HC Deb 09 April 1963 vol 675 cc1085-7
Q1. Mr. Manuel

asked the Prime Minister, in view of the evidence in his possession of high and persistent unemployment in many areas throughout Scotland, what long-term proposals he now has to bring employment to these areas.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

Important new measures of assistance to development districts were announced last week. They supplement a substantial expansion of public expenditure in Scotland, which has already been set in train.

Mr. Manuel

In the context of long-term proposals, will the right hon. Gentleman recognise that it is very unlikely in certain regions in Scotland that even the greater incentives contained in the Budget proposals will attract private enterprise? If that is so, will he promise that, in such areas, he will quite deliberately advise the Government to sponsor Government-owned factories in order to avoid further decay and depopulation?

The Prime Minister

That is another question. I will remind the hon. Gentleman of some of the things already announced. There is the new capital expenditure of some £20 million I hope to get a decision on the power station, which will cost £90 million, very shortly. Large sums are being provided for the pulp and paper mill in the Highlands, and five more advance factories are being built. Increased grants are being made for the clearance and rehabilitation of derelict sites, and there are to be standard grants for buildings, plant and machinery in development districts as well as free depreciation. As and when future decisions are taken they will be announced.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is great anxiety in Scotland about whether the new power station will burn coal or oil, for 10,000 jobs and a great deal of the future economy of Scotland depend on it? Will he see that the decision is expedited?

The Prime Minister

We must wait for the full technical advice. This is a very large sum of Government money. The possibility of using coal is being taken into account with the other factors involved. The suggestion that it should be coal-burning is being studied as a very important factor.

Mr. Callaghan

The Question also referred to long-term solutions. Can the right hon. Gentleman say what these very welcome developments—belated as they are—will mean in terms of employment? To what level does he expect Scottish unemployment to be reduced as a result of these proposals?

The Prime Minister

I think that it is more important to get on with the proposals than to speculate about results.

Q2. Mr. Dempsey

asked the Prime Minister what was his reply to the letter, which has been sent to him, containing the resolution unanimously adopted at a rally held in Coatbridge, about the unemployment problem in Scotland and North Lanarkshire; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

I have acknowledged this letter. The resolution urged the expansion of public investment and the development of new industries in areas of heavy unemployment. Both these matters have been covered by the recent announcements of some £20 million of new capital investment in Scotland and by the far-reaching proposals contained in my right hon. Friend's Budget Statement to which I referred in the previous Question.

Mr. Dempsey

Is the Prime Minister aware that that will hardly retain the jobs which are running out in Scotland, far less tackle the onerous problem of unemployment? Does he not realise that in the Coatbridge area more than 10.6 per cent. of the insurable workers are unemployed and that last summer there were 33 school leavers for every vacancy? Is he not aware that something must be done by his Ministers to prevent this situation from deteriorating rapidly?

The Prime Minister

An advance factory was built in the Coatbridge area a year or two ago and five more factories are being constructed within the travel-to-work range of the hon. Member's constituency.

Mr. Ross

Is the Prime Minister aware that if he wants us to take him seriously when he speaks of the long-term allocation of industry in Scotland he will need to take the axe to the Beeching Plan, because otherwise there will not be the right type of transport for industries in the places in the Highlands and in the South which badly need industries?

The Prime Minister

That is quite a different question, but all those matters are under consideration.

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