HC Deb 09 July 1975 vol 895 cc506-8
3. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a further statement on the outlook for the Scottish economy.

6. Mr. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what proposals he has for further industrial development in Scotland to counter rising unemployment.

27. Mr. Campbell

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the outlook for the Scottish economy, with particular reference to oil-related industry.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Bruce Millan)

While the current level of unemployment in Scotland must be a matter for concern, the Government's vigorous regional development policies and the new jobs created as a result of North Sea oil continue to make the Scottish situation more resilient to today's wider difficulties than the rest of Britain or many other industrial nations.

We shall continue to take initiatives of special benefit to Scotland. As my right hon. Friend announced on 30th June—[Vol. 894, c. 326]—a further 200,000 sq. ft. of advance factory space is to be provided, while our decision to set up the Scottish Development Agency will be a major factor in creating new investment and employment.

Mr. Taylor

Does the Minister agree that the outlook for school leavers is very bleak at present? Can he give any idea whatsoever of his estimate of the figure which unemployment will reach during 1976?

Mr. Millan

No. I think the hon. Gentleman knows that it has been the practice of successive Governments not to make forecasts of unemployment. On the first point, I recognise that this is a serious problem and we are doing a number of things, through the Training Services Agency and in other ways, to encourage employers to take on school leavers when the summer holidays start.

Mr. Henderson

Does the Minister accept that in view of the mounting level of unemployment it would be extremely valuable if the Government were to insist that oil companies and oil-related companies bought at least 50 per cent. of their goods from firms domiciled in Scotland?

Mr. Millan

We have already gone a very long way towards that. The proportion of oil-related equipment which is bought in the United Kingdom—and, of course, most of that is bought in Scotland—has risen in the last year quite substantially. However, I agree that there is a lot more to be done in this field. That is why we have moved the Offshore Supplies Office to Glasgow and why we strengthened it to get more of these jobs for Scotland.

Mr. Campbell

While being heartened by the Minister's last remark, may I ask him whether he is aware that there is the greatest worry about the future of oil-related industries in Scotland, so much so that there is a delegation from the north of Scotland in the House at this moment to discuss this very matter with hon. Members? In my constituency there is a module building site at which, if no further orders are forthcoming in the near future, there will be substantial redundancies. Will the Minister be prepared to speak to his colleagues in the Department of Energy to try to ensure that there is more work related to the United Kingdom in our oil-related industries than there is at present?

Mr. Millan

On the latter point, I have already done that. As I have said, we are very anxious to get the maximum amount of oil-related work for Scotland, and particularly from West-Central Scotland to provide a better regional balance within Scotland. On the first point, I have already arranged to meet the delegation tomorrow.

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