HC Deb 28 October 1975 vol 898 cc1279-82
9. Mr. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the current unemployment situation in Scotland.

Mr. John Fraser

The current unemployment rate for Scotland is 5.8 per cent., which is still significantly above the level for Great Britain as a whole. Although, over the last two years, there has been a considerable improvement in the unemployment position in Scotland relative to that of Great Britain, the present situation in Scotland continues to give cause for serious concern.

Mr. Henderson

Is the Minister aware that the rate which he has mentioned is almost six times the rate in Norway—a country of comparable size and resources to Scotland? Since the Secretary of State for Scotland once gave a pledge that he would resign if the figure exceeded 100,000 in Scotland but is now not prepared to do so, will the Secretary of State for Employment resign in his place?

Mr. Fraser

If the hon. Member wants to make a comparison, the right one is with other regions of the United Kingdom. Such a comparison shows that, from October 1974 to October 1975, unemployment rose in Scotland by 49.8 per cent., and in the South-East of England by 108.4 per cent. Although the vacancies have declined in Scotland by 38 per cent., that is much lower than the decline in the whole of Great Britain, of 58 per cent. Action which has been taken has benefited Scotland, proportionately, compared with other parts of the United Kingdom.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my hon. Friend examine the investment policies of the Post Office? Is he aware that the Post Office has considerable investment potential, particularly in the development areas—not only Scotland but Merseyside and other areas? If he will consult the Post Office to ensure that its investment programmes are geared to helping to find a solution to unemployment in Fife and elsewhere, that will be very welcome.

Mr. Fraser

My Department is not responsible for the Post Office, but I appreciate my hon. Friend's point about ordering policy and investment policy. I am sure that that point will be considered urgently by the Government as a whole.

Mr. Sproat

When the Minister replies in future to idiotically misleading questions by members of the SNP, will he remind them that it is just as misleading to talk about Scotland as a whole, because in that part of Scotland represented by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) we have a shortage of labour, not unemployment, and that, tragic as are the unemployment figures in Scotland, there are four other parts of the United Kingdom where unemployment is clearly worse?

Mr. Fraser

The hon. Member is right of course. In Aberdeen, the rate of unemployment is 2.1 per cent.

11. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what was the ratio of unemployed persons to notified job vacancies in Scotland at the most recent date for which figures are available; and what were the comparable ratios one and two years previously, respectively.

Mr. John Fraser

My Department no longer calculates these ratios as a matter of course, because total vacancies are not known and the two figures collected for notified vacancies, respectively, for employment and careers offices, overlap and so cannot be added together. However, comparing the figure of unemployed registered at employment offices with vacancies notified to employment offices, the ratio for this October is 7.4 to 1, compared with 3.5 to 1 for October last year and 3.9 to 1 for October 1973.

Mr. Taylor

Are not those figures most depressing, showing, as they do, that unemployment in Scotland is increasing at the rate of more than 1,000 a week? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of concern about unemployment in the motor industry? Will he give an assurance that the promise given by Chrysler Motors about its continued production in Britain also relates to production facilities in Scotland?

Mr. Fraser

I said earlier that the unemployment situation in Scotland gave rise to serious concern. It is not much comfort to stress some evidence that Scotland has fared rather better than some other regions of the United Kingdom. The hon. Gentleman will understand that I am not in a position to give the assurance for which he has asked concerning Chrysler. I shall make sure that his remarks are directed to the proper quarters.

Mr. Canavan

Will my hon. Friend take this opportunity of reminding all Scottish local authorities that they can receive Government assistance for work creation schemes, particularly schemes involving young people? Does he realise that the unemployment situation in Scotland is leading to an emergency? Perhaps we need emergency action to deal with it. Will my hon. Friend ask the House for emergency powers to instruct local authorities to produce plans for such work creation schemes to ensure that young people, in particular, have the right to work?

Mr. Fraser

I understand that, overall, there has been a good response to the job creation programme. I shall certainly be glad to hear about any local authority that is not responding. It is a little early to assess the response. I shall keep my hon. Friend in touch with the situation.

Mr. Crawford

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the people of Scotland are fed up with having their economy and their unemployment compared with that of bankrupt England? Is he aware that the comparison should be with Norway and other prosperous countries of Western Europe?

Mr. Fraser

The hon. Member's allegation does not become any more true as a result of repetition. In the United Kingdom we have a system of development areas. These are given special help and incentives. Many of these have been to the benefit of Scotland. I believe that the people of Scotland are aware of this.

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