Weather Damage (Scotland)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:36 pm on 4th February 1982.

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Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden 10:36 pm, 4th February 1982

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Hogg) on raising this important issue on the Adjounment debate. There has been great doubt about the situation and a great deal of genuine anxiety. My hon. Friend was justified in every way in applying for an Adjournment debate to discuss the matter.

I am sorry that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind), is not present. It seems that he has preferred the BBC's hospitality to his place at the Dispatch Box when a matter directly within his responsibility is being discussed. I offer my congratulations to the hon. Member for Fife, East (Mr. Henderson), who is the only Tory Back Bencher apart from the PPS, the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay), who has seen fit to grace the Government Benches while this matter is before the House.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East is right to raise this issue because local authorities in Scotland are facing an unprecedented disaster. Glasgow alone may be facing a repair bill of £25 million to £30 million in a year when the city's total capital budget may be as little as £50 million because of the Secretary of State's financial policies. Renfrew has more than 16,000 damaged houses and Edinburgh estimates its loss at over £1.6 million. It is clear that there has been a catastrophe. What is anything but clear is the help that the Government are prepared to give.

I have no doubt that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher), will talk about precedent, but precedent can be broken when the situation demands it, and the scale of the disaster is without precedent. It is suggested that local authorities should be insured and that if they are not they must take the consequences. I am assured that insurance for large authorities such as Glasgow, Edinburgh or Renfrew is not a practical option. Ministers must know that it is essential that there should be a sympathetic and flexible approach.