HC Deb 15 December 1976 vol 922 cc1503-5
6. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next expects to meet representatives of the STUC.

Mr. Gregor MacKenzie

My right hon. Friend, together with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and other colleagues, met the STUC on 8th and 9th December. There are at present no plans for a further meeting.

Mr. Canavan

Is my hon. Friend aware that when the Scottish TUC representatives met Labour Members last week they made an appeal for an early announcement of extra funds for the Scottish Development Agency, and that that appeal was repeated yesterday by the chairman of the agency when he announced its new factory building programme? In view of the excellent work being done by the agency to provide more jobs in Scotland, will my hon. Friend indicate how soon we may expect an announcement about extra funds, despite whatever statement is to be made this afternoon by my sparring partner, the hatchet man from No. 11 Downing Street?

Mr. MacKenzie

I cannot accept that comment about the attitude of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Scottish Development Agency figured in our discussion with the Scottish TUC, which paid tribute to it as an excellent means both of regenerating industry and of improving the environment in Scotland. We promised the STUC, as we have promised others, that we would make an announcement about this matter as soon as possible.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

When the Minister next meets representatives of the STUC, will he tell them that when they threaten the Prime Minister that they might support the Scottish National Party they should bear in mind that more than half the jobs in Scotland are dependent on business from England, and that their attitude to the SNP should be borne firmly in mind whenever they seek to make this sort of threat to the Prime Minister or anyone else?

Mr. MacKenzie

It has been made clear by Mr. Milne of the STUC at his Press conference and in subsequent denials on the BBC that he said no such thing to the Prime Minister, to other colleagues, or to anyone else. When he talked to me he was at pains to explain that, while he thought the Tory Party in Scotland was irrelevant, he thought that the SNP's policies would be a complete disaster for the working people of Scotland.

Mr. Crawford

Will the hon. Gentleman remind his hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) that in Committee the SNP moved an amendment to increase the sum available to the SDA and that he voted against it?

Mr. MacKenzie

It is important to bear in mind the comments that were made yesterday by the Chief Executive of the SDA, namely, that at present it has sufficient funds to meet its commitments. I had hoped that the interest of the hon. Gentleman in the affairs of the SDA would prompt him today to stand up and wish the agency a very happy first birthday and wish it well for the future.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that Scotland is facing a desperately serious job situation, especially in the West, which can be seen by the latest news from Marathon and Babcock? Does he agree that it is developing into one of the worst problems in Scotland's history? In view of the difficulty that the Government will have in creating more home demand, is the hon. Gentleman prepared to consider the possibility of getting the Department of Trade to set up a unit in the West to discuss with firms contemplating closure the possibility of solving their problems by getting more Government work?

Mr. MacKenzie

It is recognised in Scotland, certainly by the CBI and the Scottish Council (Development and Industry), that the facilities offered within the Industrial Development Department in Glasgow often work exceedingly well. The hon. Gentleman referred to Marathon and Babcock. I am astonished by the hon. Gentleman when he makes comments such as these in the House, and especially when he makes them in Scotland, and then votes against the SDA as well as against Leyland and Chrysler.