HC Deb 17 February 1977 vol 926 cc694-7
Q1. Mr. Rifkind

asked the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied with the co-ordination between the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Employment with regard to the level of unemployment in Scotland.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)


Mr. Rifkind

Is the Prime Minister aware that the appalling lack of coordination in employment matters led to a heavy Government defeat this morning in the Scottish Grand Committee? Is he not also aware that it was due to the unpaired absence of 13 Labour Members? Does he not feel that the trend he began 10 days ago of allowing the Government to be defeated because of his own unpaired absence is being followed a little too closely by many of his hon. Friends and could lead to the unemployment of the Labour Government?

The Prime Minister

I am glad to say that the co-ordination between the various Departments—and the Question relates to co-ordination—has resulted in assistance being given in a number of important respects. For example, it has led to Section 7 loans and grants totalling £41 million and to some 35,000 jobs—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."]—anticipating a total expenditure of £383 million. I thought that the hon. Gentleman was getting to his feet to congratulate the Government on their part in establishing the Cummins Engine Company diesel works near Glasgow, in which the Scottish Development Corporation has set aside a considerable sum of money for the provision of labour. That project is going through because of the good quality of Scottish labour. All that seems to me to be much more important than making the kind of point the hon. Gentleman sought to make in his supplementary question.

Mr. David Steel

Will the Prime Minister say when the two Secretaries of State will be announcing new measures to give employment incentives to Scottish development areas, as foreshadowed in statements he is always making about sudden withdrawals of regional employment premium?

The Prime Minister

Yes, discussions are taking place on that subject and I promise that action will follow as quickly as possible. A number of projects are now under consideration. The accelerated projects scheme has been replaced by the new selective scheme which involves a total of £100 million.

Mr. William Ross

Will my right hon. Friend not worry too much about the farce that we experienced this morning in the Scottish Grand Committee? We welcome the fact that 10 English Members showed a belated interest in Scottish education and voted on something that did not matter at all. Will he take seriously the subject of co-ordination and widen it to include the Department of Industry and the Treasury? Furthermore, will he invite them to make an assessment and report to him on the consequences of the withdrawal of REP, and will he prepare a further programme of action?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I shall consider that suggestion. We have made a number of inquiries about REP, on which my right hon. Friend and others have made representations. However, it appears that business men much prefer the other incentives that are taking its place. Such research as we have done confirms that, but I shall continue to examine these matters and to obtain the best co-ordination possible.

Mr. Donald Stewart

As Scottish unemployment is at a level that is unprecedented since before the war and in view of what was said by the former Secretary of State for Scotland, the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), that a Secretary of State who sees unemployment rising to 100,000 should resign, will the Prime Minister undertake to inform the present holder of that office that if he gets unemployment down to 100,000 he may remain in office?

The Prime Minister

Scottish unemployment is a factor in United Kingdom unemployment as a whole and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will tell his constituents that the economy of Scotland cannot be separated from that of England and Wales. The same factors affect both countries, including the increased prices of commodities and imported materials that have sent up costs so much. The unemployment situation in Scotland must be improved, and the Government's policy for industrial strategy is the best way of achieving that, coupled with overcoming inflation.

Miss Harvie Anderson

Since the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) objects to English Members voting in a Scottish Committee, can the Prime Minister say whether the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock will abstain from the English education vote tonight or, indeed, from the United Kingdom vote?

The Prime Minister

I should not dream of answering on behalf of my right hon. Friend. Having heard him bite off one Tory after another during his years in the House, I can tell the right hon. Lady that he is more than a match for any 10 of her colleagues.