HC Deb 04 May 1983 vol 42 cc224-5
13. Mr. Gregor MacKenzie

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will publish a White Paper outlining his future plans for dealing with the problems of unemployment in Scotland.

Mr. Younger

I have at present no intention of publishing such a White Paper, but I shall bear the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion in mind.

Mr. MacKenzie

That is exactly the reply that I expected, but, in view of the right hon. Gentleman's reply a few minutes ago about the dissemination of Government information, it is rather surprising that he is reticent about this. We were given to understand that, as inflation and interest rates came down, so would unemployment, but unemployment is going up. If the Secretary of State and his colleagues continue to decimate the Scottish steel industry we shall have no basic industry at all and we shall not be able to attract inward investment and jobs—

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is not a time for speeches; it is a time for questions.

Mr. Foulkes

Very good, though.

Mr. Speaker

It might be. But we are in Question Time.

Mr. Younger

I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's point, but it would not add anything to our knowledge to publish a White Paper, although it would enable me to point out several useful facts, such as that, whereas in the United Kingdom industrial production in the year ended 1982 had fallen by 0.1 per cent., in Scotland it rose by 2.5 per cent., and in the same period manufacturing production in the United Kingdom fell by 1.2 per cent. while it rose by 1.8 per cent. in Scotland.

Mr. Ancram

Is not the soundest way to reduce unemployment in Scotland to attract and encourage new industry? Is not the greatest disincentive to that, and thus the greatest blow to Scottish job prospects, the cynical practice of the Labour party in continuing to talk Scotland down and put those industries off?

Mr. Younger

I appreciate what my hon. Friend says, and if I thought that overseas investors were paying close attention to what Labour Members said I would agree. However, they are much more likely to be worried about setting up in Scotland if there were any prospect of the Labour party getting into power and trying to tear us out of Europe. That would destroy thousands of jobs almost overnight and certainly prevent any new investment.

Mr. James Hamilton

Will the Secretary of State take my advice and accept that there will shortly be an announcement that more than 700 jobs will become vacant at the Clydesdale steelworks? Is he aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Clarke) and myself are making strong representations to the Minister of State, Department of Employment with a view to the continuation of the short-time working payment supplement? Is he prepared to give a categoric assurance that he will add his weight to our solicitations to the Minister in an effort to save those jobs?

Mr. Younger

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern. I have seen deputations from those involved who have pressed the matter on my attention and I have been in touch with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment about it.

Sir Russell Fairgrieve

Would my right hon. Friend care to comment further on what he thinks the effect on unemployment in Scotland would be if the inept, inane and myopic policies of the Labour party to take Britain out of the EC were ever implemented?

Mr. Younger

I agree with my hon. Friend, but the most significant fact is that we all know that there are many members of the Labour party who think the same as we do but who are not prepared to say so.

Mr. Millan

Will the Secretary of State answer at least one question that he dodged earlier this afternoon? As we are faced with more than 4,000 redundancies in the Scottish shipbuilding industry, will the Government respond positively to British Shipbuilders' request for emergency aid, or will they simply stand idly by and allow its sections of the shipbuilding industry to collapse?

Mr. Younger

The right hon. Gentleman knows that the chairman of British Shipbuilders has to submit his proposals to my right hon. Friend and they then have to be considered carefully by the Government. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that, when those proposals are considered in detail by the Government, I shall be taking part.