HC Deb 24 May 1995 vol 260 cc886-7
2. Mr. Ingram

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will give the numbers of jobs lost in Scotland in (a) the electricity supply industry and (b) the gas industry since privatisation; and if he will make a statement. [24223]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Ian Lang)

It is a matter for the private utility companies to structure their organisations and working practices in a way that best meets consumer and commercial interests.

Mr. Ingram

What the Secretary of State has not told us is that many hundreds of jobs have been lost as a result of the privatisation of the electricity and gas industries. If the Secretary of State had given those figures, they would have proven sufficient reason for those currently employed at Scottish Nuclear to fear its privatisation. Will the Secretary of State give one simple guarantee to the work force based at the headquarters of Scottish Nuclear in East Kilbride? Will he give them the same guarantee of a minimum of 10 years' future employment as has been given to the staff of the new corporate headquarters?

Mr. Lang

I think that the hon. Gentleman is already well aware that, as a result of the Government's proposals for the future of the nuclear electricity generating industry, there will be a net increase in jobs in Scotland arising from the various head office functions coming to Scotland. The nuclear industry, like the rest of the electricity industry, has, of course, been rationalising itself to get costs down, to be competitive and to be efficient. The benefit of that to the Scottish economy is considerable. Scottish Hydro-Electric has been increasing jobs, with a net increase of 94 jobs, which is so important in the Perthshire economy. For the rest of the industry, there has been a 120,000 net increase in employment over the past 10 years. That is the product of a more efficient economy, to which lower energy prices contribute.

Mrs. Lait

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that Scottish Nuclear was set up, after electricity privatisation, in the constituency of the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram)? Is not it ungracious of him to complain when additional, high-tech engineering jobs will come into Scottish Nuclear after it, too, is privatised?

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is not just a matter of jobs coming into Scottish Nuclear—the nuclear electricity industry—in East Kilbride. It is the fact that a substantial number of new jobs in other industries are coming in. Unemployment in the constituency of the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram) has fallen by 18 per cent. in the past year alone.

Mr. Wilson

Will the Secretary of State accept that the appointment of a two-day-a-week Tory, who is paid £100,000 and who continues to live in Surrey, is one job that we could all very well do without? Will he accept that, in my constituency, that is not accepted as any sort of substitute for the strong, successful public sector company that Scottish Nuclear is?

Mr. Lang

Under the Labour party, the Scottish nuclear industry would have disappeared with the loss of all jobs and of a major technology. We have given a future for that company and that industry which is full of promise and the prospect of growth and expansion—under a business leader of considerable distinction whose politics I know not but who, I am certain, will act as a very fine chairman of the industry.