HC Deb 13 February 1985 vol 73 cc322-3
2. Mr. James Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he will next meet the Scottish Confederation of British Industry to discuss the economic situation.

Mr. Younger

I receive regular reports from the Scottish Confederation of British Industry on a range of economic matters. I have no formal plans at present to meet the Scottish CBI to discuss the economic situation.

Mr. Hamilton

When the right hon. Gentleman next meets the CBI, will he discuss with it his intentions about the stagnation of the construction industry, bearing in mind that thousands of craftsmen are at present unemployed? Will he further tell the CBI how he stands in relation to the proposed closure of the skillcentres and annexes which are vital for training people for the future?

Mr. Younger

On the first point, I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's anxiety about unemployment in the construction industry. I have managed to keep capital spending in the Scottish Office budget steady over the past five years. In fact, it is still slightly up in real terms on what it was in 1979–80. I accept that that is helpful, and I shall try to keep it that way if I can. Within the next week or two the Government Will be announcing their reaction to the MSC's proposals for the closure of some skillcentres in Scotland. As I understand the proposals, skill training in Scotland will be going up, not down, whether or not the skillcentres are closed.

Mr. Malone

My right hon. Friend will have noticed representations from the CBI about investment in the infrastructure. Can he confirm that those proposals have one difference compared with any put forward by the Opposition—namely, that they imply that there must be savings in other sectors before that investment can take place?

Mr. Younger

My hon. Friend is right. That has been a constant theme of discussions that I have had with various bodies, including local authorities, over the past five years. It would be desirable to keep up capital spending, but to reduce current spending because it does not have the same good effect on the economy. I agree with my hon. Friend's remarks.

Mr. Maclennan

By the time that he next meets the CBI, will the Secretary of State be able to say that when he has completed his period as the longest serving Secretary of State for Scotland he will have succeeded in bringing down unemployment?

Mr. Younger

I am not sure whether that is a question or a statement. Unemployment has been and remains the main problem facing our economy. The efforts that the Government have made to counter the economic problems that have caused it have led in recent months to an increase in the number of people in employment in Scotland, and that is welcome.