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Volume 649: debated on Thursday 16 November 1961

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asked the Prime Minister if he will instruct the Secretary of State for Scotland and the President of the Board of Trade to set up an immediate inquiry into Scotland's present and future economic prospects, with special reference to the social responsibilities of the nationalised industries, the problems of depopulation, the rate of emigration from Scotland, and the need for public enterprises to be initiated in areas of unemployment to which the Board of Trade is unable to attract new private industry.

No, Sir. The social and economic needs of Scotland are under continual examination, and I do not think that at this time our consideration of these problems would be assisted by the setting up of an inquiry on the lines the hon. Lady suggests.

Is the Prime Minister aware that as a result of the proposed pit closures and what we are told we must expect next year, and as a result of the closure of branch railway lines, the people of Scotland are becoming convinced that Scotland has no place in the conscience of this Government? Is he further aware that it is only the doctrinaire policies of the Government which are preventing a Socialist solution which alone can solve the needs of Scotland?

On the setting up of an inquiry, an able and responsible committee known as the Toothill Committee, set up by the Scottish Council, has for the past two years been reviewing the position and prospects. Its report is expected next week. Clearly, the first thing to do is to study this report. As regards the general position, I am happy to say that the employment situation in Scotland has steadily improved during the last two years.

Is the Prime Minister aware that housing conditions in Scotland tend to make 6eople emigrate from there? Is he aware that we were told yesterday about a family living in a room 9 ft. by 9 ft. in Glasgow —a family of two and the woman about to give birth to a child—whose rent has been increased? When are the Government going to do something to end this shocking position?

I would not say that housing conditions, which are still deplorable in certain cases, would necessarily make it easier to find better housing accommodation by coming South to an equally crowded city. I think that there are many reasons which over the past century have led to the emigration of Scotsmen.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the emigration to which the hon. Gentleman refers, and which has caused depopulation for a long time, has been due to the adventurous spirit of many first-class citizens of Scotland who have left to lead in other parts of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth and to add great lustre to the leadership of the Government in this House.


asked the Prime Minister if he will seek a meeting with representatives of the Scottish Trades Union Congress to discuss current economic problems.

No, Sir. But the Government are always glad to know the views of the Scottish Trades Union Congress.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is considerable disquiet in Scotland consequent upon his visit there on 3rd November, when he met Charles Clore, Sir Hugh Fraser, Jack Cotton and the chairman of the Unionist Association, principally to raise Tory Party funds and to reorganise the Tory Party in Scotland? Does he regard that as having a higher priority than meeting the Scottish T.U.C. to discuss economic questions concerning Scotland?

I had the pleasure of meeting the Scottish Trades Union Congress in Scotland in May, 1959, when we had a long and fruitful discussion. The rate of unemployment in Scotland then was 4.7 per cent. We talked over a lot of plans, and the rate is now down to 3 per cent.

But does not the right hon. Gentleman think that his visit on 3rd November would have been more profitable if, instead of talking to the take-over bidders, he had talked to the people who really matter and who are concerned about conditions in Scotland, namely, the Scottish T.U.C.?

It is quite a good thing to get business developing in Scotland, as in England.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what was the purpose of his visit to Scotland? Was it to increase Tory Party funds?

The purpose of my visit to Scotland was to meet at luncheon a lot of very distinguished and important people, and to make an inspiring speech about the future of Scotland, in the hope that they would act up to their responsibilities.