HC Deb 13 February 1985 vol 73 cc328-30
4. Mr. Malone

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many jobs have been created in Scotland in the past 12 months.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart)

During 1984 nearly 15,000 new jobs were associated with offers of selective financial assistance for projects in Scotland. In net terms there was an overall increase in employees in employment of 14,000 in the year to September 1984.

Mr. Malone

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Can he confirm that many of those jobs were created in oil-related industries? Is he aware that the Leader of the Opposition has made the clear statement that, if he is put into office, he will implement a policy of controlling oil depletion in the North sea? Does my hon. Friend agree that if that policy were to be implemented it would drive investment from the North sea and jobs from Scotland?

Mr. Stewart

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend's point in relation to what the Leader of the Opposition said. I confirm that exploration in the North sea continues at record levels. As my hon. Friend will be aware, last week plans were approved for the development of Shell-Esso's Tern field, which it is estimated will create 3,000 new jobs. I can tell my hon. Friend that I have today authorised the Scottish Development Agency to invest more than £500,000 in a new oil rig repair base at Dales Voe near Lerwick, which will widen the capability of Scottish firms in that area and provide 150 new jobs.

Mr. Kennedy

Is the Minister aware that in the Invergordon to Dingwall travel-to-work area in my constituency, adult male unemployment is at present 25 per cent.? On Monday, this week I visited a distillery in Alness, which is due to close as a result of a decision by the Distillers Company. Incidentally, that effects to an even greater extent the constituency of the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Moray (Mr. Pollock). Will the Minister use the opportunity before the Budget to impress upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer the need to introduce further tax advantages or to reduce the tax burden on the distillery and whisky industry to try to improve the climate in which so many jobs are being lost?

Mr. Stewart

No doubt my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will read the hon. Gentleman's comments. However, I assure the hon. Gentleman of our commitment to the rural areas. We recently announced a new initiative —the programme for rural initiatives and developments — through the Scottish Development Agency. In the areas that serve the oil industry there will be substantial and increasing opportunities for employment if companies can provide competitive services.

Mr. Eadie

Is the Minister aware that when I fought the constituency represented by the Secretary of State for Scotland in 1959, the jobless total in Scotland was 70,000? During that election campaign Lord Stockton chastised the STUC for not coming to see him quickly enough, because he believed that the jobless total was too high. As the jobless total in Scotland is now more than 300,000, what is the message from the Minister's right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to the STUC about unemployment in Scotland?

Mr. Stewart

I must tell the hon. Gentleman that unemployment in Scotland doubled under the Labour Government. Unemployment is a difficult problem, and the Government's policies are designed to create a competitive economy to provide real and lasting jobs. My message to the STUC is that it should take fully into account the need for British companies to be competitive if they are to expand and provide new jobs.

Mr. Henderson

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the creation of new jobs. Will he ensure that those concerned with this crucial activity are not discouraged by the self-inflicted wounds created by striking miners, which have had especially disastrous consequences in Fife?

Mr. Stewart

The whole House will be aware of the serious position that has arisen in Fife as a result of the strike. It is important that Scotland does not inflict such wounds on itself. However, there are several encouraging signs, including the improved performance of manufacturing industry. During the first half of 1984 manufacturing output was 5 per cent. above the level a year earlier.

Mr. Dewar

Will the Minister accept that, very sadly, he is sounding more and more like one of his press handouts? Is it not insufferable complacency for the Minister to appear at the Dispatch Box and claim that his Government's policy has been a success? Will he accept that more than 160,000 manufacturing jobs have gone since 1979, that the index of industrial production is about 11 per cent. below what it was in 1979 and that unemployment is at a record level, with 360,000 people in the dole queues? Surely the Minister ought to do a great deal more and look at the reality of the crisis in Scotland—for example, at the appalling potential job losses that are being faced at the BREL works in Springburn?

Mr. Stewart

Nobody seeks to deny that there is a serious unemployment problem, but the Government's policies are designed to create the type of economy that will provide employment in the long term. I am very surprised that in his list of the alleged problems facing the Scottish economy the hon. Gentleman did not mention the miners' strike and the damage that it is doing to the coal industry and to the coalmining communities.

Mr. Steel

Is it not the case that during the last 12 months the number of job losses has exceeded the number of new jobs, as a result of which unemployment in Scotland has increased by 10,000?

Mr. Stewart

The total labour force is rising, as the right hon. Gentleman must be aware. He will also be aware that in the service sector employment increased by 23,000 jobs in the year to September 1984. I am sure he will agree that that is very encouraging.