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Volume 114: debated on Wednesday 8 April 1987

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2. Mr. Lambie asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next plans to pay an official visit to Cunninghame district.

My right hon and learned Friend had planned to visit Irvine earlier this week but was unable to do so. He has no other plans to pay an official visit to the area in the near future.

I should like to send my best wishes to the Secretary of State and hope that he will be back and fighting fit once again.

The Secretary of State was due to plant a tree in my constituency on Monday. When I heard that he would not be available to do that, I took my own spade, but unfortunately I was not asked to do it, and the Minister with responsibility for health was brought in to do it instead.

Is the Minister aware that, in spite of the announcement by Caledonian Paper to come to Irvine and an article this week in the Daily Telegraphthat Irvine new town is now a prosperous place, there is still a hard core of 12,000 unemployed people in the Cunninghame area? Is he further aware that there is not only that hard core, but that one man in every three is unemployed? Will the Minister ask the Secretary of State to accept the invitation of the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Corrie) and me to come to Irvine and meet the economic committee of Cunninghame district council to discuss the Cunninghame unemployment initiative which is aimed at reducing unemployment and helping everyone in the area?

I shall certainly pass on to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State the hon. Gentleman's good wishes, for which he will be grateful.

Although I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman must be feeling twitchy after this morning's opinion poll in the Glasgow Herald and may feel that it is time to start electioneering, it is surprising that he should raise this particular topic in the week when Caledonian Paper has begun to move towards setting up a paper mill in the new town of Irvine, which will create jobs for 1,000 workers during the two years of construction and 480 permanent jobs once the plant becomes fully operational in 1991.I hope that on reflection the hon. Gentleman will welcome that and see it as a sign of the improving economic position in Scotland.

The Labour candidate for Cunninghame, South has less reason to be twitchy because of the opinion poll than has the Tory candidate for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram). May I ask that Tory candidate if he will guarantee——

Order. My knowledge of Scotland is not all that great, but I hope that this will be about Cunninghame district.

Will the Minister guarantee that if the Secretary of State pays an official visit to Cunninghame district it will be more successful than his recent visit to Cumnock and Doon Valley district, which neighbours Cunninghame, where unemployment is now the highest not only in Scotland but in the whole country? Will the Government at last recognise that the main centres of unemployment are not only the inner cities, and that the worst centre is the rural area of Cumnock and Doon Valley? Is he aware that the present proposals of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Lang), who is now whispering in his ear, to help unemployment in Cumnock and Doon Valley are insufficient and that we need a major initiative to tackle the problem?

I shall answer rather briefly that fairly lengthy question. My right hon. and learned Friend's visits are always successful. It is not for me to comment on the success of local Members of Parliament.