HC Deb 26 October 1976 vol 918 cc267-70
Q1. Mr. Reid

asked the Prime Minister when he will next meet the STUC.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

I hope to meet the STUC again before the end of the year.

Mr. Reid

In view of today's depressing rise in Scottish unemployment, will the Prime Minister explain to ordinary Scottish trade unionists why, when our oil is keeping the United Kingdom afloat and the IMF happy, the Scottish Assembly should not have its own revenue access to that oil to help cure unemployment north of the border?

The Prime Minister

I am glad to say that, as in the remainder of the United Kingdom, unemployment among school leavers is very much better this month. I am sure that the hon. Member is pleased to note that it has fallen from about 15,300 to 10,600 this month. I am glad to say that there has also been a reduction in short-time working. A short while ago the number affected was 16,000, but this number has been reduced to 2,400. There has also been a fall in redundancies. I think, therefore, that the Scottish nation is still heavily against the SNP's demand for independence.

Mr. Corbett

When my right hon. Friend next meets the TUC will he be in a position to discuss with it the reported plans to give the National Enterprise Board some of the powers and responsibilities of the former Industrial Reorganisation Corporation to assist with much-needed mergers and to help with the reinvigoration of British industry?

The Prime Minister

Yes, we need to use all of those agencies, especially the Scottish Development Agency, which is a very useful weapon in the armoury for encouraging Scottish development. I am sorry to note that when the Leader of the Opposition went to Scotland she did not explain why she thought it necessary for the Conservative Party document to advocate weakening the powers of the SDA and removing some of its powers for encouraging industrial projects.

Mr. David Steel

When the Prime Minister next meets the STUC will he discuss with it its critical views, which are widely shared in Scotland, about the lack of any economic or fiscal content in the Government's devolution proposals?

The Prime Minister

This matter will come before the House when all the issues are debated. I have discussed them with the STUC. Basically it broadly agrees with the Government's proposals as put forward in the White Paper, and I would have thought that that was a very good start to the debate.

Mr. Robert Hughes

When my right hon. Friend meets the STUC will he remind it of the very great efforts made by the Government to save the jobs of Chrysler workers and shipyard workers in Scotland, and say that the benefits to the people of Scotland of that approach are meaningful? Will he reject the attitude of the SNP Members who do not care about Chrysler workers in England?

The Prime Minister

Young as the SNP is, it has a past that is already beginning to catch up with it. To judge from The Scotsman today, Scottish opinion is catching up with it very fast. There is no doubt that the SNP will have to retreat from its demand for independence or the Scottish electors will soon see through its Members. I understand from Scottish opinion and I believe that the best way for us to proceed is to preserve the unity of the United Kingdom and that the measures produced by the Government, with whatever changes may be made as a result of deliberation in this House, should go through and provide widespread devolution.

Mr. Tapsell

When the Prime Minister next talks to trade union leaders will he explain to them how it is that when he took the opportunity on television last night to refer to the vast German currency reserves he failed to point out that they had been accumulated as a result of social and economic policies entirely different from those pursued by this Socialist Government?

The Prime Minister

There have been many differences between the German economic system and our own, including the total destruction of the German industrial system and the rebuilding of the trade union movement on an entirely different basis which does not fit our history. But one conclusion that I draw and recommend to employers in this country and perhaps to the Opposition is that the system of industrial democracy in Germany is working extremely well, and that is why we propose that similar measures should be introduced here next Session.

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