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Industrial Construction And Production

Volume 114: debated on Wednesday 8 April 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what was the index of industrial production and construction in Scotland in the fourth quarter of 1986.

Estimates for the fourth quarter of 1986 are not yet available. In the third quarter the index of industrial production and construction, excluding oil and gas, rose by 2·4 per cent. in Scotland, compared with a 1 per cent. rise in the United Kingdom overall.

Is it not the case that the figures for the whole of the past seven years show that the level of output in Scotland is running below that which the Government inherited from the last Labour Government? Is it not further the case that the Government are cutting by £100 million the Scottish Office budget? How can that assist in increasing output in Scotland?

I am not sure to which part of the Scottish Office budget the hon. Gentleman refers. Certainly it is the case that output in the last few years has been below the level of 1979. However, it is now very close to that and is being achieved with substantially fewer workers.

It is an achievement in increasing productivity, which is the most secure guarantee of future employment.

Has my hon. Friend noticed how the Opposition used to talk about the non-oil economy and are now less inclined to do so? Will my hon. Friend confirm that the improvements in productivity and efficiency in the non-oil sector of Scottish industry have resulted in substantial increases in employment?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Manufacturing productivity in Scotland generally has been increasing by about 6 per cent. over the years 1979 to 1985. Over the same time productivity in England was increasing by only about 4 per cent.

Did the Minister see the report in The Independent this week, which showed that out of all the constituencies in Britain the Ross, Cromarty and Skye constituency had the highest percentage increase in long-term unemployment — over 64 per cent? In terms of industrial production and construction—[Interruption.] I am sorry that Labour Members do not seem to be interested in unemployment in the Highlands of Scotland. Will the Minister look again at the regional aid map? If he does that he will see that the Government reduced substantially the incentives and the assisted area status that had been available to parts of my constituency to attract industry and create jobs.

The significance of the percentage increase to which the hon. Gentleman refers is dependent on the base from which it started. On regional aid, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, about 65 per cent. of the working population in Scotland are now in assisted areas, compared with only 35 per cent. in the United Kingdom. That represents about £62 per head, compared with £19 in the United Kingdom. The substantial increase in the coverage of regional aid as a proportion of the total since 1979 is from about 21 to 30 per cent., which reflects the importance that is attached to that matter in Scotland.

Will my hon. Friend use his influence to ensure—as Scotch whisky is one of the most successful— industries in Scotland—that the Japanese——

It does indeed. Will he ensure that our nips are available to their Nips at the same price as their nips are available to their Nips?

My hon. and learned Friend puts his question in his own inimitable way. He might have asked me about the electronics industry. A recent survey showed that, because of that important industry, about 3,700 American jobs are coming to Scotland — unless a Labour Government are returned.

I thought that that was a splendid example of the Minister's logical thought processes. Why does he maintain the charade of a successful index of industrial productivity when between the third quarter of 1979 and the third quarter of 1986 it has dropped by 5·8 per cent.? Why does he not address himself to the fair point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg)? Does the Minister not accept that, taking this year against next year, there is a cut in the industry and economy budget of the Scottish Office from £344 million to £257 million? Does he defend that cut, and does it give him satisfaction?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the RDG1 scheme is about to end. Secondly, regional development grant is demand-led and cannot therefore be specifically cash-tagged in the way that he has suggested. Our budget has had to be increased by 26 per cent. from what we had anticipated a year ago, because of increased activity.