HC Deb 24 October 1979 vol 972 cc413-5
14. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the current unemployment situation.

15. Mr. John Home Robertson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the latest Scottish unemployment figures.

Mr. Younger

On 11 October 1979 unemployment in Scotland was 178,489–7.9 per cent. The grave deterioration in the unemployment situation since we were last in office continues to cause the Government serious concern and our prime objective is to create an economic climate in Scotland and in the rest of the United Kingdom in which investment is encouraged and lasting jobs can be created. This is the only way in which a longterm reduction in unemployment can be achieved.

Mr. Hamilton

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the appalling fact that 9,000 youngsters who left school four months ago are still searching for a job? Has there been any new initiative by the Government designed to decrease unemployment rather than increase it? Does he further agree that the unemployment rate has accelerated since the accession of his Government?

Mr. Younger

The hon. Member is wrong in that. I am sure he will agree that the only way to solve the unemployment problem is to remove a lot of the restrictions which have made it not worth while for people to start new businesses and create new jobs, unfortunately under the Government of which he was a most loyal supporter?

Mr. Home Robertson

Is the Secretary of State aware that this House has given him power to intervene and to give new life to threatened industries, whether it be in Clydebank, Lemac in my constituency, or, indeed, the imperilled hill farming industry? Is the Minister aware that those who are threatened with unemployment in Scotland wish that he would use those powers instead of behaving like the Prime Minister's lap dog in Cabinet?

Mr. Younger

As I have already said, I have a very wide range of powers in this matter and I intend to use every one of them in the most helpful way possible to create new jobs, and to encourage firms to expand and create new employment in every way they can. As has already been said, there is more money available this year than the previous Government gave last year for that purpose, and we shall use it as vigorously as we can.

Mr. Sproat

Will my right hon. Friend lose no opportunity to point out to the people of Scotland the sickening hypocrisy of Labour Members? It was the Labour Government that presided over the doubling of unemployment in Scotland and left us with the situation with which we now have to cope.

Mr. Younger

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have seen the results of five years of Socialist policy. The country voted for a change and it will get it.

Mr. Gourlay

Everyone is sympathetic about the closure of the Singer factory, but is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the closure of British Shipbuilders' yard at Burntisland? Will he give the same degree of urgency to finding jobs for people who have been unemployed in that part of Scotland as he is giving to those at Singers?

Mr. Younger

The question of degree of urgency is difficult to measure, but I can assure the hon. Member that, within the limits of the powers available to me, I shall give every possible assistance in his area as well as other areas. I hope that we shall manage to persuade new firms to come in and take up the jobs that have been lost.

Mr. Speaker

Order. When the word "hypocrisy" is applied to a Party, it is different from when it is applied to an individual. That has long been our understanding.

Mr. Millan

As unemployment in Scotland is now rising, and as it is agreed by everyone, including some Ministers, that the present Government's monetary policies, along with expenditure cuts, are bound to increase unemployment, particularly in areas such as Scotland, is it the Government's policy that their monetary policies will continue regardless of the effect on unemployment?

Mr. Younger

It is certainly the Government's intention that the expenditure which was embarked upon by the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) and his colleagues—expenditure which had no backing for it in funds—has to be brought under control. We are getting expenditure under control and, once we have done so, there may be a chance of some new jobs to help the unemployed.