HC Deb 25 May 1988 vol 134 cc319-20
12. Mr. Hind

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many people were unemployed in Scotland in June 1983 and March 1988; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lang

Seasonally adjusted, the number of unemployed claimants was 308,000 in June 1983 and 300,000 in March 1988. Latest figures show a further drop to 295,000 in April, continuing the firm downward trend.

Mr. Hind

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for his reply. Has he noted the figures for unemployment in the long term, which were published yesterday, showing that in Scotland over the past 12 months there has been a reduction of 36,600–16.5 per cent.—in the number unemployed for six months, and a further 28,800–15.6 per cent.—reduction in the number unemployed for 12 months? Does that not vindicate the Government's economic policy and show that it is working in Scotland as well as in the rest of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw attention to the good news that long-term unemployment is falling in Scotland as well as elsewhere in the United Kingdom. I agree with him that that is a result of sustained commitment over a period of years to our economic policies, which are now delivering more increased prosperity.

Mr. Canavan

Will the Minister now tell us the whole truth about the Government's track record on Scottish unemployment, which is that there has been an increase of 97 per cent. since that woman got the keys to No. 10 in May 1979?

Mr. Lang

I understand the hon. Gentleman's confusion over the matter, because no Labour Government have ever experienced the phenomenon of sustained falls in unemployment. I am sure, however, that the hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that in his constituency unemployment has fallen in the past year by 1,022.

Mr. Speaker

Order. My attention was distracted, but I remind the House that we should refer to each other by our constituencies or offices in this place.

Mr. Wallace

Does the Minister accept that in "Just Sharing", the book published by the Church of Scotland, unemployment is given as one of the main reasons why poverty in Scotland has nearly doubled during the years of this Conservative Administration? What steps do the Government intend to take to address themselves to that fundamental question of poverty in Scotland?

Mr. Lang

The best way of countering poverty is by increasing prosperity, and that is what we have been doing in the past few years. We now have falling inflation, falling unemployment, increasing prosperity, increased investment and a rising standard of living for the vast majority of Scots.

Mr. Jack

Does my hon. Friend agree that last year's record level of business registrations in Scotland, and the considerable growth in self-employment, not only pay tribute to the growth of the enterprise economy in Scotland but will contribute greatly to further reductions in unemployment?

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The figures for self-employment that I gave earlier this afternoon show the growth of enterprise in Scotland. It is also encouraging that employment during the last quarter of 1987 rose by around 7,000, and that business surveys from such bodies as the CBI and the Fraser of Allander Institute demonstrate that that growth is continuing.