HC Deb 25 October 1972 vol 843 cc1177-9
16. Mr. Sillars

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make an early ministerial broadcast on the prospects for the Scottish economy in the coming 12 months.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

I have taken part in broadcasts regularly since coming into office—nine since the beginning of this year—and my intention is that this should continue at appropriate times.

Mr. Sillars

I take it that that is a "No" to my request for a ministerial broadcast, which is of a special character. Am I right in assuming that the reason for the right hon. Gentleman's reticence is that he is apprehensive about having to admit to the people that even the new range of Government regional policies is inadequate to the task of substantially reducing Scottish unemployment, especially in view of this morning's article in the Glasgow Herald which indicates clearly that the right hon. Gentleman has already lost the battle for steel in the Cabinet and 18,000 Scottish jobs with it?

Mr. Campbell

I consider the publication of the Scottish Economic Bulletin to be the most suitable way of describing economic trends and commenting upon them. On the subject of unemployment, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be pleased with the figures announced last week. As for the report in one of the Scottish papers today, that is pure speculation. The hon. Gentleman will know, as the House knows, that over recent months there has been a great deal of speculation in both directions and, therefore, contradictory.

Mr. Edward Taylor

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he has every reason to be proud that the regional aids available to Scottish industry for machinery and buildings are greater than ever before in the history of Scotland? Will he confirm our confidence in him by assuring us that before any decision is made on the plans presented to the Government by the British Steel Corporation he will be fully consulted?

Mr. Campbell

My hon. Friend is quite right, and I might add that this combination of regional measures is specially tailored to the problems facing us in Scotland today. As for decisions on steel, the Government have stated that regional development considerations will be taken into account and, of course, I shall be consulted.

Mr. Lambie

Is the right hon. Gentleman still prepared to stake his political reputation and future on the construction of a green field integrated steel mill at Hunterston, thereby guaranteeing the jobs of 26,000 Scottish steel workers?

Mr. Campbell

As it was the hon. Gentleman who invented the idea that my political reputation was so involved—

Mr. Lambie

It was the Daily Express.

Mr. Campbell

I agree that I was perhaps the first person in this House, even before the hon. Gentleman was a Member, who started a Supply Day debate and chose the subject of the deep water and other assets of the Clyde and, therefore, I am perhaps associated with using those assets to the best advantage of Scotland. But I do not think I am involved, as the hon. Member suggests, in the specific project he has in mind.

Mr. Ross

I agree that it was not my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) who invented the right hon. Gentleman's political reputation. We did not realise that he had one. It is to be hoped that the right hon. Gentleman will not be complacent about the present position. If the pessimistic forecasts in today's Glasgow Herald about the future of steel prove to be true, will the right hon. Gentleman make a ministerial broadcast explaining the position to the people of Scotland? Secondly, will he pay tribute to the one factor which has reduced unemployment in Scotland, which was the raising of the school leaving age and the return of students to universities? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that they account for about 50 per cent. of the last drop in unemployment?

Mr. Campbell

To deal with the right hon. Gentleman's first point, he knows that there has been continuing speculation in the Scottish Press and that the speculation has contradicted itself over recent months. Today we have yet another newspaper speculating. In due course the Government will be taking and announcing decisions on the recommendations by the BSC. As regards the raising of the school leaving age, I remind the right hon. Gentleman that it was his own Government, when he was Secretary of State, which postponed the raising of the school leaving age because of the economic crisis at the time.

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