HC Deb 09 July 1980 vol 988 cc529-30
7. Mr. Maxton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what action he intends to take to increase employment prospects in the Strathclyde region.

Mr. Younger

We have recognised the problems of West-Central Scotland by extending the special development area and by the announcement of our intention to create an enterprise zone on Clyde-side. We have also continued our support for Glasgow Eastern area renewal and established a new microelectronics educational centre at Paisley college of technology.

Mr. Maxton

Is the Minister aware that that sort of bland complacency and those limited short-term measures do nothing to solve the problems of unemployment in the West of Scotland, and that the people of the West of Scotland are becoming increasingly angry and increasingly desperate about what is happening? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that companies which are big exporters and which have carried out a great deal of investment, which are highly technological, also face major problems? Those are the companies that his Government are supposed to be supporting.

Mr. Younger

I recognise that people are concerned and that many companies face a very difficult time. The hon. Gentleman does not do much of a service to his own area not to recognise that we have given it the highest priority in the whole of Britain for the attraction of new industry. He should be grateful for that.

Mr. Allan Stewart

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the key factor in Strathclyde, as elsewhere, will be the current and future level of pay settlements? Are not private sector negotiators in Strathclyde showing much more appreciation of economic realities than Labour hon. Members are?

Mr. Younger

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend's last point. I am sure that all members of firms, whether workers or management, will realise in the coming months that the easiest thing in the world is to give oneself an unrealistic pay increase which leads to a loss of jobs later in the year.

Mr. Gregor MacKenzie

Is the Secretary of State aware that people in Strathclyde are now more worried about the level of unemployment benefit than they are about wage increases, as few of them will be receiving any wages? Will he explain why in his view it is better to pay out money in redundancy payments and unemployment benefit—money that he says he does not have—than to increase selective financial assistance and regional development grants in order to encourage the few mobile projects that we have into an area such as Strathclyde, where unemployment is now so dangerously high?

Mr. Younger

I accept that unemployment is high, and that it is a worrying problem. But the right hon. Gentleman does not do himself justice when he suggests that more people are interested in unemployment benefits than in wages. Even in Strathclyde, nearly 90 per cent. of the population are in work. It does no service to anybody to suggest otherwise.

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