HC Deb 12 February 1975 vol 886 cc352-4
5. Mr. Younger

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate he has made of the effect on the Scottish economy of the current difficulties facing Scottish businesses.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross)

Scottish businesses are inevitably affected by the current economic problems of the United Kingdom. However, the development of North Sea oil and the Government's special measures to assist Scottish industry will continue to provide new job opportunities.

Mr. Younger

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware of the extreme difficulties faced by Scottish businesses, including grave difficulties of liquidity and finance? Does he not realise that this has been made abundantly clear in the increase in unemployment to over 100,000? As he said that he would resign if the unemployment rate reached that level, and he now says that circumstances are different, will he say in what way circumstances are different?

Mr. Ross

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the figure I quoted was quoted in 1971. When he was a member of the Government and the unemployment figure had risen to 141,000, he was perfectly satisfied with it. I can assure hon. Members that the situation from 1964 to 1970 was very different from the situation when we took over from hon. Members opposite. We are now facing a world recession. If the hon. Gentleman will look at page 9 of the Glasgow Herald today he will see the excuses given by two Scottish firms. Reference is made to certain difficulties about returns, but he will find that they are related more to the time when his Government were in office.

Mr. Crawford

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that in Scotland we need an immediate reflation of the economy, and that the Scottish Development Agency should have much more financial muscle than is proposed in the consultative document. Will the right hon. Gentleman say at what level of unemployment he will resign?

Mr. Ross

We initiated the idea of the Scottish Development Agency. We have set out our proposals for consultation and we hope to get a Bill through the House and the Act into operation before the end of the year. We trust that we shall have the hon. Gentleman's help. This will have an effect upon our attitude in tackling the unemployment problem.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Surely the right hon. Gentleman will not simply try to shrug this off. In addition to the difficult economic circumstances facing this country, the Government have aggravated the whole business by their attack on the small family business, by the self-employed insurance stamp and the transfer tax. In so many other ways the Government have contributed directly to the problems in Scotland. Will not the right hon. Gentleman come clean with the House and tell us at what stage he will be prepared to resign?

Mr. Ross

I have no intention of resigning. Indeed, if the hon. Gentleman was serious in what he said I am surprised that he has been serving under the leadership of someone who was responsible for the disastrous consequences in Scotland which created over 100,000 unemployed as the new norm.