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Volume 116: debated on Wednesday 13 May 1987

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Labour Statistics


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what are the seasonally adjusted unemployment figures for Scotland for the last available date and in May 1979, compiled on a similar basis.

On a comparable basis, seasonally adjusted unemployment in Scotland was 150,400 in May 1979 and 344,600 in March 1987.

Is it not astonishing that the Secretary of State for Scotland can stand at that Dispatch Box without hanging his head in shame when announcing these horrendous figures? I suspect that he will not need a crystal ball to translate those figures into terms of human misery, despondency and despair that the Government have spread throughout Scotland. I say to him, on behalf of the unemployed of Scotland, that he has one opportunity for atonement, and that is to resign here and now.

Before I do, may I welcome the hon. Gentleman on his return to the House? We are all pleased to see him after his recent illness.

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's strength of feeling on this subject, but he should be aware of the substantial progress that the Scottish economy has been making, particularly over the last few months. I remind the House that the Scottish Business Survey, which was published by the Fraser of Allander Institute a few weeks ago, said:
"The short-term prospects for the Scottish economy have improved markedly during the opening months of 1987 with business optimism continuing to rise and the prospects of some growth in employment. Firms in all sectors expect both sales and new orders to grow over the next few months with manufacturing and construction being particularly buoyant."

Does my right hon. and learned Friend find it objectionable that the Opposition should speak in the way that they do, when their policies on nuclear power and weapons would, at a stroke, destroy scores of thousands of jobs in Scotland?

My hon. Friend is correct. The South of Scotland Electricity Board has estimated that electricity tariffs would have to increase by 20 to 30 per cent. as a consequence of the abandonment of nuclear power. Apart from anything else, that would have meant that the Finnish pulp mill, which is coming to Irvine, would not have contemplated a Scottish location, and many of the tens of thousands of jobs around Scotland—Caithness, in particular—would have been severely affected, if not entirely lost.

Is not the real indictment of the Secretary of State that after eight years he can rejoice in the unemployment figures that we have heard? He is so complacent about the situation that he relies solely on grasping the straws of short-term prospects. When will he do something about the Scottish economy, because under his care and that of his predecessor it has rotted away?

Far from being complacent, I am delighted that, over the past eight weeks, unemployment in Scotland has fallen by more than 16,000. I believe that the prospects for the Scottish economy are better than they have been for years. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the increased competitiveness of the Scottish economy, the increased productivity of those who work within that economy, and the far healthier state of the whole spectrum of Scottish business have enabled such improvements to take place.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend recall reading an article, in the Glasgow Herald in 1978, written by the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) predicting that unemployment would be well over 3 million in the next five years and pointing out that that would be due to the large numbers of new young people coming on to the labour market? Surely the hon. Gentleman was right. Is it not wrong for the Opposition to indulge in such double-standard electioneering and to seek to repudiate the figures that members of the Opposition predicted when they were in government?

My hon. Friend is correct. The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) made that prediction and emphasised that that increase would take place irrespective of which party was in government. However, thanks to improvements in productivity, competitiveness and the fall in inflation that has taken place since the Government came to power, not only is the standard of living of the Scottish people higher than ever before, but we have the prospect of a continuing fall in unemployment in Scotland and throughout the United Kingdom.

Does the Secretary of State realise that unemployment in the Irvine travel-to-work area is now nearly 12,000, which is the equivalent of 25 per cent.? Is the Secretary of State aware that during the past six weeks I have twice raised the question of the threatened closure of McKinnon of Scotland knitwear factory in Irvine? The right hon. and learned Gentleman and his hon. Friends promised me their full support, but I have now been informed that the Industry Department in Scotland has withdrawn its offer of financial help to one prospective buyer of that factory. Why?

The hon. Gentleman has been misinformed. Discussions are continuing, and we have made it clear that the prospect of financial help for anyone interested in taking over that particular plant remains available for discussion. The Scottish Office has withdrawn no offers of help from anyone in connection with this particular plant. The hon. Gentleman, who represents Irvine, knows perfectly well that the prospects for Irvine took a tremendous turn for the better with the decision by the Finnish pulp mill to locate in Irvine. The hon. Gentleman is aware that the Labour party's policy on nuclear power would doom any prospect of that pulp mill coming to his constituency.

In view of the figures, is not this professional optimism from the Secretary of State beginning to sound a little like cant? Is it not shameful that, after eight years of Conservative success, of which we hear so much, there are 363,000 Scots drawing unemployment benefit? According to the Library statisticians and working on a comparable basis, that is about 130 per cent. more than the figure that the Prime Minister inherited in 1979. Does the Secretary of State accept that unemployment must be a key issue in the coming weeks? Whatever the hopes of Scottish Ministers, many people in Scotland cannot forget the scarring misery of the dole queues and, I am afraid, the contribution that has been made to that crisis by the Government's thrawn indifference to what is happening in our communities.

First, the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that unemployment doubled under the previous Labour Government, and I do not recall his drawing comparable conclusions at that time. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman knows well that the competitiveness and productivity of Scottish industry have never been higher. Thirdly, the hon. Gentleman knows that the Government have not only given substantial support to the Scottish Development Agency and Locate in Scotland, but have transformed those bodies into internationally recognised agencies, which are the best of their kind anywhere in Western Europe. In addition, the hon. Gentleman knows that the Labour party's proposals for an assembly with tax-raising powers have already been condemned by Scottish industry as likely to do enormous damage to industry and to the prospects for employment in Scotland.

Order. I remind the House that there are a number of questions on unemployment on the Order Paper. I ask for brief questions, which may lead to brief answers.

Guinness Plc


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what follow-up discussions he has had with Guinness plc since the statement by the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) to the Scottish Grand Committee on 17 July 1986.

My right hon. and learned Friend has met representatives of Guinness on three occasions since 17 July 1986. I have also been involved in meetings with the company. These discussions, which are continuing, have ranged over a variety of matters related to Guinness's activities in Scotland.

Why did the Secretary of State for Scotland not answer the question? Is it because he realises that it was unfair of the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) to upstage the leader of the Liberal party last July during the Scottish Grand Committee debate on industry when he gave an assurance that the Secretary of State was on his charger as far as the Guinness company was concerned? We know that the Secretary of State is accident-prone in regard to horses. He falls off them. What more is the Secretary of State doing to get the company to locate in Scotland and bring the promised jobs?

We shall miss the hon. Gentleman's carefully modulated tones in the next Parliament. I wish him the best of luck in his future career

As my answer demonstrated, my right hon. and learned Friend and I keep in close touch with Guinness. We are watching the continuing developments involving the increasing location of its activities in Scotland.

When my hon. Friend discusses matters with Guinness, will he discuss broken pledges and pledges that may not as yet have been fulfilled? Will he consider any pledge that was given to the leader of the Liberal party who robustly came out in defence of the Guinness attempted takeover of Bell's, Scotland's best performing whisky company at the time, on the basis that Bell's was in need of Guinness's assistance? We now see what that assistance has produced. We should like to know exactly what the promises were.

I am sure that the leader of the Liberal party can speak for himself, once he has cleared the matter with the leader of the Social Democratic party.

My hon. Friend will be glad to know of Guinness's expanded activities in Perth. Britain's leading spirits organisation, covering the marketing and sales of all United Kingdom brands, will be located there and will create 50 new jobs.

Does my hon. Friend agree that Guinness is suffering from a marked shortage of genius and that it would not require much at all to fulfil the commitments that were made many times in Scotland last year to move its headquarters and jobs to Scotland? Will he tell the House what the members of the Guinness board are saying about those commitments?

I hope that the amount of genius on the Guinness board has increased now that the chairman and chief executive and also two leading non-executive directors are Scots. As my hon. Friend knows, the chairman's office is in Edinburgh. The chief executive of the group and the chief executive of the new united Distillers group also have offices in Edinburgh.

Will the Minister give us some assurance in relation not only to the headquarters of Bell's and other aspects of the Guinness subsidiary being located in Scotland, but the manufacturing base? Some of us have misgivings. We were given assurances by the previous management of Guinness—assurances that can bear no weight. Some hon. Members who have bottling plants in their constituencies are extremely worried about such assurances. What approaches have been made by his right hon. and learned Friend to ensure that not only the headquarters but the productive capacity and throughput of Bell's subsidiary are located in Scotland?

We are certainly in touch with Guinness on a continuing basis. The closure of bottling plants is regrettable, but some rationalisation of that kind was almost inevitable, regardless of ownership. All distilling, blending and bottling in the group is now centralised in Scotland.

Setting aside the whiff of City scandals, will the Minister explain to the House, as the Secretary of State has declined to do so, what happened to the pledges made on behalf of the Secretary of State on 17 July by the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary? What happened to the pledges about jobs? What happened to the firm, documentary commitments? What happened to the plan for location in Scotland? Above all, will the Minister tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the people of Scotland are now somewhat discouraged with his ill-founded optimism which has been shown most recently and notably in regard to Caterpillar?

I have already told the House of a number of developments to the advantage of Scotland in connection with Guinness. I can also point to the Glenochil yeast plant being retained in preference to the Bristol plant, thus saving 300 jobs; to the modernisation of the Johnny Walker bottling plant at Kilmarnock, where there are 800 jobs; and to the expansion of Gleneagles as an international leisure centre.

With regard to what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) said about me, will my hon. Friend confirm that I was simply putting on record the position on 17 July in the interests of the people of Scotland and of all Scottish Members of Parliament? Does my hon. Friend agree that, irrespective of other matters, the whole of Scotland is full of admiration for the way in which Sir Norman Macfarlane has acted as chairman of Guinness?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I entirely agree with his latter remarks.

I called the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) because he was mentioned, so I shall call one more Opposition Member.

Because of the amalgamation with DCL, Guinness now owns almost the whole of the Port Dundas area in my constituency. The White Horse bottling plant has been lying empty for well over a year now, and steps should be taken by the Government to find out what will happen to that plant.

I dare say the hon. Gentleman will already have taken up that matter with the owners. I am sure that he shares my satisfaction at the continuing success of the whisky industry. Exports in the last year for which we have figures exceeded £1 billion in value.

Village Halls


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received regarding capital grants for village halls in the Stirling constituency; and if he is satisfied with the operation of the relevant scheme in the central region.

My hon. Friend has made representations on behalf of the communities involved in the grant scheme for village halls since Central regional council declined to support this programme. However, Stirling district council is prepared to sponsor projects, and I will be providing half the eligible costs to enable four to proceed.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is disgraceful that Central region should have sought to prevent halls in my constituency benefiting from grants from the Scottish Office to the extent of 50 per cent.? What is the position now in respect of the halls in Gartmore, Killin, Lochearnhead and Brig o'Turk?

I share my hon. Friend's concern that Central regional council did not agree to take part in what is considered in most parts of Scotland—including my own constituency—to be a worthwhile scheme. I can confirm that the four halls that he has mentioned will be going ahead, and that I shall be contributing £95,000 of central Government money to the project.

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the people who run the village halls in Stirling, to which reference has been made, would be in a better position to organise their enterprises if the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations was given some support by his Department for getting a full-time officer, so that the schemes for co-ordinating SED and capital grants and other running costs could be made available publicly?

I would rather use the money to help the communities to build halls than create yet another centralised Scottish bureaucracy.

Is it not sheer humbug for a Tory Member of Parliament who has spent his undistinguished career here attacking all forms of public subsidies to seek to distort the record of Labour local authorities in relation to the provision of subsidies to village halls in his constituency? Is the Minister aware that no fewer than 40 village halls throughout rural Stirlingshire have had the benefit of assistance under this and other schemes, thanks to initiatives taken by Stirling district council — a Labour-controlled authority — under the excellent leadership of Councillor Michael Connarty?

I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) requires a lecture from the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson), who has his own distinguished line in hyprocrisy—[Interruption.]

I quite happily withdraw the lane' word. The hon. Gentleman has a most distinguished line in his own unique blend of intellect which he brings to the House. Those of us who have to listen to him in agricultural debates, in which he is a noted expert. being a major landowner in Scotland, are well aware of his brilliance.

Labour Statistics


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what was the total number of unemployed people in Scotland in (a) May 1979 and (b) May 1987 or the latest available date; and if he will make a statement.

There were 154,419 unemployed claimants in Scotland in May 1979 and 363,781 in March 1987. While unemployment still remains too high, it is encouraging to see the substantial reductions in the Scottish total in the last two months.

If the Minister has the chance of addressing the Prime Minister's Nuremburg-type rally at Perth this coming weekend, will he take off his Goebbels mask and tell the people of Scotland the whole truth which is that, according to the independent unemployment unit, the real total of unemployed people in Scotland is well over the 400,000 mark? There are over 400,000 reasons why the people of Scotland will reject the Tory party. The Tory party in Scotland will be reduced to a discredited rump at the forthcoming general election. Perhaps even the people of Galloway and Edinburgh, Pentlands and Argyie and Edinburgh, South will return Labour Members of Parliament instead of the Thatcherite lackeys who misrepresent them at present.

The hon. Member has a wonderful sense of humour. For the moment, I shall content myself by welcomimg the fact that unemployment in his constituency has fallen by about 1 per cent. over the last two months, and that about 77 per cent. of the members of his local job club go out of the job club into employment.

Is not the whole truth seen when one also looks at the figures of employment? Will my hon. Friend confirm that employment has been rising steadily in Scotland, together with manufacturing productivity, exports and industrial profitability?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In particular, self-employment has been rising sharply as people realise the attraction of setting up their own businesses in the improved economic climate that we have established in Scotland.

Does the Parliamentary Under-Secretary accept that many hon. Members, especially Opposition Members, and indeed many people throughout Scotland, will regard the figures that he has given as absolutely scandalous? Secondly, does he agree that he must look very much beyond even the figures that he has so starkly mentioned today? There are men over 40 who do not see any prospect of ever getting a job under this Administration, and many young people now in their early 20s have never had a decent job since they left school. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary and his colleagues, who are responsible for the administration of industry in Scotland, should think black burning shame of themselves that these young people should have no hope at all under this Government.

I can understand why the right hon. Gentleman, having had no familiarity in his party during its period in government with falling unemployment, may not recognise the good news that is now coming through in the Scottish economy. Unemployment is falling sharply among the long-term unemployed and among young unemployed. The economy is responding to the wide range of measures for training and increasing enterprise that we have generated in the last few years.

Will my hon. Friend tell the House the extent to which employment and self-employment have increased in Scotland since 1983?

Since 1983 self-employment has increased by 27 to 30 per cent. That is a very encouraging figure. In terms of employment generally, because of the expanded work force, undoubtedly there are many more people in employment than there have been for some considerable time.

Does the Minister acknowledge that since the Conservative Government came to power in 1979 Scotland has lost no fewer than 180,000 jobs in manufacturing industry and that nothing in the Government's policy is replacing those? Will he further acknowledge that, instead of selectively taking the last two months, the realistic trend of the last six months shows that the rate of decrease in unemployment in Scotland is such that it will take 160 years to get the unemployment level back to the level that the Tories inherited?

That is one of the most idiotic questions that I have heard in this Chamber for some considerable time. The hon. Gentleman takes no account whatever of the expansion of the service industry, and of banking and the financial sector, all of which generate good, effective and profitable jobs. A more significant point about manufacturing industry is that output is almost at the level that it was at when there were 190,000 more jobs in manufacturing. That improved productivity is the strongest safeguard for future growth and employment in Scotland.

Does the Minister agree that on no fewer than 19 occasions the Government have fiddled the figures, and that on each occasion that has, accidentally, Glory be, brought the figures down? Does the hon. Gentleman further agree with the Secretary of State for Employment, who said, "I lose no sleep over unemployment"? As Conservative Members are fond of quotations, does the Minister agree with the most recent quotation by the Secretary of State when he went to Renfrewshire, an area devastated by unemployment, where eight out of 10 young people in my constituency either have no job or are on short-term training, and said, "Every day is like Christmas."? If every day is like Christmas, when will the unemployed get some bloody presents from the Government?

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. There have been only six discernible changes—[Interruption.] —in the method of calculation of unemployment — [Interruption.] Two of the changes—the change to fortnightly registration and the inclusion of the severely disabled — have had the effect of increasing, not reducing, the unemployment count. If the hon. Gentleman wants to look for dramatic and substantial changes in the way in which the unemployment figures are calculated, he should look back at the previous Labour Administration, who removed adult students, which had an effect that could have been as high as 200,000 at some times in the year.

Primary Schools


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has any plans to alter his policy relating to the merger of primary schools so as to have at least three teachers.

My right hon. and learned Friend has no such policy. Decisions on those matters are essentially for local authorities.

Is the Minister aware that he will always be warmly welcomed in the Borders with his fishing rod in the increased leisure time that he will have from 12 June onwards, but that his last visit to my constituency has been widely misconstrued? The speech that he made at the opening of Newlands school, amalgamated with two schools two miles on either side of it, has been widely interpreted as meaning the first amalgamation of rural schools in scattered areas. I trust that the hon. Gentleman will make it clear that that was not his intention.

The right hon. Gentleman was present when I made my speech at that opening, and I think that he was as impressed as I was with the new school that was being built there. I would not embarrass him by asking him whether he was impressed by the speech, but I remind him of what I said in it. I said that there are some places, as in my constituency, where one-teacher schools are inevitable. That is our firm policy in the Scottish Office.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that in helping such schools it is of great assistance that the pupil-teacher ratios are better than they have ever been before? Will my hon. Friend further confirm that that also helps the unemployment problem because more young people are now leaving school with an educational qualification than ever happened under the Lib-Lab pact?

My hon. Friend is quite right. The pupil-teacher ratios in primary and secondary schools in Scotland are at the best level that they have ever been. Indeed, we are seeing an increasing number of youngsters leaving school with qualifications.

The Minister will understand that I did not have the advantage of listening to his speech, but I carefully read the press statement. In it, he makes it clear — presumably it is a highlight that he wished to emphasise by including it—that he thinks that schools with fewer than three teachers are educationally disadvantageous. There is a clear implication that he expects them to go whenever possible. I want to be clear that that is his position, particularly on 5 May the Secretary of State for Education and Science in England gave a writen answer in which he distanced himself deliberately from that position and made it clear that he thought that

"geography; the distances to be travelled to alternative schools in the event of closure; and the age of the children making these journeys."—[Official Report, 5 May 1987; Vol. 115, c. 311.]
should be taken into account. Can the Minister do something to put a warmer face on the nasty accountancy approach that he seems to have been taking to those matters until now?

Perhaps it is unfortunate that the hon. Gentleman was not present on that occasion to hear my speech and to see the school, but the position is as I stated to the leader of the Liberal party, the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel). Of course there are areas in which, inevitably, one-teacher schools will be the way in which local communities' educational needs have to be dealt with. It is clear that when there are any proposals for amalgamation from the regional councils, it is essential that the parents and other local interests are consulted and the decisions are taken along with the policy. For primary schools, where there is a distance of more than five miles between the closing and receiving schools, that case has to come to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State and myself. We then look carefully into the situation, and that includes asking the local Member of Parliament for his comments.

As the Secretary of State for Education and Science has recommended a reprieve for all rural schools south of the border will the Minister issue a directive or recommendation to local authorities in Scotland to the effect that a similar position should obtain there?

It is a pity that the right hon. Gentleman, who is the leader of the Scottish National party, does not realise that there is a difference between Scotland and England. The Department of Education and Science put out a circular and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science has announced a change in that position. Our Department did not put out a circular. Our position is the one that I laid down clearly a few minutes ago, which is that it is up to the local authorities to look at the issue. In my view—I made this perfectly clear in my speech in the Borders — if local authorities are to change the school structure in the villages, they have to co-operate and take with them the parents in the villages.

Civil Nuclear Power


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will estimate the effect on electricity prices in Scotland of phasing out civil nuclear power.

The South of Scotland Electricity Board estimates that tariffs would have to rise by about 30 per cent. if civil nuclear power generation were to be phased out in Scotland.

I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for his reply. Does he agree that if Labour and the alliance got their way and scrapped nuclear power the high energy using industries would leave Scotland altogether? In particular, will my right hon. and learned Friend reiterate that if Opposition policies to scrap nuclear power are implemented the British pulp mill at Irvine will never go into production?

I agree with my hon. Friend. The Liberal assembly voted to abandon nuclear power, and the Labour party also carried such a resolution. No doubt because of the damage that would be done to the Scottish economy by the Labour party's policy, the Scottish TUC refused to support the Labour party on this issue. The TUC has emphasised that it believes that Torness should be commissioned and that Hunterston should continue to be available. It has emphasised its belief that nuclear power must play a crucial part in meeting Scotland's energy requirements. The Scottish TUC has clearly rejected the views of the Labour party in Scotland on such an important issue.

Does the proposal put forward by the Minister for Environment, Countryside and Planning—that people living close to nuclear power stations should receive financial compensation—have the right hon. and learned Gentleman's support?

The hon. Gentleman can be assured that any policy with regard to those near nuclear power stations that may be enunciated by the Government will apply throughout the United Kingdom.

If nuclear power were phased out in Scotland, what effect would it have on employment in the generating industry? What effect could it have on employment outside the generating industry because of increased costs?

The best estimate of those who would be directly involved is of some 10,000 jobs in Scotland associated with the nuclear industry. In recent weeks, we have had the decision on Sizewell by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, which has led, for example, to Weirs announcing 200 or 300 extra jobs, to Babcock confirming that it would now not need to announce additional redundancies and to other such improved opportunities. Clearly, phasing out would have a devastating effect in Caithness, where about 20 per cent. of all employment is associated with Dounreay, which might explain why one alliance Member is strongly in favour of nuclear power although his colleague the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) is strongly against it.

Does the Secretary of State accept that it does not help the economics of the SSEB to have the huge capital investment of Inverkip power station lying unused? Is he aware that Strathclyde region has suggested to the SSEB that it carry out a study into the feasibility of converting Inverkip to coal burning? Will the Secretary of State and the Government give every encouragement, both moral and financial, to the SSEB to carry out this important and valuable proposal by Strathclyde regional council?

The specific use of Inverkip is clearly a matter for the SSEB to determine in the light of its overall requirements. I was encouraged by the fact that when the SSEB made its announcement about Inverkip it said that it believed that those who would otherwise be employed at Inverkip could be re-employed elsewhere within the SSEB's activities. The future use of Inverkip must be a matter for the SSEB to determine.

Further to what my right hon. and learned Friend has said about Sizewell, is he aware that the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) has made it clear that the alliance policy is against the Sizewell decision, despite the importance of the jobs for Renfrewshire and Glasgow, and that the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) — I make nothing of the point that he is not here today, as he has many duties, for example, at Oxford university — has not dissociated himself from that statement? Is not the right hon. Member for Hillhead a disgrace to Glasgow?

Not only the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) but all alliance candidates in Renfrewshire and elsewhere in the west of Scotland must accept, as the Labour party must accept, that companies such as Weirs, Babcocks and many others which are heavily dependent upon such orders would suffer severe redundancies if the policies of those parties were implemented.

Labour Statistics


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.

National Farmers Union


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he last met the chairman of the National Farmers Union of Scotland and what matters were discussed.

My right hon. and learned Friend and I attended the union's dinner on 12 March. I addressed the annual general meeting the following day and had a further detailed exchange with the leadership and members.

The Under-Secretary will recall that a delegation of myself and colleagues met him on 8 April and urged him, amongst other things, to support the increase in the suckler cow premium. I welcome the fact that yesterday the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in a written reply to me, confirmed that that will be done, in response to pressure and demand from the industry, and indeed, from myself and hon. Friends. Will the Minister now acknowledge that although that is helpful, it does not resolve the crisis in the beef industry, which is looking for a double figure devaluation of the green pound? Will he give an assurance that he is pressing for that?

I do not want to depress the hon. Gentleman's delusions of grandeur, but I remind him that it was the Government, with Agriculture Ministers at the December Council, who persuaded the Community to raise the ceiling on the suckler cow premium, which has allowed us to increase the amount to be paid this year from £24·74 to £33·40. That will mean that some £3¼ million more will go into the Scottish beef industry. The industry will welcome that and will thank the Government for their efforts in getting that.

Does my hon. Friend agree that that increase of no less than 35 per cent. in the suckler cow subsidy is good news, but does he also agree that the Government's retention of the sheepmeat and beef regimes, lowering interest rates and the keeping down of inflation is also welcome news for Scottish farmers, who have been going through a difficult period as a result of the weather and for other reasons?

Yes, my hon. Friend is quite right. One of the other important gains that we made at the December Council was to keep the beef variable premium scheme for the next two years instead of having to battle for it every year. My hon. Friend is also right about the need for a devaluation. We have made it clear that the 4 per cent. devaluation proposed by the European Commission is not enough. Our aim will be for a higher devaluation, certainly one higher than that for the French and Irish, who already have more MCAs than the United Kingdom.

Does the Minister accept that the Government's record in rural Scotland is downright shameful? In particular, does he remember the description of the Government's position by the president of the National Farmers Union of Scotland as

"A botched-up, incoherent and chaotic set of policy decisions"?
Now that we have almost unprecedent depression and uncertainty in the farming industry, and growing chaos in the CAP, is the Minister aware that the industry will be far better off when it returns to the practical partnership on which it has always been able to rely under Labour Governments?

I am always interested in the view of the landowner from Berwick on these matters. I should like to be a fly on the wall when he explains to farmers around Britain that the Labour party will rate agricultural land and considerably increase the cost to farmers. We have a good record on farming. Of course, there are difficult times with surplus production, but anybody who thinks that there is an easy solution to that lives in cloud-cuckoo-land, which is probably where the hon. Gentleman does live.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, above all, farmers seek confidence in their industry's future and reassurance about their prospects? Does he agree that he and his colleagues must be seen publicly to fight their corner on behalf of farming? Will he continue to give a commitment to fight vigorously to remove the distortion of the green pound and protect Scotland's vital livestock sector?

I am well aware of the position of the beef sector and its importance to Scottish agriculture. Indeed, when I visited my hon. Friend's constituency earlier in the year and met his farmers they left me in no doubt about the importance of those matters and I left them in no doubt about the Government's commitment to the farmers and the rural economy of Scotland. That is shown clearly by the announcement that we have just made about the suckler cow premium and the reiteration that I have just made of the view of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on our aims in the current negotiations over the green pound.

Steel Industry


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he will next meet the chairman of the British Steel Corporation to discuss the tube manufacturing side of the steel industry in Scotland.

There are no plans for any meeting in the immediate future, but as indicated on previous occasions my right hon. and learned Friend hopes to continue to meet the chairman of the British Steel Corporation on a regular basis.

When the hon. Gentleman next meets the chairman of the British Steel Corporation, will he remind him of the widely reported statement that a French company is trying to form a consortium with Clydesdale steelworks in my constituency and that, if the consortium is formed, 600 jobs will go from Clydesdale steelworks? Bearing in mind all the other redundancies that have taken place in Lanarkshire, does he not feel that it is incumbent on him to impress upon the chairman that it is vital that the consortium be made aware that the 600 jobs are saved?

I wish the hon. Gentleman a long and happy retirement when he leaves the House.

The press reports to which the hon. Gentleman referred are speculation. The BSC will be vigorously seeking additional orders for the steel capacity in this country, both at home and abroad. Any proposal would have to come to the Government for approval, and no such proposal has been put to us.