Public Expenditure Settlement

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 1:47 pm on 5 February 1997.

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Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff , Worcester 1:47, 5 February 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received about the public expenditure settlement for his Department for the financial year 1997–98; and if he will make a statement [12886]

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

The public expenditure settlement is a good deal for Scotland. We have given priority to education, law and order, health and jobs.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff , Worcester

Does my right hon. Friend understand that it is relatively easy for me to justify that good deal for Scotland to my constituents in Worcestershire so long as the Parliament of the United Kingdom retains control over that expenditure? Does he understand that it would be a great deal more difficult for me to pursue that justification with the creation of a Scottish Parliament that controlled expenditure with their own tax-raising powers, particularly if Scottish Members were still able to come here to vote on English expenditure?

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

I agree with my hon. Friend, because he is quite right. Local government expenditure in Scotland, for example, is almost £2 billion over and above the per head proportion in England. On health, the extra is £1 billion. From Scotland's point of view, having a Secretary of State in Cabinet and Members of Parliament from Scottish constituencies—who have the same status and role as hon. Members from other constituencies—undoubtedly helps us to secure a good deal for Scotland, which Labour would squander for the sake of party political advantage.

Photo of George Galloway George Galloway , Glasgow Hillhead

That depends on whether the Secretary of State is Scotland's man in the Cabinet or the Cabinet's man in Scotland. Does he have any understanding of how that "good deal for Scotland" looks on the streets of Glasgow to the 30,000 people who demonstrated there a week last Saturday? It looks like another dismal round of school closures, wind and rain coming through houses that cannot be repaired, day care centres being shut and a further spiral downward in the standard of public services in Glasgow, which is already beset by poverty and mass unemployment.

The "good deal for Scotland" that the right hon. Gentleman trumpets means more despair, more homelessness and more joblessness in the city of Glasgow. When he meets representatives of the city council next week, will he take account of the fact that everyone in Scotland—bar him and the motley crew that sit beside him on the Treasury Bench—know that Glasgow is a special case with special problems? Will he do something to help what was the second city of the Empire?

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

If I am Scotland's man in the Cabinet, the hon. Gentleman is Labour's man in Libya. Perhaps if he spent a little more time in Glasgow and a little less time elsewhere, he would know what was happening.

As for overall local government finance, I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has been reading the speeches made by the right hon. Member for Dunfermline. East (Mr. Brown), who has made it perfectly clear that a Labour Government would not increase local government expenditure in Scotland. My hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Luff) raised the issue of how Labour would put at risk the funding that we have because it would leave us impotent to argue our case at Westminster where Scotland's budget would be determined. That is the matter that the hon. Gentleman should address.

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

Were my right hon. Friend to allow local authorities to spend more money without there being an increase in income tax, surely he would have to scrap the business rate and increase other taxation or levy a tartan tax. Does he agree that the Labour party's proposals would inevitably lead to an increase in taxation in Scotland?

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend. The Labour party's agenda is perfectly clear: it is to allow councils to put up the business rate. On the basis of the limited concession announced by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), that would have meant the business rate in Glasgow going up by 20 per cent. last year, which would have destroyed jobs and businesses there.

My right hon. Friend is also right to point to the so-called independent review of local government finance which is concerned with inventing new taxes. Indeed, in Edinburgh the Labour leader suggested a bed, or tourist, tax. Labour would therefore introduce a trade tax, a tartan tax and a tourist tax, all of which would destroy jobs and Scotland's competitiveness.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

The Secretary of State has committed himself to £860,000 of expenditure to advertise nursery vouchers. Given the number of parents at whom it will be directed in Scotland, as compared to England, how does he explain—especially in the run-up to an election—why it costs so much more pro rata to run the campaign in Scotland? What answer will he give to the parents who see the £1,100 voucher waved before their eyes but who will find no outlet at which to cash it?

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

The hon. Gentleman calls himself a Liberal; for a Liberal to stand up in the Chamber and denounce a scheme that will allow parents to choose the provision for their children says a great deal about what has happened to the Liberal party in Scotland. As for the success of the scheme, why does not the hon. Gentleman take up the invitation issued by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), who asked him to come and see the success of the pilot scheme? Ninety-seven per cent. of parents have taken up the vouchers, and more places are being provided by the private sector, but where is the biggest increase in the number of nursery places being provided as a result of the voucher system? In local government, which is able to take advantage of the extra resources that we are making available for children.

On the cost of advertising, I am not responsible for the rates charged by the media in Scotland; I am responsible for ensuring that parents know what the Government are offering, and I hope that everyone in Scotland will know that the Liberal party wishes to take it away.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Administration Committee

It is all very well to attack Glasgow, but it spends money on providing services such as home help. Home helps are the unsung heroes in our communities, and cuts will mean that the elderly and disabled will be denied the services they need, which, in turn, will mean more pressure on carers. Will the Secretary of State face the fact that Glasgow is indeed a special case? It provides work not only for the people who live in the city, but for those in areas such as Eastwood where the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) comes from. Is it not a fact that the Secretary of State's cuts will mean unemployment throughout the west of Scotland?

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

There have been no cuts in Glasgow. Glasgow has had an increase in its spending. The hon. Gentleman talks about cutting back on home helps. Why does he not read the Glasgow Evening Times—not a newspaper that I regard as particularly favourable to the Government—and its examples of waste in Glasgow? It cites the fleets of limousines and the £500,000 that was to be spent on celebrating the centenary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, pouring red dye into the Clyde. Those are not the priorities of people who put services first. The hon. Gentleman should have a word with his colleagues who are responsible for Glasgow. They are now fighting among themselves like ferrets in a sack instead of looking after the interests of the people they were elected to serve.

Photo of Mr Ian Bruce Mr Ian Bruce , South Dorset

Will my right hon. Friend suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that a good wheeze to raise more taxes would be to say that we shall not put up income tax for anybody in the United Kingdom Parliament, but take an extra 3p on income tax in a Scottish Parliament? Would that not be one way for the Labour party to bamboozle the people of Scotland, to get votes up there without telling people that they are about to get a 3p increase on their income tax?

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

I am not sure whether my hon. Friend is aware that some people in England will have to pay the tartan tax—people on the payrolls of Scottish companies. That is another reason why the tartan tax would be damaging to Scotland's interests.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

I commiserate with the Secretary of State on the demise of his argument that Scotland is a subsidised nation. Has not the admission by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on 13 January that Scotland has generated an absolute surplus of £27 billion since 1979 blown a black hole in the Secretary of State's argument, particularly given the Scottish Office's assumption that there will be another £12.5 billion over the next five years? Is not the reality that the subsidy junkies in the United Kingdom sit on the green Benches behind the Secretary of State—people who are so anxious to hang on to Scotland that they turn up here on a monthly basis and ask foolish planted questions?

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

The hon. Gentleman lives in a dream world of his own. I set out the position clearly on the extraordinary paste-up job he did on the answers given by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary. I clearly pointed out that Scotland would have a substantial £6.1 billion deficit. The hon. Gentleman goes around Scotland promising everything to everyone, but has no means by which to deliver his promises. With his slogan, "Independence in Europe", the hon. Gentleman, more than any other hon. Member, would surrender most of Scotland's sovereignty to Brussels. That is the reality. The people of Scotland will not vote for people such as him, who want to give their country away.

Photo of Mr Norman Hogg Mr Norman Hogg , Cumbernauld and Kilsyth

When the Secretary of State has calmed down and recovered his equilibrium, will he tell the House whether he is satisfied with the decision of his Minister of State to spend £150 million driving a motorway through the urban area of my constituency? Is he aware that the decision has been met with widespread disapproval in Cumbernauld and Kilsyth? In those circumstances, and having regard to the fact that not a single elected member of North Lanarkshire council or the previous authorities—Strathclyde regional council and Cumbernauld and Kilsyth district council—favoured that option, will he call a public inquiry?

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will fight strongly for his constituents. I understand that such a major project will cause concern and difficulties wherever it is sited. There were two possible lines of route, as the hon. Gentleman knows. I imagine that the relief in one area will be matched by disappointment in another. We had to take a decision in the national interest of Scotland. Of course I shall be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss any particular concerns of his.