HC Deb 15 December 1980 vol 996 cc41-81 4.47 pm
Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)

I beg to move, That this House deplores the fact that over a quarter of a million people are now registered as unemployed in Scotland; and calls for the implementation of policies which will secure an end to the hardship and misery caused by this tragic waste of human resources.

I hope that there is no disagreement in the House about the seriousness of the current unemployment situation in Scotland. More than one in eight of all males in Scotland are at present unemployed. Indeed, unemployment in Scotland is now higher than at any time since the depths of the depression in the 1930s.

There is no consolation in the unemployment figures. I say that because at Scottish Question. Time the day after the previous unemployment figures were announced at least one Conservative Member sought to extract some consolation from the fact that unemployment in Scotland, expressed as a percentage of that in the United Kingdom, had moved favourably rather than in the other direction. In the early 1970s, unemployment in Scotland, as a proportion of total United Kingdom unemployed, fell. To an extent that was encouraging, because it reflected the creation of new jobs in Scotland, particularly oil-related employment. No consolation can be derived from the fact that during the past month unemployment in Scotland has moved in that direction. It reflects the fact that unemployment has been rising even more sharply in some parts of England. Nothing can be gained from that appraisal of the statistics.

Unemployment in Scotland is something of a disaster. We have come to accept too high a level of unemployment. That is borne out by the figures. For example, in November 1980—the most recent month for which figures are available—there were 254,000 unemployed in Scotland. Ten years ago there were just over 96,000 unemployed in Scotland. Twenty years ago over 69,000 people were unemployed and 30 years ago 60,000 were unemployed. There has been an inexorable rise in the general level of unemployment in Scotland. We can no longer accept that state of affairs.

There must be a complete change in our attitudes towards the level of unemployment that is acceptable. As far as an individual is concerned, he is 100 per cent. unemployed. In order to clear the air, I should add that, during the period of the Labour Government, unemployment was unacceptably high. I accept my full share of responsibility for that as a member of that Administration.

As a result of the worldwide recession and of the deal that the Labour Government did with the IMF, unemployment in Scotland rose. One difference between this Government and the previous Government is that, despite the IMF deal and the recession, the Labour Government strived to increase employment in Scotland, whereas this Government's policies will make the position much worse.

The present level of unemployment in Scotland is the result not only of the Government's policies but of the international recession. My prime contention is that, notwithstanding such factors, the Government's economic policies in Scotland have made the position immeasurably worse and will continue to do so until they are reversed. I refer first to the Government's basic financial policy and to their obsesson with monetarism, which has led to high interest rates and a strong pound. The Government's policy has done immense damage to the industrial fabric of Scotland. When major proposals have been announced—whether concerning ICI, British Petroleum, British Leyland or any other major British company that operates in Scotland—the closure of productive capacity has been blamed on the over-valued pound and to some extent on high interest rates.

This weekend, the press contained reports of announcements about the steel industry. No doubt those of my hon. Friends who represent steel constituencies will speak on this issue. Many years after we first anticipated a new modern integrated steel complex at Hunterston and after the loss of many jobs in the steel industry in Scotland, is it not a reflection of how far our hopes have fallen that the Glasgow Herald and The Scotsman should talk of there being relief in Scotland because, perhaps, only 600 to 1,000 jobs will be axed in the near future? I do not criticise those newspapers. In a sense, there is relief. However, is it not a measure of the enormity of the economic crisis in Scotland that such announcements should be met with relief? There will be a further serious cut in employment.

The Government's tight money policy has done a great deal of damage to Scotland and to the rest of the United Kingdom. As a result of the Government's policy on public expenditure, Scotland has suffered severely. Whether the Government like it or not, employment, industrial investment and the Scottish economy as a whole are heavily dependent on public expenditure and public investment. The cuts have done enormous damage to the level of employment in Scotland and to the prospects of our young people.

The Minister has admitted at last that cuts are being made in Scotland's Health Service. As a result, hundreds of valuable jobs, such as those of nurses and technicians, will be destroyed. On Wednesday, the Secretary of State is expected to make a major announcement on the level of the rate support grant for the coming year. That announcement will have a significant impact on employment in Scotland. Does the Treasury have any estimate of how many jobs will be lost in Scotland for every million pounds that is lopped off the rate support grant?

The nationalised industries are very important to Scotland. In the November mini-Budget, we were told that £¼ billion would be knocked off the borrowing requirements of the nationalised industries. As yet, we do not know how real those cuts will prove. Whether we like it or not, the Scottish economy is heavily dependent on investment by the nationalised industries for the creation of productive capacity, the provision of employment and the generation of demand for goods and services from private industry. The cuts in public expenditure and public investment have made a significant contribution towards increasing unemployment in Scotland. They are harming the Scottish economy.

I turn to my constituency and to the surrounding areas. I can best make my point by drawing the Minister's attention to a headline which appeared on Thursday in the Edinburgh Evening News. The Minister may have seen it. In large black and white letters, it states: Lost—4,000 jobs in the Lothians The article continues: Nearly 4,000 jobs have been lost in Lothian over the last 12 months—and another 5,000 people would have joined the dole queue if firms had not introduced short-time working. I recognise that unemployment in the Lothian region is lower than that found in some other regions in Scotland. It is certainly significantly lower than that in South Clyde. The Scottish economy will gain nothing if the Government cut back on regional policy—as they have done—as regards Edinburgh and the surrounding area.

Last August, I initiated a debate on this issue. The Under-Secretary of State for industry justified the fact that Edinburgh had been downgraded from development area status to non-assisted area status on the ground that other areas had bigger problems. We shall not solve the rest of Scotland's problems by depriving the Edinburgh area of opportunities for industrial expansion and investment. The Edinburgh area has the potential to create employment. Many industries would expand if they received the support—which they have had in the past—not only of development area grants but also of selective assistance.

I appeal to the Minister, as one who represents an Edinburgh constituency, to reconsider the Government's decision to downgrade Edinburgh to a non-assisted area. In my constituency on the east side of the city, we have had massive job losses over the years. The previous Labour Government brought hope. Through the Scottish Development Agency we have a new industrial estate in Craigmillar, where unemployment is much higher than the Scottish average. A new industrial estate is also being developed in Musselburgh. However, our hopes of attracting industry to the factories on these new industrial estates has been dealt a body blow by the Government's decision to downgrade Edinburgh from development area status. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and the Scottish Office will take on board the point that cuts in regional policy cannot be sustained with rising unemployment. The Government should reverse their decision on Edinburgh.

The Minister will doubtless refer to the special employment measures, which were first introduced by a Labour Government because of the high levels of unemployment. This Government initially cut the programme of investment in special employment measures substantially. The Secretary of State for Employment more than reversed that policy in his statement shortly after the Summer Recess. I welcome the improvements and the extension to the youth opportunities programme, which will help to alleviate the demoralisation of many of our young people who cannot obtain a job on leaving school.

However, we should keep the programme in perspective. It is no substitute for proper jobs, the regeneration of the Scottish economy and the provision of long-term employment.

In many ways, the man in his 40s or 50s suffers most from unemployment. There is much real poverty, and real hardship will increase through the Government's decision to cut benefits. Many such people find it increasingly difficult to secure alternative employment. The Secretary of State's community enterprise programme makes a totally insignificant contribution to alleviating the problem.

The best way to illustrate that is simply to look at the figures. Eventually, in 1982, 25,000 places will be provided. Scotland is unlikely to get even 4,000. If the places are allocated on a proportional basis, the number is likely to be even less. However, on the most generous interpretation, let us suppose that we get 4,000 places for unemployed people over 18. About 67,000 people would be eligible—those between 18 and 24 unemployed for over six months and those over 25 unemployed for over 12 months. At present, over 219,000 people over 18 are unemployed, including those who have been unemployed for only a few weeks. Only two out of every 100 unemployed people over 18 are likely when the scheme is fully operational to obtain temporary benefit from a place in the community enterprise programme. The modest improvements announced by the Government are only a drop in the ocean for Scotland.

What can be done to reverse the inexorable rise in unemployment? The Government must reverse their policies. We need lower interest rates. I accept that we do not dictate the value of the pound sterling, but if interest rates were cut sharply and the Government pursued a different and more flexible policy we should probably see a reduction in its value. Even a modest reduction would bring immense benefit to industry in Scotland.

The Government must also adopt a different approach to public expenditure in Scotland. They are spending hundreds of millions of pounds of public money to maintain the vast army of the unemployed. We are asking the Government not to increase public expenditure but to divert it to new investment. They could allow the Health Service and nationalised industries to spend that money to create investment and new jobs, which would be a preferable use of our oil revenues. The Government must relax their tight grip on local government expenditure in Scotland. We must have more expenditure on the social services, which are labour intensive. Above all, we need more public expenditure in the investment programmes of the nationalised industries to increase our productive capacity and create a new demand for goods and services in the Scottish economy.

The Government must reverse their approach to energy prices. The CBI has produced a document showing how the cost of energy to industry in this country is much higher not only than in the United States, as was mentioned earlier in relation to textiles, but even than in other EEC countries. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Fairgrieve), knows that the main reason given by the management for the most recent paper mill closure in his constituency was the excessively high cost of energy. Energy accounts for about 30 per cent. of production costs in the paper and board industry. The Government can act quickly, as the CBI says, to alter their policy over gas prices and to enable electricity boards to enter into long-term supply contracts for industry at lower prices. The Government can take immediate action here and bring some relief to industry.

The Scottish Development Agency was set up by the Labour Government to spearhead the regeneration of industry in Scotland. It has a good record. I have mentioned its successes in my constituency. However, this Government have shackled it. The new guidelines hve not helped. If the Government wanted to give to the problems of Scottish industry and unemployment the priority that they deserve, they should give the SDA its head. They should not apply the rigorous guidelines that are criticised by the Public Accounts Committee for their effect on the viability and likely success of the Stonefield vehicles company. We have a crisis in Scotland. We do not have time for ideological dogma. The Scottish Development Agency can make a positive contribution to new investment in Scotland and to providing employment for the future if it is given the necessary resources and given its head.

There is no alternative to a reversal of the Government's policies. Their economic policy has failed not only in our terms but in their own terms. The leading apostle of monetarism and Government policies in the British press is Samuel Brittan. His column in the Financial Times today makes interesting reading. It states: Anyone who has tried to explain what has happened to the British economy in the last few months has been confronted with a puzzle. The money supply has raced ahead wildly—at about double the official target of 7 to 11 per cent. One can play about with different definitions or adjust for distortions, but it is still difficult to escape the evidence of a monetary explosion. I could not give a damn about money supply figures, and nor could the unemployed in Scotland. However, the central objectives of the Government's economic strategy—the great magic cure-all—has been the control of money supply. On that basis, they have failed. That is one reason why they should be prepared to admit that they are wrong and to change their policies. The most important reason is the effect of these policies on the Scottish economy and on the level of employment in Scotland. There is a social and economic disaster in Scotland. Unemployment is not only at record levels but is rising sharply.

In a series of answers to questions which I tabled last week, we saw that the rate of loss of employment in Scotland had reached a staggering level. Between December 1979 and June 1980, 27,000 jobs were lost. In the previous six-month period, the number of jobs lost increased by 10,000, and during the period before that the number increased by 10,000. That rate of job loss is terrifying and shows no signs of a reversal. Thus, we appeal to the Government to change their policies.

It has not been the burden of my case to argue that the problems of the Scottish economy are all the fault of the present Government. However, in so far as both parties agree that we would like full employment, new investment and more productive capacity in Scotland, these policies have failed. We have no hope of tackling these real problems and improving the Scottish economy until the Government reverse their present economic policies.

5.11 pm
Mr. Iain Sproat (Aberdeen, South)

I think that all hon. Members will want to congratulate the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) on choosing this most important subject for debate and on giving Conservative Members a chance of making the point, which cannot be made strongly enough, that they feel as deeply about genuine unemployment as do Opposition Members and their supporters. At the Scottish TUC conference the other day, it was implied that some Conservatives were not so worried about unemployment. I think that we shall certainly nail that myth this afternoon by saying how deeply we in the Conservative Party feel about unemployment in Scotland.

I was sorry that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East began his otherwise moderate and interesting speech by referring to the parallel between today and the 1930s. The fact is that there is absolutely no parallel between the misery and the problems caused by unemployment today and the misery caused by unemployment in the 1930s. Those who seek to pretend that this Government are taking us back to the 1930s ignore a whole raft of very important points.

I should like to put on record at least some of the reasons why we are not experiencing a return to the 1930s. One important reason, which is rarely mentioned, is that today there is a National Health Service, which did not exist at that time. That is an extremely important point which is too often glossed over. Secondly, today there is a comprehensive system of State benefits which cushions many people from the more savage effects of unemployment.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)

The hon. Gentleman is attacking that system.

Mr. Sproat

I thought that I would get some idiotic interruption from the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan). Surely, after all the years that I have been seeking to explain this point, I ought not to have to say that I attacked, and still attack, and all reasonable people attack, those who abuse the social security system, not those whom we ought and want to help. Abuses of the social security system take away money which we ought to be giving to those who are in true and real need.

Mr. Canavan

Will the hon. Gentleman admit that the Government are attacking the Welfare State by reducing the real value of unemployment benefit, and that they are therefore attacking the victims of unemployment rather than attacking unemployment?

Mr. Sproat

I do not admit that. There is no question of this Government attacking all that is good in the Welfare State. We are trying to make the Welfare State more effective.

The two points that I mentioned are so often glossed over are, first, that there was no National Health Service in the 1930s and, second, that there was no comprehensive system of State benefits.

One other important point which the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East did not make in his opening speech—although I accept that he was trying to be as fair and moderate as possible—was that today, as compared with the 1930s, about one in three of those who are unemployed are women, mainly housewives. I do not seek to diminish the drop in the standard of living in a household accustomed to an income from a husband and a wife at work when the wife loses her income. However, there is a great difference between the situation in the 1930s, when every single figure in the dole queue meant a whole family in grinding poverty, and today, when a housewife finds herself out of work and the average income might be reduced from about £200 a week to about £120 a week. [Interruption.] I do not know what Opposition Members are groaning about. Those are the average figures. If Opposition Members do not know what the average figures for wages in Scotland are, they certainly ought to know. It is an important point that about one in three of those on the unemployment list are women, mostly housewives.

Another important point that ought to be made is that of the total United Kingdom figure of 2 million, and correspondingly in Scotland, about 100,000 of those on the unemployment register are people such as bank managers who have retired early and are drawing benefits of various sorts until they reach the age of 65. It is ludicrous to pretend that retired bank managers are in a parallel position to the unemployed in the 1930s. I believe that it is a most extraordinary system that we allow 100,000—[Interruption.] The hon Member for West Stirlingshire either does not know, in which case he ought to be ashamed of himself, or he should listen.

Mr. Canavan

Get lost.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Richard Crawshaw):

Order. The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) must not from a seated position shout across the Chamber. If he wishes to intervene, he must seek to do so in the conventional manner.

Mr. Sproat

I have been extremely courteous to the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire. I have already given way to him once in my speech.

As I said, 100,000 of those on the unemployment register in the United Kingdom are persons such as bank managers who retire before the age of 65. That figure also includes many other people in occupational pension schemes who retire before the age of 65. It is ludicrous to say that any of those people are in the same situation as people were in the 1930s. In no way are they in grinding poverty.

Since the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East mentioned it earlier, I also point out that a substantial number of those on the unemployment list are there because they find that they are better off on a combination of social security benefits in cash and in kind plus tax-free moonlighting.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

Oh, dear!

Mr. Sproat

If the hon. Gentleman wants it, I shall give him the name and address of one man, an example which will be familiar to all my hon. Friends, Mr. Thomas McIntyre of Dunoon who was reported recently in the Daily Mail as receiving about £500 a month tax-free in various benefits in cash and in kind. That gentleman does no work for that £500 a month. He can in no way be compared with those in the 1930s who desperately wanted work and could not get it.

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, Central)

Will the hon. Gentleman send the details—the name, address and family circumstances of that man—to the DHSS, because the last time he engaged in this exercise he carefully erased the bulk of the names and addresses so that they could not be identified?

Mr. Sproat

I erased the names and addresses of those who wrote to me in confidence. I am now quoting a case that appeared in the newspapers and is public. If the hon. Gentleman does not like it, all he has to do is to go to the Library and he will find it in the relevant issue of the Daily Mail. The name is Thomas McIntyre of Dunoon.

It is indisputable that in no way can unemployment today be compared with the unemployment situation in the 1930s. Anyone who seeks so to do is deliberately misleading his audience.

There was a second point that I thought was markedly missing from the speech by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East. The hon. Gentleman talked about high interest rates, the strong pound and all the other reasons that he said various people in Scotland give as to why they are having to make employees redundant. What he did not mention, and what is rarely mentioned by Opposition Members, is the contribution by the trade unionists, particularly the militants in the trade unions, to that unemployment. One of the ironies of political life is that particularly trade union militants and extremists who shout most loudly about unemployment are the very people whose antics most cause unemployment.

We have sad cases of overmanning, which makes companies uncompetitive, of demarcation—

Mr. Norman Hogg (Dunbartonshire, East)


Mr. Sproat

British Steel—the one company or group of companies which, above all, everybody is thinking about today. We all know that, sadly, that is one of the reasons why British Steel has become so uncompetitive. If the hon. Gentleman does not know that Toyota is five times as productive as British car companies or that Ford of Germany, using the same number of men and the same kind of plant to produce the same kind of cars, produces two to three times as many cars as Ford workers in this country, he does not know the most important facts about our industrial situation.

It is an absolute tragedy that we have overmanning, demarcation disputes and demands for wages unrelated to productivity. My hon. Friends will have seen this morning the new claim by the National Union of Seamen. It has rejected an offer of more than 10 per cent. We know that crew rates are one of the reasons why ships are either competitive or not competitive. Yet crew rates in this country have gone up by 50 per cent. compared with 35 per cent. in Germany and 15 per cent. in Japan.

If Opposition Members cannot see that the trade unions are one of the greatest causes of unemployment in this country—I do not say that they are the only reason for unemployment—they cannot see what is at the very heart of our industrial problems.

Overmanning, demarcation disputes, wages unrelated to productivity, strikes and the threat of strikes are among the most important reasons why our industry today is uncompetitive. What Opposition Members and trade unionists have to learn is that there is a law of industrial life as unbreakable as the law of gravity which says that bad industrial practices make bad products, that bad products mean no sales and that no sales mean no jobs. That has happened to this country not just over the last 18 months, not just over the last five years, as the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East was fair enough to point out, but over the last 35 years. We have seen this country fall from being the richest to being almost the poorest country in Europe. In large measure, the trade unions—no doubt slack management and the world recession have played their part—lie at the very heart of our decline from being the richest to being almost the poorest country in Western Europe.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East concluded by calling for the reversal of Government policy and for pumping more funds into the nationalised industries. I am amazed that he should advocate the one remedy that we have seen without fail does not mop up unemployment in the long run, because we have seen unemployment rising for two decades. We certainly know that pumping more money into the economy causes more inflation. If we followed the hon. Gentleman's suggested solution, we would have not only more inflation in perhaps 18 months but more unemployment 18 months after that and we would be worse off than when we started.

The only hope for this country is to follow the policies of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. We must say that we have had enough of taking the soft options for a generation and of accepting the easy answers of doling out more money, higher spending, higher taxation and more bureaucracy. Those policies have not worked. They have resulted in high unemployment in Scotland and elsewhere in the United Kingdom. That is why my right hon. Friend must stick to her policies. I am sure that we will win through.

5.25 pm
Mr. James Hamilton (Bothwell)

I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat). Over the years, we have heard him on social security problems. I have no hesitation in saying that the hon. Gentleman has no experience of industrial areas where poverty prevails at the present time. The hon. Gentleman represents a constituency which has a certain measure of influence or affluence. Therefore, he is not fully conversant with the true situation.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the steel industry. I have a steel interest in my constituency. Only a few years ago the British Steel Corporation agreed with the much-maligned trade unions about which the hon. Gentleman talked that if manpower in the steel industry could be cut, that could solve the industry's problems. But now Mr. Ian MacGregor has come forward with recommendations for a manpower cut of 640 at Gartcosh-Ravenscraig complex. Ravenscraig is one of the most modern mills in Scotand, if not in the United Kingdom. That mill has not been afforded the opportunity to produce the tonnage that it is capable of producing. We have no doubt that the men will be determined to carry out in full everything that they said they would do three years ago.

The Government now clearly state that they want a wage freeze until July next year. Is that the proper climate in which to get workers to react favourably to all the solicitations and mandatory statements made not only by the Government but by the British Steel Corporation?

We now have the highest unemployment record since 1930. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South said that the 1930s situation had not yet been reached in 1980. I refer the hon. Gentleman to what was said by his right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), who was Prime Minister from 1970 to 1974. Recently in the House the right hon. Gentleman stated that the Government were fast approaching the situation, from which they had departed in 1974, of being labelled as the party of the unemployed. That is the general consensus prevailing in the country.

It is strange that Harold Macmillan and my right hon. Friends the Members for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) and Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), all former Prime Ministers with experience of dealing with the economy of the country, have, without exception, declared that the Government's present policy will not bring this country back to a proper position. They cannot all be wrong, and they were not all Labour Prime Ministers.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) referred to the youth opportunities programme. That will help some unemployed youngsters, at least for a period, but I recently met a young person who had been unemployed for 14 months. He is taking part in the programme, but when his time is finished he will go back on the dole.

It is not only hourly paid workers who are becoming unemployed. Three weeks ago, the company that I used to work for sacked two directors. Consequently, they are no longer supporters of the Government. Conservatives made a great deal of the problems of small businesses when the Labour Government were in power. They said that if every small business employed another one to five men, that would go a long way towards solving the unemployment problem. I have heard small business men using language to describe the Government that I would not use in the House or even at a football match. They are seething with anger and they claim that they were conned by the election promises of the Government.

There are three collieries—Polkemmet, Cardowan and Bedlay—producing coking coal for steelworks in various parts of the country. If there is a recession in the steel industry, it will have an adverse effect on the mining industry. One can understand why the transport workers, the miners and the steel workers have banded together. For the first time, they are determined to fight for their jobs. For far too long, trade unionists have been taking the juicy carrot of redundancy payments. They have been selling their jobs down the river, but there is a growing awareness that unless they are prepared to fight every inch of the way there will be no jobs for them.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South made some derogatory remarks about our trade unions, but I have just returned from Japan, where the shipbuilding, electronics and computer industries are all closed shops. The workers must be union members. We must pay attention to that. It is no good condemning trade unionists. If there is overmanning in an establishment, that is the fault of management and not the trade unionists. Because of the telecommunications cuts imposed by the Government, a factory that has just moved to my constituency will not be able to employ a labour force of the size that was first promised.

The Scottish Home and Health Department recently ordered a computer from ICL without asking for tenders. The Honeywell company in my constituency does not want special treatment, but it wants the opportunity to tender. We need the ICL company, but it should be in a similar situation to direct works departments of local authorities and should have to tender and be seen to be efficient and capable of doing the job.

I do not want only to be critical. I want to put some constructive points to the Under-Secretary, who is to reply. I know that he is not a member of the Cabinet. Indeed, sometimes I wonder whether the Secretary of State attends Cabinet meetings. The United Kingdom has an average unemployment rate of 8.8 per cent., but in Scotland the figure is 11.3 per cent. and in Lanarkshire it is 16.9 per cent.

Now is the time to increase public spending. The Scottish Special Housing Association, not only in my area but throughout the whole of Scotland, wants to carry out modernisation programmes and build more houses. Local authorities are in a similar situation. In some parts of Scotland the sewerage systems require attention. Public expenditure on such works could help to create employment.

The National Federation of Building Trades Employers stated recently: Expenditure by United Kingdom industry on new premises has dropped by around 13 per cent. in the last decade. Total national investment in new buildings has dropped by around 15 per cent. Renewal and replacement of buildings has lagged far, far, behind. … The discrimination of tax depreciation allowances against buildings has exacerbated this trend. Coinciding with this declining investment in new buildings, United Kingdom productivity performance in the 1970s deteriorated even further. … The 1980s should therefore be the decade in which British industry, with government encouragement, reverses past neglect of its building infrastructure and restores our performance to levels comparable with the best in Europe. We are the lame ducks of Europe. I do not like to use such terms, but that is a fact of life and we have to face up to it.

I urge the Government to give the Scottish Development Agency the right to be adventurous. Allow it to go to America and attempt to sell Scotland to the Americans. Allow it to sell Scotland to the Europeans. I hope that the Government will get off the SDA's back and allow it to carry out the functions that the Labour Government set it up to carry out.

I am a temporate and moderate man, but I warn the Government that if they do not alter their policies and change course they will be heading for disaster. The people will never forgive them and there is a distinct possibility that we could have a bloodbath in the streets of this country.

5.37 pm
Mr. Bill Walker (Perth and East Perthshire)

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) introduced the debate well. He put across clearly his thoughts and feelings on this serious matter. However, it was a hit much for the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. Hamilton) to suggest that we face a bloodbath in this country.

The situation today is not like that of the 1930s, and I can say that from first-hand experience. My father was unemployed in the 1930s. I vividly remember the situation in the tenements of Dundee, and there is no comparison with that today. We do not want anything like the 1930s. That time was a blight on our history, and I am confident that every hon. Member acknowledges that.

The hon. Member for Bothwell was doing an excellent job until his conclusion. He does his case a disservice by overstressing the situation and trying to create fragmentation where it does not exist. Let me remind him of what happened in the household in which I grew up. My father was sacked. He was not made redundant and there were no redundancy payments in those days. With eight children in the home, his sacking presented an enormous problem. Such problems do not exist in the same magnitude today. That is not to say that unemployment is acceptable. It is not acceptable to any thinking, sane person, but we must put the situation into perspective.

I hope that the attitude of Labour Members to this important debate will not be like the synthetic attitude that was displayed in the debate last Thursday, when the only Labour Members present were the Front Bench spokesman and two Whips, one of whom was the hon. Member for Bothwell. The rest had gone home to Scotland, I imagine on sleeper trains. That is an example of the way in which Labour Members display their caring for society, the society that we all care about.

Mr. Robert Hughes

The hon. Gentleman was annoyed at having to stay up late.

Mr. Walker

I am never annoyed at staying up late when it concerns a matter that I care deeply about. I have sat up many times when there has been no Whip telling me to do so, when matters were of great concern to me. Indeed, last Thursday's debate was of great concern to me. I had hoped that Opposition Members would at least support their hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) in his first job on the Front Bench on that day. However, they did not. I should add that a Liberal Member, the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) was present throughout the debate and he was not under instruction from any Whip. That clearly shows the difference between us.

Let me remind Opposition Members of Labour's record in office since the war. It is hypocritical of them to claim that their party is the only one that cares about unemployment. When the Tories left office in 1964 there were nearly 69,000 unemployed. When Labour left office in 1970 there were 84,000-plus unemployed. In October 1974 there were 83,000 unemployed. In May 1979, during Labour's period of office, the figure jumped to 183,000 in Scotland. Unemployment has risen progressively in Scotland under Labour Administrations.

Perhaps we should consider cause and effect. That would be more valuable than trying to score points.

Mr. Harry Ewing (Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth)

Did the hon. Gentleman say that in May 1979 there were 189,000 unemployed?

Mr. Walker

I said 183,000.

Mr. Ewing

The figure that I got from the Library—taken from the Government's own papers, not from Conservative Party Central Office—was 165,441.

Mr. Walker

If I have obtained or copied the wrong figure from the Library, that is an admission on my part of human error and failure. The figure that I have for Scotland for May 1979 is 183,000.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Alexander Fletcher)

That is the total figure not seasonally adjusted.

Mr. Walker

I accept the figures, but that does not change the arithmetic. The point is that unemployment has doubled. The situation is not changed; it is merely modified a little.

I want to draw attention to Labour's record of driving out skilled workers—a matter of equal importance to Scotland. In the three years of Tory Government, 1970–73, 21,500 skilled people left Scotland. In the three years under the Labour Administration, 1974–77, 66,500 left Scotland. In other words, not only did Labour double unemployment but it trebled the number of skilled people leaving Scotland.

I want to refer to what Mr. David Bell said in April 1979. As the editor of the quarterly bulletin of the Fraser of Allander Institute, he said that the Scottish economy could be described as a sick man on drugs". The cure, he said, was to reduce its dependence". I believe that that is exactly what the Government are seeking to do. I do not suggest that everything we do is right and that everything done by the Labour Government was wrong, because that would be nonsense. But we must all learn the lessons of the past.

I shall mention areas where I think that we could do something with the same amount of money as we are spending now. I suggest that we look for substantial reductions in local authority revenue expenditure. Of course, that can only mean reductions in the numbers of people working for local authorities. I should like that to be coupled with an increase of the same amount in capital expenditure projects. That is where tomorrow's infrastructure will come from. We must plant the seeds of tomorrow's harvest.

Further, I should like an increase in Scotland of defence capital expenditure. It would be prudent for Scotland to build ships, in particular the anti-submarine type, because the Soviets are launching a submarine every six weeks. That would also help the steel industry. I should also like us to order the Jetstream for the Royal Air Force from what used to be Scottish Aviation and is now British Aerospace. I do not apologise for wearing a Jetstream tie. I think that we should all promote the sale and production of Scottish products.

I should like more work to be given to our Royal ordnance factories. It is interesting to note that Royal ordnance factories make a surplus. In 1978–79 they made a surplus of £32.7 million. After all, they manufacture products that people want to buy. That is important, because there is no future in manufacturing goods that no one wants to buy. So the Royal ordnance factories, in which we have an interest in Scotland, should be encouraged. We have a substantial number of apprentices employed in Scotland. In the Royal ordnance factories there are 52. There are other Ministry of Defence establishments, including one in my constituency at Almondbank. These are naval workshops—and there are others—employing over 1,000 apprentices, making a total of 1,079 apprentices in Scotland. Those organisations should be encouraged, because they are not using all the facilities that are available to them for training apprentices. There is a great deal of scope. I suggest that my hon. Friend the Minister should persuade his colleagues in the Department of Employment to extend the youth opportunities programme to include apprentices who work for the Government. We already have the facilities. All that is necessary is a transfer of funds—an exercise in transferring paper money. Surely that is possible.

I mention in particular the Ministry of Defence establishments because I tabled a question to my right hon. Friend about the training of apprentices in Scotland. In doing so I was careful not to ask about the Ministry of Defence, because the question would have been transferred to that Ministry for answer. In my view, Scottish Ministers have a duty to persuade the Department of Employment to spend money on increasing the apprentice programme in Ministry of Defence establishments, Royal ordnance factories, and so on. That would make use of facilities that already exist in Scotland.

I turn to what was said by the hon. Member for Bothwell about ex-Prime Ministers. I should hardly describe any of those whom he named as being impartial observers. I shall leave it at that. They all have something that they want to put across to justify their performance in office. We are in danger of deluding ourselves if we accept the arguments that wage, price and dividend control—the policy of the Opposition—would cure our economic problems. Of course they would not. Experience over the past 15 years has shown that such a policy inevitably leads to frustration, dissatisfaction and low productivity.

Demand management and the incomes policies of successive Governments, coupled with intervention on a massive scale, have created a Frankenstein-type industrial situation in Britain.

This is the responsibility of Governments, not of trade unions or of management. I acknowledge that all the problems do not lie with the trade unions, and that management has a share of the responsibility. Many of the difficulties we are now facing are the direct result of management buying peace by refusing to accept its responsibilities. We all know what happened in the car and steel industries, where peace was bought at any price until evenutally the markets disappeared. What we want is a change.

Inflation is dropping, and dropping fast. Inflation is the reason why our manufacturing industries were unable to compete effectively abroad. I speak as a former importer and exporter. When the pound was down to ߨ1..60, we still could not improve our performance abroad, because we could not then, as we could not last year, the year before and the year before that, say in all seriousness 6 months, 12 months or 18 months ahead "These are the prices that we shall quote and deliver." Inflation completely destroyed our ability to do so.

Every exporting company says "Give us a period of stability, and we can compete with the best." I am confident that trade union members and management, given the right atmosphere by the Government, can compete. Governments have been responsible for the sad history of this country.

Productivity in the high-technology industries is increasing in Scotland and compares favourably with anything anywhere in Europe or North America, or, in some respects, in Japan.

The Government must remain vigilant and not be panicked into rash, precipitate action. We must use existing company training resources. I recommend a scheme for apprentices, making use of those resources. Let us have no more grand Government schemes. The Government are the wrong people to run anything. Companies have the facilities. Let us make sure that they have the opportunities to use them.

Training boards are not fashionable at present in some quarters, but there are some very good ones and we should use them. Their experience should not be lightly cast aside.

We should also give serious consideration to a special, lower rate of energy costs for our manufacturing industries. If Holland, countries in North America and others continue to give their industries benefits and priorities, we must start looking after ourselves.

We must also consider means of motivating people in manufacturing industry. This can be done by a lower rate of income tax or a higher rate of employee national insurance contributions by those working in local and national government. In one way or another, that would offset the benefits of job security and index-linked pensions. One of the big problems in motivating people lies in the difference between the security of those who work for any Government body and the insecurity of those who work in the areas that create the nation's wealth. That is madness.

I also look forward to the introduction of other novel, progressive ideas, but lack of time denies me the opportunity to draw attention to more than one. The railways are very important to Scotland. We should consider novel schemes for financing the track, in much the same way as we finance the roads. Then we should lease the track to whoever wants to use it, whether British Rail or anyone else. Perhaps we should then get a sense of competition into the railways. Lack of competition has destroyed their ability to deliver the goods. Part of the problem is a failure of successive Governments to deal with the infrastructure difficulties of the railways, primarily the permanent way. This is a novel idea that is worth examining.

5.53 pm
Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) is very much to be congratulated on his motion and on the constructive and positive way in which he moved it.

We in Scotland face as bad an industrial, economic and employment situation as we have ever faced. There is no ducking that. In their attempts to control inflation through controlling the money supply, the Government have made worse a situation that was already bad enough because of the world recession.

The figures have already been quoted. What I find the most horrifying of all the statistics is not simply the total of 254,000 unemployed but the increase in school leaver unemployment over the past year—by a staggering 5,865, or 85 per cent. on last year's figures.

Several hon. Members have already said that unemployment has been rising in an uncertain but fairly steady way over a number of years. The former Secretary of State, Willie Ross—

Mr. Robert Hughes

Lord Ross of Marnock.

Mr. Johnston

I am always uncertain how to refer to Lords. I am grateful for guidance from the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes).

Lord Ross's peak figure was 100,000. The peak figure of 1968, which he found unacceptable, was "bettered" by each successive Secretary of State in both Labour and Conservative Governments. The peak figure of Lord Campbell of Croy in 1972 and that of the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan)—in 1977, I think, rather than 1978, as the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker) said—were higher still. Now, we have reached the highest yet.

What is most disturbing is that it is not possible simply to say "This is in large part due to the decline of our traditional industries—shipbuilding, engineering and steel", because recent redundancies, closures and cutbacks cover the whole gamut of Scottish industry: Singer, Timex, John Brown, Lawson's of Dyce, Massey-Ferguson and Wiggins Teape in my constituency. I continue to believe that the newsprint option which was floated there and about which the Minister and I had several discussions at the time was realistic if the Government had been willing then to give sufficient support, perhaps coupled with a different approach to energy pricing. That subject has already been mentioned I shall return to it.

We also face the branch factory problem that Scotland has faced for many years. One wonders what, if anything, the Government can do about that. In my constituency at present we have the extraordinary example of a postcard factory, J. Arthur Dixon, which has only 16 employees but which is very profitable. It is to be closed down because it is now part of the large Dickinson printing group. The parent factory in the Isle of Wight, which employs far more people, is unprofitable, so it is to close down the profitable Inverness firm in order, it hopes, to reduce the losses in the Isle of Wight. Sixteen good men, trained people, are to be put out of work. I do not know the answer, but it is certainly a problem to be very concerned about.

Recent estimates by the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) indicate that the level of investment in Scotland is insufficient even to maintain the present capital stock, let alone renew it significantly. In its October Quarterly Economic Commentary, the Fraser of Allander Institute forecasts that Scottish unemployment will reach 300,000 by the third quarter of next year. It says that collapsing employment and negligible new investment are the hallmarks of virtually every area of economic and industrial activity in Scotland.

Do the Government agree with the forecast of 300,000 unemployed by the third quarter of next year? If they do, perhaps the Under-Secretary of State will tell us what steps they have in mind to alleviate the problems.

I will now say briefly what I think the Government should do, because I think that that is the job of those in Opposition. I do not agree with the traditional view that Oppositions are simply for opposing; their job is to try to be constructive. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East set us a good example.

Liberals believe that there are three specific requirements: policies, first, to alleviate the immediate consequences of plummeting demand due to the squeeze on industry; secondly, to reverse the trend of declining investment in Scottish manufacturing industry, which is extremely grave; and, thirdly, to restrain inflation.

It is difficult to disentangle the short-term problems of Scotland from the short-term problems of the United Kingdom. For example, there is the minimum lending rate, which was raised to 17 per cent. in November 1979 because the money supply was out of control. There is no statistical evidence that the money supply is any more under control now than it was a year ago, yet MLR has been reduced to 14 per cent. Therefore, we have gone through a whole year of high interest rates and squeeze, apparently for nothing. I do not understand that.

We think that the Government should make a further 2 per cent. cut really to help industry, in the hope that perhaps a more substantial reduction would also lower the exchange rate, as mentioned by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East.

I turn to the question of the public sector borrowing requirement. With unemployment in Scotland costing about £1.5 billion—and probably between £8 billion and £10 billion in the United Kingdom as a whole—one of the most horrifying statistics emerging from the debate on the Loyal Address is that we now spend the whole of our

revenues from North Sea oil and gas on financing the unemployment which has taken place since the last election. In those circumstances, it is quite futile to cut further the PSBR.

It is also economic madness to impose a further burden on industry through higher national insurance contributions, not even to mention the inequity of that quite arbitrary flat form of taxation. The Government should reverse their decision in this respect.

Almost every hon. Member has referred to energy pricing. I do not understand why the Government cannot do something about that now. I hope that the Minister will refer to this question. It is quite extraordinary that German industry should pay less for North Sea oil and gas than Scottish industry pays, particularly when the Germans are getting most of it from our sector of the North Sea. It does not make any sense at all. The Government should take action forthwith to put it right.

The hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire referred to the railways, and I found his suggestion concerning individual leasing of tracks somewhat difficult to follow, but the Minister ought to have his attention drawn—if that has not happened already—to the lead editorial in yesterday's Sunday Times, with its reference in particular to the way in which we are in danger of losing the great capital asset of our railway system, which could well make a notable contribution to energy saving.

There has been some reference to the Scottish Development Agency, and one is grateful for the £500 million funding, which brings the position back, perhaps, to about the 1978 level. I agree particularly with what was said by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East, that the Government should give the SDA more flexibility. Environmental projects are good, desirable and necessary, but, to take one example, a further investment of £1 million in Stonefield Vehicles would do much more to remove blight than any number of environmental projects.

In the medium and long term, there is need for a much more concentrated sectoral investment policy. This has to be balanced by a much more effective drive for industrial education than the Government have so far shown a willingness to undertake.

In our opinion, there are three priority areas—offshore technology, energy conservation and electronics. It is estimated that, during the next 20 years, offshore discoveries could account for between one-third and one-half of all the world's new oil reserves. That, clearly, is an opportunity for Scottish industry to make a bid not only for the domestic market but also for the overseas market.

The Government should embark on a very vigorous programme of energy conservation. They are not doing so. There is big scope here. The hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. Hamilton) referred to the Scottish Special Housing Association's modernisation schemes. In the case of Inverness, these have been put off for five years. It means that for the next five years the energy lost in those old houses will continue. That makes no sense.

Activity could be stimulated in the construction industry, in the boiler and combustion engineering industry and also in computer application.

With regard to electronics, the £45 million reduction in the microelectronics industry support programme is a retrograde step and is not evidence of a willingness of the Government to help this industry. To be fair, I must add that the Government have said throughout that they do not believe in Government intervention, but hon. Members in all parts of the House are telling the Minister that the Government cannot take that line in a mixed economy.

Investment in new technology will be wasted without a major investment in industrial education. It is highly irresponsible and reprehensible that the Government should be contemplating shifting the financial burden of apprenticeships away from the State and on to industry. In today's climate, that can mean only a reduction in an already low level of industrial training for young people.

Scotland has one of the poorest records in Europe for school leavers receiving any form of further education. If the State can support those with an academic bent, who have been born fortunate enough to have a certain intelligence quotient enabling them to go for a university degree, it should equally face its responsibilities in industrial education. Clearly, skillcentres should not be cut back. That point has already been made.

The Prime Minister has said that she has discerned a change in attitude, in that workers are making wage settlements which she would regard as more realistic in the present circumstances. Most objective observers would say that in the private sector wage agreements are being reached in an atmosphere of fear. Workers are afraid of losing their jobs, so they are settling low. In the public sector, there is a widespread disgust and a widespread revulsion that jobs are being evaluated not acording to any attempt to work out their value but on the basis of crude cash limits and nothing else. No fundamental attitudes are being changed, and if there is the slightest upturn in the economy it will lead to wage chaos.

The National Institute for Economic and Social Research, in its recent quarterly review, said that there is nothing [in the strategy] to indicate that once expansion is resumed and unemployment begins to fall inflation will not reappear". Contrary to what was said by the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire, Liberals believe that there is a need for a sustained prices and incomes policy and that that need is greater now than it has ever been before. We have never claimed that such a policy would solve economic ills, but it would at least ensure a fair division of the national cake between the public and the private sectors, enable a fairer division to be made within each sector, restore the control over prices which the Government have removed and, therefore, end unjustified increases by those who abuse monopolistic powers.

Scotland faces a devastating crisis, and it is wrong for any hon. Member to seek to underestimate, belittle or reduce the severity of the crisis in the public mind. It is a real crisis, and if the Government do not face up to it in a much more dramatic and dynamic way they will stand condemned by many generations to come.

6.7 pm

Mr. Albert McQuarrie (Aberdeenshire, East)

I pay tribute, as other hon. Members have done, to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) for tabling the motion on Government policies in Scotland. The motion deplores the fact that over a quarter of a million people are now registered as unemployed in Scotland". We all deeply deplore the unemployment in Scotland but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) said, the motion is not quite accurate, inasmuch as there are a number of people who, for a variety of reasons, are not what one could fairly call unemployed, although they are without a job. But, even taking these points into account, what was said by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East about the unemployed in Scotland cannot be laid entirely at the door of the present Government.

The Labour Government have to bear much of the blame for today's position, and no tub thumping on the part of the Opposition will enable them to escape that fact. The deep recession in the Scottish economy is but part of a worldwide recession, of which we are all very well aware. But it was also apparent long before May 1979, when the present Government took office.

What were the policies of the last Government before 1979 and during their five years in office? Did they pay any heed to the need for wage restraint and increased productivity? Of course not. No effort was made in those directions. The policies of the Labour Government were to carry out excessive public spending and borrowing and to operate profit-destroying price controls.

In the lifetime of the Labour Government unemployment doubled, despite what Opposition Members say. In April 1979, under the Labour Government, unemployment in Scotland totalled 172,900, including 7,000 school leavers, which is a formidable figure.

Mr. Harry Ewing

What was it in February 1974?

Mr. McQuarrie

I do not know. I do not have the figure for February 1974. In any event, I am more interested in the 1979 figure, when the present Government came into office. The Labour Adminstration left us with an unemployment figure of 172,900, including 7,000 school leavers.

Let us forget about 1974 and come nearer to the present time. This Government's term of office so far has been 18 months. The previous Administration were in office for five years. After their five years in office, did they leave us a relatively low unemployment figure? They did not. They left us with 172,900 people out of work. When Opposition Members criticise the figure today, they must remember that they are talking about an increase of 70,000 in 18 months. Although I deplore that figure, I still say that it is reasonable, considering the high figure left by the previous Government.

What worries me about the unemployment level in Scotland is the constant cry—we heard it again today from Opposition Members—of social unrest, fighting in the streets and other emotive phrases which are used merely for political purposes. I regret that the Opposition have cottoned on to tactics which they think will capture the imagination of the people. That is not what they are here for. Right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House are here to endeavour to cure the present unemployment ill in Scotland.

Many hon. Members have had the experience of being unemployed, and they deprecate any hon. Member who endeavours to use emotiveness to try to get away from the reality of unemployment. I hope sincerely that after this debate we shall hear fewer of the references to social unrest, bloodbaths and fighting in the streets that we have heard for so many months from Labour Members and that we shall get down to trying to create employment.

If we are to get rid of this dreadful state of affairs, a determined effort is needed by both sides of the House. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said on a number of occasions, the level of unemployment in our country today is a human tragedy. I am certain that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House are deeply concerned about unemployment. We are all aware that unemployment takes away the self-respect of the people who are condemned to suffer it. Our job is to seek the cure, but the cure will be found only if there is support in this House and the country for the Government's proposals.

We live in a technological age. We see the loss of jobs in old, declining industries employing mostly men and the closing down of the textile factories that employed mostly women and gave many school leavers their first jobs. They are all gone. We are left with the problem confronting us today.

All these are factors that we have to face, but one major factor stands out above all the rest when we consider the cause of unemployment—the loss of competitiveness. Low productivity and low investment have left us in a very weak position to face the additional problems caused by an exchange rate that is unreasonably high because of our status as an oil-producing country.

Over the past 50 years we have lost 50 per cent. of our competitiveness, and 30 per cent. of it is attributable to a much faster increase in labour costs than that experienced in any other country. Inflation has priced us out of jobs through lost export markets and, more insidiously, there has been an influx of competitive foreign goods into our home market. Until inflation is eliminated, we cannot hope to regain the markets and the jobs that we have lost.

No one can be sure when the world recession will end. When it does—and, from the signs, it looks as though early next year we shall be headed in that direction—

Mr. Canavan

Which direction?

Mr. McQuarrie

Getting out of the recession and being able to provide work for our people. It is vital that we give work to our people, and we shall do that only when we begin to climb out of the recession. We are in this recession as much as the rest of the world—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) may not be in a recession, but he appears to be in a restful position at the moment. If he allows me to finish my speech and he is lucky enough to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he will have an opportunity to get to his feet to speak rather than comment on my remarks from a reclining position.

Mr. Canavan

Hurry up, then.

Mr. McQuarrie

I shall be as fast as I can.

When we begin to climb out of the recession—and, as I said, the signs are that it will not be long before we do—we must be ready to act. We must be ready to arrest inflation. We must reach more realistic wage settlements and achieve an increased level of productivity in manufacturing industry.

Meanwhile, deeply aware of the crisis, the Government are taking positive steps to lighten the burden on as many people as possible. In the measures announced recently by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, the number of places available through the programmes for special employment and training will be increased from 40,000 to 70,000, and 66,000 of those places will be for the young unemployed. The Government are also investing substantial sums of money in Scotland to aid industry, either directly through the nationalised industries or, through the SDA and the HIDB, by regional grants and selective assistance.

I am somewhat disappointed that the Government have decided to remove regional status from certain areas. I refer especially to my own area of the Grampians and even more so to my own constituency, where the impact of the removal of that status will have a serious effect on employment in the immediate future unless the Government rethink the position, which I understand they intend to do.

Recently we have had redundancies in the Consolidated Pneumatic Company and massive redundancies in the fish processing factories. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to give careful consideration to these factors. Despite the fact that the Grampian region enjoys some affluence, as the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. Hamilton) reminded us, that affluence is not in the indigenous industries. They are suffering because of the high wages that the oil companies are able to pay their employees. Therefore, consideration must be given to the indigenous industries in the oil-related areas so that they are not affected by the losses that they have to suffer in these circumstances.

I draw the attention of right hon. and hon. Members to an article about the loss of jobs that appeared in The Scotsman on Friday 12 December. It was headed: Scots firms 'missing out' on thousands of jobs. In a survey carried out by the Scottish Development Agency, it appears that Scottish engineering companies are losing annually more than £300 million in contracts—contracts that could create thousands of jobs in Scotland—because of weak marketing and weak sales effort. Of every four orders placed by Scottish firms for industrial components and sub-contracts, three go out of Scotland altogether. Scotland enjoyed only 24 per cent. of orders in a market valued at £440 million. As Mr. Peter Homer, of the Scottish Development Agency's industry services division, said, a 'realistic' target for the market share within the next couple of years would be 35 per cent. This would generate approximately 3,000 more jobs, as 300 jobs would be created by every extra 1 per cent. share in the market. Those are the matters that we must examine. It is not only a question of the unemployed; we must ensure that industries have a grasp of the problem and tackle it through marketing and competitiveness. I am sure that if the trade unions and management get together—and they have had a much closer relationship of late—the position in Scotland will be much better in a year's time. The debate will have been worth while if it enables people to get moving.

6.20 pm
Mr. Norman Hogg (Dunbartonshire, East)

I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to the debate because of its importance to Scotland and to my own constituency in particular, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) for initiating the debate.

My area is suffering, like all areas of Scotland. Some of the employment problems are especially difficult. I am the second hon. Member with a Strathclyde region constituency to take part in the debate. In the Strathclyde region 700 people a week become jobless. In the third quarter of 1980 there were almost 10,000 redundancies—an increase of 3,000 on the previous quarter and 6,000 more than in the same period a year ago. More than 135 jobs vanished every day in the first nine months of this year. There are now more than 144,000 unemployed persons in Strathclyde.

Those statistics are black enough, but we must remember the hidden redundancies in natural wastage and the unnotified redundancies involving fewer than 10 workers. I was sorry to hear references to the problem not being as bad as the statistics suggest. In fact, it is worse, if one takes into account the unregistered unemployed.

In September, the most recent month for which figures are available, 11,000 redundancies were held in abeyance by the temporary short-time working compensation scheme. In addition, thousands of people are on short-time or operating work-sharing arrangements. For tens of thousands of families throughout the Strathclyde region, the Christmas of 1980 will be the hardest in their experience in spite of the experience of others in the 1930s. There is little about which to be hopeful or confident in the coining year.

In my constituency the job crisis deepens and worsens every day. In Kirkintilloch 1,748 persons are wholly unemployed. That is 700 more than last year. That includes over 200 young people—137 boys and 95 girls. The town has to cope with a serious downturn in its manufacturing capacity.

In the past 18 months, redundancies have occurred in the foundries, the traditional industry of the town. Redundancies have occurred at Anderson Strathclyde Ltd, one of the most important employers in Kirkintilloch. The Government's policy towards the Scottish Special Housing Association, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell (Mr. Hamilton) referred, is causing real worries. I am constantly reminded of the town's genuine fears for the future of the association's Kirkintilloch site.

Cumbernauld, in my constituency, will celebrate its silver jubilee next year. That will mark 25 years of hard and dedicated work by many public authorities. The achievements have been considerable, not least in the attraction of inward investment, for which all the Scottish new towns have a good record. I believe the new towns to be worth while and to have made considerable achievements. However, Cumbernauld's jubilee year will be marked by record levels of unemployment and, most worrying of all, youth unemployment. The town is determined to cope. Recently the district council convened a special meeting with representatives of the trades council, the development corporation and Members of Parliament. The initiative for the meeting was taken by councillor William O'Brien. The meeting was useful. It underlined the town's determination to overcome the unemployment problem.

The recession is most marked by the announcement by the Burroughs Corporation that 355 redundancies are scheduled for next February. The redundancies are a severe blow to Cumbernauld since Burroughs is its largest manufacturing employer. Its goods enjoy a high international reputation. It is in the forefront of the new technology. Its work force is highly skilled and motivated, totally committed and enthusiastic. It is not at all like the work forces referred to by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat). Yet there is to be a cut of 355 jobs.

Burroughs' redundancies have a significance that goes far beyond the company. Burroughs underlines and asserts the importance of Cumbernauld in electronics and light engineering. Burroughs' presence in Cumbernauld is important for attracting other new industries. As a large employer of labour, it is important to the service infrastructure of Cumbernauld. For these reasons, there is a total desire by the community to save the jobs.

I have told Burroughs management that I am willing to go to the United States to meet Mr. Blumenthal, the company's chairman. I repeat that willingness because I believe in the product, the work force and the town. I hope that such a meeting will lead to new developments at the Cumbernauld plant.

I regret that my endeavours to meet the Secretary of State for Scotland to discuss the issue have met with little response. I wrote to the Secretary of State on 25 November requesting a meeting. I received a reply from the Under-Secretary of State. He firmly rejected Government intervention, although I never asked for it. I had it in mind Government back-up in any discussions between the Government and the company or any agency. I had in mind help from the Scottish Development Agency by discussing the problem in the United States with company representatives. I had in mind Government discussions on the future of the company's development in Scotland. I had it in mind to ask the Government to give me full details of all the incentives available to the company. I was not thinking of new money. I knew better than to ask for it. After all, we hear the Government's response to that each time a redundancy arises. The Government have little interest in protecting our manufacturing base.

I am sorry that the Government refuse to give me details of assistance to Burroughs under section 7 of the Industry Act 1972. I do not know why the Government should refuse to say how public money is spent. I was told that the details would appear in Business News at some future date. That is not good enough. When an hon. Member asks how Government money is being spent, he is entitled to an answer. The queston was put to me by my constituents and I am entitled to an answer. I hope that the Government will provide a reply.

I am conscious of the time, and many of my hon. Friends wish to contribute to the debate. I am pleased that we have had the opportunity to discuss these important issues. However, the Government are more destructive of employment than any Tory Government in post-war Britain. The pursuit of their ill-considered policies has had a devastating impact on industrial life in Scotland. I am sorry that Scottish Ministers have been weak, inept and incompetent in dealing with the situation.

My constituency has suffered and is suffering from the assault of Government policy. It demands a new strategy. That alternative strategy is offered by the Labour and trade union movements and has the overwhelming support of the Scottish people. I hope that we shall see the change at an early date.

6.28 pm
Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)

The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Hogg) made an eloquent plea on behalf of his constituents. It would be wrong for me to follow that plea since I do not have enough information. I also congratulate the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) on introducing this important subject—the most important facing Scotland. The hon. Members for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker) and Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie) at least confined their comments to Government policy in Scotland, unlike the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat), who seems incapable of discussing a subject in a Scottish context and uses British figures. One tended to be thrown by the terrifying idea of 100,000 retired bank managers wandering around. One would be meeting them at every corner.

It transpired, however, that the hon. Gentleman was discussing the matter on a British basis. Although he made a valiant attempt to cut down the serious problem of unemployment and although there was a grain of truth in several of his points, he did not, overall, do much to disguise the fact that the position in Scotland is now extremely serious.

It is all very well for Conservative Members to assure the House that the Government are deeply concerned about unemployment. What are they going to do about it? What are they doing? That is the question that people in Scotland, especially those who are unemployed, are asking.

The Fraser of Allander Institute forecast in October a figure of 300,000 unemployed in Scotland next year. That is an appalling figure. It is interesting that the same source had forecast in July a figure in the region of 200,000. In the short spell of six months, it has seen the situation collapse at an alarming rate. The statistics for unemployment are in complete contrast with Scotland's productivity, which is higher per head than elsewhere in the United Kingdom. This productivity is related to the level of investment in Scotland. We need more, not less, investment in industry. The revenue accruing to Westminster from Scotland merits the investment. Instead, we get surgical amputation from the Treasury knives.

The previous Government cannot claim a record that is pristine pure in regard to unemployment. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East fairly made that point. The previous Government cut back on regional assistance mainly through the ending of the regional employment premium.

The most ludicrous aspect of Government policies, which, on their admission, leads to unemployment, is the gross waste of resources. The Manpower Services Commission calculated in December 1978 that the annual cost to the Exchequer of an unemployed married man with two children was £4,000. It estimated the annual cost of loss of output at £3,000 a worker. The Government admitted in a written reply in another place on 12 November that the monthly loss to the Government was £500.52—a figure that works out at £6,000 a year.

The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East accused the mover of the motion of wanting more money pumped into Scotland. I thought that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East had made a fair point. He was talking not about new money but of utilising the appalling figure now used to pay unemployment benefit to put these people back to work. That is surely an aim that any rational Government would wish to try to bring into effect.

Another matter that has to be considered is the waste of human resources, skills and crafts, many of them irreplaceable. Emigration will account for some, but even those who remain are not given the opportunity to transfer their skills to a new situation. There are over 50,000 unemployed in Scotland in the under–19 age group. Of these, 10,000 were registered on 3 December as having been out of work for over 26 weeks.

It is an appalling indictment that this proportion of youngsters should he on the dole in this day and age. Many people had come to believe that this generation would never need to know the poverty or the psychological damage caused by having no work. The Tory party, which vaunts its belief in creating freedom of choice and the rise of individuals on merit, has given thousands of Scots teenagers only the freedom to kick their heels and the knowledge of despair and frustration.

I should like the Minister to comment on a report in the press today of a study by Glasgow university, showing that spending cuts in Scotland are determined by English Ministers and no longer by the Scottish Office. The influence of the Scottish Office in determining its own budget, according to the study, has diminished considerably. This practice apparently began in the late 1970s and is known as the Barnett formula, which gives hon. Members some idea how it came about.

Mr. Canavan

Who is he?

Mr. Stewart

There is no need for Scotland to have these appalling unemployment figures. People can see the wealth that comes to the British Exchequer from the oil around the coast of Scotland. People will not stand indefinitely for this appalling depression continuing while that wealth is available.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Mr. Alex Pollock.

Mr. Canavan

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you would be good enough to bear in mind that 44 out of the 71 Scottish constituencies are represented by Labour Members. There are more of us than the rest of these minority parties put together. I wonder, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether you would cast your glance in proportion to those.

6.36 pm
Mr. Alex Pollock (Moray and Nairn)

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall not pursue that nationalistic point of order. I shall try to contain my remarks to the debate. I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) on bringing forward this subject for debate and for the constructive terms in which he spoke.

I regard the debate as timely, standing, as we do, on the threshold of 1981, when we shall have to consider even more carefully the impact of this Government's policies. In May 1979, as I am sure you will not recall at all, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I made my maiden speech, taking as my theme the need for the Government to give their support to small business men and to try to stress their place in the planning of the Scottish economy. I should like to return to that theme and to renew my plea for support with even greater urgency.

The motion properly concentrates on unemployment. That is right. As almost every speaker has remarked, this is one of the most burning issues of our time. In an effort to be constructive, I should like to address some remarks to one aspect of the problem—the direct correlation that I believe exists between unemployment and high interest rates. I should like to illustrate my point by referring to a recent conversation with a small business man in my constituency. He runs a small garage in a village near the Moray Firth. He told me how he has been considering plans for expanding the business. Those plans would have involved giving construction work to local tradesmen, leading to a permanent job in the business for a new apprentice.

Owing to the continuing high level of interest rates, he has been obliged to shelve the plan. His contribution to an expanding economy has been thwarted. I believe that this case is typical of thousands in the smaller communities throughout Scotland. That is why I renew my plea to the Government to consider, at the earliest possible moment, a significant reduction in the high level of interest rates.

In making that plea, I remind the Government that there are two main classes of borrower. The first is the speculator, who chooses to borrow and whose primary motive in so doing is simply to play the money market. The other type of borrower is a different breed altogether. He will be a business man, placed at one of two stages. Either he will have already borrowed to fund investment and expansion and, therefore, has no choice but to continue his borrowing and to pay, if the Government so will, an increasing interest charge on his borrowing, or he will be like the small garage proprietor of whom I have spoken, who intends to expand by borrowing but is thwarted and frustrated by the high level of interest rates.

The speculator may be a menace, but the other type of business man most certainly is not. He is the linchpin in the very expansion of our small businesses that my right hon. and hon. Friends constantly preach as the key to revival. That is why I renew the plea to the Government to give early consideration to another significant reduction in the interest rate.

If such a plea falls on deaf ears and if I am told that the economy cannot be planned on that basis at present, I make an alternative suggestion, namely, to ask the Scottish Office to argue with the Treasury the case for a split-level interest rate structure. That is a structure that I understand can operate successfully in other European countries. I see no reason why it cannot operate here. That approach is one that merits fresh study.

If those pleas were acceptable to the Government, they might be agreeably surprised by the response that they could evoke from the small business community, which is anxious to play its part and is willing to expand provided that the conditions are appropriate for so doing. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will be able to respond in an equally favourable and constructive fashion.

6.43 pm
Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

I begin my remarks with two compliments. First, I compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) on choosing this topic for debate. Secondly, I pay a rare tribute to the Government and to the Leader of the House for tabling the business motion and protecting Private Members' interests against the time lost by three statements. We are quick enough to criticise the right hon. Gentleman when he makes a mess of things. On this occasion, it is worth while mentioning that he has done something for Back Benchers.

We have had from two Conservative Members an attempted explanation of why things are different today compared with the 1930s. The hon. Members for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) and for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker) think that there is a great difference between the two periods. Essentially, it boiled down to the 1930s being a period of grinding poverty and to the present being honest-to-goodness plain poverty. That seems to be the difference that they express.

There is a great difference between present conditions and the election campaigns of 19 months ago. It is a long time since we saw posters on the hoardings depicting hired actors forming a winding queue of unemployed under the graphic slogan "Labour Isn't Working". It is a long time since the Prime Minister was making strident criticism of the Labour Government in a rallying call for the electorate to elect a Conservative Government to save the nation from stagnation. It is a long time since we heard the simple message to vote Conservative to get the economy moving again. The economy is moving again, but it is moving into steep decline.

It is worth while spending a short while to examine the figures. When the Labour Government left office in May 1979, there were 165,400 out of work in Scotland. The most recent figures show that unemployment in Scotland has increased by 89,200 to over 250,000. For every 10 minutes that the Government have been in office, someone in Scotland has lost a job.

Unemployment is bad enough in Scotland. The situation is the same or even worse when we consider the United Kingdom figures. Since the Government took office, every minute of every day of every week of every month has seen someone lose a job. That has been as a result of the Government's tenure of office.

I know that the Government always argue that we cannot blame them for everything that has happened since May 1979. It is interesting to consider the figures for the past six months. During that period, 31,400 lost their jobs in Scotland. Instead of one person losing his job every 10 minutes, the rate has increased to one job being lost every 8¼minutes. There has been a sharp increase in the number who are losing their jobs.

If we take the period since the Government have been in power, jobs have been lost at a rate of one a minute. During the past six months, the figure Ms increased to two every minute.

What about the other side of the coin? What vacancies are available? In Scotland, there are only 13,300 vacancies. The number decreased when compared with the previous month. Between October and November throughout the United Kingdom the number of vacancies decreased by 93,300. For every one vacancy in Scotland, there are 19 who are unemployed. For every one vacancy in the United Kingdom, there are 23 who are unemployed. What are we told to do? The Government tell us that the unemployed should be more adventurous. They say that they should move around and find work elsewhere. Anyone who has tried that knows that it is nonsense. The Government are taking a callous and cynical attitude.

Wherever one goes in Scotland and the United Kingdom generally, it is clear that the problems are the same. What is the position in the North-East of Scotland, the Grampian region? It is the so-called El Dorado of the Scottish economy. Indeed, it is the El Dorado of the entire United Kingdom economy. The same problems have arisen.

I do not want to make many constituency points, as there are other opportunities to do so. However, a large paper mill closed near my constituency with a loss of 350 jobs. In the small business sector we are told that the haulage firm of G. T. Fraser's is likely to have to put 43 men out of work because of the difficulties in the fishing industry. There are many other companies that I do not want to mention as they are in a difficult situation. There are many more who are likely to lose employment.

The Government are interested only in looting and plundering the public purse for their own private gain. The "in" word in Government circles there these days is "privatisation". The hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Myles) shakes his head. Privatisation—I prefer to call it piratisation—is the latest "in" word. The assets of the Forestry Commission are about to be stripped. Since 1919 the Commission has served extremely well not only Scotland but the whole of the United Kingdom. The price of timber is now sky high and there seems to be the opportunity of easy pickings. What is happening? The private landowners, who have always misused the land in Scotland and raped Scotland's resources, are to be given a chance to get their grubby paws on some easy pickings. I have mentioned only one landowner, but there are many more. Lord Vestey, of the great Vestey empire, pays no tax because he manipulates the tax system. Of course, the Vesteys are people of integrity and they would not break the law. We all know that.

Reference has been made to the Rossminster Group. Again, it is a friend of the Government. Former advisers to the group are in the Government. There are those who have set up bogus schemes merely to avoid tax. I do not suggest thatcourse the particular Minister concerned has no integrity. Of course, he is a man of integrity. However, it is as clear as daylight that the Government base their morality on class interest. That is what governs them. They protect their friends in the City of London and the squirearchy in the counties at the same time as conducting a deliberate and desperate attack on working class people in Scotland.

Every section of the community suffers. We are told that 10 infant schools are to be shut down in Aberdeen for the saving of £150,000. The only one left happens to be in a middle-class area. I hope that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South will prove an ally in fighting the school closures, which will affect the children in his constituency. I shall be surprised if we get the hon. Gentleman's backing.

Rents are being savagely increased whether one lives in a local authority house or a private tenanted house. Fuel bills have increased by over 30 per cent. Postage rates and household rates are increasing. Pensions are not keeping pace with inflation. Benefits are to be taxed. Insurance contributions are being increased. The price of milk has increased by 20 per cent. already this year.

Despite the Government's claim to be a better manager of the economy than the Labour Government, their economic strategy is in ruins. What we are seeing is not inefficient firms shaking out surplus labour and overmanning in order to become leaner and more efficient. This is not like the children of the Spartans who were chucked out in the snow so that if they survived they would be fit to stand up to anyone. It is efficient, hardworking industry that is suffering.

The fact is that the Labour Party is the party that will be left once again to pick up the pieces. We face an awesome, daunting task. I say to members of my party, both inside and outside the House, that it will not be easy. We shall not be able to solve the matter as readily as some seem to think. It will be a very difficult job. It is easy for the crowd on the Conservative Benches to destroy industry, to smash the economy and everything else and to ruin people's lives. We are having a very difficult job to live with that.

If the Labour Party fails in its Socialist purpose of remedying not only the ills of the past but the ills that have been caused for the future during the period of the present Government, and if we fail to ensure that this does not happen again, it is not just the Labour Party that will suffer; it will be the very fabric of our democracy, which we all seek to protect and to foster.

6.50 pm
Mr. Barry Henderson (Fife, West)

The speech of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) contained certain trends that reminded me of the trend of the Labour Government. It started off with high hope and some good words, but by the time it finished we had passed through disillusionment into incredulity about much of what the hon. Member was saying.

I share the appreciation of hon. Members of not only the luck but the skill and judgment of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) in arranging this debate, which is extremely well timed. The problem of the unemployed in Scotland is pointed up by the contradictory advice that has been given to the Government in this debate. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East and the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) both gave contradictory advice that has come from different parts of the House—on what ought to be done about the problems of the unemployed. The hon. Member for Inverness felt that we ought to let the public sector borowing requirement rip and pay no attention to anxieties about it and, at the same time, reduce interest rates. Those are views that I think most hon. Members will feel are incompatible with each other.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East felt that we should encourage local authorities to spend more money. He mentioned the concern about interest rates. I accept that one of the greatest problems for small businesses is that of interest rates. Undoubtedly, high interest rates are a serious burden for business. My hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Pollock) spoke at considerable length about that matter. He referred to two aspects of high interest rates and to two main categories of borrower, but he did not mention a third category of borrower—local authorities and the Government. The extent to which they borrow has a direct effect on the kind of interest rates that must be paid by the business sector. If nothing else comes out of this debate, in which we are concerned about jobs—jobs that come from employers, who have to pay these high interest rates to keep their businesses going—I hope that it will be seen that there is a direct correlation between the problem of high interest rates and high spending by local authorities. The concept that more money being spent by local authorities will help to alleviate the jobs problem in Scotland is wholly without foundation.

The role of the Scottish Development Agency could be discussed more widely than has been possible today. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will encourage the SDA to concentrate on the essential function that it has had since the start of its role—the building of factories. I suggest that we need small factories as much as large factories and the renovation of old factories as much as the creation of smart new ones. The SDA must concentrate not just on the things that are glamorous and about which big signposts can be erected alongside main roads; it has a very important role to play inside and outside development areas, in helping to provide homes for potential new businesses.

In future we ought to pay more attention to the categories of unemployment that are proving especially intractable. I am thinking particularly of youth unemployment and the vast majority of youth unemployment that arises from people lacking skill or educational qualifications.

Reference has been made to the loss of a few jobs in the Government sector, but I suggest that most of those people would find relatively little difficulty in getting a new job. I do not think that that is where the heart of the problem lies. We have a serious problem in terms of the large number of people who lack skill or educational qualification, or both. We must address ourselves more to how we can deal with that problem. The hon. Member for Inverness made some very helpful remarks about apprenticeships and what we might learn from other places in this context.

There is worldwide recession. Scotland is not exempt from it. We must remove as many obstacles as we can from businesses, large and small, and give every encouragement to them to develop in the future. It is by encouraging them that we shall create the jobs that will relieve unemployment. Jobs are not created by Governments, and certainly not by local government; they are created by employers, and we should relieve them of as many of the burdens as possible. That includes the burden of excessive rates which some local authorities seem to be about to charge this year.

6.57 pm
Mr. Neil Carmichael (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) for having chosen the subject of unemployment on being successful in the ballot. I made my maiden speech on this very subject 18 years ago on Wednesday. As well as putting forward a number of figures, I pointed out one factory in the West of Scotland where employment had dropped in four years—from 1958 to 1962—from 15,000 to 10,000. That factory was Singer's. It is no longer in existence. In those days we talked of a figure of unemployment of 93,000 as being unacceptable. Now, the figure is absolutely appalling. It is over 250,000.

Other hon. Members have recited the terrible loss of jobs of men and women in their forties and fifties, out of work for the first time in their lives. Probably the worst thing of all is the terrible effect on a young person who goes straight from school on to the dole. Although I accept that it is a terrible blow for a man or woman of 40 or 50 to lose his or her job, probably the most devastating effect of all is that on the young if there is no prospect of work. I welcome any training that the Government can give them, but the most likely result of that is that it will fit them for a non-existent job, which will almost certainly have no effect other than to increase the frustration that they are bound to feel, having left school and been trained for a job and then finding no job.

One of the other terrible factors about unemployment currently is that it has spread beyond the manual workers to the so-called white collar workers, who are losing their jobs at the same rate. Architects, surveyors, teachers, engineers and other professional groups are all feeling the pinch.

The Under-Secretary is a chartered accountant. It has been said that the prime task of his profession now is winding up bankrupt businesses. There was an interesting letter from a member of his profession in the Glasgow Herald recently in which it was admitted that that was true, but the letter added that the real job was auditing books and advising business on its work. But it said that if things went on as they were there would be very few businesses left to advise. That is one of the appalling aspects of the conditions that now obtain.

The worst feature of unemployment is the feeling among individuals of personal failure. The sooner people realise that unemployment is not, in present circumstances, personal failure, the better. It has also been said that conditions for the unemployed are not as bad now as they were in the 1930s. That is true, but they were not as bad in the early 1930s as they were in the 1900s or the late 1800s. Society is moving on, however. While in absolute terms things are not so bad, in relative terms unemployment is just as bad for the individual as it ever was.

In my maiden speech I referred to the terrible frustration of the unemployed man coming downstairs in the morning and not knowing whether to go right, left or back upstairs, because nobody cared about him or was interested in what he was doing.

I hope that we never reach the point, referred to by hon. Members and the press, of blood and fighting in the streets. However, I see a possible great increase in what the comfortably-off will call needless and heedless vandalism. I refer to young people who have been 10 years at school and leave to go straight on to the dole queues. They see hopelessness all around them and feel that no one is interested in or cares about them. They have no purpose in life. This problem can be seen in the big cities. I recently toured parts of Glasgow at the invitation of the local authority, spending a full morning visiting the depressed areas. To see the young kids who have no work was, indeed, depressing.

Can youngsters be blamed for what they do when no one cares about them? They are healthy and they have plenty of energy. Can anyone blame them going down to the coast and having a bit of a flurry in the towns there? Can one blame them going to football matches and blowing their tops? It is reprehensible, but at least if they are bundled into a police van or locked in a cell someone is paying some attention to them. Jock Stein, commenting on football vandalism, said that if football did not cause the rowdiness, tiddlywinks would. He was saying that something much more fundamental underlies the problem. I believe that it is the lack of purpose of most young people.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) said that there were no magic solutions. That is so, but a number of things can be done. We should not overlook the wealth of North Sea oil. Tremendous sums are being spent on the dole. Surely there are enough jobs to be done—rail electrification, the complete renewal of our telecommunications system and so on—to provide work. One of the most obvious courses—this shows the craziness of our society—concerns the building industry. Thousands of building workers are unemployed, as are architects, surveyors and building supply workers. Building firms are going bankrupt. Surely we could bring them all together to provide more housing, new and renovated. There is a need for sheltered housing, more geriatric homes and a variety of other new building work. Building is traditionally the first sector of industry to get moving, with the rest of industry following on. I hope that the Government will change their mind and release more money in this direction.

One hon. Member mentioned sewers. There are no votes in sewers. However there is a comprehensive sewerage system in this country, built from the wealth that the Victorians obtained from industry and the Empire. Unless we do something about it soon, we shall be involved in spending hundreds of millions of pounds in renewing it. Surely that is work that could be undertaken.

The list of things that can be done is endless. We have the skilled labour, the materials and the professional expertise. Only the political will and the organisation to bring them together and start our economic recovery are lacking. I am not an economist, but I recognise the consequences of monetarism. If it means the sort of Britain—the sort of Scotland—that we are now living in, it represents too severe a cure for the ills from which we suffer.

Like many hon. Members, I receive pamphlets from an organisation called Forum of Private Business. It consists of small business men who are not allied to the Labour Party and who were rooting for the Conservatives before they came to power. The organisation sends out questionnaires to its members, who return them and their fairly predictable results to their Members of Parliament. I receive them every month. Last month I received one from a firm in my constituency. This member of a basically Tory-inspired group had written just one word across the form—"Help".

That was a cry from the Tory heart. If the pleas from the Labour Benches are ignored by the Government, surely the cries of desperation from their friends will convince them that something drastic is required.

7.08 pm
Mr. Allan Stewart (Renfrewshire, East)

I echo the congratulations of other hon. Members to the hon. Member to Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) and apologise for not having been here to hear his speech. I was at a meeting with the Secretary of State for Industry with the hon. Members for Paisley (Mr. Adams) and Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) to discuss Linwood.

I wish to underline the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East (Mr. Henderson) about the burden of public spending on the private sector. There is widespread resentment in Scotland that the recession is being taken so heavily by the private sector rather than by the public sector. That reflects itself not only in the issue of interest rates but in the burden of domestic rates. We should not forget the estimate by the Edinburgh chamber of commerce that by next March the burden of rates in that region alone will have cost 5,000 jobs.

We in this House can and must divide on political grounds. It is right for the Opposition to attack the Government. However, it is wrong for us in Scotland to undersell ourselves. We should bear in mind that in the recession in the year to June output in the investment goods sector—mechanical engineering, industrial plant and the like—rose in Scotland by 9½ per cent. when it was falling in the United Kingdom as a whole. That sector is, above all, the export sector. I hope, therefore, that we can agree to congratulate the managements and work forces of so many Scottish companies on getting exports out in spite of the high value of the pound and the recession.

We often sell ourselves short in industrial relations. Of course, we have industrial relations problems in Scotland, and we should not try to hide them. But, at the same time, we should all take every opportunity to point out that the overwhelming majority of Scottish companies have, and always have had, excellent industrial relations because people realise that good industrial relations and improving productivity are essential if jobs are to be created and maintained.

Mr. William Hamilton

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have taken careful note of the time taken by the various parties in the debate. I calculate that Labour Members, including the hon. Member who moved the motion, have taken 64 minutes, the Tories 55 minutes and the SNP and Liberals 23 minutes. In other words, the party that has well over half the seats in Scotland has taken very much less than half the time in the debate. That is an intolerable imbalance. We on this side object to the fact that the two minor parties are taken as being opposition parties to the Government when in fact their speaking time is out of the time of Labour Members. I find that intolerable, and I personally find it increasingly intolerable that I cannot seem to get into bloody debates in this House at all.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

I sympathise very much with what the hon. Gentleman has said. I am sure that he will appreciate the great difficulty of being fair in debates of this kind. My calculations are somewhat different, if I may say so—83 minutes from the Opposition side of the House and 69 from the Government Benches. My mathematics may not be wholly correct, but I think that we should perhaps get on with the winding-up speeches.

7.12 pm
Mr. Harry Ewing (Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth)

I join all right hon. and hon. Members who have commended my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) on introducing the debate. When my hon. Friend came first in the ballot for Private Members' motions today, it was fairly obvious that he would choose the very important subject of the Scottish economy. It is entirely appropriate, as we reach the end of 1980 and look both ways—backwards into the year that is just about over and forwards into 1981—that we should debate the Scottish economy at this time.

Before turning to the main burden of my remarks, I wish to make two points. The motion refers to Government policies in Scotland. I wish to make two points about Hampden Park. I have already given early notice to the Minister who is to reply that I intended to raise these two matters, in the hope that I would receive an answer. I refer first to the difficulties that Queen's Park football club faces. The possibility that Scotland might easily lose its national stadium is a very serious matter indeed. Will the Government consider stepping in to help Queen's Park in its present difficulties?

The second matter, of which I have also given notice to the Minister, is the possibility that the Government will opt out of their responsibility to the consortium set up to build the new Hampden and from which the Government, unexpectedly, but true to character, as we have seen since, withdrew. I understand that there is a possibility that the Government will not now give any money at all to the consortium to meet the fees incurred by the design team, which has done an excellent job. I hope that the Minister will be able to answer both those questions.

I turn to the brief intervention of the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East (Mr. Stewart). I am sorry that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) did not come in five minutes earlier to hear his hon. Friend speak in a much more constructive tone about industrial relations in Scotland than he himself did. It is a bit much that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South, having run out of social security scroungers to attack, is now turning his attention to the trade union movement. With his lack of experience of industry in Scotland, perhaps he can take some lectures from his hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, East, who will no doubt he able to tell him the true facts of life about industrial relations in Scotland. Then we may have a more constructive approach from the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South. Perhaps that is hoping for too much, even at the end of 1980, but we are entitled to hope.

A great deal has been said about unemployment figures. Certainly, they are germane to the debate. In case there is any misunderstanding about what the unemployment figures were when the Government came to power and what they are now, I shall quote the figures. These figures were given not by the Library or anyone else but by the Secretary of State himself, speaking in a Scottish Grand Committee debate on industry. The right hon. Gentleman said: In May, when we took office, seasonally adjusted unemployment in Scotland stood at 165,900, as against 84,500 in February 1974. The February 1974 figure is clearly wrong, because 300,000 people in Scotland were on a three-day week in February 1974 as a result of the then Tory Government's policies, which plunged the country into despair. The Secretary of State went on to say: in other words, an additional 1,300 unemployed for every month that the Labour Government held office" —[Official Report, Scottish Grand Committee,; 17 July 1979; c. 12.] I accept that that is an accurate figure. For every month that that Government were in office, an additional 1,300 were unemployed. Labour Members have accepted that during our term of office unemployment was unacceptably high. We are entitled to look at what has happened every month since we were replaced by the Conservatives. I find no meeting point with Conservative Members on the whole question of unemployment. I simply do not believe that the policies being pursued by the Government will do anything to alleviate unemployment in Scotland, get our people back to work and re-establish something of the fabric of society.

Every month since the Conservative Government came to power, 4,500 people have lost their jobs. From the figure of 165,900 quoted by the Secretary of State for Scotland in July 1979, unemployment has risen to its present level of 254,559. Not only that, but the number of notified job vacancies has declined rapidly. In May 1979, notified job vacanies were 23,855. Last month that figure had fallen to 13,306. In May 1979, the number of vacancies notified to careers officers was 1,639. In November 1980, the last month for which we have figures, the number had fallen to 296.

In anyone's language, that is a scathing indictment of the policies being pursued by the Government. Business man after business man has pointed that out. In yesterday's Sunday Telegraph, the financial director of Debenhams, Ken Bishop, is reported as saying: Everyone seems to have the idea that there must be a bottom to the cycle. But what basis is there for that? On the Government's present policy, it could be bottomless. That was the financial director of Debenhams, which incidentally, has a big store in my constituency. Sir Hugh Fraser and his adviser, Professor Rowland Smith, say that "People go around talking purely about when things get better, when they are back to normal next autumn, or when the upturn takes place in 1982. I think all this talk is looney."

This brings me to the point made by the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East about the Edinburgh chamber of commerce. The Edinburgh chamber of commerce, led by David Mouat, will have to show more responsibility than it has shown over the past few months. David Mouat will have to stop being the Tory Party's mouthpiece in Edinburgh, and using the chamber of commerce as a platform to propagate Tory policy. I heard David Mouat on the radio this morning, as I was driving to Edinburgh airport, saying that shops in Edinburgh were having a bonanza Christmas and that people were buying more expensive presents than ever before. Yet Sir Hugh Fraser, who has a vested interest in many shops in Edinburgh says that sales are disastrous. I sometimes wonder who speaks for the business community. Is it the chamber of commerce, or those who own and run the businesses? There is no evidence to substantiate any claim that there will be an upturn in the economy.

I have given the comparative unemployment figures. Let us assume that unemployment continues at its present rate and that 4,500 people lose their jobs for each month the Government stay in power. Let us also assume—horror of horrors—that the Government stay in power only until the end of 1983. Business men, who are not Labour politicians, know the score and see the results through their cash registers. Nothing influences business men more than the cash register. They know the score, and they are all saying that there is no sign of an upturn in the economy. If the unemployment figures continue to grow at their present rate—the evidence is that they are getting even worse—by the time we reach the end of 1983 there could be 500,000 people unemployed in Scotland.

That is not scaremongering. It is something to which we ought to direct the Government's attention as being a distinct possibility. We are, therefore, entitled to ask what has caused all this unemployment. In my view, and in the view of many who have been made unemployed, it has been caused deliberately by the Government's economic policies.

We are consistently and constantly told that a great deal of unemployment is due to the fact that people in the United Kingdom buy foreign goods. I can only quote examples from my constituency, and the House will forgive me if I use such examples. The Carron company, one of the greatest engineering companies in the world, which is based in Falkirk, is on short-time working. Five hundred men have lost their jobs in the last three or four months, not because people in Stirling, Falkirk, Grangemouth or any other part of the United Kingdom are buying cookers from abroad but because Government policies have stopped house-building, so that demand for domestic appliances has collapsed to a disastrous level. That is a good example of the direct results of the Government's economic policies.

Another company in my constituency is Junior Books, which is located in Grangemouth. It has a new, modern factory, the sole purpose of which is to supply books to our education establishments and public libraries. It will close down at the end of February, not because of anything that the company has done but because the Government have so cut public expenditure, particularly in relation to local authorities, that the company can no longer sell books to the educational establishments, such as schools, or the libraries, which are no longer buying books.

A thermal insulation plant, Cape Insulation in Stirling, has experienced some difficulty throughout the year. Fortunately, it is now slightly better off. However, its difficulties were not created because householders were buying thermal insulation material from a foreign company. They were created because the Government stopped the home insulation grant. When they reintroduced it, they did not identify it as a separate grant. This afternoon's statement by the Secretary of State for the Environment made it clear that the money had been buried in the housing grant and that it was not identifiable. That is a direct result of Government policy.

Callendar Park college in Falkirk, Hamilton college and Craiglockhart college all have lecturers and staff who are being made redundant, not because we are buying education from abroad but as a direct consequence of Government policy. The whole of the Scottish building industry is going to rack and ruin. That has nothing to do with the industry itself but everything to do with the Government's policies in respect of house-building and construction. In every aspect of policy, the Government are responsible for the high level of unemployment which Scotland now faces.

Unless the Government are prepared to change their policies, unemployment will continue to go on its relentless upward spiral, and greater human misery will be created as a result. It is futile for Conservative Members to plead with Labour Members to co-operate in helping to convince the people that the medicine being dispensed is correct, that we should give them larger doses and that at the end of the day all will be well. They will not get that co-operation, because we are not prepared to co-operate in putting people out of work. That is simply not on. It would be wrong of me to give the Minister the impression that we were prepared even to understand the difficulties that he has created for himself.

I made an agreement with the Minister that I would curtail my remarks so that he could have an opportunity to reply to what has been a good and detailed debate. As we are entering the festive season, I should like to relate a story which most Conservative Members can tell at their forthcoming parties. It is a true story about the Minister when he first went to the Scottish Office. One day he was going out on an engagement and the Government car service could not supply the transport for him. The job was hired out to Croll and Croll, the famous funeral drivers in Edinburgh. The driver who was to call for the Minister was driving a hearse at a funeral. On his way back to the garage, he realised that he did not have time to return to the hearse, pick up the car and collect the Minister, so he drove to New St. Andrew's House in the hearse.

I understand that the Minister got into the front with the driver. But perhaps that driver had more foresight than we would give him credit for. He was coming to collect the undertaker who in the last 20 months has sought to bury Scottish industry. The Labour Opposition will do everything in their power to prevent him from doing any more damage to Scotland's industrial infrastructure and to the people whom we represent.

7.27 pm
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Alexander Fletcher)

Obviously the undertaker did not realise that there had been an election and was calling for a Labour Minister.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of Slate, who is in Brussels, would wish to be associated with our congratulations to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) on introducing the motion, which is welcomed by the Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh".] It is welcomed by the Government. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) for acknowledging the arrangements made to give Scottish Members interested in the debate time to express a point of view.

I want to make one thing perfectly clear. The Government are as aware of the hardship and human misery caused by unemployment as are Labour Members.

Mr. William Hamilton

Spare us that.

Mr. Fletcher

I shall spare the hon. Gentleman nothing. I wish to make that point at the outset, so that there can be no doubt as to our strength of resolve on this issue. Labour Members do not have a monopoly of compassion or concern. They talk about it more, and they talk about it louder, but they have no such monopoly. Unemployment is far too high, and its social, personal and economic consequences are grave matters indeed. That should be common ground between both sides of the House. No one wants to see unemployment in Scotland, or in the United Kingdom as a whole, remain at its current level, least of all the Government. With that in mind, we shall not oppose the motion.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East read an extract from the Sam Brittan article in today's Financial Times. I am glad that he did. It was a salutary and honest article. It emphasised our dependence as a trading nation on international trade and exchange rates, money movements and money transactions throughout the world. We should bear in mind that in economic affairs Britain is by no means an island. That says little for the import and exchange controls and the siege economy advocated only too frequently by Opposition Members.

The resolution deplores the fact that over a quarter of a million people are now registered as unemployed in Scotland". Given my job and its responsibilities, no one deplores that more than I. The resolution calls for the implementation of policies that will put an end to such unemployment. That is what our policies are designed to do. I firmly believe that that is exactly what they will do. The hon. Gentleman's motion seeks the introduction of an alternative economic strategy. The difficulty is that all the other strategies have one factor in common, namely, they have been tried before—well within the memory of all hon. Members—and they have failed.

Hon. Members have said that the Government should bring in this new measure or that new measure. They have said that the Government should somehow increase Government spending and that all would then be well. Such arguments prove how little Opposition Members have learnt during the past 10 or 15 years. That approach led to our present economic position. It has weakened our industrial structure and brought about the present levels of unemployment.

The crucial fact that is basic to an understanding of the British economy is that we are a trading nation and we must trade to survive. We export a greater share of our gross domestic product than any of our main competitors. Indeed, we export proportionately more than West Germany and far more than France, Japan or the United States of America. Over the years we have become less and less effective as a trading nation. There are many complex reasons for that, but one vital reason is that we have been willing to countenance very high levels of inflation. We have been willing to enjoy a standard of consumption and a level of public services that we cannot afford and have not earned, and we have paid too little attention to the need for wealth creation as against its distribution.

I was surprised that, given all the lessons of the past 10 to 15 years, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East should call for higher public expenditure. Neither he nor any of his right hon. or hon. Friends referred to the impact of higher public expenditure on inflation. Our first priority remains the control of inflation. Only by that means will it be possible to bring about the economic stability that will lead to the industrial regeneration that is essential to improve Scotland's job prospects.

We see signs of success. Inflation is falling. Opposition Members are uncomfortable when they are reminded of that. The cause of high unemployment is not hard to find; it is high inflation. Together with the United Kingdom, countries such as France, Italy, Belgium and Ireland are suffering from high unemployment, while countries such as Germany and Japan, which have low levels of inflation, have low levels of unemployment.

The world is in recession. It is instructive to remember that unemployment is not purely a Scottish or a British problem. It is also high in other trading nations. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) rightly referred to the 1930s. He said that the problems at that time were more critical and were different from those of today. He also referred to the problems of overmanning, which were mentioned by only one other Opposition Member. It is important to mention that trade unions have a responsibility to eliminate restrictive practices, not least in industrial training.

We can do much to help ourselves in terms of the problems of unemployment. We are seeing signs of realism, and many important wage settlements have been made in single figures. That is encouraging. Despite the comments made by the hon. Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth (Mr. Ewing), I continue to urge that we should drive the message home. Real increases in pay can be justified only by increases in productivity. It is absurd and out of order to suggest that there is a painless cure for this country's economic problems.

Mr. David Lambie (Central Ayrshire)

What about the chairman of ICI?

Mr. Fletcher

The hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. Hamilton) referred to the steel industry. I respect his experience of industry. I know that he represents a constituency that lies within easy reach of the important steelworks at Ravenscraig. However, I was surprised when he seemed to suggest that wages should be increased at such a period in the history of the British Steel Corporation. The chairman of the BSC has publicly declared that the enterprise is bankrupt. I know that the hon. Gentleman takes his responsibilities seriously, and I should have thought that he would have joined the BSC in urging his constituents, and those who work in that area, not to press for a wage increase against the interests of their corporation.

Mr. Harry Ewing


Mr. Fletcher

I hope that the hon. Member for Bothwell will press on his constituents and those employed there that they have an opportunity to prove that they can produce steel at least as efficiently as any other steel workers in Europe. Investment has been made, and Scottish steel workers have the opportunity to prove that they can do it.

Mr. James Hamilton

I wish to put the record straight. I have a steelworks in my constituency. The order book is loaded for at least a year and a half. Are the Government still operating a policy of free collective bargaining?

Mr. Fletcher

Of course there is a policy of free collective bargaining. Free colletive bargaining means that one side demands wages that it will equal in productivity and that the other side has the cash to meet those demands. It is a matter of paying one's way. Free collective bargaining must have restraints, just as any other form of bargaining has.

The hon. Member for Bothwell blames management, not trade unions, for overmanning. I do not disagree with that comment. However, there are others to be blamed for the overmanning that exists, particularly in the public sector and in the steel industry—namely, successive Labour Industry Ministers. Against the advice of the BSC, those Ministers continued to keep plants open at overmanned levels. As a result, the steel industry has had the most horrendous redundancies during the past year, in the middle of one of the worst world recessions that we have known. If Labour Ministers had had the courage of their convictions, they would have allowed those redundancies to take place over a longer period, and the labour force would more easily have found different jobs and new opportunities.

I turn to the immediate concern of the debate. We fully recognise the damaging effect that prolonged periods of unemployment can have, at both a personal and a social level. The present high levels of unemployment have been particularly hard on school leavers and on the young generally. It is our duty to see that their prospects are not permanently damaged. That is why we have backed the Manpower Services Commission in giving an undertaking to provide all school leavers who cannot find a job this year a place on the youth opportunities programme by the Easter following their school leaving date.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East acknowledged the importance of the special measures announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment on 21 November. As my right hon. Friend said, we are planning to expand the youth opportunities programme by a further 75 per cent. in 1981–82 and to provide about 66,000 opportunities for young people in Scotland—29,000 more than we planned for the current year.

We are making a number of other significant changes in the programme. First, we are asking the Manpower Services Commission to strengthen its undertakings next year and to move towards a position in which it can offer a suitable opportunity to any 16 or 17-year-old who has been unemployed for three months. Secondly—I regard this as perhaps the most significant development—we intend that the emphasis in the programme should be placed increasingly on good quality training for work, and two-thirds of the places will provide work experience on employers' premises.

The present recession has led to a reduction in the number of apprenticeships and other training opportunities available for young people in industry. The Manpower Services Commission, under its training for skills programme, already makes substantial efforts to supplement the normal intake of apprentices by employers.

I believe that industry's needs for trained labour are changing, as the nature of work is changing. People can no longer expect to learn a traditional skill and to keep at it for the rest of their working life. What is needed is a different, more flexible type of training to cope with changing circumstances. That is vital, because when the upturn in the economy comes I believe that the opportunities for unskilled and semi-skilled people are likely to be fewer and fewer. That is an underlying trend that we see in all developed countries. I am concerned that we in this country are not doing enough at present to give our young people the basic training that they will need to cope with changing industrial circumstances.

I am also anxious to see changes in the present apprenticeship system, with its emphasis on time served rather than skills attained and its rigid rules about ages of entry. It is generally accepted that our outmoded apprenticeship system is itself a major contributor to the inflexibility of our present training system. I should like to abolish the word "apprentice". I should like people to become trainees at any age up to, say, 50 years and to be assessed not on time served, which is a pretty useless and outdated method of assessment, but on standards achieved during training.

The hon. Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth asked two questions about Hampden Park. The first concerned the problem facing Queen's Park, which is entirely a matter for the football authorities.

Mr. Harry Ewing

The Government caused it.

Mr. Fletcher

No, we did not cause it. The problems facing Queen's Park concern maintenance. Opposition Members must know that over many years, and until very recently, Hampden overflowed with spectators. Unfortunately, the money was never put aside to keep the ground up to scratch and in good order. That is a fact of life.

On the second point, the hon. Gentleman suggested in his usual rather wild—

Mr. Robert Hughes

Where does the money come from?

Mr. Fletcher

That is a matter for the football authorities and not for me. With regard to the Government's commitment to the abortive expenditure, as I have said on a number of occasions recently, we have no intention of not meeting our due obligations. We have obligations, which I freely accept, and we shall meet them.

In a debate like this, it is important that we remember that all is not doom and gloom for the Scottish economy. Any visitor to Scotland would be delighted with the opportunities that exist. North Sea oil has created between 70,000 and 85,000 jobs in the past decade and has attracted investment of £11,000 million. It is the conservative estimate of the oil companies that over the next 15 years about £60,000 million will be invested in the North Sea. That must mean more jobs and more prospects in Scotland—and that is only our domestic market. About 90 countries around the world are currently engaged in offshore explorations. Several of our more enterprising companies in Scotland have already begun to win large orders overseas for offshore related equipment, and we should be proud of that.

The electronics industry is also expanding in Scotland. New investment is coming from companies such as IBM, Motorola National Semiconductor, General Instruments, Hewlett-Packard and Nippon, to name but a few. Sound investment is being made in electronics in Scotland, which offers splendid opportunities.

My hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker) mentioned youth opportunities programme training in Ministry of Defence establishments. There are such places available. The Manpower Services Commission is hopeful that the number will be increased.

The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) asked for increased demand and increased investment. He was also the only Opposition Member to mention inflation. Consumer demand is still high. Unfortunately, that has been reflected in imports of goods from overseas, because of the lack of competition from British industry in the manufacture of too many important products, such as electrical goods and motor cars. British money has been spent but has helped other countries, because we have not had the competitive industries to meet demand. Our problem is not a shortage of domestic demand.

Wide support is available for investment and was available for Fort William. The trouble there was more a matter of exchange rates and the agreement, which is to the benefit of the British newspaper industry, to have the price linked to the dollar.

Unfortunately, time is running out and, although I should like to reply to the many of other points raised, I shall have to conclude.

Mr. Strang

I beg to move, That the Question be now put.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is not necessary. The Minister has sat down.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House deplores the fact that over a quarter of a million people are now registered as unemployed in Scotland; and calls for the implementation of policies which will secure an end to the hardship and misery caused by this tragic waste of human resources.