HC Deb 11 March 1981 vol 1000 cc871-2
8. Mr. James Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the job prospects for young people and redundant steel workers in Bellshill.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

We are giving priority to the needs of young people by the expansion of the youth opportunities programme. For the longer term the prospects for workers in Bellshill as elsewhere depend on the success of the Government's policies to restore our country's economic competitiveness. There are encouraging signs nationally that our policies are taking effect and in Bellshill both Pye TMC and Ferranti are planning to build up their work forces.

Mr. Hamilton

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Budget will increase unemployment in Scotland to 300,000 and increase unemployment in Lanarkshire—in which Bellshill lies—to 20 per cent. of the insurable population? Does he agree that the Budget is a disaster? In addition, does he agree that the Government must take cognisance of the statement by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, which the hon. Gentleman claims not to have read? I challenge the hon. Gentleman, because he has read it. If they are not prepared to take note of the Moderator's sermon, the CBI and the STUC, will the hon. Gentleman and all of his Front Bench colleagues resign, in the interests of Scotland?

Mr. Fletcher

I have already said that the Moderator has made it clear that he was quoted out of context. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that for this year and next year the Chancellor of the Exchequer has provided more than £1,850 million for the steel industry, which plays an important part in the hon. Gentleman's constituency?

Mr. Sproat

Will my hon. Friend remind the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. Hamilton) that in yesterday's Budget the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced something that will be of particular help to redundant steel workers, namely, that their redundancy payments of up to £25,000 will be tax free, and that he intends to change the social security rules to their advantage? Will my hon. Friend encourage the Scottish Development Agency to help them to help themselves, by showing them how to invest that money in small businesses?

Mr. Fletcher

The SDA certainly has an important role. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his other remarks.

Mr. George Robertson

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Hamilton is in the travel-to-work area of Bellshill? Is he further aware that last week more than 4,100 people were unemployed in Hamilton, whilst there were precisely nine local vacancies on offer at the local jobcentre? Is that not a horrifying indictment of the Government's record and of their policies, which will only be made worse by those spelt out in yesterday's Budget?

Mr. Fletcher

That fact is a sign of the seriousness of the economic situation. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be thankful that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is tackling these problems with such courage.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Budget made large sums of money available to redundant steel workers and that each family in the land is paying over £140 as its contribution towards payments for redundant steel workers and others?

Mr. Fletcher

My hon. Friend is right. Members of the Labour Party are always crying out for more public expenditure. They should bear in mind that public expenditure is funded by taxpayers, which my right hon. and learned Friend, unfortunately, had to provide for yesterday.