HC Deb 22 April 1970 vol 800 cc417-8
34. Mr. Doig

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the concern in Dundee about employment prospects there, due to the run-down of the jute industry; and if he will take steps to provide more job opportunities in Dundee.

Mr. Ross

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology and I are keeping in the closest touch with the problems of the jute industry, and there will be no relaxation of the Government's efforts, already producing valuable results, in encouraging new industrial growth and expansion in the Dundee area.

Mr. Doig

Is my right hon. Friend aware that thousands of jobs in the jute industry have recently been lost and that thousands more will be lost in the near future before the industry settles down to a new lower level? There is, therefore, urgent need to provide new employment in this area now or in the immediate future.

Mr. Ross

Yes, I am aware of the difficulties of the jute industry, but it is only fair to say that the industry itself has responded to the challenge of change and has done some diversification. My hon. Friend should not be too despondent about it; the unemployment rate in Dundee is still below the Scottish average. We are very much alive to the present problems and, as my hon. Friend knows, Dundee's needs have certainly not been ignored by this Government in the past five years.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Is the Secretary of State aware of the pledge given on behalf of the Prime Minister that jute jobs would be safeguarded under a Labour Government? Since the Prime Minister seems reluctant to do so, will the Secretary of State make it clear that this was a lightly-given promise and not a firm pledge?

Mr. Ross

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply he received from the Prime Minister.