HC Deb 13 May 1987 vol 116 cc270-2
4. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what was the total number of unemployed people in Scotland in (a) May 1979 and (b) May 1987 or the latest available date; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lang

There were 154,419 unemployed claimants in Scotland in May 1979 and 363,781 in March 1987. While unemployment still remains too high, it is encouraging to see the substantial reductions in the Scottish total in the last two months.

Mr. Canavan

If the Minister has the chance of addressing the Prime Minister's Nuremburg-type rally at Perth this coming weekend, will he take off his Goebbels mask and tell the people of Scotland the whole truth which is that, according to the independent unemployment unit, the real total of unemployed people in Scotland is well over the 400,000 mark? There are over 400,000 reasons why the people of Scotland will reject the Tory party. The Tory party in Scotland will be reduced to a discredited rump at the forthcoming general election. Perhaps even the people of Galloway and Edinburgh, Pentlands and Argyie and Edinburgh, South will return Labour Members of Parliament instead of the Thatcherite lackeys who misrepresent them at present.

Mr. Lang

The hon. Member has a wonderful sense of humour. For the moment, I shall content myself by welcomimg the fact that unemployment in his constituency has fallen by about 1 per cent. over the last two months, and that about 77 per cent. of the members of his local job club go out of the job club into employment.

Mr. Henderson

Is not the whole truth seen when one also looks at the figures of employment? Will my hon. Friend confirm that employment has been rising steadily in Scotland, together with manufacturing productivity, exports and industrial profitability?

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In particular, self-employment has been rising sharply as people realise the attraction of setting up their own businesses in the improved economic climate that we have established in Scotland.

Mr. MacKenzie

Does the Parliamentary Under-Secretary accept that many hon. Members, especially Opposition Members, and indeed many people throughout Scotland, will regard the figures that he has given as absolutely scandalous? Secondly, does he agree that he must look very much beyond even the figures that he has so starkly mentioned today? There are men over 40 who do not see any prospect of ever getting a job under this Administration, and many young people now in their early 20s have never had a decent job since they left school. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary and his colleagues, who are responsible for the administration of industry in Scotland, should think black burning shame of themselves that these young people should have no hope at all under this Government.

Mr. Lang

I can understand why the right hon. Gentleman, having had no familiarity in his party during its period in government with falling unemployment, may not recognise the good news that is now coming through in the Scottish economy. Unemployment is falling sharply among the long-term unemployed and among young unemployed. The economy is responding to the wide range of measures for training and increasing enterprise that we have generated in the last few years.

Sir Alex Fletcher

Will my hon. Friend tell the House the extent to which employment and self-employment have increased in Scotland since 1983?

Mr. Lang

Since 1983 self-employment has increased by 27 to 30 per cent. That is a very encouraging figure. In terms of employment generally, because of the expanded work force, undoubtedly there are many more people in employment than there have been for some considerable time.

Mr. Bruce

Does the Minister acknowledge that since the Conservative Government came to power in 1979 Scotland has lost no fewer than 180,000 jobs in manufacturing industry and that nothing in the Government's policy is replacing those? Will he further acknowledge that, instead of selectively taking the last two months, the realistic trend of the last six months shows that the rate of decrease in unemployment in Scotland is such that it will take 160 years to get the unemployment level back to the level that the Tories inherited?

Mr. Lang

That is one of the most idiotic questions that I have heard in this Chamber for some considerable time. The hon. Gentleman takes no account whatever of the expansion of the service industry, and of banking and the financial sector, all of which generate good, effective and profitable jobs. A more significant point about manufacturing industry is that output is almost at the level that it was at when there were 190,000 more jobs in manufacturing. That improved productivity is the strongest safeguard for future growth and employment in Scotland.

Mr. Buchan

Does the Minister agree that on no fewer than 19 occasions the Government have fiddled the figures, and that on each occasion that has, accidentally, Glory be, brought the figures down? Does the hon. Gentleman further agree with the Secretary of State for Employment, who said, "I lose no sleep over unemployment"? As Conservative Members are fond of quotations, does the Minister agree with the most recent quotation by the Secretary of State when he went to Renfrewshire, an area devastated by unemployment, where eight out of 10 young people in my constituency either have no job or are on short-term training, and said, "Every day is like Christmas."? If every day is like Christmas, when will the unemployed get some bloody presents from the Government?

Mr. Lang

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. There have been only six discernible changes—[Interruption.] —in the method of calculation of unemployment — [Interruption.] Two of the changes—the change to fortnightly registration and the inclusion of the severely disabled — have had the effect of increasing, not reducing, the unemployment count. If the hon. Gentleman wants to look for dramatic and substantial changes in the way in which the unemployment figures are calculated, he should look back at the previous Labour Administration, who removed adult students, which had an effect that could have been as high as 200,000 at some times in the year.