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Unemployment

Volume 32: debated on Wednesday 17 November 1982

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2.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he proposes to take to reduce the levels of unemployment in Scotland.

Our economic strategy, which is having considerable success in reducing inflation and interest rates, offers the best hope for creating viable new jobs in productive enterprises, and we have recently announced further measures to assist industry. For those unable to get jobs, we are expanding substantially the programme of special employment and training measures.

Is it the intention of the Secretary of State, in dealing with employment at Ravenscraig, to follow the line that he has taken on Linwood, Fort William and Invergordon and agonise on the sidelines until there is a closure or a massive loss of employment in a strategic Scottish industry and then simply discount it and say that it is due to market forces, over which he has no control?

The hon. Gentleman's account of my activities bears no relation to the facts. He will know that I made it clear in my evidence to the Select Committee last week that a proposal to close Ravenscraig would be a serious matter.

We recognise that the right hon. Gentleman and his party are reputed to be fighting to save Ravenscraig, but does he realise that there has been a decimation of the steel industry in Lanarkshire? Does he also recognise that one part of the steel industry in my constituency is working two on and one off, that a caterpillar tractor factory is laying off 1,200 workers and that a Honeywell factory is on short-time working? What does the right hon. Gentleman propose to do about that?

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's anxiety over all those matters, but he must realise that in every one of those cases the trouble is that the customers wanting the products made by those factories have gone elsewhere for them. The Government are trying to make Scottish industry competitive once more in order to win back those markets and get back the jobs.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that jobs will be created only if industry works from a stable economic base, and that the lowering of interest rates and the inflation rate are far more likely to achieve that than any of the "live now, pay later" policies of the Opposition?

I agree with my hon. Friend. Everyone in industry has said for a long time that the reduction in interest rates and inflation are by far the most important factors for industry. The CBI made it clear at its conference recently that the last thing that industry wants is yet further borrowing that will take many years to repay and create inflation for industry.

Is the Secretary of State aware that, crucial to reducing unemployment in Scotland, is the preservation of every job in the Scottish steel industry, at Ravenscraig and elsewhere? Is he further aware that my right hon. Friends and myself in the Labour Party in Scotland will fight to preserve every job in the steel industry and will not accept from him any shoddy compromise that brings about further job loss in any part of that industry?

There is no industry in any country that can expect to save every job on every occassion in every plant. The hon. Gentleman makes himself sound incredible when he makes such silly statements.