HC Deb 23 June 1971 vol 819 cc1416-7
26. Mr. Adam Hunter

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what maximum level of unemployment in Scotland would be acceptable to Her Majesty's Government before a change in their policy is considered; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

I cannot accept the implication of the hon. Gentleman's Question. Our first priority is to restrain inflation which has been crippling investment and so reducing employment possibilities. As that task is achieved we intend to deploy our regional development policies to the full to stimulate growth.

Mr. Hunter

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that what is being witnessed in Glasgow today, together with the intention of the T.U.C. to organise marches for unemployed workers, is reminiscent of the 1930s? Does not he realise that there is a great economic depression in the country, and will not he do something positive to protect the interests of Scotland rather than damaging them still further?

Mr. Campbell

I am aware that most of those who appear to be taking part in marches today are not unemployed but are giving up their jobs for some hours and thereby possibly causing dislocation and loss of production in Scotland. I deplore the irresponsible attitude of the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) in what he is doing to encourage it.

Dr. Miller

Are we to take it that the maximum level of unemployment acceptable to the Government has been reached and that we shall see very soon a reversal of their policy, with more jobs being provided for the people of Scotland?

Mr. Campbell

I deplore the present rate of unemployment. However, it has been caused by the weakening of the economy due to persistent cost inflation. Our policy is designed to put this right.

Mr. Buchan

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is aware of the cool, levelheaded anger in Scotland at the present time. Will he confirm, for example, that, facing this position of unemployment in Scotland and other development areas, the Government have decided to send 10,000 jobs to Southend, a non-development area? Was the right hon. Gentleman aware of that decision? Did he oppose it in the Cabinet? If not, why not?

Mr. Campbell

I am concentrating on trying to bring to Scotland industry of the kind which will help us to expand. The special development area established with the full support of the S.T.U.C. is an important contribution to that. But we must get an expansion of the economy as a whole in order to have the mobile industry which can be attracted.