HC Deb 30 April 1986 vol 96 cc918-20
3. Mr. James Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he will next meet Strathclyde regional council to discuss the prospects for manufacturing industry.

Mr. Allan Stewart

My right hon. and learned Friend has no immediate plans to meet Strathclyde regional council specifically to discuss this issue.

Mr. Hamilton

Is the Minister aware—everybody else is—that there has been a drastic decline in manufacturing industry since the Government took office in 1979? Is he also aware that 57,000 people in Strathclyde region have been unemployed for two years or more and that there is 27 per cent. unemployment in the region? Will he do something drastic to get people back to work and give them what they are entitled to—the right to work and the right to live?

Mr. Stewart

The hon. Gentleman must realise that manufacturing output in Scotland rose by 5.75 per cent. to the third quarter of 1985. Those are the most recent figures available. Opposition Members should recognise that manufacturing productivity in Scotland rose by more than 8 per cent. in 1984 and 6.8 per cent. to the third quarter of 1985. Both those figures are higher than the United Kingdom average. It is on the basis of such achievement that we can look forward to competitive and successful manufacturing industry in Scotland.

Mr. Fletcher

As low-cost energy is vital to manufacturing industry, will my hon. Friend take this opportunity to congratulate the South of Scotland Electricity Board on its excellent safety record at AGR power stations in Strathclyde and on completing the AGR at Torness on time and on budget?

Mr. Stewart

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. All hon. Members will recognise the outstanding safety record of the nuclear energy industry in Scotland. It is therefore astonishing that the Scottish Labour party is committed to closing Hunterston and refusing to open Torness. I notice that the Scottish Trades Union Congress, at least, had rather more sense than that at its recent congress.

Dr. Bray

Is the Minister aware that the implications of the figures that he gave my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell, North (Mr. Hamilton) is that, despite, and perhaps because of, the increase in productivity, the Government have taken out the benefits for themselves rather than allow them to help employment in Scotland? Is he aware that the implication of his figures is a further reduction in employment in manufacturing? Does he not intend to do anything about unemployment?

Mr. Stewart

The implication of the figures that I gave is that Scottish manufacturing industry is becoming more productive and therefore more competitive. That is the only basis on which a secure future can be built. I must emphasise that the total number of jobs in Scotland has been rising steadily. It is true that in Scotland, as throughout the industrial world, most of those jobs are coming in expanding service industries.

Mr. Henderson

As many of the hon. Members who represent Strathclyde are Labour Members, was my hon. Friend not surprised that none of them came forward when the Ministry of Defence announced the Harland and Wolff order, one third of the value of which is to be spent in Strathclyde? Is that not an excellent example of how employment in that area is being helped?

Mr. Stewart

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that that order was a tribute to the design excellence of the Yarrow yard, which was involved with Harland and Wolff in that contract.

Mr. Ewing

I would have thought that the Minister would be more concerned about Tory party policy, which will cost his councillors dearly at the elections next Thursday and will cost him dearly at the general election. When it comes to the nuclear industry, does the Minister not understand that there is debate in the country about the safety and future of nuclear energy? He seems to be the only person who is deaf to that debate. The best thing that he can do, without listening to his right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State to prompt him in his reply, is to open his ears and listen to the debate on people's concern about the future of the nuclear industry.

Mr. Stewart

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there is an absurd debate taking place within the Labour party on that issue. I suggest that he is doing nobody any good by failing to dissociate himself from the totally absurd statements that have been made about the real role of the nuclear energy industry in Scotland. It is estimated that Labour party policy towards that industry in Scotland would result in an increase of around 25 per cent. in electricity prices.

Mr. Speaker

Order. It would be helpful to all concerned if we stuck to the question.

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