HC Deb 21 October 1992 vol 212 cc431-2
15. Mr. Devlin

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the latest unemployment rate in Lothian.

Mr. Allan Stewart

The number of claimants in Lothian region in September 1992 was 34,173. The workforce-based unemployment rate was 8.4 per cent.

Mr. Devlin

Given that the unemployment rate in Lothian region is about half that in Teesside, where I come from, and given that both areas have undergone painful restructuring in recent years, I wonder what my hon. Friend can tell us about the employment growth in Lothian region, and what lessons may be drawn for the benefit of other parts of the country.

Mr. Stewart

My hon. Friend, who defends the interests of his constituents with immense vigour, is absolutely right to emphasise the fact that, relatively, Lothian region, among other parts of Scotland, has survived the recession extremely well. The specific answer that I would give to my hon. Friend is, first, that in recent years Lothian region has had the advantage of the substantial increase in service employment associated with the financial centre in Edinburgh and, secondly, among other things, that Livingston has been successful in attracting inward investment to the region.

Mr. Chisholm

Does the Minister realise that in five wards in my constituency within the Lothian region, male unemployment is officially between 21 and 23 per cent? Female unemployment would be as high, if it were properly calculated. Does he realise that the official unemployment figure is 4,900, and that if it were calculated in the same way as in 1979 the figure would be 6,900?

Finally, when will the Minister realise that his insistence on market forces and reducing public expenditure, and on prioritising inflation, is a way of increasing rather than reducing unemployment?

Mr. Stewart

Of course, I recognise that there are problems in particular parts of the Lothian region, including parts of the hon. Gentleman's constituency, but I must point out to him that Lothian and Edinburgh Enterprise has a current budget of £43 million. That represents a considerable commitment of taxpayers' money by the Government. The number of unemployed people in Lothian fell dramatically—by about 50 per cent.—between January 1987 and June 1990. Total employment has been increasing, so I urge the hon. Gentleman, in the interests of his constituents in Leith, to present publicly a more balanced picture.

Forward to