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Galloway (Industry)

Volume 892: debated on Wednesday 14 May 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will take steps to encourage the establishment of timber-based industries in Galloway.

As Galloway is in a development area, assistance to new industry setting up there is available under the Industry Acts. The Government will give sympathetic consideration to eligible projects, but I am not aware of any approaches by interested bodies.

Will the Under-Secretary bear in mind the need for the Government to provide encouragement as well as to wait for people to ask for encouragement? Will he bear in mind that we in Galloway are no longer content to see the area treated as a kind of colony which produces raw materials to be taken away and processed elsewhere when we need the employment locally? Secondly, will he impress upon his right hon. Friend the need for us to have a speedy and safe means of transport out of Galloway? Will he therefore ask his right hon. Friend to give consent to make the A75 road into a dual carriageway?

I have enough bother looking after forestry without answering questions about roads. The hon. Gentleman made the point about the timber being taken away from the area. It is precisely because of the present state of the plantations that there is not, perhaps, the demand locally for the processing or the industrial side. To cheer up the hon. Gentleman, I should like to draw his attention to the fact that it is estimated that in the next 25 years the forestry and industry related labour force in the area should increase from 1,200 to over 2,000. Since forestry is a long-term industry, that is an encouraging and optimistic picture in his area.

As the greatest social problem in Scotland is the provision of more housing, will my hon. Friend take another look at the provision of timber-frame houses as they are not only cheaper but more quickly built? In these days when we want to increase the provision of housing and at the same time curtail public expenditure, would not this meet the dual purpose?

That is another question. The timber grown in Scotland has not been accepted so far by the building industry. While we are anxious to give every encouragement, there are practical problems which have to be overcome before the building industry will use such timber for that purpose in Scotland.

Did the Minister obtain his figures on future employment before or after the Chancellor introduced the capital transfer tax on forestry? Whilst wanting to see timber-based industries in South-West Scotland, we first need continuing supplies of timber. How will that happen in view of the Chancellor's penal taxation?

I gave up-to-date figures. The estimates are up to date. The hon. Gentleman should not exaggerate the possible fears in the minds of some people about the capital transfer tax. Concessions have already been made which I think go at least some way to meeting the citicisms.