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Scottish Cbi And Scottish Tuc

Volume 982: debated on Wednesday 2 April 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when next he intends to meet the Scottish Trades Union Congress.

My right hon. Friend and I have met representatives of the STUC several times since taking office and have made it clear that we are prepared to meet them at any time they wish.

When the Secretary of State next meets the STUC, will he explain why the Government, committed as they are to massive reductions in public expenditure, can under the Tenant's Rights Etc. (Scotland) Bill allocate an additional £1 million for rent allowances? Is he not aware that that money, plus the estimated £1·5 million in extra social security payments, will go straight into the pockets of private landlords at a time when the Government are cutting essential services in Scotland?

The hon. Gentleman could have made his question a little more specific. If he has a particular example in mind of something in the Bill which he thinks will not work properly, he should address a more specific question to me.

Will my hon. Friend ask the STUC to explain how on earth the proposed day of inaction on 14 May will do anything to help promote productivity or prosperity of the sort which Scotland needs?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. It is a senseless action in which to participate, particularly at a time when hon. Members of both sides of the House are concerned about the future prospects of the Scottish economy. It is also very damaging to schoolchildren, whose history examinations are being brought forward by three weeks just to meet this ridiculous protest by the unions in Scotland.

When the Minister next meets the STUC, will he discuss the unemployment situation and at the same time give an assurance that there will be no selling of public assets in the new towns in Scotland?

One invariably discusses unemployment when one meets the STUC. The selling of public assets in the new towns is obviously in the best interests of the growth and development of those new towns, and we are actively encouraging the new towns to go on doing that.

In the light of recent experience, does my hon. Friend agree that the working membership of unions seem to have a better appreciation of the economic facts of life than their leaderships? In that context, will he commend to the leaders of the STUC the provisions for secret ballots which are contained in the Employment Bill?

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. It is obvious that, had there been a secret ballot in the steel industry a couple of months ago, that strike would have been resolved within a matter of weeks rather than months.

Is the Minister seriously pretending that a secret ballot in the steel industry two or three months ago would have voted in favour of a 2 per cent. increase? Surely even he appreciates that that would not have happened. As to the day of action, how on earth can the Minister pretend that a Government who steal two weeks pension increase from old-age pensioners, cut educational provision and cause the loss of 200 to 300 jobs each day, can expect trade unionists to stand back and do nothing about it?

Yet again, the hon. Gentleman exaggerates his point. It is difficult to know what particular point he was addressing to me. Therefore, there is nothing that I can say to him.