Orders of the Day — Scottish Development Agency Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:50 am on 21st October 1987.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes , Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley 2:50 am, 21st October 1987

No, but there were enough memoirs to last us a lifetime.

Whatever slogans the minority parties may utter and however trivial they may be, we shall continue to accept that they have the right to participate in these debates and to argue, on a procedural motion, that time ought to be given to the minority parties to argue their case.

Furthermore, it is usual for the Second Reading of Bills to start at 3.30 in the afternoon and to continue until 10 o'clock. That means that six and a half hours are provided for such debates. However, well before half of that time had been reached tonight the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Lang), not realising the procedure, the protocol and the conventions of the House, tried to move the closure of the debate. However, it was pointed out to him that it was not right for him to do so.

I hope that the House will not agree to the illegitimate curtailment of the Second Reading of this Bill. It is not automatic for such motions to be agreed to. Hon. Members will have to decide which way to vote when we reach that point.

The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) referred to the need for a Scottish assembly. The need for this motion would never have arisen if the Government had not repealed the Scotland Act 1978. It was not incumbent on the Government to repeal it. They did not have to repeal that Act. The assembly could have been set up and it could now be meeting in Edinburgh. We certainly would work more sensible hours and we would have more time to discuss matters such as the SDA. We could discuss the workings, plans and development of it and we would be able to argue on behalf of our constituencies, including Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley. That is one reason for the frustrations that we have experienced tonight.

The fourth issue that I should like to raise relates to areas not having their views expressed, and it is another reason for voting against the motion. I should explain this point to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, as you represent an English constituency. My hon Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) represents a distinct area of Scotland that experiences many different problems. He might want to talk about the integrated development programme that the EEC is no longer continuing or about other matters concerning the Western Isles. The hon Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) represents an area with its own particular problems, but we have not heard anything about that region. I do not think we heard in the substantive debate from any representative from the Borders. That is a huge regional area of Scotland, yet we did not hear from one of its representatives. Nor did we hear from any representative of the huge Grampian region. We heard from two hon Members from the rural Tayside area but from nobody from Dundee, which is a vital part of Scotland. As my hon Friend the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) pointed out in an intervention, no one from the Central region participated in the substantive debate. Vast areas of Strathclyde, including Ayrshire and particularly Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, did not have an opportunity to have their views heard.

Ironically the region that was given a lot of time for its Members of Parliament to speak was Dumfries and Galloway. Neither Member made a very good fist of speaking. One was hampered by the fact that he is a Government Minister, and the other was hampered. If the Minister did not represent Galloway and Upper Nithsdale, he would have been able to point out that Sanquitar, which is part of his constituency, shares with Cumnock the highest level of unemployment in Scotland. If I had been able to speak on the substantive motion, I could have argued the case for Sanquitar, and I am sure that the Minister would have appreciated that.

My fifth point was made by one of my colleagues earlier and I should like to underline it. My hon Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) made one of the best Front Bench speeches that I have heard since the recess. If the Minister does not have an opportunity to reply to the debate, all of us will have an inkling of a feeling that perhaps he wants to dodge the questions that have been raised, particularly by my hon Friend the Member for Garscadden.

My sixth point concerns the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy), who talked about the EC structural fund. I understand that soon the report will be considered by the Council of Ministers. Because 80 per cent. of the regional fund will be concentrated on Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy and Ireland, the remaining small proportion will have to be divided between the rest of the Community. That means that funds for the United Kingdom, particularly Scotland, will be cut and fewer areas will be eligible for regional aid. That is serious.