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Employment Figures

Volume 565: debated on Wednesday 26 June 2013

The most recent labour statistics show that between February and April 2013 employment in Scotland has increased by 47,000, while unemployment has fallen by 6,000 and the number of jobseeker’s allowance claimants by 900. The Government will continue to take the necessary steps to build a stronger economy in a fairer society.

Unemployment in Scotland has fallen for seven months in a row. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that could be put at risk should Scotland vote to become independent?

I believe that Scotland as part of the United Kingdom has the most appropriate opportunities, and that not only its businesses but its consumers benefit from the great strength of the UK economy. They have more choice and more security as part of the United Kingdom, and when times get tough—as we saw at the time of the banking crisis—the United Kingdom is there to help out. That is a good deal, and we should stick with it.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow South West (Mr Davidson), I represent a constituency in which the shipyards are the main employer. Scotstoun shipyard employs 2,000 people. What will happen to them if Scotland votes for independence next year?

Once again, from the other side of the Clyde, the hon. Gentleman makes a very important point. That question is directed to the SNP routinely and it is one for which it has no answer. The arrangement we have with the shipyards and with construction at Rosyth and elsewhere is very good for Scotland, and we should long continue to be part of the UK.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that many of the jobs are in the offshore oil and gas industry, and we must not forget that that is a very dangerous environment to operate in, especially as we mark the 25th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster, when 167 lives were lost? Will he study the outcome of the conference Piper 25 held last week, to see the redoubled efforts of the industry to make conditions as safe as possible for those who work for us offshore?

My hon. Friend is right to draw the House’s attention to the tragic events of 25 years ago. The loss of 167 lives is something that the families, communities and area are still dealing with a quarter of a century later. We all remember that tragedy and remain committed to ensuring that we have the highest possible standards of health and safety in the North sea. As a Government, we remain committed to working with the sector, the trade unions and others to ensure that is the case, and of course we will study the recommendations from the conference to which my hon. Friend referred.

Order. It has suddenly gone quiet, which is very encouraging, but there was excessive noise in the Chamber. I know, however, that Members will want to be quiet for Margaret Curran.

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.

For those who are in employment, will the Secretary of State for Scotland tell the House whether average wages have gone up or gone down in Scotland since the last election?

I would have hoped the hon. Lady would welcome the fact that more people are in employment as a result of the measures we are taking, and that we have created nearly 150,000 private sector jobs in Scotland. Of course there are still challenges facing the economy, but the hon. Lady will remember the legacy she left us, and she can see for herself the crisis in the eurozone. We remain committed to taking the steps that will continue our progress on the road to recovery.

Once again the Secretary of State does not let the facts get in the way of the same old answer. Average wages in Scotland have, in fact, gone down by £1,100 since he took office. That is the equivalent of 14 tanks of petrol, 15 weekly shops, or over nine months of gas and electricity bills. The Secretary of State has said in the past

“the horrible truth is…everyone is going to have to make a contribution”.

Is this what he had in mind?

Despite the changes from the shadow Chancellor in recent days, the hon. Lady does not seem to have caught up with the new script—the recognition that the Labour party left the decks burning when it went out of office three years ago. She is not going to be credible until she faces up to that. What I have said to her is, “Yes, these are tough times, and they continue to be challenging,” but what we are doing, by raising the tax threshold so that 224,000 Scots are out of tax all together and 2 million Scots are enjoying a £600 per annum reduction in their income tax bill, is very important. We continue to work for fairness and for a successful economy.