Scotland (Industry and Employment)

Part of Orders of the Day — Supply – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th July 1967.

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Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock 12:00 am, 5th July 1967

This has been a very pleasant debate in terms of the nature of the exchanges that have gone from side to side, although there were certain barbs an the speech of the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph). I welcome his intrusion, or entrance, into Scottish affairs. We are delighted that he should take part. I shall have something to say about his speech later.

The hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) made a very illuminating confession when he said that when he became Secretary of State the storm signals were already there. Earlier in his speech he said something about the Daily Express. I have a copy of the Daily Express printed a few months after he became Secretary of State. I shall not quote the abuse, because it went on for a long time—we expect it—but I want to quote his own statement on 26th October, 1962, at Strachur, when he said: I do not see the problems of Scotland being settled in a couple of months, but during the next year or two. Then, three days later, the man who had already seen the storm signals said, at his Argyllshire home, Everything is ready for a massive step forward. This country is now equipped to surge ahead industrially. What the planners call the infrastructure is ready. That was followed by 18 months when the monthly average of unemployment was 100,000. It was followed by a winter in which we had 136,000 unemployed in Scotland. And he presumes to lecture us!

He talked about the unemployment situation today, as did at least three of his hon. Friends—the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East, the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) and the hon. Member for North Angus and Meatus (Mr. Buchanan-Smith). I was asked to state what the unemployment figure would be next winter. I am not going to do so, because I do not presume to be a prophet in that respect—and I would advise them not to begin prophesying this year, as they did last year. Last year they prophesied that the unemployment rate would be over 100,000 and they were bitterly disappointed.

I direct their attention to the words of the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) in 1957. In a very interesting speech, when asked the same question, he said that he did not intend to forecast what unemployment was going to be a year ahead. He said that the last time it had been done it proved disastrous.

It was just as well that he did not. When the right hon. Gentleman prophesied that things would be all right we reached 100,000 unemployed in Scotland, after which things went well everywhere else and then we were hit again by yet another economic crisis and the figure went up to 130,000. And during these 18 or 20 months, when the monthly average was 100,000, the Prime Minister, Mr. Macmillan, was going about the country saying, "We never had it so good." But we did not have it so good in Scotland, and there was no sense of closing the prosperity gap between Scotland, the north of England and Wales and the rest of England.

I do not see us fighting our way out of our difficulties in a year or two years. I have never said so. When the right hon. Gentleman talks about my aggressiveness on that side of the House, he must appreciate that I entered the House in 1946. I saw the build-up of industrial development in new estates. I saw the training centres and I saw them all scrapped and discarded from 1951 onwards. Why was only one of the old industrial training centres, that at Hillington, left? Not until 1963–64 did hon. Gentlemen opposite even start thinking about training. Then there were four or five, Irvine and the rest, and there will soon be nine, with a considerable expansion in the number of places–2,500 by the end of next year.

But that is not all. The right hon. Gentleman said that we had inherited a boom. We also inherited a debt of £800 million, which killed this economy. There are two Members of the then Cabinet sitting smiling at this. What a position it was for them after all these years, when time after time they were just pulling their way out. After all this time, when they were going to do all these wonderful things, they finished by talking of a boom. They left us bankrupt, not booming, and that was not the first time that a Labour Government had to take over the country—[Interruption.]