HC Deb 21 December 1988 vol 144 cc441-2
11. Mr. Tom Clarke

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he expects to meet the Scottish Trades Union Congress to discuss Her Majesty's Government's White Paper on Scottish Enterprise.

Mr. Lang

The STUC has not sought a meeting about Scottish Enterprise, but I shall be happy to consider any such request.

Mr. Clarke

Is not it unacceptable that the Secretary of State, who might have been expected to answer my question, has not formally met the STUC for over 15 months, even though it was anxious to meet him to discuss NEL, Scott Lithgow, Bishopton and other matters? Is the attempt to marginalise active trade unionists in Scotland reflected in the White Paper proposals for local structures that will give far more weight to local employers than to local authorities and trade unionists, who are just as committed as anybody else to training and employment? Does the Minister accept that, since the election, the Secretary of State has not attempted to achieve consensus in Scotland and that the only voices to which he is prepared to listen are those of the discredited, minority far right in his own party?

Mr. Lang

Any request by the STUC for a meeting would always be carefully considered. In recent months, my right hon. and learned Friend has had several meetings with the general secretary of the STUC, and I shall meet representatives of the STUC on 27 January to discuss the economy.

It is our intention that there should be no automatic right of membership of Scottish Enterprise. We want to get the right people as individuals who can best help Scottish Enterprise achieve good results for Scotland.

Mr. Salmond

What procedures will be undertaken for the appointment of people to the new area enterprise boards. Has there been any correspondence, apart from the letter from Sir Hector Laing looking for recruits to such boards? What assurances can the Minister give that the proposal is about enterprise in Scotland, as opposed to the extension of Tory patronage throughout Scotland?

Mr. Lang

That is an offensive and irrelevant question. On the establishment of enterprise agencies, it is for local individuals and local organisations to put forward proposals to Scottish Enterprise to bid for the contract in their own areas. Proposals will be assessed on their merits. Contracts will be awarded accordingly and monitored by Scottish Enterprise.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my hon. Friend agree that Scottish Enterprise recognises employers' key role in training the people whom they employ? It should acknowledge also the existence of the STUC, though the STUC has failed to come forward with positive and constructive proposals, and has been girning. One can only assume that it will not contribute in a positive way.

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend is right. When the STUC comes forward with positive proposals they are always carefully considered, as was the general secretary's suggestion that my right hon. and learned Friend should set up a committee to consider the implications for Scotland of the single European market.

It is our intention that about two thirds of the membership of the board of Scottish Enterprise should be from the business and industrial community. Business men and industrialists are more likely to be the most effective at assessing the need for training in their areas and throughout Scotland.

Mr. Eadie

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some hon. Members are reaching the conclusion that the Secretary of State is reluctant to meet anybody to discuss enterprise and industry in Scotland? Is he aware also that, over three weeks ago, I wrote to the Secretary of State and listed my parliamentary colleagues who would attend a meeting to discuss the Scottish mining industry? Why does the Secretary of State show such discourtesy to his parliamentary colleagues and to the House?

Mr. Lang

The hon. Gentleman's question is wholly unwarranted. As I have already said, my right hon. and learned Friend would give consideration to any organisation asking for a meeting and so would I. I am meeting the STUC next month.

Mr. Dickens

Will my hon. Friend ensure when he next meets—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Please get on with it.

Mr. Dickens

I am trying. Control them. When my hon. Friend next meets the STUC will he be sure to remind it both of how well we are doing with inward investment in Scotland through various enterprise schemes and of the stupidity of the trade unions in Scotland which cost Dundee the Ford plant?

Mr. Lang

I shall certainly remind the STUC of those points if by then it has not already read my hon. Friend's comments. I shall also urge it to withdraw its opposition to the Government's implementation of employment training. The attitude of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the STUC in refusing to co-operate with that important training scheme has done considerable damage to the employment prospects of young unemployed Scots.