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Public Responsibility For Social Justice

Part of Orders of the Day — Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 3:59 pm on 10th March 1997.

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Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling 3:59 pm, 10th March 1997

The hon. Gentleman should examine what is happening in Ireland. It has far higher unemployment, because it has embraced the social chapter. He may have read the recent article in the Financial Times about the Irish business community complaining about how they lose inward investment because of the burden of the social chapter. The difference between us and Ireland is that we are a net contributor to the Community; Ireland is dependent on subsidy from the Community. That is how successful the policies advocated by the nationalists have been in creating prosperity in Ireland.

If the hon. Member for Moray wanted a serious debate on what is being achieved in dealing with our social and economic problems, she should have examined what has been achieved in Scotland by the Government's policies. Some £7.7 billion of investment has been attracted to Scotland since 1981, with the expected creation or safeguarding of 130,000 jobs. That investment has come because we rejected the policies of Opposition Members, who have had to come round to supporting policies that they had vehemently opposed.

The percentage of households in owner-occupation has risen to almost 60 per cent., compared with 35 per cent. in 1979. That huge revolution in giving people a stake in the community is matched by the proposals of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security for a new deal for pensioners. Once again, the Opposition parties suck their teeth and oppose anything that transfers real power to individuals and real ownership to the people.

The proportion of school leavers with no Scottish certificate of education qualifications fell from 31 per cent. in 1980 to less than 8 per cent. in 1995. The proportion of pupils staying on for the fifth year at school has nearly doubled. The number of full-time students in higher education has risen by more than 90 per cent. since 1980. The crime clear-up rate has risen by one quarter from 30 per cent. in 1978 to 39 per cent. in 1995. Recorded crime has fallen by 15 per cent. since 1991. Average full-time earnings have increased by nearly one third in real terms since 1979.

Where has the hon. Member for Moray been? All that has been achieved in Scotland by a Conservative Government, who have pursued the right policies for Britain.

We have achieved those results because of our commitment to three principles. First, we are committed to economic and fiscal policies that create the environment for business to succeed—an environment of low inflation and low taxes. The United Kingdom is currently reaping the benefits of that policy stance as it approaches its sixth year of sustained growth. It is enjoying the strongest economic recovery of any major European country, yet all we hear from people who describe themselves as Scottish nationalists is prattle about Ireland. Why do they not start singing the praises of Scotland instead of running their country down?