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Staff (Dispersal)

Volume 974: debated on Tuesday 27 November 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects his Department to occupy office accommodation in Glasgow in connection with the planned dispersal of Ministry of Defence jobs to that area.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that office accommodation in the London area costs £13 per sq. ft., whereas it costs between £4 and £5 per sq. ft. in Scotland, and £3·50 per sq. ft. in Cumbernauld new town? Does he accept that job dispersal to Scotland makes economic sense, and that the sooner it happens the better?

The cost involved is one of the factors that were taken into account in the Government's decision, announced on 26 July this year, that about 2,000 jobs would be dispersed from London to Scotland. Of those, the Ministry of Defence contribution is 1,400 jobs.

Will my hon. Friend accept that, in the light of the experience of the previous Administration, which failed to disperse even one job to West Central Scotland, there is a natural concern that the forces of official prevarication and delay which afflicted the Government's predecessors will continue? Will my hon. Friend bring forward a detailed programme for the dispersal of jobs as soon as possible?

As I indicated in an earlier answer, we hope to come to a decision in the Ministry of Defence by the end of this year about the people who will be transferred. I accept what my hon. Friend says. The previous Government tended to be strong on plans but abysmally weak on action.

Does the Minister accept that his answer will be bitterly disappointing to all political parties in Scotland and that it is just not good enough to suggest that as a result of the dispersal programme no people will actually appear in Scotland for seven years? That is a deplorable state of affairs. Will the Minister please look at this again?

It is planned to move staff to St. Enoch's, but I understand that the buildings will not be available until the middle of 1986. There may well be an advance party, which would go two or three years earlier to make the necessary preparations.