§ 53. Mr. Wolrige-Gordon
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what has been the effect of the Selective Employment Tax on the Highlands and on the North-East of Scotland.
§ Mr. Baker
Would the right hon. Gentleman ally the North-East of Scotland with the reported statement of his noble Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland; that, if necessary, action will be taken to safeguard the Highlands against the effects of S.E.T.? Does this indicate a change in Government policy?
§ Mr. Ross
No change in Government policy was indicated in that statement. We have always said that we would keep a close watch on this matter. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate, of course, that the latest figures for Aberdeen, which many people thought would be very badly and immediately hit by S.E.T., show that the unemployment situation is better now than at this time last year.
§ Mr. Wolrige-Gordon
May I assist the right hon. Gentleman in his failure to make estimates by telling him that the effects of S.E.T. have been disastrous on these areas because the service industries represent the main proportion of the provision of employment in these areas?
§ Mr. Dewar
While accepting what my right hon. Friend says about estimating the effects, would he not accept that what can easily be estimated is the fact that this tax bears more heavily on the North-East of Scotland than on any other part of the rest of the country? Will he therefore give an assurance that he will watch this matter very carefully indeed?
§ Mr. Grimond
Is not the Secretary of State's original Answer a prime example of Government inaction? Does the right hon. Gentleman really believe that S.E.T. will bring industry to the Highlands and the North-East of Scotland? If so, will he examine the facts, one of them being that unemployment in these areas has been consistently—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Grimond
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that unemployment in these areas has been consistently higher than the Government's targets for these areas, and is this not a strong case for varying the credit squeeze and removing it from these areas?