Orders of the Day — Scottish Development Agency Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:18 pm on 29th October 1987.

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Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish , Central Fife 7:18 pm, 29th October 1987

I was never asked about that subject.

The fourth matter to which I shall refer is young people. Is the Under-Secretary of State aware that in 1981 42 per cent. of all children who left school in Scotland found work? In 1986 the figure dropped to 25 per cent. Long-term unemployment, adult unemployment and the lack of training of young people show that the Government neither care nor have any policies to tackle those problems.

I should like to respond further to the intervention by the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker). CBI in Scotland, the business community, which is no great lover of the Labour party, said today that nearly one third of 120 firms that took part in a survey recently had cut their work force in the past four months and some 37 per cent. forecast that they would employ fewer people over the next four months. Is that the burning success of the enterprise culture that the Government speak of? We have a crisis in Scotland and I utterly reject the suggestion that Opposition Members are always trying to do down the country. We were sent here to undertake a task. We appreciate many of the significant developments which are taking place, but we must also advocate long-term structural employment. I say to the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), who is in charge of the Government Front Bench at present, that Opposition Members understand the changing industrial structure of Scotland. Like the Scots, we understand the changing employment patterns and the impact of new technology.

It was grossly insulting when, on a recent visit to Scotland, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster hectored and lectured the Scots on being out of step. It is the Government's current fashion to claim that Scotland is out of step with reality and with the Government. Would it not be more modest to suggest that the Government are completely out of step with the needs and aspirations of the Scottish people? When the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster comes up north again and enjoys his pint of beer —which he does according to recent press coverage—I hope that he will try to understand our problems in Scotland so that we do not recreate up north the debacle we have heard in some of tonight's speeches.

The Scottish Development Agency is one of our most important tools for the regeneration of the Scottish economy. Some people believe it has been emasculated and others believe that it operates without many friends on the Government Benches. The hon. Member for Darlington came as close as possible to suggesting two options — to take the SDA out of existence or to privatise it. I hope that the Minister will make it clear that the hon. Gentleman's comments do not reflect the Scottish Office view of the permanence of the SDA, as we believe that the agency should be supported.

We want the Ford development in Dundee and Japanese and American investment in our new towns. A few drops of rain will never turn a desert into a garden, but I hope that the Minister will take the message from the Scottish people and Scottish statistics, and listen to Opposition Members, and that he will accept that we must have an effective planned programme for investment, employment and training in Scotland. If he did that, he would have our support. But the Government continue to ignore with contempt the real needs of the Scottish people. Therefore, they will not receive our support.