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Scottish Tuc

Volume 928: debated on Wednesday 23 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with Scottish trade unionists concerning Government policies on devolution, unemployment and the Scottish economy.

I frequently meet Scottish trade unionists to discuss various matters affecting Scotland. For example, my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council and I met the STUC on 11th March, when devolution was the main topic.

Did the Scottish TUC ever ask the Government to make devolution an issue of confidence among Labour Members of Parliament?

No, it did not. However, I hope that the hon. Gentleman has read the interesting statement issued by the STUC yesterday on devolution.

When the right hon. Gentleman meets the STUC, will he discuss with it the fact that the Labour Government's economic and industrial policies have created 80 per cent. more unemployment and will reduce the level of Scottish production by nine points? In that case, what is meant by the phrase "Back to work with Labour"?

I shall be meeting the STUC again next month, when I shall address its annual conference. I am sure that if STUC members want to put any point to me they will do so on that occasion.

Will my right hon. Friend underline the fact that the STUC, in its statement yesterday, stressed the fact that because of unemployment problems all minority parties should support the Government this evening?

Yes, I can confirm that. I hope that the message will have been read and understood, and perhaps will even be acted upon.

In view of the interesting statement made by the STUC, is the Secretary of State aware of what that body said in December last in respect of further Government proposals leading to public expenditure cuts?

I have met the STUC on that matter. There is considerable understanding among STUC representatives of the problems facing the Government.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next plans to meet the STUC.

Does my right hon. Friend agree with the statement issued yesterday by the STUC warning the SNP that if it has the political stupidity and naivety to walk into the Lobby with the Tories tonight it will readily be classified by the people of Scotland as aiding and abetting the Tories in their efforts to return the most reactionary Right-wing Government since the 1920s, with no prospects of Socialism for Scotland and even fewer prospects of devolution?

I agree with my hon. Friend and congratulate him on putting that question in his characteristically moderate way.

When the Secretary of State next meets the STUC will he explain why, when the guillotine on the Scotland and Wales Bill failed, the Government did not immediately make that the subject of a vote of confidence in the House and so ensure that those Labour Members who betrayed Scotland so honour their manifesto commitment?

As I made clear in answer to an earlier Question, that matter is already being discussed with the STUC, which fully shares the Government's view. We also take the view that, as was pointed out in the statement yesterday, if a Tory Government were to be returned at any time it would shut the door on any possibility of meaningful devolution for a long time to come. I hope that the SNP, with its peculiar friends in the Lobby this evening, will weigh those words very carefully.

Does my right hon. Friend accept, as the House accepts, that the SNP wants not devolution but complete separation from the United Kingdom? Does he also accept that his recent announcement about the fuel industry and his giving of sustenance to the Scottish coal-mining industry is welcomed by the STUC, the miners, and everybody who has the Scottish working class at heart? Is he aware that if the Government are defeated tonight, the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars), plus the SNP, must go to the Scottish people and accept blame for the loss of that money?

I do not think that at this time of the day I should speculate on the consciences of individual Members tomorrow morning.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the STUC has in general agreed with and supported the Government on their economic policies over the past three years? As that has resulted in an extra 80,000 members of the STUC being put out of work, does he not think that it is time that he and the General Secretary of the STUC got together and decided to change the policy before more people are thrown out of work?

The General Secretary of the STUC is far more knowledgeable about the real needs of the Scottish economy than the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends will ever be, and that is why he supports the Government.