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Development Commission (Report)

Volume 981: debated on Wednesday 26 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to complete his consideration of the report of the review group in the Development Commission and its associated organisation, the Council for Small Industries in Rural Areas.

In view of the effective and meaningful contribution that the Development Commission and CoSIRA play in sustaining economic activity in rural areas, will my right hon. Friend give a guarantee that these two organisations will be maintained in principle and that their budget for the current financial year will not be less than last year?

I am well aware of the support for the work of the Development Commission and CoSIRA. While it is not yet possible to announce the outcome of full consideration of the detailed review, although it will be done shortly, I can confirm today that the basic role of the Development Commission and CoSIRA is recognised and the Government intend that their basic role should be continued.

Did the Minister notice the reply I received recently from his hon. Friend, which indicated that the Development Commission and CoSIRA are extremely effective in cost terms in the creation of jobs? Will he bear that point in mind in determining the size of the grant that he makes available, in view of rising unemployment, particularly in rural areas?

It is for the reasons that the hon. Gentleman has adduced that we propose that the basic role of the Development Commission and CoSIRA should continue. I am able to confirm that today. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that public money is not the only source of help for the rural areas. We have encouraged the Development Commission and CoSIRA to attract private sector funds. I am pleased to say that they have been extremely successful in enlarging their resources without further call on the public taxpayer.

Has my right hon. Friend studied the extent to which the activities of the Development Commission have enabled county councils to get back their investment on money they have spent buying land for industrial development that has then come to fruition in partnership with the Development Commission?

There are a number of ways in which assets can be realised. We are anxious both for local authorities and for the Development Commission and CoSIRA, wherever possible, to recycle their assets by selling off successful developments to the private sector thereby ensuring that public money can be used as effectively as possible.

Will the right hon. Gentleman's Department continue to encourage the work of the Co-operative Development Agency in rural areas. Is he aware that it draws, not on public finance but private finance and on individuals in small co-operatives, as well as working with both organisations mentioned in the question?

That is not a matter for my Department. It comes within the responsibility of the Department of Industry.