Employment

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th March 1983.

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Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness 12:00 am, 30th March 1983

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what increase in employment he expects in Scotland in the fiscal year 1983–84 as a result of the Budget.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Central Fife

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimates he has made of the consequences on job and industrial investment prospects in Scotland of the recent Budget proposals.

Photo of Mr Dick Douglas Mr Dick Douglas , Dunfermline

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the likely effects of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget proposals on the prospects for future growth in the Scottish economy.

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

Given the extent to which the Budget proposals will benefit industry, directly and indirectly, they will improve the prospects for economic growth, industrial investment and jobs in Scotland.

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness

Is it not plain that that is not the case and that the Government's policies offer no opportunity to reduce unemployment? Will the Secretary of State be direct with us instead of leaving the matter to his surrogate undertakers, MacGregor and Atkinson, and say categorically whether Ravenscraig is to continue as a fully integrated steel plant?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would recognise that the reduction in the national insurance surcharge, the extra help for small businesses, the construction industry and the oil industry and, what is more, a further reduction in the bank rate, are bound to be helpful for jobs in Scotland.

With regard to Ravenscraig, the Government made their position crystal clear in a statement on 20 December, and any major departure from the instructions that were given to the British Steel Corporation will have to be referred back to the Government.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Central Fife

Will the Secretary of State admit that there will be a further dramatic increase in unemployment in Scotland in the rest of the current financial year and that that will not allay anxiety about the future of the steel, coal and railway industries? Moreover, does he recognise that the number of bankruptcies of small firms has reached an all-time record since the Government took office?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

There will be no dramatic increase in unemployment during the current financial year, because it finishes in about five days' time. With regard to the more serious part of the hon. Gentleman's question, no one in any Western European country can forecast in present circumstances that there will not be an increase in unemployment of some type, even in the months ahead. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman recognises that the Budget and all the other measures that the Government have taken have made massive efforts to ease the difficulties of unemployment.

The hon. Gentleman must recognise that none of the publicly owned industries that he mentioned would have a chance of existing today if it were not for the vast sums of money that the Government have found to help them through the recession.

Photo of Mr Dick Douglas Mr Dick Douglas , Dunfermline

Will the Secretary of State come clean about young people being unemployed? What hope can he give that important sector of the population who, come a year's time, will find that jobs are not available for them, even if they have undertaken strenuous educational and training activity? They want real, purposeful jobs, riot the phony economic prospectus that the Government are offering.

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

I share the hon. Gentleman's anxiety about unemployment among all people, and especially among young people. However, he cannot shrug of his responsibility, as he supported a Government who did a great deal to destroy the companies on whose markets we depend for our jobs and have found recently that competition from overseas has taken many of their markets. Surely the hon. Gentleman is able to tell young people that not only are there better training facilities for them than there have ever been, but that there are tremendous opportunities in high technology industries in his own area, for example, in which they can take jobs from now on.

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram , Edinburgh South

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the best prospects for secure and long-term employment in Scotland lie not with the high-spending proposals of the Labour party, but in creating the right climate that will attract new and lasting industries to Scotland, and that that is what the Budget has done?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

I agree that even a cursory reading of the document that the Labour party produced yesterday makes it quite clear that the increase in taxation and interest rates that its vast spending programme would require would probably put a large number of Scottish companies out of business because of the burden on them.

Photo of Dr Dickson Mabon Dr Dickson Mabon , Greenock and Port Glasgow

s the Secretary of State telling us that the Budget provisions for an increase in unemployment of about 300,000 will not affect Scotland and that we shall not suffer an increase in unemployment, or is he saying cautiously that there will be an increase in unemployment?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

I did not say that cautiously. I said it plainly a few moments ago. The right hon. Gentleman must recognise, because his knowledge of economics is much better than that of many hon. Members, that the way to deal with unemployment is to ensure that our businesses can recapture the markets that they lost while under the control of the Government of which he, alas, was a member.

Photo of Mr Bruce Millan Mr Bruce Millan , Glasgow Craigton

Is the Secretary of State aware that he made a statement earlier this week, with which we all agree, that the MacGregor plan for Ravenscraig, with its loss of 2,000 jobs, is an extraordinarily unattractive proposition"? Does he stand by that? If so, will he assure the House that he will not agree to or acquiesce in such a plan? If the Government accept such a plan, is he aware that he will not have an ounce of credibility left and he should resign?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

The right hon. Gentleman calls for my resignation about three times a week. I am happy for him to continue to do that for the next five years. I have made it clear that any major departure from the instructions given by the Government to the British Steel Corporation on 20 December must come back to the Government. No such proposal has been put to me by Mr. MacGregor or by anyone else, and during my discussions about steel during the past week no one has suggested to me that I should refuse to consider any plan produced for the future.

Mr. Milan:

We know what is in the MacGregor plan. Does the Secretary of State stand by his statement that the plan is an extraordinarily unattractive proposition"?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

Those words were put into my mouth. If the right hon. Gentleman knows the MacGregor plan details, he is one up on Mr. MacGregor, who does not know either. It was made clear to me by Mr. MacGregor that he has no specific plan arranged with anyone on the other side of the Atlantic. If and when he has, both the right hon. Gentleman and I must consider it.

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

Has my right hon. Friend had a chance to consider the "no hope" document published by the Socialists yesterday, and has he considered the likely rise in unemployment should that document be implemented, because of increasing taxation, interest rates and inflation?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

I have made an initial study of that document, which is amazing in its ignorance of the basic requirements for the success of the Scottish economy. I agree with my hon. Friend's examples, but a much greater one is that the Labour party's commitment to withdraw from Europe would put thousands of Scottish jobs in mortal peril of being destroyed for ever.