HC Deb 19 July 1978 vol 954 cc507-10
1. Mr. Younger

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will convene a special conference on unemployment in Scotland under his chairmanship, to include all industrial organisations and local authorities.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Gregor MacKenzie)

No, Sir.

Mr. Younger

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider that decision? Has he noticed that yesterday's unemployment figures showed that there are no fewer than 191,906 Scots out of work? Will he not hold such a meeting as I have suggested, preferably on Glasgow Green, where he could invite the 106,906 people who were in good jobs under a Tory Government but are now out of jobs under a Labour Government? He could then explain to them what was meant by "Back to Work with Labour".

Mr. MacKenzie

I do not think that Glasgow Green is an appropriate place. We discuss with the Scottish Trades Union Congress, the CBI, the Scottish Council (Development and Industry), the local authorities and others concerned the very serious problems of unemployment. The hon. Gentleman should look at the figures with some care. There has been a drop in seasonally adjusted un- employment, and unemployment this month has improved in Scotland as against the rest of the United Kingdom. I thought that that might just be the signal for the hon. Gentleman to make some encouraging comments.

Mr. Sillars

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the anxiety about unemployment in Ayrshire was heightened today when we read in the Glasgow Herald that local authority deputations are in London trying to divert traffic from Prestwick to Edinburgh? Will he confirm that in no way will the present Government accept a diminution of the role of Prestwick airport, with all that that implies for the level of employment in the county?

Mr. MacKenzie

The deputations are not to me, but I draw my hon. Friend's attention to what was said in the White Paper by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade.

Mr. Grimond

In view of the increase in moonlighting, or the secondary economy, and also the difficulty of getting skilled labour for some jobs, does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that a reduction in taxation and still further improved training facilities might do something to reduce the unemployment figures?

Mr. MacKenzie

Now that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has taken over responsibility for the Manpower Services Commission in Scotland, there is a further arm of the Scottish Office dealing with the whole question of employment. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that special care is being taken over the matter of training and skill match. These studies are being conducted by the Commission, and the Government have taken careful note of the measures suggested by the Training Services Division. It is encouraging to note that many more young people are now in training and will go into training in future years.

Mr. Henderson

Leaving aside the question of young people who are going into training—which we welcome—I remind the right hon. Gentleman that many young people are also in the labour market. Can he indicate to those who have left school this year when they are likely to get their first job?

Mr. MacKenzie

No one wants to answer hypothetical questions about when people are going to get their first jobs. The Training Services Division does a lot for training. The hon. Gentleman should know that recently we introduced a youth opportunities programme. We now have also the special temporary employment programme. I recognise that these various short-term measures are no substitute for a real job, but they have been of considerable advantage in providing jobs for some 60,000 people in Scotland.

Mr. Buchan

If my right hon. Friend held such a meeting, would he also invite the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), along with his Scottish Tory cohorts, to explain that he wants complete cuts in grants and subsidies to industry? Is it not the grossest hypocrisy of the Opposition to complain about the unemployment situation when they wish to have massive cuts in public expenditure, which would double unemployment?

Mr. MacKenzie

If I were to speak at any conference concerned with unemployment, my first point would be that the Government, even in the course of the last year, in terms of selective financial assistance to industry, have given about £23 million to companies in Scotland and that this has been very helpful in safeguarding jobs and creating new ones. Secondly, we are all aware of the record of the Opposition in these matters. Thirdly, we are well aware of their record in voting against jobs for the shipyards, car workers, and many others.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Does the Minister agree that what he has said is a total distortion of Conservative policies and that the people of Scotland are fully aware of the simple fact that unemployment has doubled under this Government, and was never anything like as high as it now is when the Conservatives were in power?

Mr. MacKenzie

There was no distortion at all in what I said. The voting record of the Conservatives is perfectly clear. They voted against jobs for car workers and they voted against jobs for shipyard workers. We all know from the speeches made by the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) that there would be massive cuts in public expenditure under a Conservative Government, and certainly this would have an effect on employment in Scotland.

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