HC Deb 11 November 1969 vol 791 cc180-4
Q5. Mr. Buchanan-Smith

asked the Prime Minister if he will take steps to improve the co-ordination of Ministers responsible for economic affairs in Scotland.

Q6. Mr. MacArthur

asked the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied with the effects in Scotland of the new arrangements for Ministerial responsibilities for economic and industrial affairs; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friends work very closely together on these matters.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

If the Prime Minister finds the present situation so satisfactory, can he explain the net loss of 67,000 jobs to Scotland over the last three years for which figures are available?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the jobs which have been created and expected from industrial development certificate approvals under this Government are 84,000 compared with fewer than 55,000 in the previous five years. He will also be aware that we have authorised double the surface area of advance factories which the Opposition authorised and £50 million for R.E.P. and S.E.T., £58 million for investment grants and £16 million for Local Employment Act payments.

Mr. MacArthur

Is the Prime Minister aware that he cannot conceal the fact that there has been a most serious loss of jobs in Scotland, that this more than reverses the net gain of 30,000 jobs between 1960 and 1964 and this his Government's pre-election forecast of net gains in Scotland in 1966 was wholly misleading?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I dealt with the oft-quoted figure of 30,000 at Question Time on, I think, 1st May—but I would want to check that. I pointed out the great skill of hon. Members opposite in selecting particular years— [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, but I had figures on that occasion for 12 years which gave some very different results, if they were properly studied.

Whenever we have had this from hon. Members opposite, we have heard reference to migration.

The hon. Gentleman will have been delighted to see—but he has not expressed his delight publicly—that migration, which affects the employment figures, from Scotland this year is the lowest for ten years. He will have seen that net emigration to other countries of the United Kingdom has dropped to 11,000, continuing—[Interruption.]Perhaps the Opposition Chief Whip will listen to these figures; he used to understand them when he was at the Ministry of Labour. Net emigration to other countries of the United Kingdom has dropped to 11,000, continuing the steady downward trend from the peak of 24,000 in 1963 and 1964 when the Chief Whip was at the Ministry of Labour.

Mr. Hannan

Does my right hon. Friend recall that the rundown in the older industries in Scotland was affecting that area very much more than any other part of the United Kingdom and that, with hundreds of thousands of jobs being lost there, it is to the credit of the Government that unemployment is relatively low?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. That is a fair comment on the question. The figure for jobs lost—I have given some of the figures for jobs created—represents, to a very considerable extent, the colliery closure programme. I am not aware that hon. Members opposite felt that that programme of closures could have been avoided. We have had to find additional work to deal with the problems of those who have lost their jobs in the coal mining industry. There has been a rundown in other industries also. But hon. Members will be aware of how much the Government have done for the shipbuilding industry, but for which the figures in all these areas would have been very much more serious.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

Why is the Prime Minister so complacent about this? Will he recognise that the figure of 67,000 net loss of jobs was given to me by the Minister of State for Employment and Productivity on Monday of last week, at HANSARD, column 33, and that the figures to which he should address his attention are those in his own Government's White Paper on Scotland, at page 9, which, shows that in the last four years of Conservative Government 157,000 new jobs were brought to Scotland?

The Prime Minister

I am anything but complacent on this question. That is why we have devoted so much of Government resources, money and real resources—this has been condemned by the Leader of the Opposition—in the various Acts, which the Opposition have opposed, in order to get new jobs into Scotland. Had this been done before 1964, the rundown of our basic industries would not have caused the loss of jobs which has occurred.

But certainly I would not be complacent about the figures quoted by the hon. Gentleman for the last two or three years of Conservative rule, because for a whole year, from 1962 to 1963, the unemployment figure in Scotland was higher than it is today, on a proper seasonally-corrected basis. [Interruption.] It was not snowing for a whole year, I would tell the right hon. Gentleman. For a whole year, month by month, snow or no snow, rain or no rain, the figures were higher than they are now.

Without being complacent, I would say to the hon. Gentleman that when we reach our twelfth year of office, the figures will be a great deal better than when his party were in office.

Mrs. Ewing

Is the Prime Minister aware that some of his Departments have expressed doubt whether there is a Scottish economy? Can he, therefore, safely leave the co-ordination of Scottish economic affairs in the hands of Departments with views like that? Would he not do better and be electorally wiser to revert to the traditional Labour policy and view that the best place for co-ordinating Scottish economic affairs is a Scottish Parliament?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I am not aware of any statements that there is no Scottish economy. What I am aware of are statements, with which I agree, that the Scottish economy would be torn to blazes if we accepted the advice of the hon. Lady.

Mr. Maclennan

Would my right hon. Friend agree that it was the complacency of the Opposition in the Highlands throughout not 13 years but 100 years which led to the rundown of that part of the Scottish economy? Would he also agree that there have been a newly generated spirit of hope and new jobs in new industries in that part of Scotland?

The Prime Minister

I would not blame on individual hon. Members opposite the responsibility for the whole 100 years, but it is certainly the case, as I saw when I visited my hon. Friend's constituency in the far North of Scotland earlier this year, that a great deal of new reinvigoration and regeneration is going on in those areas because of a whole range of Government policy but most of all, I think, because of the creation of the Highlands and Islands Board. Since we were pressing that on right hon. and hon. Members opposite for a great part of their 13 years, since they steadfastly refused to carry out our suggestions and since they must now accept that it has been a great success, I agree with what my hon. Friend has said for at least part of the 100 years.

Mr. Heath

Is the Prime Minister aware that he last dealt with this matter on 18th March, when he explained everything except the point about the loss of jobs and undertook to send me a breakdown of the jobs position, which I should still be glad to receive? Will he, therefore, now confirm the figure given by the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity that, allowing for the jobs which the Government have created and the jobs loss, there is a net loss of the figure given by the right hon. Lady of 67,000?

Second, will the Prime Minister also confirm that, allowing for the selective employment tax, which is taken out of Scotland, and the premiums and R.E.P., which go back to it again, there is a net loss to Scotland of £8 million, which in 1971 will become £18 million?

The Prime Minister

No, I do not accept the right hon. Gentleman's latter figure, and I would like to check his memory of the date against mine. He has obviously looked it up and I have not. He may be right, but I will check that one. I certainly regret that I have not sent the document to the right hon. Gentleman which I had to send. It sounds as though his office has slipped up as much as mine in that respect. [Interruption.] I have never known him fail to follow up within hours anything he has asked for in the past. Certainly, I accept full responsibility for it, and I will see that the right hon. Gentleman gets whatever it was for which he asked on 18th March, I think he said. I will see that he gets it without any further delay.

With regard to the loss of jobs, I have confirmed these figures before and they have been reconfirmed by my right hon. Friends. I have explained the problems of colliery closures and many other aspects. I have also said what we have done, in sharp contradistinction to the right hon. Gentleman, to create new jobs. Perhaps when looking to the future he will look at the number of jobs now in course of creation by 1970 and 1971, the years he had in mind.

Mr. Heath


Mr. Lawson

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the obvious failure by the Leader of the Opposition to understand the true position, I give notice that I will endeavour to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Speaker

Order. As the House knows, that automatically closes the question.

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