HC Deb 23 October 1973 vol 861 cc949-51
1. Mr. Edward Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the level of unemployment in Scotland.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Maurice Macmillan)

Unemployment in Scotland is still too high. But the level continues to fall quite rapidly. The seasonally adjusted unemployment total is 40 per cent. less than in March last year.

Mr. Taylor

This is a very encouraging trend, which we hope will continue, but can my right hon. Friend give some indication of the position regarding unfilled vacancies, which is usually a better guide to whether the economy is growing or contracting?

Mr. Macmillan

My hon. Friend will be pleased to note that there are about four times as many vacancies for adult males remaining unfilled in October of this year compared with last year.

Mr. Ewing

Will not the Minister agree that there are certain areas of Scotland where the unemployment situation is extremely difficult? It appears that the Government's measures have not been successful in curing this problem. Will the Minister examine how many unfilled vacancies there are in those difficult areas, and examine particularly what part the North Sea oil industry could play in resolving their problems?

Mr. Macmillan

I entirely agree that unemployment is unevenly scattered in Scotland. In North Sea oil—excluding the 1,800 or so jobs on Clydeside which were created by Marathon and which are not included because that deals with things other than North Sea oil—about 5,600 jobs in oil exploration development already exist in Scotland. Projects announced so far are expected to produce a further 9,000 jobs over the next four or five years. In addition there will be substantial employment in the supplying firms, which will be more widely scattered than the others, and in the infrastructure investment in connection with all the developing activities.

Mr. Wolrige-Gordon

Do not those facts confirm that there are regional variations in Scotland, as there are in all parts of the United Kingdom, and that these variations should be taken into account in the pay and prices policy?

Mr. Macmillan

I do not think that the pay and prices policy is a suitable vehicle to take account of regional variations of employment. The variations differ greatly in different parts of the country. They are sometimes extremely small, affecting small areas. It is a question of trying to create jobs in the right skills where people are available to fill them.

Mr. James Hamilton

Will the right hon. Gentleman note that the unemployment figures in Scotland are still higher than they were in June 1970, and will he note also that in Scotland we have many empty factories? In my own constituency there are six factories lying idle and doing nothing. Will he note particularly that many people from the construction industry, and especially from the steel industry, are still signing on with the Department of Employment? Can the right hon. Gentleman now tell us his intentions for these people?

Mr. Macmillan

As regards steel, the plans of the British Steel Corporation are for the expansion of production in Scotland, although I accept that the old open-hearth steelmaking plants had to be closed in order to obtain a modern steel industry. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has established a special reconstruction team to make recommendations for improving the whole economic situation in the areas that will be affected by closures, and my own Department makes every effort, through its employment and training services—which are being greatly improved—to try to find suitable jobs for people who are signing on.