HC Deb 02 February 1972 vol 830 cc434-5
25. Mr. John Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate he has made of the effect of industrial development in Scotland of the abolition of the regional employment premium in 1974.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

It is not possible to make a valid estimate of this.

Mr. Smith

Should not the Secretary of State start thinking about it? We have a desperately high level of unemployment and although, according to the right hon. Gentleman, we are in an era of high productivity, we shall have a great unemployment problem for some years to come. Does he view with equanimity the disappearance of the labour subsidy, except in special development areas, after 1974? Does he not realise that this is the one form of regional development assistance which benefits existing as well as incoming firms? Will not the Secretary of State give a satisfactory answer and show that he is conscious of the problem of attracting and maintaining jobs?

Mr. Campbell

I am aware that this measure has not in practice acted as an incentive in the way in which it was originally thought it would. The terminal date is still more than two-and-a-half years away and we shall naturally be considering the situation nearer the time. The Green Paper introduced by the Labour Government proposed a period of five years only. That period was increased to seven years when the scheme was brought into effect and September, 1974, will be the end of the seven years. We have undertaken to keep it until that date, as we said we would before the General Election.

Mr. Ross

Do I understand that the Government have decided to abolish it without being aware of the consequences?

Mr. Campbell

We have given notice that the terminal date set by the Labour Government is to be adhered to—the seven-year period—but it is over two-and-a-half years away and it is too early yet to decide definitely what should be done then.

Mr. MacArthur

When my right hon. Friend is studying possible incentives to employment in Scotland, will he please consider the serious proposal put forward by my hon. Friends and myself that the sugar beet industry in Scotland should be retained until 1974 when its future within the E.E.C. can be properly assessed?

Mr. Campbell

I am very much aware of what my hon. Friends have been saying on this, but the Government took into account the question of entry to the E.E.C. in their consideration of the future of the sugar beet industry in Scotland.