HC Deb 30 April 1986 vol 96 cc923-4
7. Mr. Maclennan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will take steps to increase employment in the Scottish construction industry.

Mr. Rifkind

I am confident that the best prospects for increasing employment in the construction industry lie in the continuation of this Government's policies of reducing inflation and creating real economic growth. In addition, public expenditure which will benefit the construction industry in Scotland will be higher this year than in previous years.

Mr. Maclennan

Is the Secretary of State aware that since his Government took office there has been a drop in employment in the construction industry of 26.2 per cent. year on year, and that the number inexorably falls? Is he further aware that local authorities, especially regional councils, are having to watch our fundament and roads declining and becoming inadequate to support the industry that we seek to promote because of the stringent curbs on their capital expenditure? What will the Government do about that? The measure lies in their hands.

Mr. Rifkind

It is difficult to believe that the hon. Gentleman is a Member for a Highland constituency when he implies that during the past few years contruction on road development has been poor or inadequate. He need only travel on the A9 and compare his journey with a similar one a few years ago to find out how absurd that allegation is. He will also be aware of the proposal to build a bridge across the Dornoch firth in his constituency, and he might have taken that into account before making those rather silly remarks.

Mr. McQuarrie

Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that there would be a great deal more work for the construction industry if many local authorities, especially Labour ones, would release more of their land banks to developers for houses and buildings? In that way many people would be employed directly in the construction industry.

Mr. Rifkind

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. Certain authorities have tended to hold on to land within their locality unnecessarily, and clearly that can be a needless curb on useful development for the construction industry.