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(Development And Industry)

Volume 927: debated on Monday 7 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he next proposes to meet the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) in Edinburgh.

I have no plans at present to meet the Scottish' Council, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is in close touch with the Council.

Will the Under-Secretary congratulate the Scottish Council Research Institute on the excellent work that it has done on the input-output study of the Scottish economy which shows that Scotland is in equilibrium on the balance of payments? Given that there are no balance of payments constrictions on the Scottish economy, will he ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reflate the Scottish economy immediately and to stop any further public expenditure cuts in Scotland?

The hon. Gentleman is following his usual path of separation. The Labour Government do not feel that that path would be beneficial to the working people of Scotland. The working men and women of Scotland face much the same problems as the working men and women of England and Wales. Therefore, it seems to me that the hon. Member's question is distinctly frivolous and hardly relevant to the situation confronting this country.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the strong feelings of the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) about the need to decentralise industry and, therefore, to disperse jobs to places like Scotland? Will he arrange for an explanation to be given to the House as to why the will of the Government and Parliament is being deliberately flouted by the British National Oil Corporation, which has so far provided only 17 jobs in its so-called headquarters in Glasgow? Is not that deliberately flouting Parliament's decision to locate the headquarters in Scotland? Will he also remind the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford) and his SNP colleagues that they voted against the Bill which set up the British National Oil Corporation?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. I recognise his considerable ingenuity in putting a question to the Department of Industry which is not its responsibility. I shall draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy.

If there is any kind of equilibrium in the Scottish balance of payments—the facts must be rather dubious—will the hon. Gentleman point out to the Scottish Council that it is overwhelmingly dependent on the British market for Scottish industry? Will he make sure that the Council fully understands that there must be no political or economic impediment in the way of a continuing British market?

I accept some of the hon. Gentleman's points. We are concerned to see that the invidious propaganda of the Scottish National Party does not wreathe a mystique in Scotland which is totally divorced from the reality of the economic situation facing us.