HC Deb 25 May 1988 vol 134 c314
6. Mr. Forth

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will give the most recent average weekly earnings figures for Scotland; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lang

The average gross weekly earnings of full-time employees on adult rates in Scotland in April 1987 are estimated to have been £214.6 for men and £139.9 for women. In both cases, only the south-east of England had higher earnings.

Mr. Forth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that that demonstrates the enormous success and well-being of Scottish people and economy? Therefore, does my hon. Friend accept that in future the Scottish people will look less towards the public sector and more towards their own great economic success? Will my hon. Friend confirm, however, that earnings from self-employment are still disappointingly low, and can he give us any goods news or optimism for the future?

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, in that the Scottish economy is responding well to the encouragement of enterprise and the stable economic base generated by the Government's policies. He is quite right also to identify self-employment as an important sector in the Scottish economy. We wish to encourage its growth. I am glad to say that since 1981 the numbers of self-employed have risen by 45,000, whereas in the previous three decades there had been no increase at all.

Mr. Tom Clarke

Is the Minister not astonished that a leading free market entrepreneur such as the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) does not seem to be aware that the private sector Reward Group in its recent study discovered that the cost of food, transport, household goods and even drink in Scotland are considerably higher than in the rest of the United Kingdom? Does that not explain why the hon. Gentleman represents Mid-Worcestershire instead of Mid-Strathclyde?

Mr. Lang

I do not think that we need lessons on inflation from the Opposition, given the record of the last Labour Government between 1974 and 1979, when the cost of living more than doubled. It is precisely our great success in bringing down the rate of inflation in Scotland as elsewhere that has helped us establish the strong economic base that is leading to the growth of prosperity in Scotland.