HC Deb 26 February 1958 vol 583 cc350-1
14. Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

asked the Minister of Labour the latest total figure and percentage of unemployment in the Stornoway area; the chief causes of this unemployment; and what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking to deal with it as a matter of increasing urgency.

Mr. Iain Macleod

On 13th January, 1958, 1,549 people were unemployed, and the percentage rate was 30.5. There are few industries providing employment all the year round, and the situation has been aggravated in recent months by bad weather and other seasonal factors. I would be glad to discuss the fostering of local activities with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and the President of the Board of Trade.

Mr. MacMillan

I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his offer to discuss these local matters with the Secretary of State for Scotland. May I draw his attention particularly to the facts that this employment exchange covers only part of the Outer Hebrides, that most of the unemployed are men and that unemployment is becoming serious in the one manufacturing industry in the area, that of Harris tweed? Is he aware that the weavers, not being Class I insured persons, do not appear on the register at all and therefore unemployment may be much worse in this area than is reflected by the register? Will not the right hon. Gentleman consider it a matter or urgency to apply in the short-term what he would do nationally in an unemployment situation like this, that is to say, introduce public work schemes and things of that kind?

Mr. Macleod

As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is no area in the whole country that I would rather help than Stornoway. It has a higher unemployed register than any area of comparable population in Great Britain. Though these figures sound, and are indeed, alarming they are not much higher than for many years past. What the hon. Gentleman says about Harris tweed is true. The decline is largely due to a falling-off of orders from the United States of America. I will look at what he has said in the rest of his supplementary question and see whether I can help.

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