I shall deal first with the first complaint of the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan), which was about the timing of this debate. This is the second year in succession in which the Government have provided time before 10 o'clock for a debate on the Scottish rate support grant settlement. That contrasts with what happened when the right hon. Gentleman was Secretary of State. The debate on the 1977 order started at 11.40 pm on 22 December 1976. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen), who rose to speak today at 9.31 pm, will remember that in 1978 he started speaking at eight minutes past 12 midday on a Friday. The House should accept that we have provided a reasonable time for this debate.
Certain Opposition Members give one the impression that restraint in local government expenditure is a new concept. My hon. Friends the Members for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker) and for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram) have both pointed out that the hon. Member for Maryhill and his colleagues took a similar line when they were in Government. The right hon. Gentleman told the House at that time:
there are not many people in the country—and certainly not in local government, who believe that the way out of our current difficulties is by reflation through increasing public expenditure."—[Official Report, 15 December 1976; Vol. 922, c. 1127.]
It was the right hon. Gentleman who pointed out that his Government's White Paper stated that
the substantial rate of expansion in recent years in local authority manpower and in local spending could not continue, and that any increases in individual services had to be offset by reduced levels of provision in other services."—[Official Report, 22 December 1976; Vol. 923. c. 850.]