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Scottish Tuc

Volume 86: debated on Wednesday 13 November 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has any immediate plans to meet the Scottish Trades Union Congress to discuss the state of the Scottish economy.

I met representatives of the STUC yesterday to discuss Ravenscraig and Gartcosh. I have no other immediate plans for a meeting to discuss the Scottish economy.

Between now and when the Secretary of State again meets the STUC, will he reflect on the unacceptably high level of unemployment in Scotland, and its effects and pressures on social services?

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why he has decided not to establish an inspectorate of social services in Scotland, which would have protected the most disadvantaged in our society, such as the mentally handicapped, the elderly and the young offender?

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern about a genuine problem. One of the happier features of the difficult times for public expenditure during the past few years has been the increase in provision for social work and social services, precisely because a larger number of people have been unemployed.

When my right hon. Friend meets the STUC, will he point out the benefits of a low inflation policy, which would result in increased jobs in Scotland? Indeed, does it not enable my right hon. Friend to provide more money for the assistance of essential services such as health, social work and education?

My hon. Friend is right. Were I to have such a meeting, I would certainly mention the points to which he referred. If the STUC requested a meeting about the current Scottish economy, I should draw to its attention the fact that all the trends—with the exception of the difficult question of unemployment—are extremely good. What is more, the number of people in employment in Scotland is rising.

Will the right hon. Gentleman allow the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to get away with his view that there is no connection between the future of Gartcosh and the future of Ravenscraig?

I am still evaluating the evidence that was presented to me by the shop stewards committee, which came to see me a few weeks ago. The matter is complex and involves digging deeply into the working methods of the industry. The current position is that the Government have secured the future of Ravenscraig; management has decided that Gartcosh must close.

When the Secretary of State next meets the STUC to discuss the economy, will he be in a position to say exactly when decisions will be made about the LEGUP scheme? In particular, will he be in a position to say when a decision is likely to be made about LEGUP assistance for the Landfall development in Dundee, on which construction, service and tourism jobs are heavily reliant?

I warmly welcome the hon. Gentleman, who I am very glad to see back in the House. The matter to which he refers is currently under consideration. It is an important proposal, and I assure him that we shall urge those concerned to reach a decision as quickly as possible.

In view of the Chancellor's very encouraging statement on the economy yesterday, will my right hon. Friend say how much more is being spent in real terms on health and roads in Scotland compared with the miserable amount spent by the Labour Government in 1979?

My hon. Friend is correct in his assumption. It seems almost impossible to get people to understand the plain fact that the real growth in spending on the Health Service is about 7 per cent., even at the most pessimistic forecast. It is high time that people gave more credit where credit is due.

Does the Secretary of State not recognise that he is almost wholly isolated on the issue of Gartcosh? Even within the Scottish Conservative party there is a great deal of growing discontent and doubt about the way that he has represented Scottish interests. Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that his failure to intervene on Gartcosh is every day looking more and more like an abdication of responsibility? Will he guarantee that when he is evaluating the evidence he will do so with a genuinely open mind? If, as we believe, it is clear that there is a connection between Ravenscraig and Gartcosh, and that Ravenscraig will be lonely and exposed if Gartcosh is closed, will he at least join the remainder of Scotland and fight to save the plant?

The hon. Gentleman knows that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and I have both made it clear that if it were established that the closure of Gartcosh would lead inevitably to the closure of Ravenscraig we would have to review the position, but that is not the case. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will recall that no Labour Government ever intervened in ordinary management decisions of the nationalised industries that they set up. It would be wrong to do so. Indeed, the type of evidence presented on the matter is an eloquent testimony to the wisdom of nationalised industries being run by those appointed to run them and not being managed in detail by the Government of the day.