HC Deb 09 June 1976 vol 912 cc1415-7
4. Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make an up-to-date statement on the extent of unemployment in Scotland; and what prospects school leavers will have of obtaining employment.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Gregor Mackenzie)

Total unemployment in Scotland at the May count was 6.6 per cent. An increase in the number of unemployed school leavers is to be expected after the end of the current school year, but the number of vacancies being notified by employers is increasing, and prospects should further improve as the general strengthening now evident in the economy leads to an upturn in overall employment.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Will the Minister assure the House that he will instigate a crash programme for projects under the job creation scheme in order to make certain that as many as possible of the 71,000 school leavers should go on to jobs, as well as very many others of those presently unemployed in Scotland?

Mr. Mackenzie

The problem has been recognised. Extra funds have been made available for training. As I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, the school leaver recruitment subsidy scheme has provided jobs for 3,000, which we welcome. None of us is complacent about this problem. We shall take all the measures that are possible to ensure that these people are found employment.

Mr. Lambie

In order to increase job prospects in Ayrshire, will my hon. Friend put pressure on the Secretary of State for Scotland to review the previous Secretary of State's refusal to grant planning permission for an oil terminal and oil refinery at Hunterston? That is something that he could do right away, thus guaranteeing 5,000 jobs immediately to the people in North and Central Ayrshire.

Mr. Mackenzie

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is well aware of the representations that have been made by my hon. Friend over a long period.

Mr. David Steel

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of one slight snag in the otherwise good job creation programme, namely, the minimum size of project required before a scheme qualifies for assistance under that programme? Does not that make matters rather more difficult in small towns and rural communities?

Mr. Mackenzie

I shall certainly consider the point that the hon. Gentleman raises, but it is really a matter for the Manpower Services Commission.

22. Mr. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what new measures he proposes to introduce to deal with Scottish unemployment.

Mr. Gregor Mackenzie

As my right hon. Friend said in reply to a similar Question from the hon. Gentleman on 12th May, the Government have already taken substantial steps to reduce unemployment. The various measures referred to at that time continue and have now helped to protect or create over 16,000 jobs in Scotland.

Mr. Henderson

Does the Minister recognise that the steps announced on 12th May and on earlier occasions appear to have had little impact on the unemployment situation in Scotland? Does he remember that the previous Secretary of State once declared that he would resign if Scottish unemployment reached 100,000? What figure does it have to reach before the new Secretary of State resigns?

Mr. Mackenzie

Unemployment is a serious matter and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will treat it accordingly. The Government have taken positive steps on unemployment in Scotland. The measures that we are introducing to deal with inflation are designed to help. It was a disappointment to many of us to find that the Scottish National Party will again be linking with the Tory Party in an attempt to defeat some of those measures tonight.

Mr. Canavan

Does my hon. Friend agree that the prospects of Scottish shipyard workers could be seriously damaged by undue delay on the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill? Will he use what influence he has to see that the Bill's Report stage is reintroduced as soon as possible, despite the intimidating tactics of Mace-waving Tories, aided and abetted by SNP Members who not only join them in the Lobbies but tear up telegrams from trade unionists?

Mr. Mackenzie

I am one of the sponsors of the Bill, and I am determined, as my colleagues are, that the industries shall be taken into public ownership. The people of Scotland showed by returning Labour Members, particularly in the west of Scotland, that they were determined that such Bills should be put on the statute book. That is what we intend to do.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Does the Minister think that the redundant steel workers in Scotland would agree with him that nationalisation helps to secure and save jobs? Is not all the evidence to the contrary? How can the Government justify the deliberate creation of teacher unemployment in Scotland when they are squandering hundreds of millions of pounds on nationalisation, which will destroy jobs?

Mr. Mackenzie

The steel workers of Scotland want to see a modernised steel industry. The amount of investment going into Lanarkshire and other places is well received by them. It is always significant to listen to hon. Members make such comments about unemployment when we bear in mind that they voted against all sorts of measures to improve job prospects, such as those concerning Chrysler and British Leyland and Industry Bills and other proposals of that kind.