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Labour Statistics

Volume 116: debated on Wednesday 13 May 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what are the seasonally adjusted unemployment figures for Scotland and the Dundee travel-to-work area for the last available date; and what were the figures in May 1979, compiled on a similar basis.

There were 150,400 unemployed claimants in Scotland on a seasonally adjusted basis in May 1979 and 344,600 in March 1987. Unemployment data on a seasonally adjusted basis are not available for smaller areas.

How does the Minister feel about the fact that since the Government came to power unemployment in Dundee has doubled? How does he line that up with the recent decision of the Secretary of State to claw back £500,000 in rates from the Dundee district council? How many jobs will that cost the local community, particularly as the Secretary of State for Employment has withdrawn 450 community places? How many jobs will be lost in Tayside by his right hon. and learned Friend's decision to claw back £2·8 million from the Tayside region?

If the hon. Gentleman would care to reflect on the number of jobs that have been lost by the high rates in Dundee, he might be nearer to the mark. Dundee has featured considerably in the Government's plans to help people with training, employment and enterprise measures. Many schemes have been pioneered successfully in Dundee and it now has five job clubs. The Scottish Development Agency has launched a major initiative in the area and the area also has an enterprise zone. The consequence of that is a continuing and substantial increase in enterprise in the Dundee area.

Would the Under-Secretary of State care to reflect on the fact that in the past 12 months the number of people out of work in Clackmannan has dropped by six? What would he say to those who are employed by McKinnons, who had their hopes dashed by the parsimony of the Scottish Office in backing the bid that was put in for that group some weeks ago? How can he square his crowing about the fall in unemployment figures with the prospect of 150 jobs going down the river because of the failure to back a bid which may have guaranteed 1,000 jobs in Scotland?

The hon. Gentleman can have absolutely no evidence for that claim, as my Department has been involved in making available assistance in the context of a takeover of that company. As to unemployment in Clackmannan, I have no doubt whatsoever that Clackmannan will share in the fall in unemployment, which is now so apparently widespread around Scotland.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the Dundee travel-to-work area millions of pounds of public funds have been spent and an enterprise zone has been created since 1979? Does this not show that throwing public money at problems does not necessarily produce jobs? Secondly, does he agree that jobs are created by those who work and create wealth and that the additional rates imposed by the Tayside regional council will make it extremely difficult for the Tayside health board to raise the extra funds and will cost many jobs?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. During my last visit to Dundee I was most impressed by the way in which some of the old jute warehouses had been adapted to provide accommodation for new, small, start-up businesses. The businesses are creating many jobs and seem to have a high survival rate.

Should the mad caprice of the electoral system produce another Conservative Government, would the Minister be able to make any projection of a decrease in unemployment over the next two years, or is he just wandering around in a fog with no idea of where he is going?

On the contrary, we have a firm idea of where we are going. In the next Parliament we shall continue with the policies that are now yielding such great successes, as a result of which such independent organisations as the Fraser of Allander Institute and the CBI are now producing their most optimistic estimates of the economic situation for a long time.