State of the Economy

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 28th June 1995.

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Photo of George Galloway George Galloway , Glasgow Hillhead 2:30 pm, 28th June 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he will next meet the Scottish Trades Union Council to discuss the state of the Scottish economy. [29379]

Photo of Mr George Kynoch Mr George Kynoch , Kincardine and Deeside

My right hon. Friend meets representatives of the Scottish TUC from time to time to discuss a range of matters concerning the Scottish economy. The next meeting is being planned for July.

Photo of George Galloway George Galloway , Glasgow Hillhead

I accept that the Minister's own employment prospects depend entirely on the only kind of elections that Conservative Members enjoy participating in—those in which all the voters are Conservatives—although even in that election the prospects are a little uncertain. Does he agree, however, that the only election to which hundreds of thousands of Scottish people who are unemployed and under-employed—those who are in part-time, temporary, low-paid, low-tech, low industrial jobs—can look forward with any sense of hope is the election which cannot now be long delayed and which will chase the Minister and his motley crew out of office for good?

Photo of Mr George Kynoch Mr George Kynoch , Kincardine and Deeside

The hon. Gentleman is playing his usual game of spreading doom and gloom and has totally ignored the most recent unemployment figures, which show a further significant decrease to the lowest rate since February 1980. With regard to long-term unemployment, he may be interested to learn that the number of people who have been unemployed for more than one year decreased by 14 per cent. in the year to April.

As for part-time workers, I repeat the answer that I gave several Question Times ago: a recent survey of people who are employed part-time found that only 14 per cent. wished to be employed full-time and that the remainder worked part-time because that is what they wished to do.

Photo of Mr Allan Stewart Mr Allan Stewart , East Renfrewshire

My hon. Friend will be aware that the Scottish Trades Union Council is in favour of a statutory minimum wage. Will he ask the council what wage it proposes and why the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) refuses to give a figure?

Photo of Mr George Kynoch Mr George Kynoch , Kincardine and Deeside

My hon. Friend makes a valid point. Many Scottish and British businesses would like an answer from the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) and his colleagues on that. Setting a statutory minimum wage would clearly have significant effects on British industry and would probably increase unemployment levels. For an example, one has only to look at France, where there is a statutory minimum wage of about the same level as the TUC favours and where there are significantly fewer young people in work than in the United Kingdom.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

Given the Government's pursuit of a low-wage, low-skill economy in Scotland, what message of hope does the Minister have for those graduates who will be coming out of Scotland's universities in the next few weeks? What proportion of them does he expect will find jobs in the next two or three months? Given his right hon. Friend's support for one of the candidates in the Conservative party leadership election, who does he believe has the better prospect of being in a job next month—a graduate of a Scottish university or the present Secretary of State for Scotland?

Photo of Mr George Kynoch Mr George Kynoch , Kincardine and Deeside

The hon. Gentleman, as a good Liberal, may think that that is a good sound bite, and he may well think that he is being helpful, but he neglects to mention the significant successes that we announced recently in relation to inward investment in Scotland, many of which involved improved job prospects for highly qualified people, including graduates. I had the pleasure of announcing the success stories for the year ended March 1995, during which more than 97 inward-investment projects were carried out, creating more than 12,300 new jobs or safeguarding other jobs and resulting in inward investment of £1.1 billion. That is exceedingly good news for the job prospects of all graduates, and particularly those in Scotland.

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr

Does my hon. Friend agree, in response to the remarks of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway), that he, like me, enjoyed the general elections of 1992, 1987, 1983 and 1979 and will probably enjoy the next general election? Does my hon. Friend agree also that the hon. Member for Hillhead would do better to meet the Engineering Employers Federation, which has found orders up, investment up, optimism up and, at the end of the day, employment up? Would that not be more worth while?

Photo of Mr George Kynoch Mr George Kynoch , Kincardine and Deeside

I could not agree more. My hon. Friend reads the good news, and I join him in welcoming new orders worth £35 million recently announced for British Aerospace in Prestwick for its Jetstream 41 aircraft.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm , Edinburgh Leith

Does the Minister realise that 153 skilled jobs are soon to go from GEC Marconi Avionics in my constituency? Will the Minister lobby the Ministry of Defence in favour of the GEC Venom helicopter, which would create more jobs in Scotland and throughout the United Kingdom than the other bids, as well as costing less? Will the Minister prioritise the policy of defence diversification? Will he put pressure on the management of that cash-rich company to accept the modest demands of the work force for work sharing, redeployment, retraining and no compulsory redundancy?

Photo of Mr George Kynoch Mr George Kynoch , Kincardine and Deeside

I will ensure that we continue with policies that make certain that British business, and Scottish business in particular, is competitive. Labour policies, to which an earlier question referred, are clearly bad for Scottish business and Scottish competitiveness. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that a minimum wage or the social chapter will help companies in his constituency to win orders, I suggest that he talks to more business men, more thoroughly.

Photo of Mr George Robertson Mr George Robertson Shadow Secretary of State

I fully understand why the junior Minister was asked to answer an important question on the Scottish economy this afternoon—because the Secretary of State for Scotland is spending all his time paddling around in the Westminster bloodbath, leaving open the question of who on earth is running the Scottish Office. Does the Minister not realise how offensive and repellent it is to the people of Scotland, with all the problems that they face today, to see the politicians of the party of government at each others' throats over a Tory premiership that long ago lost any credibility or authority? The people of this country and of Scotland do not want an undignified and unedifying election for a Tory Prime Minister—they want a general election and a new Government as soon as possible.

Photo of Mr George Kynoch Mr George Kynoch , Kincardine and Deeside

The hon. Gentleman made his party political point, but I find it difficult to understand how it addresses the economy of Scotland and the success stories of that economy. As I go around Scotland visiting businesses, I am met with stories of success day in, day out. The hon. Gentleman referred to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and asked whether we regard questions about the Scottish economy as important. We regard all questions in Scottish Question Time as important. It may have escaped the hon. Gentleman's attention that we share questions around. I am privileged to have the opportunity to talk about the good news, as against the hon. Gentleman, who never talks about anything good.