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Scottish Trade Union Council

Volume 264: debated on Wednesday 18 October 1995

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To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he will meet the Scottish TUC to discuss the unemployed in Scotland. [36031]

May I ask the Secretary of State about the long-term unemployed, whose numbers seem to be increasing in Scotland, mainly among young people? How can the Government justify a 15 per cent. decrease in the training budget of Scottish Enterprise?

I am not aware of any 15 per cent. decrease in the training budget of Scottish Enterprise, but I am aware of a 15 per cent. decrease in unemployment in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. I should have thought that he would welcome that. I am sure that he will be aware of the importance that we attach to training, and to the fact that most training is of course undertaken by the private sector. We want to encourage Investors in People and partnership with the STUC. Although it appears that Mr. Campbell Christie has come in for some flak from Opposition Members, I pay tribute to the role that he plays in trying to ensure that we have proper standards for training and education, and to the positive way in which he has sought to involve the trade union movement, in partnership with the Scottish Office, in ensuring more training in Scotland, which is so vital for competitiveness.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in recent years, Opposition Treasury spokesmen have cried doom and gloom about unemployment in Fife? Can he tell us how many jobs are now in the pipeline, and what other successes the Scottish Office and Locate in Scotland have achieved?

The performance in Fife in terms of attracting new jobs and investment is outstanding. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence announced yesterday that Rosyth would be sold to the preferred tenderer, Rosyth 2000—an example of partnership between the private sector and a local authority that offers the potential for 3,000 to 5,000 jobs. Of course, Opposition Members are all committed to policies that threaten such jobs—the minimum wage and the social chapter, which would both destroy jobs—and to the special deal for Scotland, the tartan tax, which would mean a jobs holocaust.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on his first appearance in that capacity at Scottish Question Time and I look forward to some lively exchanges. In view of his regular meetings with the STUC, and given the high regard that he has expressed for Mr. Campbell Christie, will he also acknowledge that Campbell Christie yesterday enthusiastically presented to the Scottish people the blueprint for a Scottish Parliament produced by the Scottish Constitutional Convention? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that that offers considerable scope for improving employment prospects in Scotland? Before he proceeds to criticise it, as will inevitably be his pavlovian response, will he do the people of Scotland the courtesy of visiting places such as Catalonia and Bavaria and see how a considerable amount of devolved government has succeeded in promoting industry and employment?

Campbell Christie is not right about everything, and I fear that, on this occasion, his enthusiasm for the introduction of a socialist-dominated body has overtaken his judgment. The proposals which were published yesterday by the constitutional convention are for a Parliament, nearly half of whose members would be placemen and women nominated by the patronage of the leaders of the political parties. The proposals for the Parliament feature a patronising gender programme which will offend women up and down the country. Most damaging of all, the proposed Parliament will tax people in Scotland simply because they work in Scotland, and will impose a tartan tax which will destroy our living standards and our jobs and will chase away the inward investment on which our prosperity has been built.

When the Secretary of State meets the STUC, will he keep in mind the shabby record of his predecessors? When we compare figures from April 1979 with those of June 1995, we find that there are 23,000 more claimants out of work for a year or more now than there were in 1979. The civilian work force has fallen by 44,000 since 1979, and one in five of all claimants aged under 25 are long-term unemployed. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the only option which will reverse those 16 years of neglect and the accompanying exacerbation of social divisions is a Labour Government and the establishment of a Scottish Parliament so that the needs of Scotland are put first and foremost?

Is it not extraordinary, Madam Speaker, that the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman on this subject cannot bring himself to welcome a further fall in unemployment in Scotland today? We heard about the hon. Gentleman's vision for Scotland, which appears to be entirely divorced from reality. The truth is that unemployment in Scotland has fallen steadily and has fallen today. The Opposition Treasury spokesman told us some years ago that unemployment would continue rising, and thereupon it started to fall and it has fallen ever since. Unemployment in Scotland is now below that of England for the first time since the 1920s. We have seen Scotland grow in prosperity, and inward investment brought a further 5,000 jobs in the first six months of this year alone. Why does the hon. Gentleman keep running Scotland down? Why will he not join those of us who wish to see Scotland succeed and welcome its success?