HC Deb 25 April 1978 vol 948 cc1158-60
6. Mr. Dempsey

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will give an estimate of the number of additional jobs which will be provided in the United Kingdom and Scotland, respectively, as a result of the increase in defence expenditure.

Mr. Mulley

It will not be possible to work out in detail the employment implications of the defence budget targets for 1979–80 and 1980–81 until the programmes for those years have been fully drawn up.

Mr. Dempsey

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there has been a tendency over the past years to run down the number of defence jobs coming to the West of Scotland? In view of the fact that in that part of the United Kingdom we have more than the national average of unemployed, will he look at the position and try to reverse this trend?

Mr. Mulley

I shall, as my hon. Friend requests, look into the position. But he will know that, as a result of the Defence Review, we have greatly reduced the civilian manpower directly employed by the Ministry of Defence. In placing defence contracts we have to follow the contractual procedures and to be guided by the timescale and the cost-effectiveness of the equipment that we wish to acquire.

Mr. Hooson

Will the Secretary of State give an indication of the increase in the number of personnel in the Armed Forces as a result of the increase in defence expenditure?

Mr. Mulley

We have not come yet to a final view about the expenditures for these two years, but I have already announced an increase in the Royal Marines by retaining 41 Commando. I have also increased the establishment of the Army by a composite battalion, and another 1,200 or so for Northern Ireland.

Mr. Dalyell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this morning I telephoned his office and that of each of his four ministerial colleagues to give them the page references in yesterday's House of Lords Official Report, where it is stated that the Scottish Assembly would set up an official defence committee? What relationship between the defence committee of the Scottish Assembly and the Ministry of Defence is there likely to be on the question of jobs?

Mr. Mulley

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for telephoning my office and giving me the Hansard references. I confess that I do not take a line by line interest in the deliberations on the Scotland Bill in another place. But, of course, as I have already told my hon. Friend, defence is not a devolved subject under the Bill, and the Assembly will have neither powers nor responsibilities in this field. As to whether an Assembly that has still to be set up will have a defence committee, and what it may or may not do if it has one, my hon. Friend will have to restrain his impatience and await the development of events.

Mr. MacCormick

In view of the Question tabled by the hon. Member for Coat-bridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey), will the Secretary of State confirm that the percentage of the defence expenditure actually spent in Scotland has been and still is unfairly low?

Mr. Mulley

As I have explained already, unfortunately it is not possible to place defence contracts on a sort of population average basis. I have to go to firms which specialise in the production of aircraft, ships, or whatever it may be. Quite a number of ships are built in Scotland. I shall look again at the question of percentage, but I must try to get the best equipment for the forces at the best value, and this does not necessarily mean that expenditure can be spread regionally on an average basis in the way that all hon. Members might wish.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

If the right hon. Gentleman has any idea about what is happening in his Department, will he tell the House what has been the net decrease in defence jobs since the Labour Government came to power?

Mr. Mulley

Of course, defence jobs are outside my Department. I would not, without notice, be able to give an exact number. But at present between 270,000 and 300,000 people are directly involved in defence contracts for us and in our overseas sales. I would think that at least that number are involved indirectly on subcontracts. Therefore, defence still provides a substantial amount of highly technological employment.

Sir Ian Gilmour

Is the Secretary of State prepared to deny that at the very least, if we take civilian and military jobs together, his Government have cost at least 150,000 jobs?

Mr. Mulley

I cannot commit myself to a figure of that size without notice.

Mr. Churchill

The right hon. Gentleman should look at his own answers then.

Mr. Mulley

If the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) would listen a litle more and talk a little less, we should all be more satisfied and he might become more enlightened. I shall look at the number and write to the right hon. Gentleman.

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