HC Deb 31 January 1996 vol 270 cc985-6
3. Mr. John Marshall

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the latest unemployment figure; and what the equivalent figure was in December 1992.[10787]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Raymond S. Robertson)

Unemployment in Scotland has fallen by 55,000 since December 1992, to 195,900 in December 1995.

Mr. Marshall

Will my hon. Friend confirm that unemployment in Scotland, at 7.9 per cent., is much lower than in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, all of which follow the economic policies recommended by the Labour party? Does he agree that the only threat to a continued reduction in unemployment in Scotland comes from the proposals for a national minimum wage, the adoption of the social chapter, and from that confounded tartan tax?

Mr. Robertson

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am sure that he will understand me when I say that it is with real regret that while he, as a Scot in exile, can take great pride in all of Scotland's achievements and its advances, the Opposition Members who have the privilege to represent Scottish constituencies use every opportunity to run down Scotland, as the next few minutes will no doubt prove.

Mr. Michael J. Martin

What steps is the Minister taking to bring more employment to the districts of Possilpark, Springburn and Dennistoun?

Mr. Robertson

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman realises that unemployment has decreased by 6 per cent. in the past year in the areas that he has mentioned in his constituency. Obviously, we will continue the policies that he knows are working.

Mr. Ian Bruce

How much would a separate Parliament in Scotland have to levy on employees in income tax if it were to make up the £3.1 billion extra that the Government spend in Scotland over and above what they spend in England per head of the population? If that levy were imposed, how would it relate to those employees' income tax and to the unemployment rate in Scotland?

Mr. Robertson

As my hon. Friend knows, the proposed tartan tax of 3p, in the pound would raise £450 million. I leave it to my hon. Friend and to Opposition Members to work out exactly what the shortfall would be. I hope that they will put that in each and every one of their election addresses at the next general election.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce

The Under-Secretary of State will be aware of the announcement this week of the closure of Buchan Meat, which is in the constituency of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond). It is a very important plant for meat producers in the north-east of Scotland, employing almost 300 people. Can he explain what his Department is doing to make contact with Grampian Enterprise to ensure that we save those jobs and maintain the added value that that high-quality meat facility provides in the north-east of Scotland?

Mr. Robertson

The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan and people at the factory have been in touch with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State today and yesterday. Of course I agree with the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) that the loss of jobs is always a matter for regret, particularly when it is such a large number in a relatively small community. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, my hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch), are keeping in close touch with Scottish Enterprise and Grampian Enterprise to see what can be done.

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