HC Deb 15 July 1981 vol 8 cc1161-2
4. Mr. Lang

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has any plans to meet the general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress to discuss the recovery of the Scottish economy.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

My right hon. Friend and I have met representatives of the STUC several times since taking office and have made it clear that we are prepared to meet them whenever that would be useful.

Mr. Lang

When my hon. Friend mext meets them, will he emphasise that their Stone Age intransigence about the reform of apprenticeships and training schemes will be a major impediment to the creation of new employment when we emerge from the recession?

Mr. Fletcher

There is no doubt that the apprenticeship system is obsolete. It restricts employment opportunities for youngsters, as do the wages that trade unions demand that youngsters should earn, which take no account of the fact that youngsters are inexperienced and require training. If those two matters could be tackled by the STUC and the CBI, there would be better prospects for youngsters in Scotland.

Mr. James Hamilton

When the Minister meets the general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, will he remind him of the request that came from the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors for more public expenditure? Will he also remind him that we require 20,000 houses in Scotland and that there is a need for a modernisation programme that will bring men back to work? Will he do something positive for Scotland for a change before the country goes into liquidation?

Mr. Fletcher

Reflation would worsen inflation, and that would do nothing for the unemployed or for job prospects in Scotland or anywhere else.

Mr. Henderson

When my hon. Friend next meets the general secretary of the STUC, will he congratulate him on the important contribution that the trade union movement has made to youth opportunities schemes in the widest sense and ask him to use what influence he has to encourage the unions to make available their valuable co-operation, which is greatly appreciated, in apprenticeship training and the payment of young people?

Mr. Fletcher

I shall certainly do that. As I said earlier, real jobs are more valuable to young people than even the best efforts of the youth opportunities programme.

Mr. Harry Ewing

The unemployment figures for Scotland will be published again on Tuesday of next week. How many more job opportunities will be denied not only to youngsters but to all working people in Scotland as a result of the Government's disastrous policies? When will the Minister and the Secretary of State stop being the Prime Minister's poodles and start trying to protect the interests of Scotland inside the Cabinet?

Mr. Fletcher

I am happy to repeat that the priority given by the Government to reducing the rate of inflation is the most important thing that can be done to improve job prospects in Scotland and elsewhere in Britain.