Royal High School, Edinburgh

Message from the Queen – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th March 1979.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne 12:00 am, 14th March 1979

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the current rateable value of the Assembly building in Edinburgh.

Photo of Mr Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Stirling Falkirk and Grangemouth

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer which my right hon. Friend gave him on 8 March.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

As £2·75 million has already been spent on the construction and fitting-out work of the Assembly building, and as it is contemplated that another £1 million will be spent on it, is it not clear that the rateable value will be very high? Will the Minister tell the House what proposals he has to dispose of the building now that it is clear that no Assemblymen will ever sit in it?

Photo of Mr Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Stirling Falkirk and Grangemouth

As my right hon. Friend explained, Crown property does not have a rateable value. The hon. Gentleman has obviously not read the answer that he received. An arrangement is reached between the Treasury valuer and the local authority assessor, an ex gratia payment is made from one authority to the other and subsequently a valuation appears on the valuation roll.

As regards the disposal of the Royal high school, I am astonished that the hon. Gentleman, of all people, should wish to pre-empt a decision of the House of Commons on the future of the Scotland Act by talking in this way.

Photo of Mr Jim Sillars Mr Jim Sillars , Ayrshire South

Is not the reason for the question mark over the Assembly being filled that the Cabinet has a difficulty in that it is afraid to table the Assembly motion as a vote of confidence because about 40 Labour Back Benchers would rather bring down the Government than honour the fact that the"Yes"side won in the referendum?

Photo of Mr Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Stirling Falkirk and Grangemouth

I think that it is true to say that all Cabinets have difficulties of one kind or another. I am sure that the present Cabinet is no exception.

As I said when I appeared on radio with my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars), I am astonished at his new-found enthusiasm for a measure which caused him to leave our ranks. However, I pay tribute to the loyal support that I have received from those of my hon. Friends who support devolution. No doubt the Government will come to a decision on this matter at some subsequent date.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Aberdeen North

In any advice which my hon. Friend gives to the Cabinet, will he take into account the very large number of Scottish people who voted"No "? Will he further take into account the deliberate attempt by the Scottish National Party and my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) to depress the"No"vote by saying that if people did not vote they would be counted as having voted"No "? Should we not perhaps for once take them at their word?

Photo of Mr Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Stirling Falkirk and Grangemouth

On the question of people who did not vote being counted as having voted"No ", I understand that the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) did not vote because of some error or mistake on her part. I should hesitate to hazard a guess that she intended to vote"No ". No doubt my right hon. Friends in the Cabinet will take into account everything said by my hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr Douglas Henderson Mr Douglas Henderson , Aberdeenshire East

Is it not presumptuous of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) to talk about people voting"No ", when he does net have a vote in Scotland?

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. Will the hon. Gentleman wait until after Question Time?

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Aberdeen North

No, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) is wrong. I have a vote. I voted"No ". Therefore, I should be glad if the hon. Gentleman would withdraw the statement that he made.

Photo of Mr Douglas Henderson Mr Douglas Henderson , Aberdeenshire East

Mr. Speaker, it will give me great pleasure, if I have been misinformed, to withdraw the comment that I made. It would give me even greater pleasure if the hon. Gentleman—

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. The hon. Gentleman has said enough. He has withdrawn his comment.

Photo of Mr Alexander Fletcher Mr Alexander Fletcher , Edinburgh North

How can the Minister justify further expenditure on the proposed Assembly building? Whatever the future for devolution, Ministers have no authority to assume that, for example, the 158 closed-circuit television sets at present being installed at a reported cost of £250,000 will ever be required. [HON. MEMBERS:"Reading."] Is the Minister aware that his dogged determination to spend more money on this building might be admirable if he were using his own money, but that this expenditure is a flagrant misuse of public funds?

Photo of Mr Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Stirling Falkirk and Grangemouth

My hon. Friends indicated that the hon. Gentleman was reading. If so, he did not read very well. The contracted expenditure will take place, because contracts are contracts, but no further contracts will be placed for the balance of the expenditure—in other words, the difference between the £3·75 million which was allowed for by the House of Commons and, not the £2·75 million mentioned by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), but the £2·68 million which has already been spent.