Economic Outlook

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th May 1983.

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Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Stirlingshire West 12:00 am, 4th May 1983

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will make a statement about the outlook for the Scottish economy.

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

There is growing evidence that the world economy is beginning to recover and, together with the progress we have made in containing costs and improving competitiveness, this should improve the prospects for growth in the Scottish economy.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Stirlingshire West

When will the Secretary of State step in and do something about the tragic and deteriorating unemployment situation in Scotland, with 4.000 jobs immediately threatened in Scottish shipbuilding, more than 2,000 in Scottish steel and at least another 1,000 in the Scottish coal industry? In particular, will the right hon. Gentleman now say clearly whether he approves of MacGregor's daft plan to collaborate with the United States Steel Corporation to destroy at least another 2,000 jobs in the Scottish steel industry?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman that unemployment is the most serious problem facing all Western European countries, including ourselves. All the industries to which he referred have particular problems, mainly related to lack of demand for the products which they produce. As he will be aware, the Government have been doing everything possible to help, including providing large sums of public money to help those industries through the recession.

The hon. Gentleman will know that recent unemployment figures in Scotland have been somewhat more encouraging after a very difficult period towards the end of last year. The seasonally adjusted total has risen by only 400 since the beginning of the year, and the gap between Scottish and United Kingdom unemployment has narrowed from 1·8 to 1·6 percentage points in just two months.

Photo of Mr Jo Grimond Mr Jo Grimond , Orkney and Shetland

Does the Secretary of State subscribe to the view that if the Finance Bill is passed and there is no general election, one new oil field may be opened up every six weeks? That is a Government estimate, I would add, before the right hon. Gentleman puts his foot in it, which I would not want him to do as he is a very decent chap. It that happens, what effect will it have on the ordering of rigs, platforms and supply vessels?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

I am grateful, as always, to the right hon. Gentleman for his advice. He is correct in his view that the Budget changes affecting oil development have been welcomed throughout the oil industry. We expect that they will lead to a revival of orders for the platform construction yards. It is too early yet to say how many others, but undoubtedly the development of these fields is bound to produce many orders for Scottish yards.

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

Does my right hon. Friend recall that the dispersal of Civil Service jobs to the west of Scotland was firm Government policy? Will he give a progress report on whether there are any jobs in the pipeline?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

As my hon. Friend may know, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has this afternoon announced the full package of posts from his Department for dispersal to Glasgow. The total number currently in these units is 1,520, which is 120 more than the total of 1,400 included in the Government's dispersal plans announced on 26 July 1979. I am sure that this news will be warmly welcomed in Glasgow and in Scotland.

Photo of Mr Bruce Millan Mr Bruce Millan , Glasgow Craigton

We are grateful for the announcement, which of course compares with the plan to transfer 7,000 jobs to Glasgow — a plan which the Government inherited in 1979 and subsequently abandoned. Is the Secretary of State aware that the three basic industries, steel, shipbuilding and coal, now face a serious crisis? Is it not a fact that, unless the Government accept the emergency programme for British Shipbuilders, the 9,000 redundancies already announced, which are being resisted by the unions, will have many thousands more added to them? Is it not therefore extremely urgent that we have a favourable response to the plans for British Shipbuilders which have been put to the Government? Is that not also true of the coal industry, because, again, unless there is emergency help for that industry, the threatened closure of the Cardowan colliery will be only the start of a further rundown of the Scottish coal industry, which will add to the disastrous toll of closures and redundancies that Scotland has suffered under this Government?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

The dispersal programme of 1,520 compares well with the grand total of nil that the right hon. Gentleman produced in six years in office when he was given every facility. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman could not do it because the unions told him that he could not.

Detailed questions on the steel and shipbuilding industries can be tabled to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, but my own interest in this subject is extremely strong, and, as he will know, I saw representatives of the shipbuilding industry recently. I understand that in visiting Greenock the Leader of the Opposition gave an undertaking that he would keep the whole place in work whether or not there were any orders. That shows that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition thinks it extremely unlikely that he will win the election.