asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many local authorities and representatives of the paper industry have requested discussions with him on the question of the effects of the proposed Outer Seven Free Trade Area on local employment problems; and how many protests he has received consequent on his refusal to meet such representatives.
I have received requests for a meeting from the Scottish Paper-makers' Association and from five county councils. The latter have protested against my inability to receive them.
Is the Secretary of State not yet converted to the view that there are special Scottish interests which will be adversely affected by the institution of this new Free Trade Area? Concerning his last Answer, is he aware that in an allegedly developing area of Fife and Kinross, the unemployment figures show the highest increase in Scotland—383 in the last month? In view of this and other implications, will not the Secretary of State reconsider his decision and meet the deputation?
I must refer the hon. Member to my reply on the last occasion, which gave my reasons. As the hon. Member knows, I receive a lot of deputations, but there are occasions when it does not seem appropriate to do so.
Is the Minister aware that this body of papermakers realise the necessity for developments relating to the Outer Free Trade Area but are concerned that the Government seem to give no consideration to their representations and no advice to them about what will be their ultimate fate? If they are eventually to disappear, they need to make arrangements beforehand. If they have to reduce their size, they should know about it in good time. What they want are reasons from the right hon. Gentleman.
The hon. Member knows, I think, that the representations of the papermakers have been seriously considered by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, who still has them under consideration.