Skip to main content

Economic Inactivity

Volume 508: debated on Wednesday 7 April 2010

7. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the level of economic inactivity in Scotland. (325092)

Order. Before the Minister replies, there are far too many private conversations—some of them indulged in by very senior Members of the House, who I am sure know better. It is not fair to Members and it is not fair to the people of Scotland.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Secretary of State for Scotland has regular discussions with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions about the level of economic inactivity in Scotland.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Does she agree with me? In Scotland, Labour is working!

My hon. Friend, as always, is short, succinct and to the point. He is absolutely accurate. We are determined not to repeat the errors of the 1980s and 1990s recession. That is why we are helping young people in particular to get back into work. That is why we are growing jobs with our green investment bank. That is why we are helping new industries and renewable industries in the video games industry and in the life sciences. It is by having a managed industrial policy that we will grow our way into recovery.

The Minister will know that 665,000 working-age people in Scotland are economically inactive. In the past three months, that figure has risen by 21,000. In the past year, Labour has wiped £4.8 billion off the value of the Scottish economy. Since 1997, Scotland’s share of the national debt has more than doubled, and almost 150,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost. Those are facts; there is little that the Minister and the Secretary of State can do about them now, but will she take this last opportunity at the Dispatch Box to apologise to the people of Scotland?

Well, I will tell the hon. Gentleman what we certainly will not do. We will not halt recovery in its tracks by cutting public investment now and squeezing off our recovery. He can be sure that the Labour Government are determined to ensure that the recovery works.

Like most people, but unlike Labour Members, I am interested in talking about the present—2010. Labour’s last manifesto said:

“2010: Full employment in every region and nation”.

The number of people who have been on the dole in Scotland for more than one year has in fact gone up by 122 per cent. in the past 12 months, yet the Minister and the Secretary of State still want to introduce a tax on jobs that will kill recovery. If she thinks that that is a good idea, is it not she and the Secretary of State who have been misled, not leading Scottish business figures?

The hon. Gentleman forgets that since 1997 there are 220,000 more Scots in employment, courtesy of a Labour Government. We are determined to continue the recovery, which is why the national insurance increase will not occur until next year, at which point all predictions show that we will have a strong and sustainable recovery. Under this Government, when we have increased national insurance, jobs have continued to rise.