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Doon Valley, Ayrshire

Volume 958: debated on Wednesday 15 November 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will undertake an official visit to the Doon valley in South Ayrshire to meet local representatives about the discharge of his policy to support industrial development.

I am satisfied that present policies provide ample support for industrial development in the Doon valley, and I therefore do not consider that a ministerial visit to discuss the matter is required.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we acknowledge the claims made in correspondence about the Government's efforts concerning the Ayr travel-to-work area but that the urgent need is to replace the hundreds of jobs lost within the Doon valley itself from pit closures? Will he give me a guarantee today that, together with the Department of Industry, he will undertake a review of the assessment procedures which lead to the question of redesignation, so that when there is a redesignation exercise in the future the Doon valley will be included and not excluded from special development area status, bearing in mind that it has male unemployment up to 35 per cent.?

As I think my hon. Friend knows, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Industry answered some of these questions on Monday of this week. I can assure my hon. Friend that we constantly monitor the situation. If it is thought right to increase the status of one area against another, we do so. It would be better if sometimes much more publicity were to be given to the already very substantial assistance which can be given to an area such as the Doon valley—20 per cent. in grant for plant and building machinery, selective assistance and assistance of all kinds under the provisions of the Industry Act 1972, which is very substantial. I trust that my hon. Friend will join with me in publicising the very considerable advantages of setting up in that area.

I agree with my right hon. Friend about what has been done, but does he appreciate that this is a changing situation? Is he aware that proposals are being discussed which could mean bad news for Kilmarnock and central Ayrshire and extending as far as the Doon valley, where 1,100 jobs at Massey Ferguson are at stake? May I have the assurance from my right hon. Friend that he, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of State for Industry are taking a close and participating interest in these discussions?

I am conscious of the serious problem at Kilmarnock. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made public his special concern about this matter. I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has been very active in this matter in meeting the stewards and others who are concerned about it. I assure him that both my right hon. Friend and I will do everything possible to assist the workers in the area.