HC Deb 10 November 1971 vol 825 cc978-80
2. Mr. Strang

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received regarding the size of the Government's winter works programmes in Scotland.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Gordon Campbell)

As I announced on 27th October, the additional works to be undertaken and substantially completed by 31st March, 1973, in Scotland will amount to over £60 million. No representations have been made to me about the size of the programme, which was largely determined by the response of local authorities and other bodies to the invitation given them last July to undertake additional work.

Mr. Strang

Will the Secretary of State agree that the recession in the Scottish economy has reached such an intensity that the temporary jobs created by supplementary public works programmes, while welcome, are trivial in the context of the number at present unemployed in Scotland? Will he further agree that what we need is new investment? In particular, what action is the right hon. Gentleman taking to see that the nationalised industries, particularly nationalised steel, have a massively increased level of investment in Scotland?

Mr. Campbell

A public works programme can be only one component in helping the situation, but it has been pressed by many, and this programme has been endorsed and supported by many. As to the situation in Scotland, the previous Government left us with a raging inflation, with the result that firms have been disposed to draw in their horns rather than to expand, but a favourable climate for industrial, development is now being created and there is every incentive for expansion.

Mr. Ross

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that exactly a year ago the Government went around slashing Government expenditure, including local government expenditure, and that he called it the new impetus? Will the Secretary of State now give details in the OFFICIAL REPORT of all the special projects he has approved, their estimated cost, the number of jobs likely to be provided and for how long? If he wants response from the local authorities, will he not think of introducing a new 100 per cent. grant procedure in respect of this work?

Mr. Campbell

Our operation last year was not a slashing operation of expenditure: it was an operation directing expenditure to the places where it was really effective. There is on the Order Paper today a Question for Written Answer, to which I shall give a full reply in the OFFICIAL REPORT, concerning the public works programme. I will certainly consider whether that reply covers all the points about which the right hon. Gentleman asks and will give him further information as necessary.

Mr. Eadie

The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that in the Lothians, in the mining and paper industries, there is a danger of losing about 1,200 to 1,300 jobs before the end of this year and that this will affect employment in East Edinburgh. In the light of these figures, which are alarming when one considers the size of the population, does not the right hon. Gentleman intend to tell the House today how he can improve employment prospects in the areas I have mentioned?

Mr. Campbell

I am aware of the particular colliery problem in the hon. Member's constituency and have discussed that with him. I know he is in touch with the Minister responsible for the coal industry about it. I am also aware of the difficulties of the paper industry, which is going through a difficult time in general at the moment.