Employment Opportunities

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 20th June 2012.

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Photo of Iain McKenzie Iain McKenzie Labour, Inverclyde 11:30 am, 20th June 2012

What steps he is taking to expand employment opportunities in Scotland.

Photo of Sandra Osborne Sandra Osborne Labour, Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock

What steps he is taking to expand employment opportunities in Scotland.

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore The Secretary of State for Scotland

The Government are committed to creating the right environment for sustained economic growth to provide the basis for the creation of secure jobs.

Photo of Iain McKenzie Iain McKenzie Labour, Inverclyde

It should come as no surprise to the Secretary of State that unemployment in Scotland is at crisis level. The unemployment figures are unacceptable; in particular, the youth unemployment figures are disgraceful. If it were not for my council in Inverclyde—

Photo of Iain McKenzie Iain McKenzie Labour, Inverclyde

May I press on the Secretary of State and the Government the need to make reducing the unemployment figures in Scotland their absolute priority? Will he join—

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore The Secretary of State for Scotland

I agree that we must do everything possible to reduce unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, which, as the hon. Gentleman will recall, began to rise during the growth periods under the previous Labour Government. Through our measures, including the Work programme, the youth contract and our joint work with the Scottish Government, we have been bearing down on the problem, but I am happy to meet him to discuss the matter further, if he wishes.

Photo of Sandra Osborne Sandra Osborne Labour, Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock

Is the Secretary of State aware that the Scottish chambers of commerce have today called for an expansion of infrastructure investment to help Scottish businesses? What will he do to ensure that this happens?

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore The Secretary of State for Scotland

The hon. Lady needs to recognise the serious steps we are taking to get the economy back on a secure path to growth, after what we inherited from her Government two years ago. We must also bear in mind the crisis in other parts of Europe. By cutting corporation tax, keeping interest rates as low as possible and introducing specific measures for Scotland, including the enterprise areas in Irvine, Nigg and Dundee, we are taking action to help the Scottish economy.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Conservative, North East Hertfordshire

Does the Secretary of State agree that by cutting corporation tax, reducing regulation and, at the same time, having the largest Work programme the country has ever seen, we are succeeding in Scotland, with 14,000 fewer unemployed people this month—the third month in a row?

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore The Secretary of State for Scotland

I certainly welcome the reduction in unemployment, but we need to recognise that things will continue to be challenging for people the length and breadth of Scotland and the rest of the UK. My hon. Friend is right, though, that our measures to get the economy back on the right track are fundamentally right and are the way to create secure jobs.

Photo of Robert Smith Robert Smith Liberal Democrat, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine

Does the Secretary of State agree that Statoil’s decision to invest in the North sea and a further 300 jobs for Aberdeen is recognition that the Treasury’s positive new approach to encourage investment is bearing fruit?

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore The Secretary of State for Scotland

My hon. Friend is right. There have been significant announcements in the energy sector from Statoil, BP, Gamesa and others on the future of Scotland’s energy needs, not only in oil and gas but elsewhere. They recognise that that is an important part of what the Government are committed to and that Scotland is better for being part of the UK when it comes to delivery.

Photo of Stewart Hosie Stewart Hosie SNP Chief Whip, SNP Deputy Leader, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

I am glad that the Secretary of State welcomed the 14,000 fall in unemployment—that is good news—and I am sure he will also want to welcome today’s news on foreign direct investment into Scotland creating jobs, but of course he is right that we must create the right environment for businesses to employ people. That means downward pressure on costs, particularly fuel prices, which are recognised as one of the most significant cost pressures that businesses face. Will he therefore ask his Treasury colleagues to cancel the fuel duty rise planned for August?

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore The Secretary of State for Scotland

I point out to the hon. Gentleman that thanks to the Government’s actions in introducing the fuel duty stabiliser and abandoning the escalator we inherited from the Labour party, we are doing a lot to help motorists, and will continue to do so.

Photo of William Bain William Bain Shadow Minister (Scotland)

Listening to the Secretary of State reminds us how totally isolated he is in Scotland in believing that the answer to this crisis of weak economic demand is harsher austerity over the next four years. Does he not accept that nearly twice as many people as on black Wednesday are being forced to work part time because there are not enough full-time jobs in our economy? Some 320,000 people in Scotland are struggling below the poverty line despite being in work, and real wages have fallen every month that this Government have been in office. Is that not the real explanation of why we face a double-dip recession, made in Downing street?

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore The Secretary of State for Scotland

It may suit the hon. Gentleman’s case, but he cannot be allowed to forget the legacy of his Government and the mess that we inherited two years ago, nor can the Opposition be allowed to be blinkered about the challenges around Europe and the world. We are ensuring that we create the right financial and economic conditions to get Scotland and the UK economy back on the right foot.