HC Deb 09 June 1976 vol 912 cc1418-20
7. Mr. Alexander Fletcher

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next plans to meet representatives of the Scottish Council (Development and Industry).

21. Mr. David Steel

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next expects to meet representatives of the Scottish Council (Development and Industry).

Mr. Gregor Mackenzie

My right hon. Friend is, of course, willing to meet the Scottish Council as and when the need arises.

Mr. Fletcher

Will the Minister take an early opportunity to discuss with the Scottish Council the net loss of jobs and investment in Scotland that would result if central control of the direction of industry, which is exercised by the Department of Industry through industrial development certificates, were to be replaced by indiscriminate competition between Wales, English regions and Scotland in the event of a devolved or separate Scottish industrial policy?

Mr. Mackenzie

Over the past few weeks we have made our views clear on the matter of devolving the powers of the SDA to the Assembly. As the hon. Gentleman will recall, we transferred Section 7 powers from the Department of Industry to the Scottish Office some time ago. But it has always been the view of the Government that we ought to preserve the industrial and economic integrity of the United Kingdom, which we generally believe to be to the benefit of each and every one of us.

Mr. Steel

Does the Minister of State see any continuing rôle for the Scottish Council now that the SDA has got under way? If he does, will he discuss with it the machinery under Section 7, which is allegedly retaining control in his hands for industrial development in Scotland but is still requiring approval by committees in London?

Mr. Mackenzie

In the last part of his question the hon. Gentleman seems to have misunderstood the situation. We are willing to discuss with the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) the relationship between the SDA and the Scottish Council, apart from promotional efforts, and so on.

Mr. Buchan

If my hon. Friend meets the Scottish Council, will he give it an estimate of the thousands of jobs that would be lost to Scottish workers in the unlikely event of the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill being defeated by an unholy alliance of the Tory Party and its new and permanent ally, the Scottish National Party?

Mr. Mackenzie

Perhaps the Scottish National Party would at some stage like to indicate directly to the Scottish Council (Development and Industry), and perhaps to Scottish trade unionists, why it decided to vote with the Conservative Party against the Government's proposal on aircraft and shipbuilding nationalisation. At the same time, it might also take the opportunity to tell the people of Scotland why it proposes to continue its unholy alliance and vote with the Conservative Party against the Government tonight.

Mr. Younger

When the Minister meets the Scottish Council, will he explain to it why the Labour Government's policy and the social contract have thrown 52,900 Scots out of work since March 1974? Will he listen to the Scottish Council, and to the advice that it will give him on making Scottish businesses more profitable again by changing the Government's policies, which have been ruining far too many of them?

Mr. Mackenzie

That question comes rather peculiarly from the hon. Member, who was a member of the Administration that had so much confrontation with working people in Scotland and gave rise to the three-day working week and everything to do with it. The social contract has worked exceedingly well, and the trade unions are to be congratulated on the responsible attitude that they have adopted to the country's economic problems.