HC Deb 27 June 1973 vol 858 cc1522-4
17. Mr. Machin

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what study his Department has made of the effect of the present loss of earning power in Scotland due to the prevailing level of unemployment.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

Through the Scottish Economic Planning Board, my Department keeps all aspects of the Scottish economic situation, including unemployment, under regular review.

Mr. Machin

Is the Secretary of State aware that the loss of spending power in Scotland because of registered unemployment is about £160 million a year and in respect of unregistered employment is possibly £200 million a year, and that this loss has a big effect on the Scottish economy? If there were less unemployment, more money would be spent in the shops and there would be less need for rebates. What is the Secretary of State doing to create more jobs in Scotland to lessen the effect of unemployment?

Mr. Campbell

The figures given by the hon. Gentleman take no account of the payment of unemployment benefits. He will, I am sure, welcome—as we all do on this side of the House—the improvement in the unemployment figures in Scotland, in particular the improvement of more than 50,000 in the past year.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Will my right hon. Friend say whether I am right in recollecting that his predecessor, the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), used to regard the level of emigration from Scotland as a key indicator of the state of the Scottish economy? Has my right hon. Friend received any messages of congratulation from his predecessor on the latest improvement in the level of emigration?

Mr. Campbell

I recall that the right hon. Gentleman used to make a considerable point about emigration. I have not yet received the expected message from him.

Mr. Ross

As the last published figures show an increase of about 6,000 in the year, and as the latest figures will not be available until November, I am not in favour of sending premature congratulations. Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate the serious problem which will arise next winter? We have managed to reduce unemployment, and we are all glad of that, but because of the increase in the school leaving age a great many youngsters have remained at school instead of coming on to the labour market. Those school leavers will start to flow after the summer and in the new year. Is the Secretary of State taking special steps to ensure that employment is available for them?

Mr. Campbell

I am very concerned about the continuing unemployment, but all the signs are that there are confidence and expansion in Scotland.

Mr. MacArthur

Does my right hon. Friend recall a supplementary question I asked him a little time ago to which I received no satisfactory reply? Will he explain to the House why right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition benches always look unhappy when they hear good news?

Mr. Campbell

That is not a question to which I should reply.

Mr. Alexander Wilson

Is the Secretary of State aware that the Government in the first instance escalated the unemployment figures to astronomical proportions? Does he agree that it is not right for him to accept credit for reducing unemployment figures which the Government deliberately increased? Is the Minister further aware that there are more than 92,000 unemployed in Scotland, without counting hidden unemployment, and although, in my constituency, the unemployment total has gone down slightly, long-term unemployment has increased by 15 per cent. in two employment exchange areas within the last 12 months? Does he not realise that the Government are responsible for the high unemployment figures?

Mr. Campbell

I know the figures, and I referred to them earlier. I do not accept most of what the hon. Gentleman said. I repeat that I continue to be very concerned about unemployment in Scotland despite the welcome improvement in the figures of more than 50,000 in the past year.

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