Orders of the Day — Scottish Development Agency Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:52 pm on 29th October 1987.

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Photo of Jimmy Hood Jimmy Hood , Clydesdale 7:52 pm, 29th October 1987

I came into the House half way through the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn). The good news was that I was late; the bad news was that I had to listen to the other half of his speech. I was reminded of what I said during my maiden speech: that we should savour such moments as when the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross addresses the House. I said also in my maiden speech that at the next general election the Scottish Tory will be no more. I made that forecast on 8 July, at three minutes past eight in the evening. The speeches I have heard so far from colleagues of Scottish Ministers with constituencies south of the border will certainly add to the demise of the Tory party in Scotland.

It is interesting that I should be following the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood). I have nothing against him personally, but when my little daughter went through my diary and found that I intended to speak on the Scottish Development Agency—she is eight years old in December — she said, "Father, I'm beginning to worry a bit about you since you've gone down to that place. What are you doing discussing the Severely Divided Alliance?" I said to her, "It's not that at all, my young, little, loving daughter. You know that your father would not engage himself in such indulgence." She had been looking through "Dod's Parliamentary Companion" and had found that the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mrs. Barnes) and I have two things in common: first, that we are not over-impressed with the present leader of the Social Democratic party, the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) and, secondly, that we share the same birthday. I am not giving any prizes to hon. Members who guess which one is two years younger. I assure all hon. Members, and my little eight-year-old daughter, that this is where the resemblance finishes.

I watched the Front Bench, and in particular the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) listening to the speeches of the hon. Members for Darlington (Mr. Fallon) and for Stockport (Mr. Favell). I saw the Minister's split personality; part of him wished he was saying those things —he certainly supports that type of nonsensical philosophy — and part of him was embarrassed, as indeed he should be.

It is regrettable that the Government ran away, as they have done on so many occasions, from the real problems of the Scottish economy. One may ask why they ran and the answer is that the Tory Government are the cause of the rundown of the Scottish economy. When I hear the nonsense from Conservative Members about how well off we are in Scotland, it is clear that they do not see the misery and the deprivation that exists in my constituency, which is no different, and in some cases, not as bad as other constituencies in Scotland. I am sure that the old-age pensioners who have spent years on waiting lists for hip operations, the kids of 19 or 20 who have left school and have no jobs and the people who have been subjected, as they have all over the country, to rising crime rates, will be interested to hear such speeches from Conservative Members, telling us how well we are doing in Scotland. That is absolute nonsense.

This Government have devastated Scotland's industrial base. They have destroyed the coal and steel industries, the fishing and shipbuilding industries. My constituency is in a large rural area destroyed by rural deprivation, by the cuts in the public transport system, the post office and school closures. This Government have destroyed community life as we know it.

Not satisfied with their sadistic monetarist dogma, their continual obsession is to take away from a community education and health services that are based on the needs of the community and replace them with education and health services that provide for the needs of those who can pay for them. That is a nonsensical and indeed a disgraceful state of affairs. As I said to the Government last week, "Shame on you," because we could be discussing Scottish industry in more detail today if we had been allowed to continue last week's debate.

When I saw the hon. Member for Stirling rise to the Dispatch Box to make his first speech and move the closure I was upset, to say the least, because it was the same hon. Member who not only hid from the real debate last week—that was bad enough—but who was sitting on the SHARPEN report. Hon. Members may now be aware of that report. I received a late copy, which the hon. Member for Stirling was keeping from the House, and from the Scottish health boards and the health councils. Had it not been for my intervention last week, the Sharpen report — the "Scottish Health Authorities' Review of Priorities into the Eighties and Nineties" would still be under wraps.

There are 11 hospitals and four health centres in my constituency, all of which provide health care for a wide population. In employment and health care terms, we need direct investment from the Government and indirect investment from the SDA. The House can imagine my anxiety and anger on discovering that not only were the Government refusing to answer the needs of my constituency, but they were secretly planning to destroy the Health Service in Scotland. Their proposals would affect my constituency more than most.

The report recommends that expenditure on the mentally ill and mentally handicapped should be reduced. It also proposes the amalgamation of maternity units in general hospitals which have fewer than 1,500 deliveries a year. That proposal would immediately threaten with closure or partial closure the William Smellie Memorial hospital in Lanark and the Motherwell maternity hospital. The report recommends a programme of fostering the elderly and other groups in the community. Last week, I described that as the Tories' "Foster-a-granny programme". Instead of providing proper health care for the elderly, we have the obnoxious prospect of foster parents for grannies. It is outrageous, and I look forward to the day when we can debate it more fully.

The Government's proposals for the Scottish Health Service must not be carried out. I accuse the Government of duplicity in their attempt to keep the report secret. I believe that they intended to present the report in legislation as a fait accompli. I assure hon. Members that the Scottish people and Labour Members will oppose this iniquitious report and expose it for what it is: another disgraceful piece of the Prime Minister's experimental, dogmatic monetarism, with no regard for the health care of the poor and sick.

The speeches that we have heard from Conservative Members tonight provide a good argument for devolution. But the Ministers here tonight are the lackeys of the people who make the decisions, and the Prime Minister has more in common with those who are attacking Scotland than anyone else. I look forward to hearing the Minister's reply to the debate and I hope that the day will come when we hear from some of those—I understand that there are one or two on the Government Benches— who care a little bit about Scotland, even if only through self-interest. As I said the other night to the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross, and the others who make up the 10 Tories out of the 72 Scottish Members, if the Government do not respond to the needs of the Scottish people, the Scottish Tory will disappear after the next general election.