HC Deb 21 October 1971 vol 823 cc900-3
Mr. James Hamilton

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter which should have urgent consideration, namely, the record number of wholly unemployed in Scotland announced today". The figures announced today show that in Scotland 136,436 people are unemployed, which is a record in the post-war years. The highest figure previous to that was in 1963, also under a Conservative Government. The figure then was 136,030. The percentage is now 6.2 per cent, compared with a national percentage of 3.9 par cent., which proves that Scotland is fast approaching twice the national average in the matter of unemployment. These figures do not include the short-time working which is taking place in many factories in Scotland at present. Nor do they take account of redundancies which have been brought about in U.C.S., N.C.R., the steel industry in Lanarkshire and in the railway workshops in Ayrshire.

My request does not make any specific reference to any particular part of Scotland, because from Barra in the north to the Borders of Scotland redundancies are taking place every day of the week. The sad feature is that many of our young people who left school in the summer have not yet found their first job. Furthermore, many of our graduates coming from the universities cannot find employment. This is due to the policies of the Conservative Government. Therefore, we on this side of the House feel that this is the responsibility of the Government and not of the national Press, since one newspaper in Scotland, the Daily Record, is endeavouring to do something about the unemployment situation.

We have had attempts by the C.B.I. and S.T.U.C. and other important bodies in Scotland asking the Government to introduce new policies to deal with this pernicious situation—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I must remind the hon. Member that he must not make the speech he would make if his application were accepted.

Mr. Hamilton

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, but I feel so incensed about the situation, as do the people in my constituency—unlike hon. Members opposite who are not paying one bit of attention to what I am saying. With winter approaching, the figure of 136,436 will reach the record figure of 150,000. This is just not good enough. Therefore, we ask for the Adjournment of the House so that we may discuss this matter, which is of more importance to the people of Scotland than the debate on which we are about to embark.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely, the record number of wholly unemployed in Scotland announced today". The hon. Gentleman was kind enough to give me notice some time ago that he intended to make this application.

As the House knows, I have to decide this matter, and under the terms of the Standing Order my decision does not bear on the merits of the question or on the sincerity with which the application is made, but is based simply on whether or not, in my view, the matter should be given precedence over the business already announced.

Having that in mind, I am afraid I cannot give his application precedence.

Mr. Denis Howell


Mr. John Mendelson

On a point of order—

Mr. Speaker

I am not sure any point of order can arise on the decision I have given, but I will hear the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson).

Mr. Mendelson

During the period of high unemployment in the 1930s—as you will know, Mr. Speaker, from your knowledge of the records—it was possible on a number of occasions to raise the subject of growing and high unemployment on the day when the figures were announced and when the impact was strongest on the public mind. Therefore, I should like to put to you, Sir, this question of principle. Without questioning the Ruling you have just given, Mr. Speaker, may I ask whether you will accept that there is a strong case for allowing the rule of Parliament on Adjournment debates to apply as it did traditionally during the 1930s—and we are, unfortunately, approaching a similar situation now—for these figures to be debated immediately by means of an Adjournment debate?

Mr. Speaker

I shall consider the precedents from the 1930s. So far as today's application is concerned, my decision stands. I am not certain that it is matter for me, in any case. It is a matter for those who arrange the business of the House.

Mr. Ross

Further to that point of order. Will you also bear in mind, Mr. Speaker, that the debate which you say must take precedence is one which is to last six days? This precludes hon. Members from airing for quite a long time what is a very, very serious matter. We want to press the Government to take action before they draw up the Queen's Speech.