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Unemployment (Berwickshire And East Lothian)

Volume 978: debated on Wednesday 6 February 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the latest unemployment figures for Berwickshire and East Lothian.

On 10 January, 905 people were registered as unemployed in East Lothian and 211 in Berwickshire—excluding the Gordon district for which separate figures are not available. Those figures are a welcome decrease over the level in January 1979, when the figures were 941 and 277 respectively.

In view of the fact that all parts of my constituency still have unemployment rates that are significantly higher than the United Kingdom average—particularly in view of the fact that the Tranent area has an unemployment rate in excess of 20 per cent.—will the Minister tell us how bad matters have to be before he will reconsider the decision to scrap our development area status? Will the Minister take urgent steps to ensure that Fleets industrial site will be developed without unnecessary delay?

The hon. Gentleman is aware that, although the unemployment figures are higher than we should have liked, they range between 5 per cent. and 6·8 per cent. in the areas to which I have referred, compared with the Scottish rate of 8·9 per cent. That is the sort of evidence that decides whether or not an area should receive development area status.