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Volume 527: debated on Wednesday 4 May 2011

8. What steps the Government is taking to reduce the level of unemployment in Scotland; and if he will make a statement. (53563)

Unemployment has fallen steadily since August 2010 and employment has increased in the same period. This is a welcome sign. Supporting companies to create and sustain jobs and helping people into work are key priorities for the Government. On 19 May I am hosting a seminar in north Ayrshire, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr Donohoe), on youth unemployment, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions will join me at this important event.

I look forward to our meeting on 19 May. On a another matter concerning unemployment, does the Secretary of State think that the separation of Scotland from the rest of the UK would help or hinder employment prospects for people in Scotland?

It would be an absolute disaster for Scotland to separate from the rest of the United Kingdom. It is interesting that even the Scottish National party appears to recognise that, because it is not campaigning very hard on the subject.

In the Secretary of State’s answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North (Ann McKechin), our Front-Bench spokesperson, he recognised that youth unemployment continues to rise in Scotland. When does he believe that his actions will begin to bring it down to an acceptable level?

In response to the question from the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Ann McKechin), I said that youth unemployment had been a problem for a good long period across the United Kingdom, including under the previous Government during periods of growth. The Prime Minister, the Work and Pensions Secretary, I and everybody else recognise the need to bring it down, which is why we are meeting to discuss the core issues behind the problem, and why, through the Get Britain Working programme and the Work programme, which we have discussed already, we are introducing measures to get young and old alike off the unemployment register and back into productive work.

When will the penny eventually drop for the coalition Government? Last week in response to the Scottish Affairs Committee report on the computer games industry, the Government said that there is no case for tax incentives for the computer games industry, which is very important to this country. That was rather callous coming a week after another computer games company in my constituency went bust. Will the Government accept the blatantly obvious fact that if we want companies to set up in this country, we have to offer incentives at least comparable to those offered by our competitors overseas?

First, may I again recognise the hon. Gentleman’s consistent efforts on behalf of the computer games industry? I recognise the importance of the industry not just to Dundee and Scotland, but to the UK as a whole. As he knows—and as I hope the response to the Select Committee’s report reinforces—we have considered very carefully the incentives we need to offer not just to the computer games industry, but to a whole range of sectors in Scotland and across the country. It is our judgment that to get ourselves away from the danger zone we were in last May, it is important to tackle the deficit and to get ourselves on the path to growth. We have done that in successive Budgets setting out plans to reduce corporation tax, to keep interest levels low, to reduce the national insurance burden and to set out important new targets for banks and their lending to small businesses. That applies to the computer industry sector as much as to any others. Once again I will be happy to meet him to discuss the matter, if he would like.

Unemployment in Kintyre will be greatly reduced if the community group’s bid to buy the former air base at Machrihanish goes ahead. I thank the Secretary of State for meeting the community group recently. I have written to him with a list of outstanding issues that are still to be resolved. I ask that Scotland Office Ministers continue to work with Defence Ministers and the community group to resolve those outstanding issues as quickly as possible, so that the buy-out can go ahead, with exciting prospects for the Kintyre economy.

Again, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s sterling efforts on this issue. I also welcomed the opportunity to meet representatives from the Machrihanish group a few months ago. I recognise that there are still issues that the group wishes to see resolved, and that these involve ongoing discussion with the Ministry of Defence. I will ensure that my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Ministry of Defence are aware of the details of my hon. Friend’s concerns, and that he receives a response to them.