HC Deb 16 March 1971 vol 813 cc1180-2
Q1. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his discussions on 22nd February with representatives of the Scottish Trades Union Congress.

Q13. Mr. Eadie

asked the Prime Minister what reply he has sent as a result of representations to him by the Scottish Trades Union Congress about Government economic policies.

Q15. Mr. Sillars

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement about the official talks he held with the Scottish Trades Union Congress on Monday, 22nd February.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

I met representatives of the Scottish Trades Union Congress at their request on 22nd February. My right hon. Friends and I explained the Government's view of the causes of the unemployment about which they expressed concern and we discussed the rôle of Government, management and unions in promoting economic development in Scotland.

Mr. Hamilton

Will the Prime Minister say whether the T.U.C. was satisfied with the efficacy of the Government's regional policies? Did he convince the T.U.C. that Scottish unemployment would not exceed 150,000 or 200,000 in the next 12 months?

The Prime Minister

I think that the secretary of the Scottish T.U.C. has expressed satisfaction with the value of the discussions we had. Obviously, we could not enter into discussions about specific unemployment figures, but we discussed various ways in which the Scottish economic situation from the regional point of view could be helped.

Mr. Eadie

Is the Prime Minister aware that the figure for unemployment in Scotland is rapidly reaching 136,000, which was a feature of previous Tory Administrations? What does he propose to do about it?

The Prime Minister

I am fully aware of the unemployment position in Scotland and that it was on the upward trend when the hon. Gentleman's Government left office. The Scottish T.U.C. was far more realistic in its appreciation of the causes of unemployment than the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends.

Mr. Sillars

Did the right hon. Gentleman discuss the unemployment situation in the construction industry, and, therefore, Scottish housing, with the Scottish T.U.C.? If so, did he give the T.U.C. the same information as was given to the House last Thursday—that the Government are encouraging housing in both the private sector and the public sector? May we take that as an assur- ance that the Conservative Government will build more houses than the Labour Government?

The Prime Minister

Employment in the construction industry in Scotland was one of the major questions we discussed with the Scottish T.U.C. I gave it a very clear undertaking, which it accepted, that we would investigate the proposals it made for dealing with the problems of the construction industry, and that we are doing.

Mr. Grimond

Did the Prime Minister discuss depopulation as well as unemployment, and did he make any proposals for increasing investment in Scotland, because without a big increase in investment we shall stem neither depopulation nor unemployment?

The Prime Minister

Depopulation was not one of the specific questions discussed or raised by either side, but we discussed in some detail means of improving investment. The Scottish T.U.C. fully appreciated—and it indicated this—the necessity of firms being able to finance some investment out of their own resources by having reasonable profitability.

Captain W. Elliot

Would my right hon. Friend assure hon. Members opposite that if the politically-motivated strikes due to take place this week were called off it would greatly help to solve the unemployment problem?

The Prime Minister

The Leader of the Opposition has completely condemned strikes of a political nature against the Industrial Relations Bill, and I hope that he will have the support of all his party.