Scotland (Trade and Industry)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th July 1961.

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The Earl of Dalkeith:

Last year, I made my maiden speech on this same subject. Because it was my maiden speech, I was not allowed to be rude to anybody. I was hoping that tonight I might have an opportunity to be rude, but on the whole the debate seems to have been so calm and peaceful that it is difficult to be particularly rude.

I was, however, a little mystified by the proposition put to us by the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) that eleven years of Tory misgovernment had brought us to this economic crisis and the suggestion which he proceeded to make that, possibly, it was only an aritifical crisis. I am, therefore, a little puzzled.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that this debate is overshadowed by the prospect of what may be said by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer tomorrow and what he may produce for us in the way of medicine. The guess it that there will be a certain amount of credit restriction, increases in Purchase Tax and other things of which we have already been warned, possibly cuts in Government expenditure and the introduction of the payroll tax. While, undoubtedly, some parts of the country need this medicine to be administered to them, there is no doubt that Scotland would be ill-affected by it.

It would be extremely disastrous to our prospects of increasing employment if we were to have a cut-back in Government expenditure imposed on us now just when our plans for the future appear to be going ahead rather more favourably than before. I therefore appeal very strongly to my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he produces his medicine tomorrow, to try, if possible, to administer it geographically. I know that there are immense difficulties in doing this, but if he can possibly do it, it would be of great benefit to Scotland.

Everybody agrees, both in the House of Commons and outside, that in this modern day and age unnecessary unemployment is intolerable from the humanitarian point of view in a civilised community. It is also intolerable on purely economic grounds. For example, the cost to the taxpayer of unemployment in Scotland last year alone was f13 million, and in 1959 it cost the taxpayer £14½ million. This is money paid out to people for doing nothing. I cannot help feeling that it would be better to spend two-and-a-half times as much as this upon various Government schemes to produce something useful at the end of the day, such as schemes for better roads and communications, in such a way that the money will at least be recouped. Indeed, this is one of the reasons why I support the building of the Q.3, because eventually it will show a return. Planning has been mentioned several times today as a result of the Plowden Report. As a forester born and bred, I am accustomed to planning, although not in terms of four or five years, but of fifty or even one hundred years. It is something which I have recognised as being necessary. There is, however, good planning and bad planning. The planning which has been produced from this side of the Committee has been, on the whole, much more satisfactory than the planning produced by the Opposition when they were in office.