HC Deb 19 June 1974 vol 875 cc458-60
7. Mr. Younger

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will publish a White Paper on the economic prospects for Strathclyde over the next five years.

Mr. William Ross

I shall consider whether a White Paper would be appropriate when I have received the report and recommendations of the West Central Scotland Plan Steering Committee.

Mr. Younger

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of us feel that that might be helpful, bearing in mind the disastrous experience that Scotland had as a result of the nationalisation of the steel industry? Is he surprised that people in Scotland regard with horror the statements that are being wildly uttered by the Secretary of State for Industry, and will he reconsider the complacent replies which he has made today? Even my hon. Friends and I are astonished at how out of touch he has become during his short time in office.

Mr. Ross

There spoke the Chairman of the Conservative Party of Scotland. He has our condolences for the onerous task that he is undertaking. If he is to revive his party's hopes in Scotland, he had better improve his speeches. With regard to the production of a White Paper, we have the help of the steering committee and the report which it has commissioned from Professor Buchanan and Professor Alexander. Arising from that report, I hope that we shall be able to put forward recommendations that will be helpful in future.

The hon. Gentleman's point about the steel industry shows how much he is out of touch with the steel industry in Scotland.

Mr. Lambie

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) has some cheek in now being worried about the economic affairs of Strathclyde? Does he realise that for three and a half years when he was in office he did nothing about Strathclyde's economic affairs? I hope that my right hon. Friend will not listen to calls for White Papers. The day for White Papers has passed, and we want decisions. When will my right hon. Friend give us a decision about Hunterston?

Mr. Ross

I hope shortly to be able to announce a comprehensive decision on Hunterston. When we consider what was done by the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) I do not think that we should put all the blame on him. After all, he had one or two colleagues.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Will not the right hon. Gentleman at least admit that despite some of the admitted failings of the last Government, we left the economy of Scotland in a satisfactory position? Unemployment was down, job vacancies were up and there was a rosy future. Will the right hon. Gentleman at least admit that and get away from his complacency? Does he realise that there is a genuine fear of substantial unemployment in Scotland because of the total uncertainty that is created by the Government's industrial policy? Will he state where he stands on that matter and will he give an assurance to industry that it will not be grabbed by the mad, extremist policy of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry?

Mr. Ross

The hon. Gentleman has a strange memory. For nearly two and a half years of the previous Government's three and a half years in office unemployment in Scotland never fell below 100,000.

Mr. Taylor

But we got it right.

Mr. Ross

The hon. Gentleman says that the previous Government got it right, but today the unemployment figure is 20,000 fewer than it was a year ago. The Opposition should stop raising false scarces and hopes and should instead try to put forward some constructive policies and ideas relating to Scotland

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