HC Deb 26 February 1992 vol 204 cc957-8
6. Mr. Robert Hughes

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his estimate of the number of people in Scotland who are economically active, unemployed and not receiving unemployment benefit.

Mr. Allan Stewart

Based on the labour force survey results from 1987 to 1990 an estimated annual average of 90,000 people in Scotland fell within the International Labour Organisation definition of unemployed, but were not included in the monthly claimant count statistics. This compares with 80,000 people in the claimant count who did not fall within the ILO definition of unemployed.

Mr. Hughes

Do not the figures show the damaging effects of the Government's policy on unemployment in Scotland? Does the Minister accept that, after we have discounted the 23 fiddles on the figures that he has carried out, the true figure for unemployment in Scotland is over 350,000—110,000 more than the figure to which he officially admits? When will the Minister throw off his damaging complacency and act to remove this black spot from the Scottish economy?

Mr. Stewart

The House will recognise why the hon. Gentleman has made those somewhat uncharacteristic partisan comments. No doubt he is worried about his marginal seat. Since January 1987, unemployment in Grampian has fallen by about 13,350. It is undoubtedly the case that his area of the country has been doing extremely well economically under this Government. That cannot be denied. That is why the Conservatives will do particularly well in the north-east of Scotland in the forthcoming election.

Mr. Tom Clarke

Does the Minister accept that the figures will not be helped if the speculation about the Gartcosh recycling paper project, which appeared in this morning's press, has any accuracy at all? Would it not be a disaster if Germany succeeded where we failed? Does he also accept that unless he gives full encouragement to Dumbarton Enterprise and the Lanarkshire development agency, this project will not succeed and that Gartcosh will therefore become, for the second time, the location for a Tory industrial disaster?

Mr. Stewart

It certainly would not be helped by the prospect of a Scottish assembly. That is for certain. May I point out to the hon. Gentleman, however, because I recognise that he is representing the concerns of his constituents, that I do not comment on speculative reports. May I also underline the massive support that the Government are giving to Lanarkshire. A question appears later on the Order Paper about that. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to see me personally about that project, I shall be happy to meet him.

Mr. Oppenheim

Does my hon. Friend accept that to many people south of the border the Scots have the reputation of being hardy, robust, tough, thrifty if somewhat dour people, as borne out by the fact that there are more people in work in Scotland now than there were in 1979, that Scottish exports are far higher now than they were in 1979 and that Scottish manufacturing exports are far higher now than they were in 1979? Is it not a shame that that positive image is so often threatened by the whingeing, whining, craven attitude of so many of the Members of Parliament whom the Scots choose to send to Westminster?

Mr. Stewart

I feel that I have to disagree with my hon. Friend. I have never before been described as somewhat dour, but my hon. Friend's basic case is absolutely right. There is no doubt at all, as every commentator has confirmed, that during the present world recession the Scottish economy has been doing extremely well. We are coming through the problems extremely well in order to face the challenges of the future. That is a tribute to a very large number of people in industry, in management and in the trade union movement. My hon. Friend is right to point out that we in Scotland should be proud of our achievements.