HC Deb 08 April 1981 vol 2 cc942-3
7. Mr. George Robertson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next expects to meet the Scottish Confederation of British Industry to discuss unemployment.

Mr. Younger

My hon. Friend and I have met representatives of the CBI Scotland on several occasions and have made it clear that we are prepared to meet them whenever this would be useful. Our most recent meeting was on 18 March.

Mr. Robertson

When the Secretary of State next meets the CBI, what sort of comfort will he be able to give its member companies and its thousands of employees in Scotland? With the number of bankruptcies now reaching an all-time historic high level, and with all of us in Scotland becoming inured to a daily catalogue of redundancies, closures and lay-offs, when will he realise that he cannot continue to ignore the advice from the employers and the unions? When will he realise that the policy of the Government is disastrously wrong for the people of Scotland?

Mr. Younger

I do not know where the hon. Gentleman gets his information. When the chairman of the CBI Scotland saw me on 18 March he made it clear that the CBI was totally in support of the Government strategy but only wished that a little more money could be found with which to help industry. I pointed out to him in return that if we had found more money it would have put up the minimum lending rate, which was the opposite of what the CBI wanted.

Mr. Bill Walker

When my right hon. Friend next meets the CBI Scotland, will he discuss the image that various places have and how a wrong image can deter investment? Is he aware that the anti-Jewish activities in Dundee, which are the direct result of the flying of the PLO flag, are reminiscent of the early days of Hitler, and that this acts as a deterrent to investment?

Mr. Speaker

Order. We have heard rather a lot about that this afternoon. The question relates to the Confederation of British Industry in Scotland.

Mr. Younger

I always wish that all parts of Scotland would bear in mind that what is done in support of various causes should help to attract new jobs rather than repel them. That is a very important point.

Mr. Robert Hughes

How can the Secretary of State still believe that the CBI Scotland is in favour of Government strategy, when it is making it clear that its comments about being broadly in favour of the strategy are only a peg on which to hang its argument that it wants the Government to change course, in view of the disastrous reality of the collapse of industry in Scotland?

Mr. Younger

The CBI has made it clear to me repeatedly that it does not wish the Government to change course. That is the answer to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Grimond

Did the CBI produce to the Secretary of State any evidence to support his statement that the depression is bottoming out and that things are getting better? Is investment going up? Is restocking taking place? Is there specifically Scottish evidence that things are getting better?

Mr. Younger

There has been a good deal of Scottish evidence that firms are now getting orders in a much better way than they were. There are, for instance, the very interesting orders achieved by Redpath de Groot and UIE, recently, of the new developments in East Kilbride with Gray Tools, new orders obtained by John Brown Engineering, by Barr and Stroud, and by Caledonian Airmotive, to mention only a few. There are many indications.

Mr. Henderson

In discussing unemployment with the CBI Scotland, has my right hon. Friend stressed the importance of building upon our considerable successes in the electronics industry and particularly the opportunities that will flow to that industry from the passing of the British Telecommunications Bill through Parliament?

Mr. Younger

I appreciate what my hon. Friend says. He is right in saying that the electronics industry in Scotland is one of the strongest features of our economy, even at this difficult time. Expansion in the electronics industry, producing many new jobs in the pipeline, can be found all across Scotland.