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell)—is successful in the National Executive elections. The hon. Member for Inverness may know that the party that he is propping up has a new proposal for choosing the party leadership in which the National Executive, the unions and party members will be taking part. The hon. Member for Inverness is not, in fact, creating moderation in the Labour Party. All he is doing is propping up the Government so that they can stagger along on Liberal crutches until they come to the right time for an election. I can assure the hon. Member for Inverness that at that point all the Liberal ideas about moderation will be thrown out of the window.
The hon. Gentleman has spoken in support of democracy. Does not he consider the proposals for extending the franchise of the Labour Party leadership stakes, so to speak, an extension of democracy?
They could well be in certain circumstances. But I believe a lot of my hon. Friends, and a lot of other people regard them as just a series of moves by the extreme left of the Labour Party to take over the party. Whether this is a democratic move or not, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) has a long enough experience of the Labour Party to be aware that in the Labour Party is a group of people who want to make sure that after the next election, whatever the result, the Labour Party that emerges will be quite different from the Labour Party that we now have in the House of Commons.
We have members of the Labour Party, like the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) and the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan), who want red-blooded Socialism. All that the Liberals are doing is creating a situation in which there is the conceivable possibility of wild extremists, like those two hon. Members, taking over our country.
In my view, the Prime Minister has given up the fight. By abandoning collective Cabinet responsibility and by allowing all this to go on, the Prime Minister has either given up the fight or is even less effective than I thought him to be.
I must make it absolutely clear that, unless something unexpected happens in later speeches, we shall be voting for the SNP motion tonight as an indication of our total contempt for the Government and our condemnation of their shameful policies that have brought economic misery. However, that in no way means that we support the economic policies advanced by the nationalists which, we believe, would make a serious situation a great deal worse.
The SNP proposes a separate Scottish currency and tight exchange controls. At its recent conference it added a wealth tax, a higher capital gains tax and a local income tax to that list. As industry and commerce in Scotland and England are closely integrated, the establishment of a totally different economic system in the two countries would damage most of our industries and involve them in considerable expense.
If, as is proposed, a separate Scottish currency would rise in value in comparison with the English pound, it would be difficult if not impossible for labour-intensive industries in Scotland, and for most of our engineering, to compete in the English market unless there was a dramatic rise in productivity or unless wage levels in Scotland were reduced. That is not just a personal view. The fact is that since the SNP published its financial policies not one major Scottish industrialist or prominent trade union leader has stated that the plans would improve employment and prosperity in Scotland. In fact, many have indicated that in their view the policy would inevitably destroy jobs and prosperity. [Interruption.]
Can the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain) name one prominent Scottish industrialist or trade union leader who says that SNP economic policy will help employment in Scotland? I know of none. If the hon. Lady knows the names of such people, I should be glad to know.
It must be obvious to those with even the most basic business knowledge that the introduction of a wealth tax in Scotland, which would not apply south of the border, and the introduction of a higher capital gains tax in Scotland than in England would undoubtedly spark off a flight of capital and, therefore, of jobs from Scotland.
I can imagine a situation in which we have a wealth tax in Scotland, but not in England, and a high level of capital gains in Scotland, but not in England, which would mean that capital and jobs would disappear. There are firms like Yarrow Shipyards. Where are they to achieve orders and work? It is pretty clear that all this will involve a considerable loss of jobs and make the situation, already serious as a result of Socialist policies, even worse.
I asked the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East whether she knew of one industrialist who thought that SNP policy would help the economy. The SNP has been making rather desperate attempts to say that some people in prominent positions in business and industry think that it will help. One example is the Scottish clearing banks. On 7th January this year I received a letter from the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford). It was signed not by him but on his behalf by a lady whose name I cannot make out but whose first name was Rosie. In that letter the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire,
in talking about nationalist policies and the clearing banks, said:
The thinking behind their comments accepts that self government will be of benefit to all the people of Scotland. There are only one or two matters of technical detail which still have to be worked out. The SNP looks forward to their continuing help over these matters of technical detail.
Here we have it in writing. Here we have the clearing banks saying that not only will SNP policy help Scotland but that they will work out the details with the SNP.
That rather surprised me. I wrote to the secretary of the clearing banks, a Mr. Sutherland, and he told me that this was utterly untrue. He said that he had had no contact of any sort with the SNP and that there had been no discussion. The words he used were:
The first thing that has to be said is that there has been no liaison of any kind whatever between the clearing banks and any political party on this subject.
I replied to the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire and asked him a number of other questions. He had been kind enough to set out some of the SNP policies. I asked what this would mean if some of my hon. Friends went on a holiday to Blackpool. I asked whether they would have to get foreign currency from the bank. I asked a number of serious questions about the effect on jobs, but I never got a reply to my letter.
We also have the life companies. It had been suggested by the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire—I understand that his constituency includes the headquarters of that excellent life company, the General Accident Company—that in some way they approved of the SNP's plans and felt that they would make things better. No sooner had this happened than the life companies issued a statement saying that in their view the SNP's plans would damage their business, 90 per cent, of which was done south of the border, and would involve, unfortunately, additional premiums and lower bonuses.
We have a state of affairs in Scotland in which industry and commerce do not think that the SNP's policies would help and, in addition, neither the clearing banks nor the insurance companies think that they would help. Although we Conservatives agree with the SNP in this joint motion because we both think that Socialism is bad, we have to ask the SNP tonight who are the people who believe that its policies will not make matters worse.
It is generally accepted that members of the SNP tend to be masters of distortion. Of that there is no better proof than this astonishing document, the party's canvassing manual, to which the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West referred. It begins by setting out the principles which should be followed in canvassing. It says that what voters like is, first of all, sincerity and, secondly, people who agree with them. Canvassers should indeed follow both objectives scrupulously. It goes on to explain how this is done. For example, if an SNP canvasser comes across a Liberal household, the canvasser should stress the moderate nature of the SNP. However, if the canvasser then comes to a Labour household, he should point out that many of those in the SNP used to be Labour. Then, if the canvasser comes across a Conservative supporter in a Labour constituency, the voter should be advised that the only way to defeat Socialism is to vote for the SNP. But what about the minorities in Scotland, such as the one mentioned by the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West? It says that if a canvasser meets someone in Scotland who says "I like Willie Ross", the answer that he should make is "He is a fine man".
This manual should be compulsory reading for anyone who is tempted by nationalist propaganda. It is the worst example of deviousness and unscrupulousness that I have ever encountered. In comparison with this manual, Dr. Goebbels and Machiavelli would qualify for Sunday school prizes.
Therefore, if the nationalists put forward a motion saying
We disapprove of Government policies because Socialism does not work and has brought disaster to the country",
in order to be consistent the Conservative Party must support that motion. However, in so doing it must be made clear that we Conservatives believe that nationalist policies would make matters worse.
Fortunately, however, we are not choosing between a Labour Government and a nationalist Government. There is a third choice, which is much better. If we could have a General Election, we should have the opportunity to apply Conservative policies, which would be of great benefit to Scotland and to the country as a whole. A Conservative Scotland would undoubtedly be a more prosperous Scotland, as it has always been. We would restore incentives, which would make a major difference to job creation. A Conservative Scotland would also offer more opportunities. We would cut taxation, as we have always done. A Conservative Government would offer freedom of choice in Scotland in housing, education and in all other fields in order to encourage the individual. A Conservative Scotland undoubtedly would also be a safer Scotland. A Conservative Government in Scotland would strengthen the bonds of union.
In our view, this Government have failed. That is why we shall vote against them tonight. However, we wish to make it clear that we believe that the answer to our problems as a nation does not lie in following SNP policy. It lies in the restoration of Conservative Government and good government which will bring back prosperity and restore the real values of our nation.
It was James Maxton who was once accused of trying to ride two horses at the one time. He replied "If you can't do that, you shouldn't be in the circus at all." We have had a typical circus speech from the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor). It is true that he did not say an awful lot about devolution. General Cathcart having led the Tories in retreat from Perth, I can well understand his reticence.
Among others, he said in his election address that he was for an elected Scottish Assembly. However, he managed to outmanoeuvre people who stuck by that and succeeded in getting them removed from the Opposition Front Bench. I am waiting with interest to discover whether he will support his party's three-line Whip on direct elections. Then we shall see whether he has found yet another devious way round a personal difficulty. He has been consistent for a long time about the Common Market and its effect on Scotland. Will he throw that consistency away and let us see yet another performance of the kind that we saw today?
I am concerned not about the Lib-Lab pact but about tonight's Fory-SNP pact. The hon. Member for Cathcart can argue as much as he likes, but he will be supporting the SNP and the speech—or non-speech—of the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart).
He will be supporting a motion put foward by the SNP for purely SNP reasons. If there is a measure of cynicism in the document from which he quoted, there is more than a measure of cynicism in the attitude that he is taking in leading his party that way tonight.
The right hon. Member for Western Isles was not really fair to himself in tying himself to a script. I do not know whether he wrote it. I hope very much that he did not. I know that he can do far better than he did today.
Tonight we face what is virtually a vote of censure. It is an attack on the Prime Minister, although we did not hear from the right hon. Gentleman any attack on the Prime Minister. But I assume that, by attacking the Prime Minister, the right hon. Gentleman thinks that he is attacking the whole Government, thereby making a comprehensive condemnation. But it fell far short of what I expected.
We have serious problems in Scotland. We have serious problems still in terms of the deprivation of parts of the country. But the same problems exist elsewhere, in places such as London and Liverpool. This is what angers many of my English colleagues. It seems to be of no concern to the SNP to try to find solutions to problems which are common to people throughout the United Kingdom and, indeed, far wider than the United Kingdom.
One development that I abhor as a Scot is that we should have a party which is now gaining a measure of success in Scotland purely on emotions and on turning into ourselves, whereas as a nation we always looked out beyond our own needs and beyond the satisfaction of those needs with purely selfish policies. Deny it as they like, there is more than an element of Anglophobia in SNP members' statements. I heard of them even at Wembley—"If you hate the so-and-so English, clap your hands." There was no pride for any true Scot in that kind of behaviour. Yet there are certain members of the SNP who encourage it. When young terrorists who have taken some of their speeches seriously end up in the courts, the SNP says "We disown them. We have now expelled them." Who is responsible for that kind of feeling? Is it to the benefit of this country?
This country—the United Kingdom. Scotland is part of the United Kingdom and a proud part. No SNP Member is a better Scot than I am just because he wears a kilt. I do not need to wear a kilt to prove that I am a good Scot.
I regret the cynicism that is contained in the document which has been quoted for use by SNP doorstep canvassers. We heard about the reply that was given when my name was mentioned—namely "Willie Ross is a fine man." I well remember during an election campaign in Dundee hearing a voice over a loud-speaker—it so happened that our candidate was a man from Sheffield, an Englishman—proclaiming time after time, "The Labour candidate is an Englishman." When the broadcaster stopped for breath, I began reciting Robbie Burns
A man's a man for a' that!
When I stopped, the other voice took over with the phrase "Willie Ross is an Englishman." [Interruption.] It may be amusing, but it is a serious matter.
That is the worst feature of this kind of stuff. It seeks to sell a party as one would seek to sell soap powder or a car. No wonder the Glasgow Herald said that as an exercise in political cynicism the manual was breathtaking. The manual suggests that canvassers should find out what the people want first and then say that the SNP will give it to them.
Is the right hon. Member for Western Isles proud of that? Does he agree with is? This document is being put out to all SNP canvassers. Before they go on to the doorsteps they are told to find out as much as they can about the person whom they are canvassing. How are they to do it? The manual says that it should be done by
Personal observation and experience—friends and acquaintances, local newspapers,
local libraries, cafes, public houses and hostelries.
In other words, find out what a man wants and what his needs are, then go to the door and say "Yes, we and we alone will provide it". That kind of approach is disgusting.
Yes, it is dangerous, too. But, sadly, it is successful. The SNP members are selling emotions, and they are selling them with fervour. In political terms they are the equivalent of the political hooligans of today when they adopt such platforms.
We have our problems and we should have used this debate to go into them. I am concerned about unemployment in Scotland, because the level is dangerously high. I believe that we should ask the Government to return through the SDA, or through the grant system by the Secretary of State for Scotland, a considerable share of the money lost to Scotland through loss of the regional employment premium. We should use that wisely together with the proposals announced last Monday by the Secretary of State for Industry. The figures published last month are not properly comparable with those of the previous year because of the change in school leaving age, but those figures are far too high. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will turn his mind to that matter.
In my consituency the rate of unemployment is 8·7 per cent. We now face the possibility of losing a very important firm in the area. The firm is that of Glenfield and Kennedy, and it changed hands in 1966, having been taken over by an American firm, Crane. At one time the firm employed between 3,000 and 4,000. The work force is now down to only a thousand. It provided engineering jobs and other skilled work in Scotland—work which we cannot afford to lose.
I am afraid that I have the unpleasant duty to tell the right hon. Gentleman something he may not already know. I was told a few minutes ago that the thousand workers at Glenfield and Kennedy are to be given their redundancy notices tomorrow. That is a disgraceful indictment of a system that involves taking control of Scottish industry from Scotland and sending it to London, America, or anywhere else. I am sorry to tell the right hon. Gentleman that this now looks to be a fact.
The hon. Gentleman is not telling me very much that I do not already know. I have been working on this matter with trade unions, Ministers and officials, and I know that they have spent every minute of their time trying to solve this problem. The hon. Gentleman must appreciate that those who have put the firm into receivership are the parent company, namely, the American concern. They and they alone are responsible for that.
I hope that it gives the hon. Gentleman no pleasure. I certainly hope that we do not land in the same situation again. The Government have been trying to mount a rescue operation. I appreciate that they have many obligations and are responsible in these matters to this House.
The hon. Gentleman and the SNP voted against us when we sought to give money to industry in this House. They were concerned in a motion to reduce the salary of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry. That related to British Leyland and Chrysler. The SNP voted with the Tories. The hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford) should know that. He has got to live with what he has done. The same thing applies to the Scottish Development Agency. Although the SNP attempted to emasculate that agency, it will now probably want us to use that body with new powers.
No. The hon. Gentleman took far too long last time. It was the hon. Gentleman and members of the Standing Committee opposite who voted with the Tories to emasculate those provisions.
It surprised me that the hon. Member for Cathcart did not take the opportunity in his remarks to tear apart the illusory SNP policy. There was not a single item of policy contained in the speech of the right hon. Member for Western Isles, whether it be related to Kilmarnock or anywhere else. [Interruption.] SNP Members laugh, but perhaps they can tell me one idea that was advanced by that right hon. Gentleman. I took down practically all the points in his speech and I found not one positive or constructive suggestion.
It is easy to understand why we had no policy from the right hon. Gentleman. The reason is that SNP Members have no political philosophy because they cannot agree among themselves. We all remember the statement made by Margo MacDonald—that the SNP was a Socialist party. Then, apparently, the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Reid) said: "No it is not. It is a Social Democratic party." Again, the reply of the SNP's chairman, Mr. William Wolfe, was "No comment".
We can see the SNP's cynicism contained in the manual. I repeat that the SNP has no political philosophy.
It is not a new record; it is a good old one. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman was absent when his record on Chrysler was commented upon by my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan). But in the municipal elections the SNP claimed that it had saved Chrysler. I certainly do not remember any SNP member standing by my side or sending messages of support to Labour when we battled successfully on that issue.
The SNP also voted against us on the nationalised industries. There was a great danger of the Scottish and Welsh nationalists making this debate a laughing stock. That would do Scotland no good.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend took up the point of the teacher training colleges. So far I have not received any reply from the SNP Bench as to what we should do about the falling birth rate. I do not blame the bachelors or the young married men without families, but the fact is that there has been a dramatic fall in the number of children being born, and this will inevitably affect the schools. There was no constructive suggestion from the Scottish nationalists, only the assertion that the Government were wrong.
This applies to the hon. Member for Cathcart. It is no good his saying that he will keep all the colleges open. He is the man who proclaims the need for economy. He is a hatchet man on some things. Hon. Members opposite have not faced up to the problem. They have not been fair to the people of Scotland. I hope that they are not suggesting that we should train more and more teachers for the unemployment queues. The hon. Members cannot have it every way—he cannot argue that we should cut the amount of money going to local authorities and then expect local authorities to spend more money on training teachers when he knows that we already have a superfluity of them. I hope that my right hon. Friend will go forward with his proposals for dealing with deprivation so that in areas where teachers are required they will be forthcoming and that the money will be provided for that. He said that he is discussing this question.
So far today I have not heard any justification for a reduction in the salary of the Prime Minister.
My right hon. Friend avoided mentioning the matter of the pie and beans promise at the municipal elections, when this great patriotic and royalist SNP, as it proclaims itself to be, announced that a certain gentleman was to become Lord Provost of Glasgow when the SNP had won all the seats there. The threat was that he would change the Royal Jubilee lunch menu and that it would be pie and beans. The hon. Lady the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) has an awful lot to live with.
We had a wonderful exhibition from the SNP Bench two months ago on the subject of the Shetlands when we were discussing the devolution Bill. I shall never forget it. The hon. Lady proclaimed that the Shetlands had the right to independence and that if that meant getting all their oil wells, they could have them. The hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire said "No", that he doubted very much whether under international law the Shetlands were entitled to them.
Somebody must have given some information to the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacCormick), because I can remember that he came crashing into the House and disagreed with the hon. Lady and with the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire. The hon. Member for Argyll said that the only islands that had a right to independence were the Western Isles and that the people of Shetlands had a language that—I will not describe what the hon. Member said about the language, but it was a language that none of them could speak.
Our policy is the policy of the United Kingdom. It is the Shetlands policy, too, that we should use the benefits of the oil for all the people of this country. That is our way.
I hope that everybody appreciates the absence of policy and the conflicts of policy on the part of the SNP. Taking that together with the advice to its canvassers, one begins to understand exactly the difficulty the party is in.
There is one awkward question on the document. If the person at the door says
The SNP is too inexperienced
the reply is to be this:
The party has been on the go since 1930.
That is the right phrase "on the go ".
We now have experts in all fields, advising our MPs quietly on policies.
The experts had better stop advising them quietly and start shouting because it has not got across to the MPs yet.
I end with this quotation from the document:
Everyone has commented on the high standard of our MPs.
That is a lie, because I have not. After the speech we heard today from the right hon. Member for Western Isles, I shall not make the comment.
It is remarkable that during the speeches of the last three speakers, one theme has continually arisen. It is the theme that the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) is a fine man. This remark I can attribute to three hon. Members. One is the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor), one is the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan), and it will come as no surprise to many hon. Members to hear that the third was the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock himself. I shall not join in the plaudits which have been bandied about the House, because I felt that the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock was guilty today of using a turn-around in his speech. He lampooned the Scottish National Party, as various other Members of his party have done today, as being a party infused pretty well only with emotion and, indeed, with emotion mixed with a good deal of duplicity as well.
I think that the case of the Scottish National Party today, not just in the House but throughout Scotland, is that the boot is on the other foot. The Scottish National Party has become in the eyes of hundreds of thousands of Scots the only party that can set forth a proper case for the future of Scotland and that can set it forth without descending into the realms of mad, passionate emotionalism such as we see more and more from the Labour and Conservative Benches. I should have thought that the whole tenor of this debate is that this is not the SNP faced with a really constructive opposition.
This is the SNP—indeed, the people of Scotland—faced with the threshing, dying agonies of some former monster which, in the case of the Conservative Party, has already become a very small one and which, in the case of the Labour Party, at the next election in Scotland will be shown to be a very small one.
Before I stood up to make this speech I took the trouble to read over what I have said on the subject of devolution in the House over the past three years or so. I found that in March 1974, when I made my maiden speech, not only myself but all the members of the SNP Bench were prepared to approach the whole idea of devolution with some respect and co-operation, because we genuinely believed, in our stupidity at the time, that the Government meant what they said about giving Scotland, and Wales their own elected legislative assemblies. We said that, not only in those balmy days before the Scotland and Wales Bill eventually made its appearance; we went on saying it, and we went on proving it in the way in which we voted in the House. The last time that I spoke on the subject of devolution was when we were debating the Scotland and Wales Bill, and we were still able to say that because at that time the Bill might still have become law, a position which I regret is no longer the case.
That is not something that I regret simply as a matter of nature. It is something that I regret because it proves to me that not only the Conservatives have gone back on what they said they would do, but so has the Labour Party. They did not approach that Bill as people who really believed in what they were doing. They approached it only as people who felt they were forced, as an electoral bribe to the population, to introduce it.
It ill behoves anybody who is a member of such a party, and it ill behoves even the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock, after the most schoolmasterly oration that he has just delivered, to speak about any duplicity in a political party when they have all been tarred with this in a real sense—in a sense in which the Scottish National Party certainly has not.
The hon. Gentleman is the first Scottish National Party Member to speak since reference was made to the canvassing manual. Will he confirm that this manual was issued by the SNP and tell us what he thinks about it?
I have not seen the said document. I am prepared to accept that it was issued by the SNP, but not having seen it I cannot comment, except on the particular paragraph referred to by the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock. I do not agree with that paragraph.
As I said, the SNP was prepared to co-operate on the Scotland and Wales Bill. We were always honest about it and made it quite clear that we were co-operating not because we saw the Bill as an end in itself but because we saw it as part and parcel of the dynamic process of greater measures of self-government and, eventually, independence. It is quite amazing that any reasonably educated hon. Member could pretend to be surprised that that was our aim. The aim of our party has always been independence for Scotland. I have been a party member since the 1950s, and every single one of my membership cards states the aim in black and white. If any hon. Member wants confirmation of this he should buy one and become a member, or borrow one from a friend, and he will see that this is so.
I turn now to the remarks of the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West. The former Chief Whip, the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), said that this debate was a joke thing, and I was reminded of this remark during the speech of the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West. The last time I heard the hon. Member speak was on the radio, when he talked about folk music. I thought his speech was quite funny, but it would have been even funnier had it been set to music, and had he been allowed by the rules of the House to sing it.
One of the most unfortunate parts of his remarks and of those of the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock was their harping on about this idea of Anglophobia. They trotted out as an example the claim that the SNP set up a loud-speaker and said nasty things about an Englishman who was standing for the Labour Party in Scotland. I would not put it past either of them to say nasty things about the various Englishmen who stand for the SNP in Scotland. I am sad to be accused of Anglophobia. I am married to an Englishwoman, and I suppose that my children are half English. Anglophobia is not a thing that characterises the SNP. I and all my colleagues would dissociate ourselves entirely from any idea that this is so.
This is descending to the level of farce. There is no such campaign in Scotland and there never has been a sustained campaign of racialist Anglophobia. I do not recognise that there ever was such a thing, so how can I refute it?
The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West said—and the mind boggles—that if we had independence in Scotland it would put us in a neo-colonialist position. If he is prepared to extend that argument, it would apply to any small country that was independent. It would even apply to the United Kingdom within the Common Market. The Scottish National Party is quite certain, speaking not from an emotional point of view but from common sense, that once we have independence we shall end that sort of thing. Once we get a chance, Scotland will have a strong economy, and the people of Scotland will be allowed to realise their true potential.
Those people who say that a strong Scottish pound is a bad thing should go to West Germany and tell the people there that a strong economy and deutschemark is something to dread and will weaken their position. I would certainly not agree with that.
I refer now to the remarks of the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) who is my parliamentary neighbour. When he speaks of pacts and compromises he should think of the rather sordid pact that the Liberal Party has with the Labour Party. He should not confuse genuine compromise from an independent position with the kind of compromise that means selling one's side down the river. I have a feeling that that is exactly what the Liberal Party has done.
Ever since I came into the House there has been an ongoing debate on devolution. Once it was conducted on a fairly high level and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This debate today has not been enjoyable at all. It has been characterised by cheap jibes, corny jokes and rotten complacency on both Front Benches. I do not suppose that I can say that the Conservative Front Bench was complacent because it scarcely mentioned the whole question of devolution—for obvious reasons.
Since the hon. Member has now moved to the Conservative Party I should like to take him up on his earlier point. He said that the agreement that the Liberal Party had reached with the Government was sordid. Could he please justify the use of that very harsh word? I do not dispute his right to argue the case for an independent Scotland. I do not agree with it, but I still do not dispute his right to argue it, I do not regard our pact as being sordid. Will the hon. Member recognise that I and my colleagues in our negotiations with the Government on devolution have been seeking to get something a little nearer our federal position than was previously offered?
I cannot see the agreement as anything other than an attempt to save both parties' skins. It is an attempt to buy a few more months, and I cannot find anything good to say about it. The Liberal Party had the chance to support the timetable motion. Had it done so I believe that we would have been a lot closer to devolution than we are today. Any other argument is fatuous.
The complacency of the Government Front Bench is striking. When I think of the tragic mess of the transport system in the part of the country that I represent, the tragic mess of the unemployment figures, and the tragic mess of education in Scotland, and I see the complacency written all over Ministers' faces, I am reminded of a primitive man trying to hammer a screw into a plank of wood. I see a grin on the face of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart, but he reminds me of a primitive man trying to pull the screw out with a pair of pliers.
I wish that more Scots people were here today to witness this debate. I am sure that if they were here to witness the way in which the SNP has been unjustifiably attacked they would vote for us in greater numbers—as I am sure thye will do anyway. I agree wholeheartedly with the hon. Member for Inverness in that I believe that there will be a majority of SNP seats in Scotland after the next election.
I agree with the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacCormick) in that I, too, wish that many more people from Scotland and Wales were listening to the debate, either directly or by means of television, so that they might witness the farce of this Scottish National Party motion and see how its Members will emerge from the debate with bloody noses and several black eyes.
It is difficult to reconcile his call for reason with the impassioned speech made by the hon. Member for Argyll, and his call for honesty with the sheer cynicism of that electoral manual issued on behalf of his party. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) is not in his seat, but the sheer cynicism of the Conservative-nationalist pact which we have seen and shall be seeing in the Division Lobby tonight boggles description.
This might have been a great Parliamentary occasion, for it is effectively a motion of censure on the Government. However, I am confident that the people of both Wales and Scotland will not be impressed by what has been said today. Virtually every hon. Member who has spoken began by saying that he proposed to criticise the non-constructive nature of the speech that preceded his and proceeded to give something of a knock-out speech.
I am confident that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister lost no sleep last night fearing the loss of half of his salary. I am sure that he is treating the debate just as it deserves to be treated by the House, by turning up at the end to register his vote and leaving that as his sole contribution.
The real worry of the nationalists is that the Government have not delivered and will not deliver Wales and Scotland to them. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) said that he detected a certain negative anti-English sentiment in much of the propaganda put forward by the nationalists in Scotland. In the same way, my Welsh colleagues and I see a similar negative provincialism and a retreat into their own shell or valley based on anti-English feelings arising from so much nationalist propaganda in Wales.
There is a simplistic approach to politics as a whole on the part of many Welsh nationalists. Not for them the problem of the allocation of scarce national resources, not for them the matter of priorities within a limited budget, and not for them the matter of IMF restraints or demographic problems regarding the future of our colleges of education. They can choose to ignore the world context and the problems of peripheral areas, not just in this country, but over the whole of the European Continent and elsewhere.
In their brave new world of unlimited resources they can mutter the panacea of independence, or the formula parroted by the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) of "Commonwealth status", which, apparently, is independence in more palatable dress, in the hope that the real issues and problems of politics will disappear. The SNP is now on record as wanting independence.
The Welsh nationalists do not use the word "independence", but it may be that during the debate they will get closer to it. The nationalists fail to recognise that Welsh people do not want independence. They do not want separation. They do not want to create artificial barriers because they are sure that they will suffer most. At least the Scots have oil.
It is perhaps interesting to note that this great parliamentary occasion, which the nationalists promised us today, now has, during the mid-part of the debate, only one SNP Member and two Plaid Cymru Members present. That is hardly a tribute to the interest which they expressed as having in this debate.
Two Welsh Members of Parliament and the Secretary of State. I have already made the point that the Prime Minister and others of my right hon. and hon. Friends are treating this silly debate in the manner that it deserves.
We in Wales do not have oil. As I understand the policy of the SNP on independence, it is not to share the oil with us in any fraternal way. We are confident that the building of new frontiers will not help the people in Walees any more than frontiers would help the structural problems of those in the North-East of England or on Merseyside where there are similar problems. We believe that it is a callous view on the part of the nationalists to imagine that an unem- ployed man on Merseyside or in the North-East of England is essentially different from his counterpart in Wales or Scotland.
We have witnessed the way in which the nationalists can pick and choose their statistics bolstered by the mass of parliamentary Questions which they put down at great expense. Frequently they could get the answers by a little diligent research in the Library. If an answer suits them, it is trumpeted in the media in Wales, helped by their friends in the media.
The hon. Member for Carmarthen used examples from Scandinavia, ignoring the only comparable example in unemployment terms—Ireland, the independent country on our doorstep.
The nationalists refuse to look at the overall British position—for example, the viability of mines in South Wales compared with productivity in Yorkshire. They always look at the problems arising from the union and fail to see the benefits. For example, they talk about charging for our water across the frontiers, but forget the benefit that we have received and are receiving from the immense oil and gas riches which lie in the North Sea.
There are difficulties in abundance in Wales. Unemployment is at an obscenely high level. There are communications problems. There are industrial scars, which have blighted the landscape in Wales for decades. There are long waiting lists for houses. So much housing in Wales is of poor quality. However, I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) could point to areas in the inner city of London—North Kensington, Brixton and other areas—where the quality of housing and multiple deprivation is a far greater problem than it is in any part of Wales. That is something that the nationalists refuse to accept. We have problems in abundance in Wales. There is the tragic problem of youth unemployment and under-utilisation of our national resources. Such problems cannot be solved by the magic wand—the panacea of independence. They can be assisted only by working together as a unit within the United Kingdom.
The nationalists' solutions are irrelevant, yet they gain mammoth publicity in Wales by their instant opposition to anything put forward by the Government.
I take as an example the instant opposition by the hon. Member for Carmarthen to the White Paper on Transport, which was published last week. Almost before the White Paper had been published the hon. Gentleman went rushing off to the Press with an instant letter to the Secretary of State for the Environment, in which he said:
There are no plans anywhere in this White Paper for the substantial investment Wales needs in our railways if we are to maintain, leave alone improve, existing services. London "—
part of the Anglophobia is the way that the Welsh nationalists use the word "London", in a pejorative sense—
neglect of Welsh railways seriously threatens the future of important links such as the Mid-Wales line, the Swansea to Fishguard services, and the Cambrian Coast line".
There is nothing in this instant letter, probably penned before the hon. Member for Carmarthen had a chance to read the White Paper, about the new emphasis in it on the needs of transport in rural areas, which will be particularly relevant to Wales. Indeed, there is nothing about the new powers given to the counties for co-ordinating transport needs. Nor have we heard anything from the nationalists about the measure of devolution and real decentralisation of power which I thought they wanted. They said nothing about the fact that under this Government there has been no loss of rail track mileage in Wales, and the spirit of the White Paper makes such a loss appear far less likely.
On anyone's estimate there has been a substantial change of spirit from the consultation document on transport last April and last week's White Paper. That change has not been reflected in any way by the instant opposition which was immediately broadcast throughout the media in Wales by the hon. Member for Carmarthen.
A similar thing happened with housing. In the housing White Paper there is a new spirit of devolution which our people will recognise. It involves decentralisation to county units with which people can identify.
Throughout the attitude of the nationalists there is a spirit of doom and gloom. They appear to live in an unreal world, which I and my Labour colleagues do not recognise in Wales.
When I leave London to travel to Wales I normally go by high-speed train. The London to South Wales line was the first line in the United Kingdom on which the high-speed train was established. It has made an enormous improvement in communications. I also see the M4, which my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has preserved against all the odds in the climate of public expenditure cuts. When I travel to my constituency I pass Llanwern, which has benefited from vast new steel investment. I also pass Port Talbot which has just had an enormous vote of confidence in its future by the Government's announcement of £835 million of steel investment. On my way to Swansea I go through the Swansea Valley and see how that valley is being transformed by the new Government grants, which are now channelled through the Welsh Development Agency.
This is the picture which I and the people of Wales see. They see the transformation under this Government. They read so frequently in the Press about the instant opposition in housing, education and transport, and they see the contrast between the nationalist gloom and doom merchants and the real achievements brought about by the Government. Those achievements receive scant coverage in the Welsh Press because of the way they are reflected by the media and the way in which they are so often tainted and distorted by the nationalists. This positive picture hardly comes through.
The Government, in the hurricane season, at a time of escalating world oil prices and massive unemployment throughout the Community, have contained the position and in some ways improved it. They have made a massive attack on the awful unemployment figures, but last week's announcement received little support from the nationalists. We cannot win. When my right hon. and learned Friend announces a new programme of advance factories to prepare for the upturn the nationalists divert attention to the factories that arc unlet. My right hon. and learned friend cannot win with the nationalists. He would still be criticised if he did not produce the factories.
In spite of the enormous problems in Welsh housing, can the nationalists deny that we are housed better than we have ever been? Can they deny that in terms of new building programmes and slum clearance there has been a vast transformation of Welsh housing and a massive investment in our industrial future? There is also the saving of Shotton. If the Government had not a few months ago produced their policy on steel, the closure of Shotton would have begun this year. That is something for which we had no praise from the nationalist gloom and doom merchants. The M4 shows the real and proper priority. It links us with our markets in the South-East and Birmingham, and is far more important than the wholly irrelevant North-South link, unifying the nation, which the nationalists would have us undertake.
With all these problems I believe there is a new mood of confidence in Wales. It stands in sharp contrast to the speech of the hon. Member for Carmarthen, which ranged from the Basques to the Catalans and hardly mentioned the salary of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, which is said to be the subject of debate. That confidence is certainly frightening the nationalist parties, and this motion is for them a motion born of frustration. They see the Government's policies coming to fruition and they ally themselves with the Conservative Party, a party which a few months ago, by its opposition to the Water Charges Equalisation Bill, prevented Welsh ratepayers from gaining £4 million or so this year. They are unusual comrades in arms, and they are making a new pact, a Conservative-nationalist pact. It is an odd combination, which will not be lost on the electorate in Wales.
The debate was referred to earlier as a joke debate or a light-hearted debate. That was the tone of the opening speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland and of certain other Labour contributions. For us, however, the whole point of making this wide-ranging criticism is our concern over the Government's failure to deliver the goods on all aspects of its economic and social programme.
We selected the specific criticism of the Prime Minister because he and his immediate predecessor must bear most of the responsibility for the economic and social failures of the Government's policies. Of course, some responsibility must also devolve itself to the Secretary of State for Wales and the Secretary of State for Scotland. As Cabinet Ministers they carry a joint responsibility for the failure of the Government's policies in Scotland and Wales.
The Government's programme must be measured not against what was achieved by the Conservatives when they were in Government but against the real needs of Scotland and Wales. Similarly, the policy initiatives taken by the Government recently must be measured not against what might have been produced by a Conservative Government but against the background of what has happened to transportation in Wales under successive Governments since the war.
The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) specifically criticised references by my hon. Friends to the transport review White Paper. We attacked that White Paper because yet again it creates a false transfer of power. It will nominally give county councillors responsibility for maintaining future rail services, but will it give them the resources to maintain them? Will the transport supplementary grant contain an element for maintaining the Cambrian coast line when it goes to Gwynedd County Council, Powys County Council and Shropshire County Council? Can we expect the full support of Shropshire County Council to maintain the Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth railway? I hope that we can. What will it mean in terms of resources to have a transfer of responsibility which will not be matched by a transfer of resources through the transport supplementary grant?
Another worrying aspect of the transport White Paper is that the system whereby passenger railway closures have been advertised and made the subject of inquiries through the Transport Users' Consultative Committee seems to be under threat. This is not specified in the White Paper, but we are told that Government and parliamentary scrutiny of procedures on rail closures is to be repealed. What precisely does that mean? Does it mean the end of the system which was responsible for maintaining the Cambrian coast line? It was the public inquiry at Harlech, the excellent advocacy of the Secretary of State on behalf of the liaison committee and the activities of the action group of local people that maintained that railway. It is precisely public answerability through the system of inquiry that has enabled local groups to protect transport services. I object forcefully to a White Paper that will result in that basic democratic right being withdrawn. This was brought up by the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson).
Although there are points of concern, the tone of the White Paper is substantially better than that of the consultative document because it gives new impetus to rural transport—buses and trains—and that is of considerable importance in Wales. However, we have heard nothing of this from the nationalists.
The White Paper ought to be better—because the consultative document was cirticised by us all. We put in a major and lengthy criticism. To that extent we accept the White Paper, but we must, in a constructive way, criticise policies from the point of view of the needs of the Welsh economy and community. We reserve the right to continue our criticism, strident though it may seem to the Secretary of State and other Labour Members. We are here to represent the critical interests of the people of Wales, and we shall continue to advocate our cause in that context.
Speaking specifically—not about transport or those aspects of economic policy that have already been covered by previous speakers—I want to take a more wide-ranging view of the position of the Welsh economy and not just in the last three years under the present Government. I want to go further back and to look at the economic plight of Wales and the initiatives of Government in the context of the regional needs of Wales.
The hon. Member for Swansea, East mentioned that there had been an increase in the number of jobs provided in Wales through the advance factory programme. Indeed, 70,000 jobs were created through the initiative of regional policies in Wales in the 10-year period up to 1975. However, in the same period 110,000 jobs were lost, and we must balance what was created through regional policy with what was lost. There was a 10 per cent. drop in male employment in Wales between 1965 and 1975. There was a general downward trend in the United Kingdom, but it was more severe in Wales. Between 1973 and 1974 the number of male employees in Wales fell by 2·3 per cent. compared with only 0·9 per cent, in the whole United Kingdom. Similarly, there has been a trend throughout Britain for an increase in female employment, but the rate of increase in Wales has been lower than in the United Kingdom.
In the Welsh economy there is a lower rate of economic activity. That has been so under successive Governments. A smaller proportion of the Welsh population is at work than there is among the whole population of Britain, and the proportion is smaller than in nearly any other English region. The male economic activity rate in Wales, according to the 1971 census, was 78 per cent., while the figure for the whole of Britain was more than 81 per cent. There was also a lower activity rate for females, and there has been consequent job loss, with the result that we have a 36 per cent. female activity rate in Wales compared with 43 per cent. throughout Britain. The Secretary of State is checking my figures. They come from Welsh Economic Trends No. 3, Table 8.
I was not checking the hon. Gentleman's figures but commenting that that part of his speech was a repetition of the speech of the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans).
It was a development of that speech, and there will be further developments, if the Secretary of State will bear with me, of the analysis that was given by my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans).
We see, therefore, that there is a sharper decline in the male activity rate in Wales and an increasing female activity rate which is far lower than the increase for the whole of Britain. Not even the most populous Welsh county has a female activity rate anywhere near that of England.
What does this mean? It means that the heartbeat of the economy is slower. We have a lower level of growth and income. The comparison that we wish to make tonight is not between what has been achieved by the Government and what might have been achieved under any other Administration, but between what has been achieved and what Wales needs. It is on those criteria that the Government must be judged. Low economic activity means that older people—and we have many, particularly in the valleys and industrial areas—find it difficult to obtain work, as do the young school-leavers. It is virtually impossible for many disabled people in Wales to find work. That is what happens when there is lower economic activity and higher structural unemployment.
Of course, our lower economic activity results in lower incomes. An analysis of the position in Wales shows that the gross domestic product per employee is high. So the low level in income cannot result from the level of productivity of our workers. It results from the number of people at work. The level of the gross domestic product per head in Wales is £300 below the figure for England and £150 below the figure for Scotland. The Welsh figure is 5 per cent. below the average in the assisted regions and almost 25 per cent. below the average in the unassisted regions throughout Britain. These continuing low-income problems are a result of the lower rate of economic activity and the high rate of unemployment.
The unemployment rate does not fall below 2 per cent. in good periods and it has only occasionally dropped below 4 per cent. in the last 10 years. The Welsh unemployment figures are worse than those in the English regions, with the exception of the North-East. Our argument is that the position in Wales, with structural unemployment and low economic activity, indicates that we need far more effective intervention to tackle our economic problems.
After repeated demands from my party, the Government have created the Welsh Development Agency. That agency has the power to invest and create wholly-owned subsidiaries. It has not used that power. It has failed to use the power given to it by this House and, as far as I am aware—the Secretary of State can perhaps answer this later—neither he nor his hon. Friends have advised the agency or guided the agency, telling it, as they can do, that it should use this power.
When 20 people enter an empty advance factory in my constituency, as happened a fortnight ago, and take over that factory as a gesture, it is an act of desperation by a community which has turned to successive Governments and failed to find an initiative to create employment in areas of high unemployment. I make no apology for referring again to the 50,000 sq. ft. advance factory in Blaenau Ffestiniog. I did so in my first speech in this House and have done so in most of my other speeches on economic policy. That factory is a monument to the failure of regional policy under successive Governments. I press the Secretary of State to say that he is prepared to tell the WDA that it ought to use its powers to set up wholly-owned subsidiaries in such situations.
I know that the Secretary of State will reply that such a matter is up to the commercial judgment of the WDA Those of us who have spoken to the agency know that, regrettably, it is more interested in operating as a public sector merchant bank than in taking direct initiatives. We have seen examples of the way in which the Northern Ireland development Agency has taken such initiatives. In my view the WDA should be directed to use some of its budget for research and project design to ensure that employment is created in areas of high unemployment.
To get the record straight, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will concede that in the period in which it has been in operation the Welsh Development Agency has already taken shares in some companies and given loans to half a dozen or more of them. If my recollection is correct, one of the firms it sought to help in its early days in this way was in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. Regrettably, the circumstances were such that it was not right for it to do so. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman should get away with castigating the WDA in this way.
I am castigating the WDA specifically for its failure to use its powers to set up wholly-owned subsidiaries. This ought to be part of its strategy. I believe in flexible public enterprise and so, apparently, does the Prime Minister—or so he told the right hon. and learned Gentleman in Aberyst-wyth on Saturday. If the Prime Minister believes in flexible public enterprise, let us see it in action. When we have unemployment of over 10 per cent. as we have in Gwynedd, and when there is a 50,000 sq. ft. building which has been empty for four years, the policy of flexible public enterprise should include setting up wholly-owned subsidiaries. I shall continue to castigate the WDA until it does this.
The hon. Gentleman knows that the terms of the Act do not prohibit such ventures. It is, as he said, a matter for the judgment of the WDA. In the right circumstances I should give the agency every encouragement. It is for it to decide on the ventures it will seek to support. In the short time that it has been in existence it has been collecting together the appropriate staff to ensure that the right commercial decisions are taken. Already a number of decisions have been taken, affecting firms from Prestatyn to Rhyl and down to Newport. I believe that the very first firm it sought to help was in Dolgellau. Is that right?
That is right. The Secretary of State knows that I was involved in discussions with his hon. Friend on this issue. I welcome the partial intervention of the agency in crisis situations and the use of expansion capital for specific firms. I also say that where participation with the private sector does not appear to be successful or possible the agency should take action. I am glad that the Secretary of State has said that he will support such an initiative.
My hon. Friend has made a good point. What we have to accept is that the WDA needs to be advised more strongly by the Wdsh Office. In my time I have been critical of the intervention of Welsh Office bureaucracy in certain administrative matters. But in this aspect of industrial policy the guidelines drawn for the agency, or at least the form of advice which the Secretary of State is able to give it. should be more forceful.
The relative failure of regional policy has caused and causes deep individual distress and social and community decline in large areas of Wales. The heady talk in "Wales: the Way Ahead" about the swelling resources of the United Kingdom being made available to Wales are dead words. Indeed, the whole concept of "Wales: the Way Ahead" is dead.
There was a time when the Secretary of State's predecessors went about Wales extolling the virtues of their national plan. It may be that the job shortfall calculation in the plan was rather short of the mark—about 15,000, if I remember correctly—when compared with the actual shortfall of 220,000. Despite the fact that the figures may have been inaccurate, the intention of national planning for Wales was enshrined in Welsh Office policy. Now, apparently, my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) is told in successive parliamentary answers that no plan can be forthcoming and no planning is to be expected. Apparently national economic planning in Wales is not to be, although we have regional and strategic planning in England as part of Government strategy. Counties in Wales in structure planning are to work within the context of "Wales: the Way Ahead". Perhaps the Secretary of State can give us his latest view on national planning in the Welsh economy and say whether he now believes that there ought to be an attempt to develop beyond "Wales: the Way Ahead".
I have mentioned the job shortfall calculation. The Plaid Cymru economic plan—my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon was one of its authors—had its calculations justified in a later study sponsored by the Welsh Office. It was then found by Moore and Rhodes that the shortfall calculation that we had of between 200,000 and 250,000 new jobs to provide a full solution to deal with the structural and economic problems I have talked about was correct.
This is our basic criticism of Government policy. There has been a failure to set a target to tackle economic deprivation in Wales. We find that the position is the same in specific areas. If we look at Mid-Glamorgan and the document produced by the Mid-Glamorgan County Council dealing with "Position and Prospects", we find that a study of the industrial position showed that in the early 1960s there was 8 million sq. ft. of floor space provided in the advance factory programme in Britain as a whole. Of that 20 per cent. went to Wales, with 30 per cent. of that figure going to Mid-Glamorgan, representing 25 factories. Between 1965 and 1975, there were 2,500 jobs provided in advance factories in Mid-Glamorgan, so the document tells us. During the same time, 15,000 jobs in the coal industry disappeared. What has happened with the advance factory programme in Mid-Glamorgan has happened throughout the old industrial areas of Wales.
The position in the constituency of the Under-Secretary of State—the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Jones)—is very similar to the position in Blaenau Festiniog, in my area, where there has been a failure to replace jobs lost in the extractive sector by new jobs in manufacturing industry. When the Secretary of State and his hon. Friends announce to the Welsh Grand Committee, as the Secretary of State always does, the number of feet of floor space in advance factories that he and his civil servants have created over the last year, he should also remind that Committee, and Wales, of the actual number of jobs created by the advance factory programme so far and should compare that with the number of jobs that are needed.
It is because of this relative failure of the economic programme of the present Government that we criticise the Prime Minister. Indeed, we would criticise any Prime Minister of an Administration in London who failed to create the conditions of recovery and development in the Welsh economy. We have been equally critical of successive Governments that have failed to deliver the economic goods. Should the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards) ever arrive at the Welsh Office, we shall certainly be even more critical of him than we are of even the right hon. and learned Gentleman's Administration. As a party, we have been advocates of effective economic planning in Wales. Our view is increasingly being justified.
Now that the hon. Gentleman has joined in this indiscriminate criticism, I hope that he will allow me to put a question to him. He has been talking for a very long time and very realistically about the many problems of Wales and he has been drawing attention to the fact that they are widespread and are found in parts of England as well. He has said that there is high unemployment in practically every county in Wales. He has criticised the Government's economic policies, and he said that he would criticise Conservative policies. However, he has not explained to the House how he would provide the jobs, except, apparently, by setting up State-owned bodies under the auspices of the Welsh Development Agency. But if the situation is as bad as he says it is, and if unemployment is as widespread, if the problem is so great and so many jobs have to be found, does he think that the resources in terms of money and manpower would be available to solve the problem in that way? What is the economic solution preferred by Plaid Cymru?
The creation of such a Government would enable us to undertake programmes of development and to take the kind of imaginative decisions taken by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State when he decided to fund the M4, for example. My hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen has been demanding for years, since he first became a Member of this House, dualling of the strategic routes and an increase in the number of dual carriageways, and effective 24-feet distance visibility for the rest of the trunk road network.
Let me make clear once and for all that we have always advocated a figure eight in the Welsh road network. If the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) reads our economic plan, he will see that there we advocate dualling out north and south and a far improved dual carriageway to Merthyr, and getting 24-feet distance visibility from there north. We are not advocating a major motorway network at present, but—
All the economic activity of Wales is bound up with the rest of the United Kingdom. That is why the Secretary of State is right to give priority to east-west roads rather than to the theoretical conception put forward by the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) of having roads running north-south. The economic activity is east-west, and Wales with the rest of Britain.
I am slightly concerned in the context of expenditure on roads, that we are now to see a major extension of the A55, which will result in the linking up of two special development areas. I would want to see the Welsh Office consider devoting at least some resources to improving our through links in Wales to the markets in the Midlands of England and to Europe and beyond. We in Plaid Cymru have always argued for the improvement of our roads to the markets and for the improvement to good distance visibility standards of the A470.
The hon. Gentleman refers to the desirability of more roads in Wales. Few will dispute that proposition. Of course, we must work out where the money is coming from. The important thing is priorities. The hon. Member referred to the imaginative decision to extend the M4 as a major priority, but his hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) has always advocated not the extension of the M4 but a north-south road. Where does Plaid Cymru stand on this matter?
I have always referred to that point and stated clearly that our position is that there must be an improvement in roads east-west and north-south, but that the level of improvement should reflect the need. What we have argued for is a dualling east-west and up to Merthyr and an improvement up to recognised standards on the A470.
Before I am further delayed by interventions which clearly indicate a failure to read our economic plan, and having been delayed rather longer on the economic aspects than I intended, I turn finally to the social position in Wales which follows directly from the low level of economic activity. It is a fact that in Wales one family in three is living below the official poverty line. That proportion is worse than in any other region or nation in the United Kingdom. If one takes the officially defined poverty line as the supplementary benefit level plus 40 per cent., one finds that there are 330 families per 1,000 in Wales who are living below that level, as compared with 240 in England. We have 240 families living at the level of supplementary benefit plus 20 per cent. No other region in Britain has more than 270 families per 1,000 in the band of income which is below the supplementary benefit plus 40 per cent. level.
That is the vicious indictment of the failure of successive Governments to bring a decent level of income to our people. That is why the level of public expenditure in Wales, particularly on social security, is higher than it is in other parts of Britain.
When the Secretary of State and members of his party so proudly go about Wales saying "Public expenditure in Wales is higher per capita than it is in England" they do not bother to tell us why. One of the major reasons why per capita public expenditure is higher in Wales, apart from capital expenditure on nationalised industries and looking specifically at current expenditure, particularly on social wage items, is that so many families in Wales are dependent on the income maintenance programmes of successive Governments. It is because so many families in Wales are unable to get an adequate level of income from work, and because more of them are unemployed or sick, that we have a higher level of social expenditure in Wales.
The other item of social expenditure which needs "subsidy" from central Government is housing. Public expenditure on housing in Wales is 10 per cent. below the level in England. That is totally unacceptable. It indicates not only a failure in the private sector but a far greater failure in the public sector.
Let us examine the average annual number of dwellings completed per thousand population from 1969 to 1974. The figure for Scotland was seven dwellings per thousand, for England was 5·9 dwellings per thousand, and for Wales 5·4 per thousand. In the public sector the figures were 2·5 per thousand for England, 5·0 for Scotland, 4·7 for Northern Ireland and 1·9 for Wales. The position will become worse with the rounds of public expenditure cuts which have been announced already. We shall get to the position in which the per capita spending on housing in Wales will be down to £29 in 1979–80 compared with £43 in England. That is totally unacceptable.
Wales is a country where the housing is older and the unfit dwellings number twice as many as those in England. The poor housing record for Wales is equalled only by its economic situation.
The Secretary of State must explain what he is doing in the inter-departmental discussions that he is having with his colleagues about public expenditure for housing. He must explain why he has not secured adequate funds for Welsh housing. I do not mean the odd additional £5 million that he receives when he finds that certain moneys are not being spent. I mean in terms of the programme for the 1980s. Why are the schedules not higher than they are for England? The Welsh need is greater. I do not apologise for asking for a housing subsidy, for Wales because conditions there are a legacy to the performance of successive Governments and their inadequate housing programmes.
To my party this debate has been about the failure of the economic and social record of this Government. We make no apology for seeking to reduce the salary of the Prime Minister. We take the view that no Prime Minister in London deserves his salary, nor will he until we have effective transfer of power from Westmister to Cardiff to enable the Welsh people to tackle their own problems.
Internationally the Labour movement has always been confused about the national question. I do not wish to go into a philosophical argument on that question. In the Labour and trade union movements in many areas of the world a radical, useful and powerful alliance has developed between the forces of social change and the forces of national change. Wherever we look, whether it is to the Third world or the Basque country, it is a powerful alliance between the forces of the Left and the forces of national recovery that have resulted in change.
We are seeing that alliance being forged in Scotland in the SNP and the Scottish Labour Party and, increasingly, in Wales within Plaid Cymru and within those in the trade union and Labour movements who favour the greater transfer of power. That kind of alliance when it achieves power in Wales will be unstoppable because for too long it has been used as lobby fodder for this Parliament. As we move into the 1980s this political change in Wales will be more dramatic than anything that has been seen in Westminster.
We have seen wrangling between Members of the Scottish National Party, the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) and the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan). Until a few moments ago the debate showed how remarkably inept are the SNP at determining political tactics. We have a Government who are wide open to attack and yet, because of the choice of the motion, the attack was not made.
We have a Government who claim to be Socialist. When they came to power, they gave a number of pledges, one of which was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer during an important television interview: he said that he would never introduce a wages policy. The Government have done that. The Government told us about the social contract, which they said was designed to hold living standards but which has lowered them. When the Government came to power, they said that unemployment was 1 million under the Conservatives and that would never happen again. Now it is 1·4 million.
The former Secretary of State for Scotland, the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), said that if Scottish unemployment went up over 100,000, he would feel it necessary to resign. He did not. Yet the SNP allows him to give its members a lecture this evening. We have a Socialist Government who are waiting to be rescued by capitalists in the United States, West Germany and Japan. They are hoping that our economic problems in the United Kingdom will be solved in time for the Labour Government to be returned to power.
The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) lectured the two nationalist parties about wanting resources beyond our capability. That is not the problem now. Some industries are running at 20 per cent. below capacity. In the construction industry there are a large number of unemployed, a huge mountain of bricks, plenty of sand and free water. There are plenty of housing schemes and yet the Socialist Administration cannot put them together to use available resources.
The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock demonstrated his lack of economic knowledge when he referred to Glenfield and Kennedy. What does he expect Glenfield and Kennedy and other firms to be doing? When he was in the Cabinet he agreed to a deflationary policy and cuts in expenditure that were bound to create problems in the engineering industry. The other cuts in Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom are the faults of this Administration and its supporters. Remarkably, the attack has been made in the other direction, which no doubt shows the parliamentary skill of right hon. and hon. Members as well as the ineptness of those who promoted the motion
It was not the most apposite motion to table in present political circumstances. It would have been better to narrow the attack to something specific and definite, such as the level of unemployment and the process of de-industrialisation which is taking place in every part of the United Kingdom, apparently unknown to the Government. Even when the country has been flooded with oil and when the City of London has provided more in industrial assistance, the process of de-industrialisation will create a wider and wider gap between the rich and the unemployed. It would be better for an attack to take place on that particular problem.
Has it occurred to my hon. Friend, when he considers the ineptitude of the nationalists on this occasion, that they would have done far better to propose that the salary of the Leader of the Opposition be cut in half, since she is a trenchant opponent of any devolution process?
I shall now give one or two facts to show how serious is the nature of our unemployment today and how serious is the process of de-industrialisation. I have Hansard here for the debate in July 1973 on the Scottish economy, when the Labour Opposition, as they then were, went full tilt at the Conservative Government, and rightly so, at a time when there were 93,000 unemployed in Scotland. We have now passed beyond that point. Indeed, I argue that we are nearly at the point of no return and that, unless unemployment is soon dramatically reduced, we shall not be able to overcome the problem for at least a decade.
At one time it could be said that Scotland could export its unemployment. It could export it to the more expansionist parts of England, to South Africa, Rhodesia, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States. For one reason or another, those avenues of escape are now cut off, and we have to solve the problem within our own industrial society. If we allow unemployment to go well beyond its present state, there will be no possibility in the foreseeable future of our pursuing the economic policies which would create the rates of growth required to take us below even 100,000. I believe that the situation is as serious as that.
We now have 38,500 people who have exhausted their unemployment benefit, yet there used to be only a total of 45,000 unemployed in the Scottish economy. Scotish unemployment is now almost 80 per cent. higher than it was when Labour took office in February 1974. In May there were nearly 30,000 construction workers unemployed, an increase of 52·2 per cent. over February 1974.
For the 186,000 unemployed in Scotland there are only 19,526 jobs notified as vacant, and for the 1·39 million unemployed in Great Britain there are only 193,826 jobs notified as vacant. That is a very bad state of affairs for unemployment as a whole.
In youth unemployment, however, the situation is far worse and will continue to be bad despite the programme announced last week by the Secretary of State for Employment. There are now 75,922 young people under the age of 25 unemployed in the Scottish economy. This is the most dynamic and vital section of society—young people between J6 and 25 years of age—we say to them "Work hard at school, stick at your lessons and stimulate your educational ambitions", and then, when they have their qualifications, all that society has to offer 75,000 of them is an idle place in the dole queue.
When we do that, we invite enormous social difficulties. We invite an increase in vandalism, in violence and in antisocial behaviour. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) would probably say that the answer to that is the birch, the stocks, or the gallows. But that has never been, and never will be, the answer. Our problem is not that unemployment excuses the anti-social behaviour but that among some elements of our young people it is bound to be a factor which creates it, and unless we are prepared to get full employment among our young people the rest of society will be in for a pretty difficult time over the next decade, and deservedly so.
The process of de-industrialisation is very worrying, too. In the book "Scotland 1980" there was a contribution from someone who, I believe, is a member of the Labour Party, pointing out that manufacturing now occupies only 30 per cent. of the Scottish economy—the lowest proportion in living memory—and the process is continuing. Last year Strathclyde Region produced a regional survey showing a job loss potential of 70,000 in manufacturing between 1976 and 1983—a constant process of de-industrialisation. Between 8th March 1976 and 31st May this year we have had 106,000 redundancies notified in Scotland. Strathclyde took out of that total almost 51,000, and with what is happening to Glenfield and Kennedy and various other employers, we are on our way to the appalling target which was mentioned by the Strathclyde Regional Council.
Unemployment and de-industrialisation are matters more worthy of a motion that the proposal to reduce the Prime Minister's salary, and would be far more pertinent and effective. However, the motion we have before us allows us to range over the Government's vices and virtues in economic and social terms, and it allows folk such as myself to pick out one redeeming feature, namely, the Prime Minister's speech to the Parliamentary Labour Party on the question of the Scottish Assembly in which, for the first time, he made a statement committing the Government almost to a vote of confidence issue on the passage of the Bill in the next Session of Parliament.
I regard that as an extremely important statement by the Prime Minister, which in itself warrants the present Government continuing in office until such time as we see whether the right hon. Gentleman and the Parliamentary Labour Party really mean it for the second time round. [Laughter.] Yes, I believe, on balance, that the devolution Bill next Session will have a far better chance of passing than many people imagine. At the end of the day, it will be passed not out of idealism or a compulsive need to honour an election pledge but out of the basic motive of political man, the need to survive. If the devolution Bill does not survive next Session, neither will the Government, and I believe that this has been borne in upon a great number of members of the Parliamentary Labour Party since February this year when the guillotine motion failed. That is why I shall vote with the Government tonight, to try to sustain them in office until we see whether, second time round, they actually do it.
It is highly important that there be a Scottish Assembly established. I believe that profound changes are going on in the government of the United Kingdom, and it would be far easier to regulate relations between the people of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom if there were an institution north of the border to do their constitutional speaking for them. For my part therefore, I am prepared, as it were, to stretch the generosity of my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Robertson) and myself right through to October or November until we see whether the Government will make it this time.
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) suggested that we might have had a better debate had it been devoted to a specific subject. There is in fact a specific subject, but that subject, the Prime Minister, is not here. It is curious that he is not here. One might say that he is escaping scot-free. I suppose that he may be recovering from the decision of the miners at Tynemouth, or he may have such disrespect for those who are criticising him today that he does not feel that he should attend.
The Prime Minister was certainly in optimistic mood in the bracing air of Aberystwyth over the weekend, and I wish to comment on his speech there. Apparently, he could see a break in the ice surrounding us and
a way out into the open waters of sustained economic growth
as he put it. He did not say who had led us into the ice-pack. Presumably, that is best forgotten.
But I do not think that the British people—including the people of Wales—will forget. The Prime Minister knows that, when the time comes, they will rightly be reminded of the facts of record inflation, disheartening taxation and deep and abiding unemployment. His main ambition now clearly is to avoid the day of reckoning. It is equally clear that he is prepared to go to any lengths to procrastinate having to present himself and his Government for the judgment of the people.
When the time comes, the people will be reminded of the Government's record. They will be reminded of the last month's unemployment figures—8·7 per cent. in Wales compared with 7·3 per cent. in the rest of Great Britain, and 9·3 per cent. in the special development areas. Those figures, like Banquo's ghost, will haunt the Prime Minister and the Government for a long time.
It is curious that in his speech the Prime Minister promised the decade of opportunity ahead not as a consequence of Government policies but as a result of the advent of oil revenues. He took an optimistic view of those revenues at £7 billion. My understanding is that the oil revenues will not produce that kind of benefit until the peak of 1985; but I suppose that anything goes at a party conference in Aberystwyth. Nor did the Prime Minister spell out the uncertainties attached to oil revenues and the dangers, especially in terms of inflation, of a rapid change in our economic prospects.
The matter that I wish to stress is that the Prime Minister's bait to the electorate is blatantly materialistic, and it will be on offer to us whether he is in office or not. The oil revenues will flow whatever party is in office. The right hon. Gentleman was not concerned only to lay bait for the electorate. He was also concerned about perpetuating the support which he receives from the Liberal Party. In this respect I thought that he revealed an astonishing readiness to sacrifice his party's principles—a readiness equalled only by the Liberal Party's willingness to compromise when and since it supported the Government in the vote of confidence some weeks ago.
The political situation has deteriorated since then. The Liberal Party and the Labour Party are less ready to face an election now than they were then and the pressure to continue the Lib-Lab pact is consequently stronger. Hence the 10 points of the Leader of the Liberal Party and the Prime Minister's crumbs of comfort to the Liberal Party in his weekend speech. They are likely to turn out to be iron rations for survival, as the Liberal Party will discover on Thursday.
Hardly any party was left without some tempting morsel in the Aberystwyth speech. Plaid Cymru must have been attracted by the remarks about decentralising nationalised industries. Even we in the Opposition are pleased by the acknowledgment of a place for Voluntary organisations in the Welfare State system. I imagine that the Left wing might have felt a twinge of delight at the promise of some degree of industrial democracy.
But where does all this party-political bartering get us? Where does it get the people of this country? Where does it get the people of Wales, the 80,000 unemployed to whom I referred, and the 50,000 to 60,000 people on the housing waiting lists?
I well remember the enthusiasm of the Secretary of State for Wales for his Welsh Development Agency when he introduced the Bill. I wonder how he feels about it now. It is said in its latest statement of policy that it is to build 3½ million square feet of factory space in the next five years. Assuming that that plan is completely successful and that all the factories built are filled, it will provide employment for about 16,000 people when we already have empty factories such as the one referred to by the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) and no fewer than 80,000 unemployed. It is estimated that over the next 10 years 180,000 jobs will be needed.
What are the Government and the WDA doing about this matter? They are turning to private industry and seeking to encourage it. I agree with that policy, but it seems to be standing some Socialist principles on their head. We understood from the Government that the salvation of this country, the answer to everything, was more and more nationalisation. Suddenly we find that they are putting their faith in the encouragement of private industry.
On 10th March last year the Welsh Grand Committee was told that the Secretary of State for Wales had secured an extra £20 million to £30 million for Welsh housing. We hear that that money has not been spent. The Government try to shift the responsibility for that on to the local authorities. But no one is completely convinced. We acknowledge the great need for housing in Wales. We have a high percentage of unfit housing. How was it that the Government did not discover until the financial year was over that the much vaunted £20 million to £30 million had not been spent? Who is at fault? I suspect that it must be the Government, and yet they have never acknowledged that fault.
What of the future? Devolution is an attempt by the Government to divert criticism to local national assemblies for the failure and inadequancies of central Government. The Government would like debates of this sort to take place in Cardiff and Edinburgh, well away from this Chamber. The people of Wales have recognised that devolution is an attempt to divert criticism from this place.
As for our attitude, we say that over the years Wales certainly has had its fair share of available resources. The provisional expenditure figures per head for 1975–76 are £732 for England, £826 for Wales and £928 for Scotland. I am not saying that we could not do with more. We can always do with more. My criticism of Plaid Cymru is that it wants the earth but will never acknowledge that what it wants must be provided by the United Kingdom Treasury. Wales does not have the resources to maintain the figure that I have quoted, let alone the expenditure to which the hon. Member for Merioneth alluded. He asks for not only an east-west road in the South, but simultaneously an east-west road in the North and a road down Mid-Wales. His party never tells us from where the money for such developments will come.
I understand that the devolution Bill, or Bills, will occupy our time again next Session. The Government are waiting for the oil to flow in sufficient quantity to enable them to bribe the electorate into giving them another five-year lease of life.
I have one further comment to make on Plaid Cymru's attitude and on the speech of the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans). He never seems to be able to accept that anyone can love Wales who is not a member of his party. He makes Welsh-speaking Wales a far smaller Wales than I know it to be. With all his talk about the Basques, the Catalans and so on, he makes Wales very small.
I remind him of that great line of Welsh poetry about
all the air things wear that built this world of Wales.
Even Welsh Wales is a much bigger world than he thinks it to be.
Indeed, we have a very sensible policy. It is a developing policy. If the hon. Gentleman cares to read our policy documents, he will see that we cherish all things Welsh quite as much as, if not more than, he does.
What really concerns me about the present position is the way that parties—especially the Labour Party—are abandoning their traditional positions on matters of principle simply to survive. In other words, principle is being sacrificed to expediency, and this cannot augur well for the future of our political life.
How we can have a Labour Party that cannot pursue Socialism and yet is content to remain in office is something that few can understand. It is only explicable in terms of a personal desire for power that is totally alien to the traditions of this country and the integrity of our party political system. But, of course, the Lib-Lab pact is only a temporary feature. It cannot last for ever—only as long as it suits the Government and until they are in a better position to win an election. How the Liberals can believe that that will be the best time for them as well I frankly do not know.
If the Labour Party were by any chance to win the next election, the Liberal Party would be in no position to restrain the onward march of the Labour Members below the Gangway. The present Prime Minister might not be leading that Government. The Labour Party might then be very differently led and committed to extreme forms of Socialism. Is that what the Liberal Party wants? Typically, the Liberal Benches are empty. Liberal Members contribute to the debate, but they are not here to listen to the speeches of others.
That, I submit, is what the Liberal Party should be considering—what it is really supporting in the long term rather than in the present. I do not think that we can have an even moderately honest and sincere Government in this country in the present circumstances—honest and sincere in the sense that it reflects broadly the wishes of the majority of people in this country. It is because the Prime Minister is at the centre of the present situation and responsible for the political bartering that is going on that I shall vote for a reduction in his salary.
I apologise to the House, and particularly to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Scottish National Party, for my absence in the early stages of the debate. This was due to a long-standing engagement in Northern Ireland combined with some delay in air communications.
The intended effect and object of the motion is to bring this Parliament to an end at the earliest possible moment. If my right hon. and hon. Friends believed that an election in the near future would be in the interest of the Province we represent, we should, of course, be supporting the motion, but we shall not be doing so because we are convinced of the opposite. In the last three months it has at last been recognised by all the parties in the House—with the negligible exception of one individual who is opposed to the parliamentary union itself—that Northern Ireland is under-represented in this House and that steps ought to be taken without delay to remedy that under representation.
Last Thursday the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland indicated in the House that the first of these steps, the establishment of a conference under the chairmanship of Mr. Speaker, was imminent and that the Government hoped to see its work commenced this month. I think that the whole House would agree that, now this decision has been taken and the steps to implement it set in train, the undertaking to the electors of Northern Ireland ought to be fulfilled with as little delay as possible.
Certainly, from the point of view of Northern Ireland, this Parliament ought, if possible, to be the last in which the under-representation is perpetuated. This obviously depends upon the period which Mr. Speaker's Conference will require for its deliberations and the further period which the Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland will need for its consequential work. But, on the most pessimistic view, these two periods together are likely to be much less than the remaining statutory life of this Parliament. You will understand, therefore, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in these circumstances, why my party is unwilling to see this work interrupted while progress is being made.
There is another consideration, which weighs heavily with us. I told the House last Thursday that my party is determined, if possible, not to see the so-called direct rule renewed in its present form. It is no secret that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, on behalf of the Government, is actively engaged in studying the next constitutional step for Northern Ireland. It would be no service to anyone except ill-wishers of the people of Northern Ireland—and I am convinced that there are very few such people in this House—if this work were at this point in time to be interrupted by the upheaval of a General Election and possibly thrown back into the melting-pot altogether in consequence.
It is for these reasons that, in pursuance of our duty to the people of Ulster, my right hon. and hon. Friends and I will not be found in the "Aye" Lobby tonight.
We have had a very thoughtful contribution from the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux). I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Government Bench will take note of what has been said and that due consideration will be given to it. In fact, the hon. Gentleman's speech, though brief, stood out from the various speeches that we have had in a debate which, as was said at an early point, has almost bordered on farce.
It is a great pity that, when we have this device to give minority parties the opportunity to have a day of parliamentary time, they should not have seized upon the opportunity to have a reasonable debate. To choose the device of seeking to reduce the Prime Minister's salary, and then to make the type of contribution that we have had from the nationalist Benches, has been a waste of parliamentary time.
It was said at the outset by the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) that this was independence day, and that it was appropriate that we should have the debate on this day. Presumably, what we have had from the two nationalist parties is their declaration of independence. Presumably they are arguing that they want independence for Scotland and for Wales.
It is very intresting to have this revelation from the three Welsh nationalists, because in the past they have denied that theirs is a separatist party which wanted to break away and to create a completely separate political and economic unit in Wales, apart from the rest of Britain. It is, indeed, very interesting to have this on the record this evening, and to find the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas), who used to shake his head in the devolution debates, now sitting quietly and listening to what has been said.
But the most disturbing factor tonight has been the references by Conservative Members to the Lib-Lab pact. This day—4th July—will be remembered as the day when we had a Tory-nationalist pact. I do not know whether it will be remembered for long. I am not sure whether that pact will survive the night or whether it will last much longer than the Division in the Lobby.
It is interesting that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor), who is an ardent anti-separatist, will lead his colleagues into the Lobby behind the two nationalist parties which have been arguing for independence and the breakup of the United Kingdom on the Floor of the House. In fact, the hon. Member for Cathcart talked about the economic situation as if it were completely and entirely the result of Government policy. He knows that that is not the case. He knows that Western Europe is passing through an economic recession. Although we have problems of unemployment and the cost of living, these problems are common to Western Europe.
In 1964, when the Labour Government came into office, they inherited a £353 million debt from the Tories. By 1970 the Labour Government had transformed that into a surplus of £733 million. That was the achievement of the previous Labour Government. Yet in four years the last Tory Government, before they tried to cut their losses and go to the country before they needed to do so, had transformed that £733 million surplus into a debt of £3,347 million. The last Tory Government left us with a balance of payments deficit of over £2,000 million a year and with record interest rates. Under this Government interest rates have come down from 15 per cent. to 8 per cent., but under the Tories we had record interest rates. We also had a 28 per cent. growth in money supply deliberately caused by the Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) talked about the Prime Minister's speech at Aberystwyth this week. He said that when offshore oil flowed it would be a bonus for the economy. He implied that it was wicked for politicians to say that this will go into manufacturing industry. But that has been part of the problem of decline in the United Kingdom as a whole. We must recognise that one of the problems that has faced this Government has been the four-fold increase in the price of oil. That means that we have had to cut back on public expenditure, and on various other things, which have been deplored more by Labour Members than by the Tories.
Whereas my colleagues have disagreed with the Government in cutting back on public expenditure, all that the Tory Opposition have said is "We want more cuts. It is not enough." Of all the cuts in public expenditure, there is only one that the Tory Opposition regret, and that is the cut in defence expenditure. They want defence expenditure increased, but they say that public expenditure in toto should be cut back.
The hon. Member for Cathcart said that there would be a Left-wing takeover of the Government. That is a joke if ever there were one. What this country has seen is a Right-wing takeover of the Tory Party. The hon. Member for Cathcart and the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards), who will be summing up the debate, are two examples. They are not just a couple of Globtik advisers but people who are in the Right-wing section of the party. We have only to remember the way in which they removed the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) from office. Now we have the present Leader of the Opposition. We saw her political Svengali last night on television trying to make political capital out of the Grunwick dispute. Now an anti-trade union campaign is being waged. One can just imagine what will happen if the Tory Party comes back into office.
The hon. Member for Cathcart rightly dubbed the two nationalist parties as being parties of all things to all men. There is no basic political philosophy with the Welsh nationalists and there is none with the Scottish nationalists.
The hon. Gentleman must give it greater meaning. Some people say that Plaid Cymru is a Socialist party. But when it tries to get Liberal and Tory votes, that is soft-pedalled. We get Margo MacDonald saying "We are a Socialist party" but then we get: the right hon. Member for Western Isles saying "We are not a Socialist party". The Scottish National Party is all things to all men and so are the Welsh nationalists. I shall be posing a question to the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Evans) as to how he will vote tonight. I shall be quoting something from what he has said.
I first come back to the right hon. Member for Western Isles. He referred to today as being the day of the American declaration of independence. The two nationalist parties equate themselves with former colonial territories and say that Scotland and Wales are colonies.
I do not look upon Wales as being a colony of the United Kingdom. We have the Prime Minister, who represents a Welsh constituency. The deputy Prime Minister represents a Welsh constituency. Mr. Speaker represents a Welsh constituency and is a Welshman and in the other place, before we abolish it, we have the Lord Chancellor, who is a Welshman, sitting on the Woolsack. In the Cabinet the Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary are of Welsh extraction. This talk of Wales being a colony is nonsense. I am pleased to see the hon. Member for Carmarthen present. The hon. Gentleman has talked about 36 countries having received independence in recent years.
Plaid Cymru does not speak of independence. It speaks of freedom, and it has its own philosophical and political reasons for doing so That has been the history of the party from its beginning.
With respect, I did not intervene. But our position is quite clear. We believe in the inter-dependence of countries within the United Kingdom and within the greater context of Europe and the Third world. In fact, we are more an inter-dependent and internationalist party than the Labour Party.
That is what this Parliament is all about. It is to maintain the inter-dependence of the British people and to deal with problems of inter-dependence whether they are in England, Wales, Scotland, Cornwall or anywhere. What is more, we must start solving them by looking at fundamental political and economic problems and not considering matters in a geographical context. Where are we to stop? If we had independence for Scotland tomorrow, we might have a sudden demand for independence for the Western Isles.
The right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) says "No". But, following the Balkanisation of Britain, we might face a demand for the Balkanisation of Scotland. If there is logic in saying that one part of a geographical area should break off from the whole, there is no reason why the part which breaks off should not itself splinter.
When the hon. Gentleman was at school in Wales, I am sure that he was asked the same question as pupils in England, Ireland and Scotland, namely: what are the British Isles? The answer was "England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales". These are the four countries. Did not the hon. Gentleman learn that in school?
I would never attempt to speak for the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain). He would be a foolish man who tried to do that. But, although we have England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, we have heard reasons put forward why they should break up politically.
Those former territories in the old British Empire, the American colonies, said "No taxation without representation". But the Scottish people, the Welsh people, the English people and people in Northern Ireland have taxation and they have representation.
I ask the right hon. Member for Western Isles why he and his colleagues did not come clean today and table a motion saying "We want an independent Scotland and we want an independent Wales", instead of tinkering about with the Prime Minister's salary. It may be that they wanted the Tories with them to give them a big vote in the Division later tonight.
My hon. Friend should not underestimate the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor). Judging from his speech and the level of hypocrisy which he reached in it, he might well have supported a motion calling for the separation of Scotland.
My hon. Friend is being a little unfair. I thought that the hon. Member for Cathcart made a very good contribution. In the course of it he accused the nationalist parties of being all things to all men. At the end, he said "Me, too". That is what the hon. Gentleman has done. He intends to go into the Division Lobby with the nationalist parties. I hope that they have an enjoyable conversation. They may discuss their tactics for the next debate on devolution.
The hon. Member for Carmarthen made a grave reference to Spain. Of course, there are differences. Just as Britain has different countries here, so they have in Spain. But what the hon. Gentleman did not say was that when General Franco was commanding in the Spanish Civil War he called himself a "nationalist" and led the Nationalists against the Republicans.
The hon. Gentleman apparently finds something odd about the word "nationalist". Is he aware that the name of James Connolly is as highly regarded in Scotland as it is in Ireland? He was a Socialist, but he found no contradiction in standing up for his own country.
That may have been James Connolly's vision. But I believe that, if the people of Southern Ireland had fought to change the economic system rather than thinking that their political and econ-mic salvation lay in dividing Ireland, with all that has followed since, it would have been far better for the people of Ireland as a whole.
The Government face a number of difficulties. We have problems of unemployment, living standards and other difficulties. But the answer to these problems lies in changing the economic system. The answer is to move to a Socialist society. I believe that those who try to suggest that the solution lies in changing geographical boundaries do a great disservice to the country.
We have heard in this debate contributions by Scottish and Welsh nationalists, but we now know that a nationalist body has been formed in England. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes. Following the split in the National Front, we now have a nationalist party here in England. It is as militantly racist as is the National Front. The leader of that new faction says that he wants to make his party in England the respectable party of English nationalism. So we shall have not only Scottish and Welsh nationalists but English nationalists, too.
We need to know whether the alliance between the nationalists and the Tories will be a permanent feature. I do not know who is to sum up for the nationalists because there has been a change in batting order. But whoever is to speak for them should say whether this is to be a permanent feature or a one-off affair for the purposes of publicity in Scotland and Wales.
The nationalists have chided the Liberals for joining with Labour to sustain the Government.
I am pleased to hear that there is to be no pact with the Tories. It is disturbing to hear the hon. Member for Carmarthen say that a Government led by the present Leader of the Opposition will give a big boost to nationalists in Wales. He has not retracted that statement. Is it a manoeuvre in order to bring about a General Election earlier rather than later? I do not think the Welsh nationalists will return to this House with a majority in Wales. I am sure that Plaid Cymru Members are wondering whether they will be back here next time. If any of them do return, I am certain that it will not be on an increased majority. Are the Welsh nationalists engineering a political crisis so that we can go to the country because they believe that they will gain some political advantage in the return of a Tory Government?
I turn to the remarks of the hon. Member for Merioneth and in this context I wish to quote the Western Mail:
Worries that Plaid Cymru is becoming too identified with the Tories in opposing Labour at Westminster have been expressed at the party's National Council. The debate focused on the vote of confidence in the Government when Plaid voted against, following the failure of the devolution guillotine motion. Some party leaders said … that this action had been used with effect by Labour in some areas during the recent county council election campaign.
I confirm that. People were annoyed that Plaid Cymru Members went into the Division lobbies with the SNP seeking to bring down the Government. Furthermore, we won three seats from the Plaid Cymru in the local elections recently. The Western Mail then quotes a candidate as saying:
There have been a number of occasions where they could have abstained. Their reasons for voting against have been genuine enough but nevertheless the impression has been created that there is a liaison.
The article concluded.
Many felt that Labour would campaign on a platform of 'Keeping Thatcher out at all costs' and try to identify Plaid Cymru as far as possible with the Conservatives.
There is no need for us to identify them with the Conservatives. They have identified themselves. The hon. Member for Cathcart has said that they intend to follow them into the Lobby. Are they to ask them to be removed? If not, they are working in collusion.
Of course we can make criticisms about public expenditure cuts. Do the Scottish and Welsh nationalist party Members stand up in the House and say that we shall be better under a Tory Government as regards public expenditure cuts? So it is crocodile tears on public expenditure cuts. If they are to engineer the return of a Tory Government, it will be public expenditure cuts with a vengeance.
The trouble with Scotland is the limited choice to which the hon. Member has just referred. It has too limited a choice between two London-ised parties. That is precisely why we are the only party that really wants an election—and the sooner the better.
When I realised that the hon. Lady had come back to the House, I reckoned that there must be a very limited choice in Scotland. The hon. Lady will witness in Scotland not only a resurgence of Labour, but the Tories will have a resurgence and the seats that the SNP won from the Tories last time may well be won back by the Tories at the next General Election.
The hon. Lady must wait. We can have only one hon. Lady interrupting at a time. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), who was a first-class Secretary of State for Scotland—even the canvassing literature of the nationalists admits that—started by quoting Robert Burns, and I think that I should finish by making a quotation from Burns:
For a' that and a' that,
It's coming yet, for a' that,
That man to man the warld o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.
It is regrettable that the Scottish nationalists, joined by the Welsh nationalists, do not seem to want us to live as brothers on this small island. That is the way backwards for the people of Britain.
I am glad that we have had this opportunity to see where we stand with nationalism. It is deplorable and regrettable that the Tory Party, seeking every device to get power, is prepared to associate itself with this mischievous motion.
The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) surprised me a little in parts of his speech. I should have thought that he had heard enough quotations from the canvassing manual of the SNP not to waste his time trying to establish whether the Scottish nationalists are Conservative, Liberal, Tory, or anything else. They are always trying to please their audience, except when they are speaking in the House of Commons.
One of the most important speeches that we have heard in this debate was also one of the shortest, and that was the speech by the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux). I am sorry that the hon. Member thinks that a General Election would put Northern Ireland's constitutional situation into the melting pot. I am sure that he knows that the Conservative Party supports, on the basis of trying to work as well as it can with the governing party, the aim of achieving a solution to Ireland's constitutional problems generally. I cannot see how the hon. Gentleman can believe that to keep this Government in office, considering all the damage that they have done to the economic prospects of people in Northern Ireland and elsewhere in the United Kingdom, can be in any way helpful to his constituents.
We had two years, from 1972 until 1974, under a Tory Government during which time absolutely no progress was made except for some ill-fated, ill-starred experiments which collapsed. But, to give the present Government their due, they are at least making progress. I have said that it does not make sense to interrupt that progress as long as it continues.
I hope that the hon. Member would agree that, although the constitutional question in Northern Ireland is important, he was sent here on wider issues than that. I am sure that the economic prospects for people in Northern Ireland are at least as important as the constitutional aspects of the Government's performance. The hon. Member's contribution was relevant to the whole debate today, particularly on devolution.
One of the problems of the way this Government are trying to tackle constitutional change in the United Kingom is that they are trying to find a solution for Northern Ireland, then they are looking at Wales and trying to find a different constitutional solution, and then looking at Scotland in a different light yet again. If we are to make any worthwhile changes in the constitution of the United Kingdom they should be based on a system that has relevance not to the separate parts of the country, but to the United Kingdom as a whole.
In opening the debate the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) said that he would speak for Scotland. I wish he had done so. The political debate in Scotland needs to move away from the sterile constitutional arguments of nationalism. These have been plaguing political debate and making it more meaningless than constructive.
The Scottish National Party is no more ready than the Government to face up to the real problems of Scotland that are crying out for the attention of hon. Members. SNP Members are only interested in nationalism and in the structure of Government. They are obsessed with constitutional change and with providing jobs for the boys—and girls—of the SNP. To achieve their personal ambitions they need to look to a new system of structure of government, because they simply cannot make the grade under the present system.
The right hon. Member for Western Isles complained at length about the social and economic problems facing Scotland. He spoke about old people, under-privileged people, lack of opportunities for school leavers, and high unemployment. He is entitled to complain about these things in the terms of his motion, but I object to the way in which he allocates blame, particularly when he talks of betrayal—a favourite word of the nationalists—because most of those complaints are about devolved subjects such as housing, education, local government and law and order.
This weekend we saw serious reports of how dangerously near the West of Scotland was coming to a total breakdown in law and order—
If the right hon. Member was interested in talking about subjects that concern the people of Scotland, he would have mentioned law and order, because that is one subject in which they are most interested.
If subjects like housing and education have been neglected, as the nationalists claim, and if there has been betrayal, this betrayal has taken place in Scotland. It has been betrayal by Scots. That is not unusual, as anyone who has studied Scottish history will know. But it is not something for which the right hon. Member can blame the English.
The right hon. Member also mentioned the latest estimates for figures of the balance of trade with England. These prove once again that England is by far Scotland's biggest and most important customer. Yet the Scottish National Party would withdraw Scottish representation from this House. The hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacCormick) was very keen on "complicity" and suggested that this was a weapon in the armoury of other parties but one that was not used by the SNP. He did not attempt to explain why the SNP runs away from any comparison with the Irish Republic. He made constant references to Scandinavian countries and other small countries in Europe, but not to the closest and most realistic example of "independence" that has ever taken place within the context of the United Kingdom. I can only assume that the facts are much too embarrassing for the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues.
The hon. Gentleman should know that one of the rules of this House is not to answer hypothetical questions. However, several Irish Members of Parliament at the European Parliament have several times said that the one mistake that they made was to withdraw their representation from this House.
I had hoped that the right hon. Member for the Western Isles would have taken this opportunity to think again about his recent reference to Scots and anti-Scots at the SNP conference in Dundee. It is bad enough to try to divide Briton against Briton—the Irish example should have taught the SNP the terrible dangers that lie ahead on that score—but it is even worse to try to divide Scot against Scot with the possible repercussions that could flow from that.
When the SNP shouts about independence, I look for evidence that a so-called independent Scotland will be more tolerant and free than or as tolerant and free as the country in which we live now, and I see no such evidence.
Not in the least. Freedom is real in Britain today. To examine the political posture of SNP Members and to inject it into the independent Scotland that they talk about is extremely difficult. Listening to their speeches and reading their letters in the Press I cannot imagine a so-called independent Scotland half as free or tolerant as the Scotland in which we live today.
I turn now to one or two reasons why, despite those remarks about the SNP, I shall support the motion tonight. I believe that even such a motley party as the SNP can occasionally say something to which it might be worth paying attention, and tonight it has done that.
The reason why I support the motion is simply that the Prime Minister has presided over a time of considerable constitutional change and, I think, damage. He has allowed party interests to become supreme to the interests of Parliament, of Cabinet Government and of the individual. This week's Second Reading debate on the European Assembly Elections Bill is the latest example of the Prime Minister's irresponsibility over constitutional matters.
The absence of proper Government support for the police doing their job at the Grunwick dispute is just another instance where the interests of the individual are totally unimportant to the Government when compared with the interests of the Labour Party. The Prime Minister has not only abdicated his responsibility for Cabinet Government: he has allowed parliamentary government to become subservient to outside bodies such as the TUC and the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party.
It is not just the Prime Minister's incompetence or his disregard for the constitution that has induced me to support this motion. It is his failure to take the one constitutional step which the country would like him to take, his cowardice in not calling a General Election and putting his Government's record to the test of public opinion. If he had the courage to do that, he would have much more claim to his office as Prime Minister and much more claim to his full salary.
The right hon. Gentleman has not even put in an appearance this evening to defend himself against the charges that have been made. It is therefore all the more important that all Opposition Members—and certainly Conservative Members—should on this one occasion this evening support the Scottish National Party.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher), I support the motion, and I shall vote for it quite happily. I do not accept the argument advanced by some hon. Members that, because the motion has been put forward by the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru, we should not support it. However bad those two parties may be, they are nothing like as bad as the Government.
This has been a very disappointing debate on the motion to reduce by half the salary of the Prime Minister. I am astonished that the right hon. Gentleman has not participated in the debate, and even more astonished that he has been absent throughout it. I have a certain respect for the Prime Minister, and I am surprised that he should show such disrespect to the House on this occasion.
I support the motion for reasons not necessarily identical to those advanced by the nationalist parties. I am surprised that more hon. Members have not discussed the United Kingdom dimension to the motion. I support the motion simply because the Government of which the Prime Minister has been head has been a bad Government, and he must take the major part of the responsibility for that. The right hon. Gentleman may argue that part of the responsibility rests with his predecessor and I would not deny that, but he has been a prominent member of the Labour Government for the last three years, so I do not think that he can avoid responsibility for the state of the country today.
The Government have been in office for three years, and by any standards they have been a bad three years, the worst three years since the war. No matter by what standards the Government's performance is measured, whether by jobs, prices, the balance of payments or economic growth, they do not have one success story. No one would deny that the Labour Party inherited difficulties when it came into office. Oil prices had quad- rupled immediately before, with the inevitable serious consequences. The Conservative Party has always recognised that, which is more than can be said of Labour's attitude to the increases in commodity prices in the last two years of the last Conservative Government. I do not deny the difficulties that the Government had when they came into office, but they encouraged a wage and salary explosion during their first 15 months of office which led to increases of 30 to 40 per cent, which led eventually to the price explosion of 1975–76.
To a large extent, most of the problems that the Government have suffered in the economic sphere since then have been due to their inadequacies at that time and to the dismantling of the incomes policy of the previous Conservative Government. Of course, in July 1975 they reintroduced an incomes policy, but had they not abandoned the policy of the previous Conservative Government, they would never have got themselves into such a serious situation. We should not have had hyperinflation, the present level of 1½ million people out of work, and our present large balance of payments deficit. We should also not have suffered from nil economic growth throughout that period. During the past three years there has been no growth in this country, which means that living standards have declined and that the social and public services are lower than they need to be.
Today we have private and public squalor and much of the responsibility for that must rest with the Labour Party. It is therefore perfectly reasonable that the Prime Minister should share in some of this private squalor by having his salary cut.
So far I have spoken about the economy. The Prime Minister can pass the buck to his predecessor to some extent in that matter, but he cannot do so with devolution or his Government's attitude to Europe. I do not wish to go into the whys and wherefores of devolution Suffice it to say that devolution was the major measure introduced by the Government in this Session of Parliament. We were assured that it would reach the statute book. Now it is as dead as a duck. We are now promised it for next year. Anyone who believes that will believe anything.
I am most concerned about the attitude of the Government to Europe. The attitude of most British Governments to Western Europe since the end of the war has left much to be desired, but the attitude of the present Government during the past three years has left most to be desired. This country entered the Common Market on 1st January 1973. We entered on terms that would have been acceptable to the previous Labour Government—if we are to accept the word of formers Ministers in that Government. In the period immediately leading up to our joining the Common Market the Labour Party changed its mind and attitude to Europe and then opposed our entry.
Then the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) thought up the idea of a referendum. So, after the 1974 election, we started the process of renegotiating our entry. That having been concluded, the referendum took place two years ago and it resulted in confirmation of our membership of the Community. In the two years that have followed the Government have done nothing to play a proper and full part in building a new Europe. Indeed, their former colleague, Roy Jenkins, made that point with some force in Glasgow at the weekend.
The Government have dragged their feet particularly over direct elections to the European Parliament. I appreciate that we shall be discussing that matter later this week.
In all the Common Market discussions and the great debate on the issue the anti-Marketeers made a great deal of the excessive bureaucracy in the Community. Those of us who supported our entry into the EEC believed that direct elections to the European Parliament would help to democratise the Community and the Commission, and to make the whole process of European decision-making more sensitive to public opinion. We also believed that, because this country had a longer experience of democracy and the workings of democratic institutions than other member countries of the EEC, we should give a lead. However, as a country we have dragged our feet.
The Prime Minister, in his present office and as Foreign Secretary, has also dragged his feet, so that we now find ourselves not giving a lead but following behind. The Bill that will provide for direct elections has just been introduced to the House, within less than a year of the date when the legislation must come into being. In my judgment, and that of most strong Europeans, we should have given a lead on this matter. On his failure on this score, if on no other the Prime Minister should be condemned. There is every justification for his salary being halved, and I shall happily vote for the motion tonight.
Before I turn to many of the points which have been raised in the debate I should like to endorse a comment made by the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Knox), who commented on the notable absence of the Prime Minister throughout the whole of today's proceedings. The Scottish people, if they were doubtful about the Government's commitment to them and needed any convincing that that commitment is less than half-hearted, will have found that absence a remarkable demonstration. I am sure that they will draw their own conclusions from the right hon. Gentleman's absence.
Instead of the Prime Minister we have been treated to an array of second-class substitutes—on both Front Benches. We have had the Westminster puppets who dance the tune for which they are paid. The Conservative Party, as the official Opposition, cannot condemn the Government outright because of the Prime Minister's failure to appear, since the Leader of the Opposition has not seen fit to appear in the Chamber either.
—has been the entirely predictable reactions of Labour and Tory Members. I feel on many occasions, when the SNP or Plaid Cymru raises any issue, that I could write the speeches of Labour and Conservative Members for them. The lack of originality in their contributions is in direct relation to the declining fortunes of their parties in Scotland and Wales.
I would never expect the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) to describe anything said by anyone in my party as original. The Opposition and the Government wish to split the friendship, respect and mutual trust of those in the nationalist parties who seek democracy for their countries. That trust of which I speak so obviously exists on these Benches. I joined the Scottish nationalist movement when listening to a speech by the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans), because I admired his integrity, his standing and his views. I have not altered my opinion in any way just because there is a different emphasis in our national outlooks.
The point that is extremely difficult for our opponents to accept is that there is an alternative dimension in British politics. They wish to continue with their monolithic parties and monolithic Stales, refusing to recognise the differences and to accept that these differences are, in themselves, worthwhile.
The Secretary of State for Wales, who refused to give way to me earlier today, should bear in mind what the Secretary of the Scottish Labour Party has recently said and then ask himself whether the Scottish National Party presents an alternative to the people of Scotland. She said on radio that what the Labour Party in Scotland must hope for, if it is to survive, was a revival of the Conservative Party.
It is much more worth while for hon. Members to address themselves to what has frequently been said by the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen), who is perhaps one of the most honest Conservatives in this House. He has said that an effective union must have the trust and support of the constituent parts of that union. Surely the very existence in this House of 14 Members from nationalist parties is an indication of the lack of trust and support of the constituent parts. The hon. Member for Oswestry has stated that the option open to Scotland is that of a separate Scottish State or the status quo. This is a view I entirely endorse.
The gesturing we have seen today makes that crystallisation of options much mere clear in terms of internal constitutional change within the United Kingdom. We in Scotland and Wales are not afraid to welcome the responsibilities, challenges and opportunities of independence, even if the Labour and Conservative Parties are afraid to do so. That is because we shall not accept the alternative option, which is the continuation of being poor regions of a declining United Kingdom.
Our movements are not unique in the modern context. There is an international trend towards recognition of small nation States, and indeed the United Nations Organisation has doubled its membership since its establishment because small countries have been recognised as nation States. I ask hon. Members who oppose what is happening in Scotland and Wales, and who oppose the democratic aspirations of those peoples, to address themselves to that fact and to question themselves when next they praise what they call freedom fighting in other countries and what they condemn in Scotland and Wales.
I turn to the official Opposition, because it was very obvious that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) had deep psychological worries about joining the Scottish National Party tonight in the Lobbies. But it should not, of course, be particularly difficult for him to rationalise his position, because he is recognised as one of the best contortionists in Scotland. As the hon. Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth (Mr. Ewing)—the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland—has said, the hon. Member for Cathcart thought of joining the SNP. It is greatly to the advantage of the SNP and a tribute to our great sense that we did not accept him as a member.
If the hon. Gentleman would care to write to my party chairman, Mr. William Wolfe, I am sure that he would be able to fetch the letters out of his file.
The hon. Member for Cathcart resorted to his usual scaremongering and presented no positive policies from the Conservative Party except the same old clichés that we have heard before—"We shall cut taxation, give freedom of choice and emphasise the individual." No definition was given. Indeed, the hon. Member was aided and abetted later in the day by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher), who used, as usual, his tactics of innuendo, allegation and hypothesis.
Of course, these people are extremely worried because the SNP has presented itself as the official opposition not only in this House but in Scotland, and because, of course, we are the only party that genuinely seeks a General Election and is genuinely trying to bring a better standard of living to the people of Scotland.
The hon. Member for Cathcart had great fun talking about a canvassing manual proposed by the SNP. Of course, in the Conservative Party in Scotland, its members do not bother producing canvassing manuals because they have no canvassers. I remind the hon. Gentleman of one of the resolutions that appeared in the Conservative Party's agenda at Perth this year. I cannot remember which constituency forwarded it, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will remember. This is an indication to hon. Members of the state that the Conservative Party in Scotland is in. The resolution read:
That this Conference believes that a Party organisation would be a good thing.
It is no wonder, indeed, that the Glasgow Herald correspondent at Perth found it necessary to take himself elsewhere to amuse himself because the discussion was on such a low level.
Of course, the Conservative Party has little cause for optimism in Scotland. One reflects on the fact that the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition is on record as saying that there is no place in British politics for a third party. How true that is in the Scottish context! The most recent opinion polls show the SNP as having 38 per cent., the Labour Party having 28 per cent. and the Conservatives all of 23 per cent. The hon. Member for Cathcart, in his new-found rôle as Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, always tries to say that in the district elections held recently in Scotland the Conservative Party experienced a great revival. That was not so, as one finds if one analyses the results in a truthful manner, because the SNP gained 38·4 per cent. of the votes cast, the Labour Party gained 338 per cent. and the Conservative Party gained 25·1 per cent. The Liberal Party, perhaps as a result of its pact, gained 1·7 per cent.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will let me complete my analysis of the district election results.
All in all, the Conservatives had a frustrating time. They achieved a minuscule improvement in their share of the vote—0·4 per cent.—but their actual vote fell by 5 per cent. In Edinburgh the Tory vote held amost static while in Glasgow it fell by 9·4 per cent. In Dundee, which was wide open for an anti-Labour swing and with no SNP challenge, the Tories could register only one gain, and failed to take overall control.
I am sure that that was because the people in Govan recognise the amazing contribution made to the Scottish economy by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Selby).
In Aberdeen they did not make a single gain. In the new towns their intervention turned out to be a very damp squib. Their only successes came as a result of split votes, where the SNP took more votes from Labour than from the Conservatives.
Despite the hon. Lady's distortions of the figures, does she accept that as a result of the municipal elections the Conservative Party now controls councils covering more than half of the Scottish population? Does she accept that in Glasgow where the SNP holds the balance, its only contribution to local government is to give a contract to direct labour over the head of a private firm and to propose the opening of a public bar in city chambers?
In those areas where the SNP already has control as opposed to being a major representative group they have shown good results in terms of administration and management of resources. The low ebb of the Tories is due to their failure on devolution.
Perhaps the hon. Member does not appreciate how much I am trying to put at rest the mind of his hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart who is so worried about how the Conservative Party are doing.
In July 1967 the Sunday Post, a well-known paper in Scotland, reported the hon. Member for Cathcart as saying,
I think it's a good thing the Scottish Nationalists are making Parliament more aware of Scottish grievances.
…I think there's something to be said for a Parliament in Edinburgh"…Scotland's too far from Whitehall where there's a tendency to view our problems as theoretical difficulties rather than something affecting five million people.
The Scottish Secretary is almost a Government in himself. Maybe that's the attraction now. He's responsible for a fantastic variety of Scottish interests, from health to fishing. Vet we can only ask him questions one day every six weeks.'
Now it is every four weeks. The hon. Member went on:
This is simply not enough to cover the tremendous amount of ground. The Scottish Grand Committee does meet every Tuesday and Thursday. But we're not allowed to ask questions then. It boils down to this—Scots don't get a fair say in the running of their country.
In May 1972 the hon. Member reaffirmed his support for a Scottish Assembly in the House of Commons. In December that year he asked the Secretary of State to provide a report on the progress towards a Scottish Assembly. In May 1974 he attacked people in the Conservative Party who were against an assembly for Scotland because it would be dominated by the Labour Party. He said:
If we have so little faith in ourselves that we believe we cannot capture the hearts and minds of the people of Scotland then we do not deserve to succeed as a party.
In October 1974, in his own constituency manifesto, the hon. Member for Cathcart said:
We will establish a Scottish Assembly to ensure that decision making is removed from London. There will be a separate Scottish Budget controlled by the Secretary of State.
Now we come to the back-track. In July 1975 the hon. Gentleman said:
Conservatives must rethink their devolution policy if an Assembly means more bureaucracy and taxation
In October 1975, speaking to his constituency association, he said
Those who claim that the setting up of the Assembly will of itself preserve the Union are living in cloud-cuckoo-land.
Then, when he joined the "Keep Britain United"campaign, this is what the hon. Gentleman said:
The time has come to speak out against the cost of an Assembly and the danger that it would lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom.
The truth is that the Conservative Party has no commitment to an elected Assembly in Scotland. There are so many different views within the Conservative Party that it has to have a variety of spokesmen on the issue. One of its Front Benchers wants a Select Committee to waste time on the issue. The hon. Member for Oswestry says that the choice is between independence and the status quo. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) wants Scottish Members of Parliament to meet in Scotland occasionally—presumably, at airports or some such place. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands wants a federal system, but he does not want it to be called a federal system in case people call him a Liberal.
So much for the Conservative Party. I turn now to the Government. In his opening speech, the Secretary of State for Scotland made some cheap remarks about the difficulties which my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. MacCormick) had in reaching this place to take part in the debate. It is all very well for those hon. Members who live in or near London and have no more than a journey on the Underground to get here; it is a very different matter when one lives in a remote area such as Argyll, where the transport problems have been totally ignored by both this Government and their predecessors.
The Secretary of State said that wages in Scotland were coming into line with those in England. That has never been denied by members of the Scottish National Party. But the right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that the best gauge of wealth is average household income. That must be the criterion used if we are to draw comparisons of that kind. In 1975 the Family Expenditure Survey showed that the Scots had 95·2 per cent. of average household income in England, 85·5 per cent. of that in the South-East, and 966 per cent. of the United Kingdom average. So there is still a gap, and we wish to see it put right.
In 1975 Regional Surveys showed that the cost of living in Scotland was 5½ per cent. higher than the average for the United Kingdom, and during that year house prices rose by twice the United Kingdom average, while food cost 5 per cent. more in Scotland and transport costs were 3 per cent. higher.
I turn now to the speech of the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan). He said that it was not the Government's fault that the devolution Bill had not been put on the statute book. I shall go into that in more detail later. If the hon. Gentleman is trying to rationalise himself out of a situation in which his own party cannot make this an issue of confidence, I find it difficult to accept that his Government cannot bear responsibility for the failure of devolution. As for the hon. Gentleman's statement that the SNP at its conference in Dundee this year suddenly announced itself as in favour of independence, I can only wonder how politically involved the hon. Gentleman has been during the past decade. I was under no illusion that I was joining a party committed to anything other than independence.
With respect—and with some envy, I should add—I must remind the hon. Lady that I have been involved in these matters for a great deal longer than she has, and I know of the permanent commitment to independence. In saying that I did, I had in mind, for example, the statements of the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Reid), who said that there was no guarantee that the SNP would any longer support a devolution Bill in the House, and, second, the decision of the conference itself, which was not to go for devolution as a first step but to go for independence only instead. That is what was new.
The purpose of the motion is to bring forward a General Election with the possibility of moving to independence that much more quickly, because Scotland can no longer afford the Westminster connection. Independence is not a luxury but an essential for Scotland.
The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West also spoke about the book entitled "Scotland 1980". He made the basic and classic error of assuming that the working assumptions of the economists were sacrosanct. One of the working assumptions was that North Sea oil would come under Scottish sovereignty with a settlement allowing 30 per cent. of the revenues to England. That is not necessarily sacrosanct. Equally it is not sacrosanct that Scotland will be an individual member of the EEC. These matters have to be decided in an independence situation.
The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), in his usual schoolmasterly way, made comments about the lack of constructive suggestions from these Benches, particularly on education. He should read the speeches made from these Benches on the subject of education, since most of the constructive suggestions made to the Government have come from us.
I refer the Secretary of State, for the umpteenth time, to the question of pupil-teacher ratios against class size and ask him to address his mind to the question of the development of composite classes. I quote to him the view of the Dundee local association of the EIS. It wishes
to make it clear that the increasing use of composite classes is a direct result of the enormous cuts in educational expenditure in the region, and is symptomatic of a serious deterioration in educational standards.
Against that background, it is not good enough to say that we have the best pupil-teacher ratios ever. On the question of colleges, we have advocated the development of in-service courses, particularly against the background of frequent
reports such as the Dunning, Munn and Pack reports. Three major reports in one year. If Scottish school teachers are to be able to participate fully in the development and implications of EEC membership in-service courses must be extended.
I have already referred in several other speeches to teacher unemployment, and I shall not bore the House with the statistics. They are recorded in Hansard. However, i should like to refer to a letter which I received today from Bob McClement, Scottish Secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters, who, I believe, is still a Labour councillor in Glasgow. Referring to the statistics which I elicited from the Government last week, he writes:
I would go as far as to say that, including teachers on pension, there are more qualified teachers in Scotland who are not employed in teaching than there are in teaching. Why, then, do we still fail to do something for the deprived areas?
On the question of unemployment, which is one of the major issues in society, the Government must stand condemned. "Back to work with Labour" was what they promised in 1974. The Conservative Party need not think that its record on this issue is particularly good. The right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) said, in his party's manifesto for Scotland in 1970:
Too many Scots have left because life seems better elsewhere. I remember coming to Glasgow after the hurricane and seeing the hardship which Socialist delays and muddles brought to the people of Scotland. That was typical of the way the Socialists have treated Scotland.
By January 1971 unemployment had increased to 113,000. That was when the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock made his classic statement. By the time that the Tory Government fell in 1974, we had a three-day week, unlit streets and un-heated workplaces. We know the record of the Labour Party in government on this issue, yet it claims to be the party which protects working people.
The Scottish National Party has made several constructive suggestions in various debates in the House in an attempt to solve the unemployment problem. They have been rejected out of hand by the Government. The Secretary of State for Scotland refused categorically to give an answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) when he challenged him on the effects of the Common Market on employment opportunities in Scotland. In the comparisons which the SNP makes with other small nations, we consider countrie swhich are not in the EEC and which manage their own resources for themselves.
Other suggestions we have made are that there should be a 10 per cent. flat rate on VAT and that small businesses should have a £15,000 annual turnover before VAT becomes applicable. We have also advocated an increased budget for the Scottish Development Agency.
Finally, and briefly—because, if the standards of today are anything to go by, I am sure that the Minister who is to close the debate will have many interesting suggestions to make to us, and I should not like to miss the opportunity of hearing yet more promises—I make passing reference to devolution.
On four occasions today during his opening speech the Secretary of State for Scotland refused to give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Reid), who wished to put a question to him on the Government's record on devolution. Since the Secretary of State refused to give way, I now put these questions to the Minister who is to reply to the debate.
If the Bill is on, in terms of devolution, why do the Government refuse to make it an issue of confidence? If, indeed, the Bill is on, why has work ceased on the High School in Edinburgh? Perhaps the refusal of the Government to give way to my hon. Friend is due to their poor record on this issue.
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who is sitting on the Front Bench smiling, said on 30th January 1975:
It is wrong to say there has been a slippage. We are bang on target, and if anything we are ahead of schedule. I see nothing to suggest we will not publish the devolution Bill by the beginning of November.
In the same interview he stood by the timetable to have the Bill on the statute book in July 1976 and first elections to the Assembly by the end of 1976 or early 1977. He said that he would allow up to six months for the transfer of powers and that the Assembly could be in operation by mid-1977.
I could go through many other points, made by such people as the previous Lord President of the Council and the previous Prime Minister, but I come back to the Prime Minister whose salary we are seeking to reduce today.