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3. Mr. John Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the latest unemployment figure; and what the equivalent figure was in December 1992. [10787]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Raymond S. Robertson): Unemployment in Scotland has fallen by 55,000 since December 1992, to 195,900 in December 1995.

Mr. Marshall: Will my hon. Friend confirm that unemployment in Scotland, at 7.9 per cent., is much lower than in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, all of which follow the economic policies recommended by the Labour party? Does he agree that the only threat to a continued reduction in unemployment in Scotland comes from the proposals for a national minimum wage, the adoption of the social chapter, and from that confounded tartan tax?

Mr. Robertson: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am sure that he will understand me when I say that it is with real regret that while he, as a Scot in exile, can take great pride in all of Scotland's achievements and its advances, the Opposition Members who have the privilege to represent Scottish constituencies use every opportunity to run down Scotland, as the next few minutes will no doubt prove.

Mr. Michael J. Martin: What steps is the Minister taking to bring more employment to the districts of Possilpark, Springburn and Dennistoun?

Mr. Robertson: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman realises that unemployment has decreased by 6 per cent. in the past year in the areas that he has mentioned in his constituency. Obviously, we will continue the policies that he knows are working.

Mr. Ian Bruce: How much would a separate Parliament in Scotland have to levy on employees in income tax if it were to make up the £3.1 billion extra that the Government spend in Scotland over and above what they spend in England per head of the population? If that levy were imposed, how would it relate to those employees' income tax and to the unemployment rate in Scotland?

Mr. Robertson: As my hon. Friend knows, the proposed tartan tax of 3p in the pound would raise £450 million. I leave it to my hon. Friend and to Opposition Members to work out exactly what the shortfall would be. I hope that they will put that in each and every one of their election addresses at the next general election.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce: The Under-Secretary of State will be aware of the announcement this week of the closure of Buchan Meat, which is in the constituency of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond). It is a very important plant for meat producers in the

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north-east of Scotland, employing almost 300 people. Can he explain what his Department is doing to make contact with Grampian Enterprise to ensure that we save those jobs and maintain the added value that that high-quality meat facility provides in the north-east of Scotland?

Mr. Robertson: The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan and people at the factory have been in touch with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State today and yesterday. Of course I agree with the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) that the loss of jobs is always a matter for regret, particularly when it is such a large number in a relatively small community. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, my hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch), are keeping in close touch with Scottish Enterprise and Grampian Enterprise to see what can be done.


4. Mr. Simon Coombs: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the current level of Scottish exports. [10788]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. George Kynoch): Scotland's manufactured exports have reached an all-time record of £14.3 billion.

Mr. Coombs: Can my hon. Friend confirm that, besides whisky and computers, almost all sectors of Scottish industry showed export growth in 1994 and that, in particular, the motor car and spare parts industries showed an increase of almost 60 per cent. on the rate in the previous year? What would be the effect of a tartan tax on that excellent growth record?

Mr. Kynoch: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the exporting successes during the past year. In fact, exports in the food and drink industries, excluding whisky, increased by more than 11 per cent.; paper and printing exports increased by 23.7 per cent.; and chemicals exports increased by 14 per cent. Growth has been right across the board.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to refer to a tartan tax because export success depends on the competitiveness of the Scottish industrial base. Not only would a tartan tax hit exports, but I read in the press this morning that the deputy general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Council proposes that we now go for a four-day week, but maintain wage rates. That would result in a 25 per cent. increase in costs and a dramatic reduction in competitiveness, which would be disastrous for exports and disastrous for business.

Mr. David Marshall: What information can the Minister provide to the House on the progress of negotiations with Japan about the vexed question of taxation and Scotch whisky exports?

Mr. Kynoch: I think that the hon. Gentleman will be aware that that subject is examined constantly. The World Trade Organisation is considering the matter at present,

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and both Scottish Office and other Ministers raise the issue with the Japanese Government whenever they visit Japan.

Mr. Gallie: Is my hon. Friend aware that the rise in Scottish exports has played a major part in reducing unemployment in my constituency by 24 per cent. in the past three years? What assurances can he give me that that welcome progress will continue?

Mr. Kynoch: My hon. Friend's local enterprise company makes a sterling effort in that regard. That fact was repeated to me this morning when I attended the celebrations for the bicentenary of Robert Burns's death. [Interruption.] That shows that I learn quickly. Scottish Enterprise, together with the local enterprise companies, is participating in the new export strategy, the international challenge, which I launched in September. We are making a great effort to ensure that small and medium-sized companies receive the best possible exporting assistance. That will ensure continuing success and continuing record exports from Scotland.

Mr. Beggs: Does the Minister agree that exporters in the west of Scotland, the highlands and islands, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic would benefit from increased funding and further expenditure on the A75 and the west coast main line? Will the Scottish Office endeavour to ensure that such upgrading continues?

Mr. Kynoch: I am delighted to see the hon. Gentleman for the second time today--he was present this morning at the ceremony at the statue of Robert Burns on the embankment. I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, and I shall ensure that my hon. Friend the Minister responsible for transport issues in the Scottish Office hears the same thing.

Film Industry

5. Ms Roseanna Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he last met representatives of the Scottish film industry to discuss the industry's future prospects. [10789]

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton): My noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State, the Minister with responsibility for the arts in Scotland, met leading figures in the film industry from overseas, the United Kingdom and Scotland on 10 January.

Ms Cunningham: As part of his continuing film initiative, will the Minister institute discussions within his Department and with other interested parties about establishing a Scottish film school, which would do a great deal to nurture and develop talent in Scotland? If he agrees to do that, will he take into consideration other international models, such as the Danish film school--which, in its 20 years' existence, has made an enormous contribution to the film industry in that country?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: We are now looking at all the options for which the Secretary of State has asked and which Scottish Enterprise is undertaking. The hon. Lady will also be aware that a number of studies are

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taking place, and we hope to be in a position to make a comprehensive statement in the early spring. The hon. Lady will appreciate that tourism figures have soared in Scotland as a result of the enormously successful films set in Scotland: "Braveheart", "Rob Roy" and "Shallow Grave".

Mr. Jessel: In view of the fact that the Scottish film industry is becoming more and more successful, does my hon. Friend believe that increasing tourism in Scotland could be damaged by the tartan tax? Will he also confirm that the new film "Loch Ness" is to be premiered shortly in Inverness?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: Yes, that film will be premiered in Inverness shortly and I believe that it will be extremely successful.

As to the first part of my hon. Friend's question on the tartan tax, he is absolutely correct to suggest that those who provide facilities for overseas tourists would have the greatest reservations about the tartan tax if they had to pay far more than tourist operators and tourist service providers elsewhere in Britain.

Mrs. Liddell: If the Government are so anxious to do something about the Scottish film industry, why have they failed to convince the Chancellor to amend the Capital Allowances Act 1990 to encourage private investment in the film industry by redefining expenditure on film as revenue expenditure? If the Government simply duck issues such as that, it will become patently obvious that their interest in the film industry is yet another propaganda exercise and another opportunity for the Secretary of State to pose for nice photographs with Mel Gibson to use in the right hon. Gentleman's election address.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: We are looking at all the options, including the position on tax. As I stated last night, the Government will consider whether there are any lessons to be learnt from the Irish experience which can be applied to the Scottish situation in the light of the consultants' report. The hon. Lady will be pleased that the production of a CD-ROM, about Scotland as a screen location, has been funded by the Scottish Office, and many hundreds of thousands of pounds are being provided by the Scottish Office for films in Scotland.

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