§ 33. Mr. Willis
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is satisfied with the existing arrangements for the Scottish Economic Planning Council to consider at short notice developments, particularly those involving prospective closures and redundancies; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Ross
The Scottish Economic Planning Council's terms of reference make it clear that its primary function is to advise me on the formulation and implementation of plans for the Scottish economy. In exercising this rôle it can and does advise me on the implications of industrial change. This does not, however, require it to become involved in the specific details of the affairs of individual firms.
§ Mr. Willis
Will my right hon. Friend consider whether there is a case for extending the functions of the council to include being able to meet and to offer assistance concerning sudden changes not simply of single firms but groups of firms and industries?
§ Mr. Ross
I can assure my right hon. Friend that the council can meet urgently where necessary. I can think of one case recently when it did so. But it would be wrong to expect or to think that it ought to take over the executive functions of the Government or of other institutions that have been established by the Government.
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell
Has the Secretary of State seriously considered the possibility of appointing a chairman of the council, because the right hon. Gentleman is obviously involved in so much else? This would enable the council to be much more active than at present.
§ Mr. Ross
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the council is very active indeed. I have a very good understudy in the vice-chairman, Mr. George Middleton, who is pretty well known in Scotland as the former General Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Council. I do not think that is a problem. I understand that the council's members value the fact that when they are giving advice to the Secretary of State they are 1452 giving it directly to him when he is in the chair.