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Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, there is absolutely no indication of that. I am saying that we can look to those areas of Scotland which the noble Lord's friends wrote off. For instance, parts of Lanarkshire and Dunfermline, as we have already mentioned, through the efforts of this Government and the Scottish Office have been turned around. They now provide some of the finest hi-tech jobs in the country. We deserve the credit for that and not the noble Lord's party.

Lord Elton: My Lords, does the obvious confusion of noble Lords opposite in relation to the effects of legislation and policy on Scotland throw a little light on an intriguing headline in the Glasgow Herald a week ago, which read, "Labour amends wrong clause"?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, I did not see that heading, but it does not surprise me.

Lord Peston: My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord aware that, certainly on my last question in this Parliament, I could not be in a better mood? Mention has been made of the social chapter, privatised utilities and the windfall tax. I cannot think of anything more that noble Lords opposite could have spoken about. But I retain an interest in the Question on the Order Paper which asked for a connection between investment and unemployment.

One interesting aspect about this Government is that they have presided over the largest and most sustained level of unemployment in modern history. At the same time we have had high inward investment. The resulting implication is that there is, at best, no connection between inward investment and the employment figures. If one was cynical, one might point out that inward investment perhaps leads to higher unemployment rather than lower. However, I would never say that on such a pleasant and final day for me. Does the noble and

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learned Lord's department have any evidence whatever, at a serious level of analysis, relating to the level of inward investment and the level of unemployment? Is there any data to which he can guide me?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord for his question; I was wondering how I was going to get in today's unemployment figures. They are now down by 68,200, following on 68,000 in January and 46,000 in December. I am more than happy to answer as many questions as the noble Lord wishes on unemployment and the improvements that we have secured. I cannot accept that there is no relationship between our massive improvement in the way in which we have attracted inward investment and jobs. Since 1986 around 250,000 jobs have come to the United Kingdom from European investment alone.

Lord Peston: My Lords, the serious point is that in 1993, for example, unemployment was virtually 3 million and inward investment was massive in that year. There simply cannot be a connection; that is the point.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, with respect, it is not. There are 2,000 people in Dunfermline today who give the lie to that assertion.

Lord Beloff: My Lords, does my noble and learned friend agree that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, has obviously lost touch with the economics he once used to teach? It is a commonplace of business that before employment is created the factories have to be built and the markets discovered. If the noble Lord does not know that, I only hope that he will not be going back to teaching economics when his party is disappointed in the election, as undoubtedly it will be.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, it is only the last point of my noble friend's question with which I disagree. I hope the noble Lord will go back to teaching economics.

Lord Stallard: My Lords, what proportion of the number of unemployed is directly related to the jobseeker's allowance?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, I have given the figure of the number of people unemployed. It has been going down steadily. I do not understand what else the noble Lord wants. Some 68,000 people have come off the register. That is extremely important. I should have thought that the whole House would be delighted that the trend is in the right direction. One sometimes feels that the noble Lord and his friends have a vested interest in keeping those unemployment levels up.

Earl Russell: My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on today's unemployment figures. In the light of those figures, how does he explain the MORI poll reported in

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today's papers showing that unemployment is causing more anxiety to voters than any other single subject? Are the voters just stupid?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: No, my Lords. They must be worried when they contemplate that, unlike the United Kingdom, countries like Germany probably have the highest unemployment levels since the 1930s. One of the causes has undoubtedly been the very high social costs that are attracted to employment in Germany. The prospect that such social costs might be attached to employment in the United Kingdom would seem to be very good cause for the electorate to be worried.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, can the noble and learned Lord say how much of the £2 outward investment referred to by my noble friend in the ratio of £1 inward investment is invested in countries in Europe which have signed the social chapter and have a national minimum wage?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, I cannot give the noble Baroness that figure. What I can say is that there is investment throughout the world. Indeed I am delighted to say that much of the investment that is currently underway from the United Kingdom is in the developing world. I am sure that she will be as pleased as I am that there is still that investment from the United Kingdom. We all benefit from it in the long run.

NAAFI: Food Supply Contract

2.52 p.m.

Baroness Turner of Camden asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the NAAFI food supply contract has been awarded to a private company, Booker Foodservice, and what saving to the taxpayer will result from this decision.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): My Lords, the award of the food supply contract to the Booker Foodservice Group followed a year-long competition phase. The tenders submitted were subjected to thorough commercial and technical evaluation and the Booker bid was assessed as clearly offering the better overall value for money for the department. Savings as a result of the tendering process over the life of the contract are currently estimated to be of the order of £15 million.

Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. Is he aware that the awarding of the contract to this company could result in the possible loss of 2,000 jobs of people formerly employed by NAAFI? Is this social cost taken into account by the Government when considering what the costs are to the taxpayer?

Earl Howe: My Lords, the job losses announced by NAAFI are clearly a matter for regret. But I would stress

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that the majority of them are the result not of the loss of the food supply contract but of the restructuring programme that was recently announced by NAAFI's chief executive. That programme should be regarded as a vote of confidence in NAAFI's future and is aimed at ensuring the long-term health of the corporation and had already been planned before the decision on the food supply contract was announced. However, there is good news for some because Booker expects to create some 300 new jobs by virtue of winning the contract.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that NAAFI is not a perfect supplier? My own TA unit frequently receives supplies of beer that has very little shelf life remaining. Is the Minister aware of the great difficulties of drinking such large quantities of beer in a relatively short space of time?

Earl Howe: My Lords, I do not think my noble friend should have to put up with a glass of beer that is not to his satisfaction. He makes an important point. NAAFI knows that there is scope for improvement in the services it offers. It underlines the point that NAAFI will now focus on its traditional core activities; namely, its shops and clubs. It will do that in partnership with high street stores and leading breweries so as to maximise efficiency. The priority for NAAFI is to maintain the momentum of that programme, which has already got off to a very good start, and to make sure that it can provide high quality retail and leisure facilities for service personnel.

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, as this may be the last point at which the noble Earl and I have exchanges from our respective Dispatch Boxes, perhaps I may, with the leave of the House, thank him very sincerely for the way he has conducted the defence portfolio in this House. He has been a model of courtesy and I am most grateful from my point of view. I also congratulate the Minister on not introducing the minimum wage. Previous Ministers have brought everything in; this one has been left out. Can he expand a little on the future of NAAFI? Having lost what I understand is a very important contract--an important element in NAAFI--does the Minister consider that NAAFI, even in spite of what he said about the retail activities, has a real future?


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