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Scottish Cbi And Scottish Tuc

Volume 980: debated on Wednesday 5 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he plans next to meet the representatives of the Scottish Confederation of British Industry and the Scottish Trades Union Congress.

I have met representatives of both bodies several times since taking office and have made it clear that I am prepared to meet both bodies at any time they wish.

Will my right hon. Friend point out to both sides of Scottish industry the need for a proper public appreciation of the role of multinationals in Scotland? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] In particular, will he emphasise that, taken as a whole, multinationals have an excellent record in maintaining and expanding employment in Scotland, despite some of the totally unfounded allegations that were made during the recent debate on the Scottish economy by some of the particularly ignorant hard-line Left-wingers on the Opposition Back Benches?

I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of multinational companies to the Scottish economy. They provide about 100,000 jobs in Scotland and account for about 16 per cent. of our manufacturing output. I should have thought that that was evidence enough of how important they are.

When the right hon. Gentleman meets the CBI and the STUC, will he tell them the number of jobs that will come from America following the visit of his hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for industry? Will he also tell them the situation concerning the Scottish Development Agency, bearing in mind the disgruntlement that prevails in the SDA as a result of the present circumstances? Will he then tell them also that there will be a decided increase in unemployment before the year ends?

I am not sure of the point that the hon. Gentleman was making about the SDA, but I am grateful for his support for my hon. Friend's excellent efforts when he went to America to interest firms in coming to Scotland.

I am rather surprised at the hon. Gentleman's raising now the matter of the unemployment position. He will recall that during the first three years in office of his Government unemployment rose by immense numbers every year, and from 146,000 in February 1976 to 196,000 two years later. I should have thought that a period of silence from the Labour Party would be appropriate.

When my right hon. Friend next meets the STUC, will he raise with it the latest directive from the Transport and General Workers Union, which forbids members of that union in haulage firms to cross any picket line even though the haulage companies are not carrying steel or steel products? Is he aware that there have been lay-offs in Scotland over the past few days as a result of that appalling directive? When unemployment in Scotland is so high, is it not especially bad, that further jobs should be put at risk by such union action?

I agree with my hon. Friend that any actions that reduce employment in Scotland should be resisted. I have heard that the alleged instruction on picketing has been sent out. I am glad to tell the House that, thanks to the excellent efforts of the police, everyone who has wished to cross a picket line has been able to do so. The police have done a marvellous job in keeping order in difficult situations.

When the right hon. Gentleman next meets the two bodies, will he place on the agenda for discussion the implications of the Finniston report on engineering in so far as it concerns Scotland? In addition, will he place on the agenda the future of Scotland's shipbuilding industry, which is in a parlous state? Will he make clear to them the Government's specific views on the scrapand-build policy?

We are already having discussions with all interested parties on the Finniston report. It is a most important report, which should be studied carefully. The shipbuilding industry is having a difficult time, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree with me that it is coping extremely well with an extremely difficult situation. That reflects great credit on all who work in the industry.