HC Deb 02 March 1983 vol 38 cc225-6
1. Sir Hector Monro

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many new jobs have been announced in Scotland during the three months ended 31 January.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. George Younger)

There is no obligation for all employers to report new jobs created on a monthly basis, but, taking those associated with selective financial assistance alone, there were 1,436 new jobs created between November 1982 and January 1983. A further 1,321 existing jobs were safeguarded.

Sir Hector Monro

That is good news. Does my right hon. Friend agree that no previous Government have provided such schemes of assistance for small businesses and industry through the Scottish Development Agency and the Scottish Economic Planning Department? Can he now forecast any more jobs in the pipeline?

Mr. Younger

I thank my hon. Friend for what he said. He may not have noticed that it has been announced today that there will be an important and large new development at Glenrothes where Applied Computer Techniques will provide 400 new jobs. I am sure my hon. Friend is aware that it is a mistake to think that, because we have had many problems with redundancies and unemployment, employment exchanges have no jobs to offer. Since November, for example, employment offices in Scotland have assisted with placing 39,552 people in jobs.

Mr. Millan

We welcome any new jobs that occur, but are they not overwhelmed by the massive numbers of redundancies that occur day by day? Does the Secretary of State agree that the rundowns at Timex, Alcan, Crompton Parkinson and the 900 job losses at Rolls-Royce in my constituency have increased unemployment in Scotland by no fewer than 20,000 in one month? Does he agree also that unless the Budget in a fortnight's time is predominantly directed towards helping industry it will be a complete betrayal of the people of Scotland?

Mr. Younger

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman had the grace to welcome those new jobs. He might like to know that the figures for industrial production in Scotland have been by no means discouraging. Whereas from the end of 1981 to the beginning of 1983 total industrial production in the United Kingdom fell by 0.1 per cent., in Scotland it rose by 2.5 per cent. Therefore, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that, although there are many difficulties, some of which he has outlined, many people are working hard to reverse the trend and are beginning to succeed.

Mr. Grimond

Has the Secretary of State made an estimate of the effect of the fall in oil prices on Scottish employment? I understand that it is an important factor.

Mr. Younger

I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman' s point. There is a complex of factors that will be affected by the fall in oil prices. As we are high-cost oil producers we must have some worries about the effect that low oil prices will have on the production side, but there is no doubt that the reduction in our prices will have a major effect in boosting world trade. We have more to gain from that than most countries.

Mr. Henderson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many new jobs are provided without any assistance from public funds? Will he examine the circumstances where private enterprise efforts have created factory space and where they could do more? Is he aware that that has been happening in my constituency, where only marginal extra public assistance has been given?

Mr. Younger

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. My original answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) shows that many more new jobs are created than are recorded in the statistics because there is no obligation on employers to record the number of new jobs that they produce. Moreover, productivity in Scotland has been improving faster than in the rest of the United Kingdom recently. Whereas productivity as measured by output per person improved by 4.1 per cent. in the United Kingdom in 1981, it improved by 8.1 per cent. in Scotland. That means that Scottish industry is better placed to benefit from the recovery.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

May I counsel the Secretary of State—Scotland's economics Minister, so-called—to beware of complacency? The figures of jobs gained could be put into deficit almost immediately by contrast with what is happening in Dundee alone. What immediate action does he intend to take to try to safeguard watchmaking in Dundee and to prevent Crompton Parkinson taking its battery manufacturing operation south to Darlington?

Mr. Younger

We are passing through a world recession and there is always a danger of many redundancies occurring. They occur extremely frequently. The picture is not one-sided. I am concerned to hear about the Vidor battery operation in Dundee. My Department has made it clear to the company that many forms of incentives and grants would be available if it were to put new investment into the factory. We are informed that the company, having taken all that into account, still sees no prospect of making the operation viable.

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