§ 13 Mr. Adam Hunter
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what consequential responsibilities have fallen upon him as a result of the setting up of the new Department of Energy.
§ 15 Mr. MacArthur
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about the organisation of responsibilities within the Scottish Office for offshore oil development.
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell
The Department of Energy has functions previously exercised by the Department of Trade and Industry, and the responsibilities of the Scottish Office are unchanged. In 1641 particular the responsibility for electricity in Scotland remain with the Scottish Office and my noble Friend's special rôle in oil developments affecting Scotland continues as before, including his chairmanship of the Oil Development Council for Scotland.
The interdepartmental task force established last year under Scottish Office leadership will continue to co-ordinate and propose action on oil development matters affecting Scotland, assisted by the North Sea Oil Support Group of the Scottish Economic Planning Department.
§ Mr. Hunter
Is the Secretary of State aware that many Labour Members feel that a Minister separate from the Department of Energy should have been established in Scotland to deal exclusively with energy as a whole? Is he further aware that coal is no longer the Cinderella of the energy fuels and that my requests, made in the past, for an energy commission for Scotland were not misplaced? Will he ensure that in his dealing with the new Department of Energy the need for a full investigation into coal resources in Scotland will be stressed, and that once and for all we can scotch the idea that Scotland has not a large quantity of workable coal reserves?
§ Mr. Campbell
I note what the hon. Gentleman said about coal reserves. Coal, both in Scotland and in England, was under the Department of Trade and Industry and is now under the new Department of Energy. I note the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that one of the Ministers from the Department of Energy might have been permanently in Scotland. But an alternative view is that one of the Scottish Office Ministers should have special responsibility for North Sea oil and other matters that go with it, including infrastructure. That is the situation we have at present.
§ Mr. MacArthur
Although it is only two and a half years since oil was discovered in commercial quantities in the North Sea, will the Secretary of State make certain that the necessary infrastructure will be ready to meet the heavy demands in the years ahead?
§ Mr. Campbell
Yes, we have a special housing operation in the North of Scotland, which was launched some time ago. It includes over 3,500 houses to be built 1642 by the Scottish Special Housing Association. There are also special road programmes, which will be unaffected by reductions in public expenditure.
§ Mr. Maclennan
In respect of the Secretary of State's own planning responsibilities and further to the decision by the Chicago Bridge Company on the Dunnet Bay proposal—which he continues to insist is not his fault, but as a result of which Scotland lost 700 jobs—is he pretending that the geophysical difficulties were incapable of being overcome? In fact, is it not the position that had he not attached restrictive conditions to the grant of planning permission, which prevented the company from continuing on the site, this project could have gone ahead? Is he not aware that a "Government of businessmen" as they like to describe themselves, cannot be taken seriously when they refer these matters—as did the Secretary of State when I brought the dangers in this particular case to his attention—to some junior officials in the Scottish Economic Planning Department and the Offshore Supplies Office? Are not 700 jobs worth the attention of a member of the Cabinet?
§ Mr. Campbell
The hon. Gentleman has completely misunderstood the situation. He is not taking any notice of what the company itself said. The company did not speak of "geophysical difficulties". It said that the geophysical situation was better at the alternative site, since it enabled it to build the platform a year earlier than would have been the case at Dunnet Bay. I was as disappointed as those in Caithness that three months after planning permission had been granted the company should have taken this decision. On the question of platform building as a whole, there are nine sites in Scotland which have planning clearance for platforms to be built and four of them are being used, but in no case has there been any delay in planning procedure which has affected the work.
§ Mr. Millan
Is it not clear that the Secretary of State for Energy was appointed by the Prime Minister without taking account of Lord Polwarth's position? Perhaps he had forgotten that Lord Polwarth was actually there. What is the noble Lord meant to be doing now? Is 1643 there not a danger that the new Department will usurp the responsibilities that the Secretary of State still has in Scotland—for example, in the planning of sites for concrete production platforms?
§ Mr. Campbell
The hon. Gentleman could not be more wrong. Because Lord Polwarth was already doing the job, with the special responsibility that he was given last year by the Prime Minister, there was no need to make any change and there has been no change. The hon. Gentleman could not have been listening. There has been no change in the special responsibility that Lord Polwarth holds for dealing with North Sea oil matters affecting Scotland. As I said in my original reply, the Department of Energy is taking its functions from the Department of Trade and Industry. The functions of the Scottish Office, including the rôle of the Minister of State, are completely unchanged. We will help the new Department and the Secretary of State for Energy to get on with, among other things, the urgent job of obtaining North Sea oil.