HC Deb 26 June 1962 vol 661 cc952-3
Q3. Sir D. Robertson

asked the Prime Minister if he is aware of Scotland's unsatisfactory economic situation which has resulted in unemployment, emigration, depopulation, maldistribution of the population, and the misuse of land and resources; and if he will now set up a Scottish development authority with similar powers to those in Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister

I am aware that considerable efforts are still required to build up the right balance of production in the Scottish economy, and this remains a fundamental objective of Government policy. I am not, however, satisfied that a new agency—even if its powers, functions and responsibilities to Ministers and Parliament could be suitably defined—is the proper or necessary instrument to secure this.

Sir D. Robertson

Does the Prime Minister realise that the only times in this century when Scotland enjoyed full employment were during the First and Second World Wars and for short periods thereafter? Is he aware that this situation has become chronic and that unless some step is taken quickly to remedy it very serious unemployment will ensue?

The Prime Minister

We are aware of that and we are trying to take steps. I am answering a particular Question whether setting up the agency which the hon. Member has in mind would be a useful instrument, and I cannot honestly say, with some experience of Government, that I think it would be.

Mr. Grimond

If the Prime Minister is unwilling to set up an agency of this sort for the whole of Scotland, necessary though that seems to be, may I ask whether he will consider combining bodies which deal with these matters in the Highland area into a Highland development authority?

The Prime Minister

I will consider that.

Sir J. Duncan

Is my right hon. Friend aware that although there is a lot more to be done in Scotland, this picture of gloom and despair is not a true picture of Scotland today, and that if this sort of picture were publicised abroad it would discourage anybody from providing employment in Scotland?

The Prime Minister

That is of the very greatest importance, and I would point out that while we should like to see lower figures of unemployment in certain areas, particularly in Scotland. compared with those in some of the great countries of the world these are still very low figures.

Mr. G. Brown

Is the Prime Minister aware that his original Answer to the Question is completely at variance with the statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade as recently as last Friday to the Scottish Council of Industry, when the hon. Gentleman said that there were no problems in Scotland and no special help was required to overcome problems? Would the right hon. Gentleman have a word with his hon. Friend and get the respective replies into line?

The Prime Minister

I think that it is all right because the Board of Trade gave me the Answer.