§ 15. Mr. Sillars
asked the Secretary of State for Employment how current unemployment levels compared with 1973.
§ Mr. Sillars
Do not those figures and the reply to the previous Question illustrate the simple truth that centralised regional policies do not work and can best be described as failures? Does the Secretary of State agree that the best and most effective regional policy for Scotland, Wales, and the other regions of England would be economic self-management? Will he, the Prime Minister, and the rest of the Cabinet, bear that in mind when they reconsider the Government's devolution policy in terms of the powers to go to a Scottish Assembly?
§ Mr. Booth
I believe that the figures that I quoted in answer to the previous Question, which showed that unemployment in Scotland had risen less in relation to the rest of the United Kingdom than in previous slumps, indicate that the regional policies determined by this House have had a favourable effect in Scotland, as in a number of other development areas.
§ Mr. Evelyn King
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that in seaside resorts —I have Weymouth particularly in mind —for many years unemployment has been excessively high, wages have been excessively low, and no Labour Government have taken the slightest interest? Will he, for his own sake, try to reverse that policy and do something for us?
§ Mr. Booth
I certainly accept that in many seaside resorts unemployment has been high, particularly in winter, and wages have been low. However, I do not accept that the Government are not concerned about that matter. We have been concerned about it in the siting of jobs and in determining the relationship between support for tourism and support for industry, particularly in development areas.
§ Mr. Skinner
Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that this should be a matter not only of concern but of general economic strategy? Does he agree that about this time last year the strategy was to cut back the consumer's purchasing power by developing the £6 pay limit in line with the union leadership, which resulted in unemployment becoming 1206 almost double what it was? What chance is there of a change in this strategy, as a result of the further reduction in the purchasing power of ordinary working people arising from the 4½ per cent. policy?
§ Mr. Booth
The concern and the strategy go hand in hand. In so far as employment has been dependent upon the purchasing power of the British people, the rate of inflation has cut back on that purchasing power. If our present overall strategy reduces the rate of inflation by another half in the coming year, ilt will increase the purchacing power of the British people and provide a basis on which to found firmer pay claims in future.