HC Deb 22 June 1972 vol 839 cc703-5
Q1. Mr. John Smith

asked the Prime Minister if he will pay an official visit to North Lanarkshire.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

I have at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Smith

Is the Prime Minister aware that people in my constituency and throughout the country are concerned that, although the right hon. Gentleman promised in June, 1970, to act directly to reduce unemployment, since June, 1970, unemployment in North Lanarkshire has gone up from 4.7 per cent, to 8.4 per cent.?

The news of 7,500 redundancies in the steel industry in Scotland has sent a ripple of fear through the whole central area of Scotland and many other parts of the United Kingdom. Will the Prime Minister tell us when redundancies will stop and when he will take the tiniest step towards honouring his election promises?

The Prime Minister

I should have thought that the figures published at noon today showing that unemployment went down by 68,000 between May and June—the largest drop between May and June since 1963—would have been welcome to everybody in the House. In particular, the fact that in the hon. Gentleman's constituency unemployment has fallen by 0.3 per cent. should also be very welcome to him.

Mr. William Clark

If my right hon. Friend goes to North Lanarkshire, will he remind his audience that the irresponsible outburst of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) could damage the national economy and jeopardise the standard of living of every man, woman and child in the country? Will he further remind his audience that the right hon. Gentleman, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, has proved beyond all doubt that never should he be in charge of the country's finances?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. I am disappointed that the Leader of the Opposition has not repudiated the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Ross

I congratulate the Prime Minister on his discretion on having no plans to go to Lanarkshire. A visit by him so soon after the statement by the British Steel Corporation about the brutal redundancies, and the announcement today of the highest midsummer unemployment figures in Scotland for over 30 years, would be considered provocative. If he changes his mind, he will receive a warm welcome from the people of Shotts.

The Prime Minister

Scotland will know what conclusion to draw from the fact that the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to welcome a massive fall in unemployment. In reply to the right hon. Gentleman's point about the British Steel Corporation statement, in the interests of the people of Scotland it is important for every hon. Member to point out to them that these proposals have been put forward by the British Steel Corporation, as it said specifically in the third paragraph of its statement, for discussion with trade unionists and all other interested parties. It is fair to point out that the British Steel Corporation also said that it is putting £60 million of investment into Ravenscraig.

Mr. Ross

That is not new.

The Prime Minister

There is no point in the right hon. Gentleman saying that it is not new. It is a fact of investment over the coming period. As the Labour Party always argued that the purpose of nationalising steel was to ensure its rationalisation and modernisation, how can it now condemn the BSC for doing what it was put there to do?