HC Deb 10 April 1974 vol 872 cc418-9
18. Mr. MacArthur

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he intends to publish a White Paper on the outlook for the Scottish economy.

Mr. William Ross

Our first objective is to review the situation and to consider urgently what measures are needed to stimulate development and employment in Scotland. We can consider the question whether a White Paper would be helpful after that.

Mr. MacArthur

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a White Paper or some form of statement is urgently required in Scotland? Is he aware of the widespread concern in Scotland about the disincentive effect on Scottish industry of the last Budget, which has added considerably to the financial burdens of industry? Is he further aware of the concern among householders, who now, for the first time, are realising the heavy cost to them of the Labour Government's Budget? On what basis does the right hon. Gentleman challenge my figure that the cost of the Budget to the householder will be £1.56 a week, or £81 a year? Is he aware that this is based on a study of the Government's own figures of household expenditure in Scotland? If he wishes to correct the figures, will he give the figures as he sees them so that we may know the position?

Mr. Ross

I thought that the hon. Gentleman was quoting his own White Paper. If we are to give the right outline of the situation at present we have to start with a prelude setting out the situation before the Budget. I assure the hon. Member that unemployment in Scotland was not falling; it was rising. We were faced with a three-day working week, inflation, a calamitous drop in housing and a lack of confidence by industry. The hon. Member should not be asking me for a White Paper; in that situation it would be a black paper.

Mr. Michael Clark Hutchison

Are there not too many White, Green and other Papers these days?

Mr. Ross

I entirely agree.

Mr. Younger

Will the Secretary of State, as Scotland's economic Minister, be careful that he does not write down the real achievements of the Scottish economy in recent years? When considering publishing the White Paper. will he bear in mind that, by common consent, 1973 was the best year for the Scottish economy since the war and that emigration was the lowest for many years, as was unemployment? Will he remember that it is all very well having political wishes to put across political points but that he has a responsibility to all the people of Scotland for confidence in the Scottish economy?

Mr. Ross

That is why I regret the kind of exaggerated statements that we are getting from hon. Members of the Opposition. Let them not inflate their achievements in respect of that. The unemployment figures for the whole time that hon. Gentlemen were in Government averaged over 100,000 per month. They never fell as low as they were when the Leader of the Opposition made a speech in Dundee, I think, just before the 1970 General Election, when he said that the Conservatives would not rest until they got the figures down. They did not get the figures down to the point at which they were then.

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