HC Deb 11 June 1980 vol 986 cc548-50
15. Mr. Strang

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many workers have been made redundant in Scotland during 1980.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

The number of workers involved in redundancies affecting 10 or more people notified to the Manpower Services Commission as due to occur in Scotland up to the end of May 1980 was 18,532. This total includes provisional figures for April and May.

Mr. Strang

Is the Minister aware that that tragic figure means that it will be little short of criminal if the Government permit the sale of the National Enterprise Board's holdings in Ferranti to jeopardise employment and the company's expansion plans? Will the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend serve notice on the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Industry that they are not prepared to see the company taken over by a giant like GEC, with the consequent implications for employment and the future of the enterprise in Scotland?

Mr. Fletcher

As the hon. Gentleman implied, this is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry. The importance of the Scottish divisions and the jobs and success that the company brings to the Scottish economy are fully appreciated in the Scottish Office. The Government are aware of the significance of the disposal of NEB shares.

Mr. Peter Fraser

Will my hon. Friend take the opportunity to compliment the steel workers at Glengarnock, who recently agreed to drop traditional demarcation barriers between craft skills and have accordingly avoided redundancies? Does my hon. Friend agree that that is an example to other industries in Scotland?

Mr. Fletcher

My hon. Friend is right. It is a good example. The tragedy is that, too often, many companies and workers in Scotland wait until it is too late before taking sensible steps to save their jobs.

Mr. David Steel

Since the Minister is supposed to be responsible for industry in Scotland, is he aware that the Prime Minister's answer yesterday about the sale of Ferranti shares is inadequate? Does he accept that the issue is not the principle of the NEB disposing of the shares, but the manner in which it is done? Does he rather accept that, if the shares go to the highest bidder, regardless of social consequences, that will be carrying out Tory economic policy to a ludicrous extent?

Mr. Fletcher

The Government are fully aware of the right hon. Gentleman's point with regard to Ferranti's operations in Scotland. This comes within the responsibility of my right hon. Friend and myself, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is also aware of the importance of the matter.

Mr. Dalyell

Is the Secretary of State prepared to fight the Secretary of State for Industry in the Cabinet with regard to Ferranti?

Mr. Fletcher

The Government are fully aware of the problems of the disposal of Ferranti.

Mr. Dalyell

"Yes" or "No".

Mr. Fletcher

There is no need for the Government, publicly or privately, to conduct their business in the way that the Labour Party regularly does.

Mr. McQuarrie

Is my hon. Friend aware that much of Scotland's unemployment is in the construction industry? Does he accept that that is partly due to the delay in decisions from St. Andrew's House on public inquiries? Will my hon. Friend try to speed up such decisions and thus create more employment in the construction industry?

Mr. Fletcher

We are taking steps to improve the time that it takes for public inquiries to complete their work.

Mr. Millan

Will the Minister acknowledge that Ferranti has been conspicuously successful in Scotland? Is he aware that management, including top management, and the trade unions are unanimously and bitterly opposed to a takeover by a company such as GEC, which can only prejudice those valuable jobs? Will the Scottish Office do everything possible to prevent that disastrous result?

Mr. Fletcher

It is no part of our job, in disposing of NEB shares in Ferranti, to prejudice jobs and the successful operation of the company in Scotland.