§ 3. Dr. Strang
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what are his Department's priorities for reducing unemployment in Scotland.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart)
We shall continue to give 421 priority to measures that create an environment in which companies will create new jobs. We are doing this by cutting back on Government intervention in business, by creating the conditions to stimulate entrepreneurial activity and by reducing inflation.
§ Mr. Strang
Will the Minister now address the future of Scotland's deep-mined coal industry? Is he aware that to let British Coal flood the Frances colliery would be to sanction an act of colossal industrial vandalism? Will he give the House an undertaking this afternoon that the Government will not allow that to happen?
§ Mr. Stewart
In relation to the two Scottish pits: I agree with the statements of the vice-president of the National Union of Mineworkers about Longannet. There have been unfortunate scare stories about it to which I give no credence.
I fully appreciate the importance of the hon. Gentleman's point about Frances colliery. We are in touch to seek assurances from British Coal on that point and, as the hon. Gentleman and some of his colleagues may know, the general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, Mr. Campbell Christie, has been in touch with the Government on this point and will receive a response shortly.
§ Mr. Gallie
Is my hon. Friend aware that, I am pleased to say, last month unemployment fell in my constituency? I congratulate my hon. Friend and the Secretary of State for Scotland on their work in bringing to Prestwick 500 jobs in British Aerospace. I greatly appreciate that. Prestwick currently enjoys intermediate development status. Will my hon. Friend and the Secretary of State ensure that that continues?
§ Mr. Stewart
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments on unemployment in his constituency. Last month, seasonally adjusted unemployment fell not only in my hon. Friend's constituency but in almost all of Scotland's 72 constituencies. Naturally, hon. Members welcome that. Of course, we were delighted by British Aerospace's decision on Prestwick and were pleased to offer assistance with that crucial investment, which will provide a substantial number of new jobs in Ayrshire. On my hon. Friend's third point, we are currently consulting on the future of the assisted areas. I note with great care what he said.
§ Mr. Wray
What plans does the Minister have to eradicate the poverty and misery being caused in my constituency which has the highest unemployment in Britain? Every person who is unemployed in my constituency costs the Government and the taxpayer £9,000. Unemployment totals 5,274 and costs the taxpayer £47 million. Fifty youngsters are chasing every vacancy. What do the Government propose to do about it?
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. Gentleman is a vocal constituency Member of Parliament, although he lives in my constituency and not in his own. No one underestimates the problem of unemployment in his constituency or more generally throughout the west of Scotland. But during a recession that has affected the whole of the industrialised world, Scotland, together with the north and Wales, has recorded the smallest increase in unemployment over the past 12 months of all areas in the United Kingdom. That shows that the economy has 422 diversified and restructured. Therefore, the Scottish economy is well placed to take advantage of the opportunities when the world economy turns up. That will help the hon. Gentleman's constituents and, as he knows, the Glasgow Development Agency's specific programmes will help in a number of additional ways.