HC Deb 06 February 1980 vol 978 cc471-3
2. Mr. Maxton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he intends next to meet with the general council of the Scottish Trades Union Congress.

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

My right hon. Friend and I have met representatives of the Scottish Trades Union Congress several times since taking office and have made it clear that we are prepared to meet them at any time they wish.

Mr. Maxton

In view of the recent statement by the general secretary of the STUC that he believes that his telephone has been tapped, will the Minister, when he next meets the STUC, give that body an assurance that not only has the telephone of the general secretary not been tapped but that the telephones of other members of the STUC have not been tapped illegally by security services personnel or anyone else? If the Minister cannot give the STUC that assurance, will he inform the House this afternoon what possible reasons there can be for tapping the telephones of hard-working, honest people who do their best for this country? Will he also state—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."] Will he also—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not want to tap the line of the hon. Gentleman, but his supplementary question was a bit long.

Mr. Fletcher

I have to inform the hon. Gentleman that that is a matter for my right hon. Friends and not for me.

Mr. Sproat

In the light of the steel strike, what discussions has my hon. Friend had with the STUC about secondary and flying pickets against premises of companies engaged in the oil business? Is he aware that threats to these premises by secondary picketing now threaten very grave delays to important oil contracts? What estimate has he made of the latest situation?

Mr. Fletcher

My right hon. Friend and I have not discussed this particular matter with the STUC, but we have noted the points that my hon. Friend has made and, of course, we are monitoring in Scotland the full effects of the steel strike and, clearly, the damaging consequences that it is having for employment prospects in Scotland.

Mr. James Hamilton

When he next meets the general secretary of the STUC, will the hon. Gentleman forget about secondary picketing and deal with a matter which has caused a great deal of concern in Scotland—the unemployment situation? Will he himself, as the so-called Minister responsible for industry, tell us what he intends to do, bearing in mind all his utterances when he was in opposition?

Mr. Fletcher

My right hon. Friend and I are doing a very great deal to try to alleviate Scotland's unemployment problems. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you would not like me to take up the time of the House now by listing the measures we are taking. We are fully aware of the very serious problem that we inherited from the Labour Government, and we are doing everything possible to try to make things easier for those who, unfortunately, find themselves unemployed at present.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

When meeting the STUC next, will the Minister take on board the pressing comments made by the CBI in Scotland about the state of the economy? After the meeting with the STUC, will he go back to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and tell him plainly that he is engaged on a disastrous course which will increase unemployment in Scotland to well above the 200,000 mark which we have now reached?

Mr. Fletcher

I can only repudiate the hon. Gentleman's very tortuous question and the points that he tries to make.

Mr. Lang

When my hon. Friend meets the STUC, will he draw to its attention the decision in the High Court yesterday that the political levy may now be paid to the Conservative Party as well as to the Labour Party, thus enabling those many thousands of trade unionists who voted Conservative now to contribute?

Mr. Fletcher

Like my hon. Friend, I shall be delighted if those trade unionists who vote Conservative in very great numbers, and in increasing numbers, now find that they are able to contribute to the Conservative Party's finances.

Mr. Harry Ewing

If the Minister is so concerned about what he describes as the damaging effects that the steel strike is having in Scotland, why does he think that the Secretary of State for Industry and the Prime Minister deliberately provoked the strike?

Mr. Fletcher

That is an extremely childish comment, coming from a member of the previous Government, who managed to double unemployment in Scotland during their term.