HC Deb 18 May 1976 vol 911 cc1203-4
14. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Employment by what percentage unemployment in Scotland has increased or decreased since October 1974.

Mr. Booth

Between October 1974 and April 1976, the numbers unemployed in Scotland, seasonally adjusted and excluding school-leavers, increased by 64.6 per cent.

Mr. Taylor

Is not the Secretary of State ashamed of the situation, in which, in Scotland today, the seasonally adjusted rate of unemployment is rising at the rate of 100 every working day? In view of this situation, will he speak to his Cabinet colleagues with a view to making progress on the transfer of the 7,000 Civil Service jobs to Glasgow, the progress of which has been much delayed, I understand, because of fears that the Government's ludicrous devolution plans may lead to the breakup of Great Britain.

Mr. Booth

The unemployment situation in Scotland, relative to that of the United Kingdom as a whole, has shown a slight deterioration recently from a ratio of 117 per cent. of the United Kingdom figure to 119 per cent. of the United Kingdom figure. This compares with a ratio as high as 170 per cent. in 1973. Therefore, I think that the deterioration needs to be kept in proportion.

I accept what the hon. Gentleman says about the importance of Government plans to place civil servants in all the regions that are suffering from unemployment. This matter is under consideration between myself and my colleagues.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend consider specially the Cowdenbeath-Lochgelly area where the percentage unemployment figure is far higher than for the rest of Scotland? Will he undertake to examine the proposals of the Scottish National Party to run down North Sea oil development, which would have the result of still further increasing the serious unemployment problem in Scotland?

Mr. Booth

I realise that the overall figure that I gave hides the fact that in certain areas of Scotland there is very serious unemployment.

As for the SNP's proposal on oil development, there is bound to be a reduction in the amount of work that the development of North Sea oil provides as there is a turnover from exploration to production. Any proposals to slow down the rate of development of North Sea oil will cause grave alarm to my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself, because we are concerned to ensure maximum employment for people in Scotland.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we in Scotland are anxious for permanent, not temporary jobs, which is what the rapid grab for oil will lead to? As the Labour Party manifesto asked us to vote Labour to safeguard employment, do the broken promises that are strewn around mean that the Labour Party conference will be the shambles that the Scottish Tory Party conference was the other day?

Mr. Booth

I find it hard to reconcile concern about levels of unemployment in Scotland with disparaging remarks about the temporary nature of North Sea oil jobs. I should have thought that many of those jobs were most welcome and that any plans to limit them in the near future would be resisted by those who are primarily concerned about levels of unemployment.