HC Deb 29 July 1975 vol 896 cc1485-7
9. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many persons were unemployed in Scotland at the most recent date for which figures are available; and how many jobs were vacant on the same date.

Mr. Foot

On 14th July, 129,836 people were unemployed in Scotland. There were 16,134 unfilled vacancies notified to employment offices and 3,079 to careers offices.

Mr. Taylor

Will the Secretary of State accept that a major part of the responsibility for this tragic and worsening situation, when there are more than eight unemployed Scots chasing every vacant job, falls on the Government for delaying the anti-inflation programme for so long and on the panic measures, designed to create even more unemployment, now being introduced?

With regard to the steel industry, is the Minister aware, and will he inform his colleagues, that the threat hanging over 4,000 Scottish steel jobs will be wholly unacceptable unless the British Steel Corporation and the Government put forward new investment plans to create better job opportunities for steel workers in Scotland?

Mr. Foot

I shall not anticipate any statement to be made by my right hon. Friends about the steel industry. There may be a statement to the House in the not-too-distant future on that subject.

Of course, I agree that the Government must accept their responsibilities with regard to the unemployment situation in Scotland and the rest of the country although, as I have said before, I believe that the main cause of the unemployment in Scotland, as in the rest of the country, is the general effects of the recession throughout the Western world.

As for the so-called panic measure to which the hon. Member refers, I am not quite sure what he means by that. I hope he is not referring to the proposals about the transitional employment subsidy. When he sees the proposals and studies them, I hope that he, among many others, will accept that they are sensible proposals for trying to assist in this situation.

Mr. Henderson

Has the right hon. Gentleman had an opportunity of considering the suggestion I put to him last Thursday, when he made the shocking announcement of the unemployment figures, that the oil companies should be encouraged to buy at least 90 per cent. of their supplies from Scottish-based companies, companies operating in Scotland? Will he appreciate that this would be very important psychologically in reassuring the workers in Scotland who are not yet unemployed that the Government are doing something in addition to help preserve their jobs?

Mr. Foot

Of course, the Government are doing everything they can to encourage oil companies to buy from British firms, and I hope that they will be encouraged further in the future.

Mr. Buchan

Does my right hon. Friend agree that this new downward trend is a devastating comment on the hopes built up over the last year in Scotland? Does he further agree that the basic problem is the lack of investment both in Scotland and in other industrial areas of Britain? Will he ensure that we restore to the National Enterprise Board and the Scottish Development Agency the full powers envisaged in the Labour Party programme on which we fought the last election?

Mr. Foot

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that in England, as well as in Scotland, one of the essential measures to try to overcome these problems is to have much greater investment than we have had for many years in this country. I believe that the NEB can play a leading part in helping to achieve that. I do not believe that my hon. Friend and others should be despondent about using these instruments to the full to secure that result. I readily agree about the absolute necessity for much greater investment in the years to come if we are to overcome the problem.

Mr. Prior

In view of what the right hon. Gentleman said about a statement on steel and the possibilities of closures, will he give an assurance that that statement will be made to the House before the recess, and not on a Friday or the last day before the recess?

Mr. Foot

I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry hopes to make a statement on the steel situation before the recess.