HC Deb 05 February 1981 vol 998 cc400-1
Q1. Mr. Ron Brown

asked the Prime Minister when she next proposes to meet the Scottish Trades Union Congress.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

I have at present no plans to do so, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has met representatives of the STUC on several occasions and has made it clear that he is prepared to meet them whenever this would be useful.

Mr. Ron Brown

Does the Prime Minister agree that if she has the courage of her convictions, as she so often tells the House she has, she should meet workers' leaders in Scotland, an area devastated by Government policies? Will she face the music for once, or will she hide in her London bunker while the Tory Reich crumbles and workers fight back, because she leaves them no alternative? That is the message of the Labour and trade union movement.

The Prime Minister

I have not the slightest doubt that if the Scottish Trades Union Congress wishes to see me, it will ask to do so. I have seen the English Trades Union Congress and the Wales Trades Union Congress.

Mr. Ancram

Will my right hon. Friend point out to the STUC that, bad as the Scottish unemployment figures are, the trend in Scotland is better than that in the rest of the United Kingdom? Does she not agree that the prospects for attracting jobs in Scotland would be much enhanced if the Opposition and the STUC would stop talking Scotland down?

The Prime Minister

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. What he says about the unemployment trends is correct. Scotland benefits from the enormous oil-related industries, and some parts of Scotland are doing very well. I agree with my hon. Friend that the way to get more jobs there is to preach and practise the virtues of Scotland and not to talk it down.

Mr. James Hamilton

If the Prime Minister cannot meet the STUC, will she instruct the Secretary of State for Scotland to make it clear categorically to the people of that country that in no circumstances will the youth opportunities programme be used, either in or out of uniform, in conjunction with the Services? Will she also reconsider the money paid to the youth opportunities programme and ensure that at least it gets something more than what is paid in social security insurance?

The Prime Minister

I think that the hon. Gentleman is mistaken in his first question. I have not refused to see the Scottish Trades Union Congress. So far as I am aware, it has not yet asked to see me. If it does, I shall of course be pleased to see it.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that there is a substantial increase in the number of places available in the youth opportunities programme in Scotland next year. Opportunities being made available by the Ministry of Defence, would, of course, have to comply fully with the youth opportunities programme. If they can, it would seem reasonable to offer young people that extra chance to work.

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