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Strathclyde Region (Job Loss)

Volume 982: debated on Wednesday 2 April 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what proposals he has to deal with the continuing job loss in the Strathclyde region.

Our policies aim to create the soundly based economy in which industry can expand in Strathclyde as elsewhere. The changes we have made in regional policy are designed to concentrate support upon areas of most need, including West Central Scotland whose problems are recognised by our decision to extend the special development area. We have announced our intention of creating an enterprise zone on Clydeside and we will continue to encourage by all possible means the development of viable enterprises providing secure employment within the region.

I understand from the Minister that there is a degree of urgency with regard to his talks on the enterprise zone. When will he be able to make an announcement about the location? Can he also say when we shall have further details about the relaxation of normal planning regulations and other changes, and also whether any discussion document or Green Paper will be issued? Does he further accept that, whatever may be the potential in the enterprise zone, the job creation prospects are very small—a drop in the bucket—compared with the loss that will result from the Government's fiercely inflationary policies?

I hope that no one will be tempted to talk down a good, new idea just because it is new. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, with his constituency interests, will do everything he possibly can to encourage an enterprise zone and to make it successful. The purpose of consulting the local authorities is to get their views. However, we have given the main outline of the scheme and we hope to complete discussions within a few weeks.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that certain job losses in Strathclyde are both inevitable and desirable? In particular, does he not agree that as a result of the success of the Government's economic policy and of electoral redistribution there will be considerable job losses in Strathclyde among Labour Members of Parliament in due course, and that that will be a jolly good thing?

I am always sad to see anyone losing his job, particularly a Labour Member of Parliament, but I am sadder for some than for others.

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the only job loss which is desirable is his own? Will he stop talking the economic rubbish that we have heard from him, such as growth coming to Scotland through small businesses? He knows that that is a nonsense. He knows that the Budget Papers have predicted a 1 per cent. growth over the next three years. As that is mainly in oil, does it not mean a lack of growth in every aspect of Scottish industry and a consequent job loss? Will he cut out the nonsense?

Of course, the hon. Gentleman's last point is the very problem which we, and the previous Government, have wrestled with for years. I am sorry and surprised that the hon. Gentleman has cast aspersions on the role of small businesses, especially as they provide more than one-third of the jobs in Scotland. We are in no position to turn our noses up at that, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will do all that he can to encourage small businesses.

Will my right hon. Friend arrange a seminar within the Strathclyde region at the earliest possible date of leaders of industry, the trade unions and Scottish Labour Members of Parliament in order that they can understand the great prospects which could flow from grasping the opportunities presented by enterprise zones?

I am grateful to my lion. Friend. I have many responsibilities, but I am glad to say that one of them is not running seminars for Scottish Labour Members of Parliament.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the statement made on Budget day about enterprise zones is largely incomprehensible? So far as one can understand it, the advantages seem to be marginal. However, I understand that the Scottish Office has been unable to give any more details. Will the Secretary of State consider making a further and more detailed statement about what is involved in the enterprise zone and what the typical advantages, perhaps in money terms, would be for a company which establishes itself in that zone? There is real concern that at present there is apparently so little detail about the concept.

I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman feels that there is a lack of detail. I shall do all I possibly can to give him the maximum information. I thought that my right hon. and learned Friend had given quite a lot of detail in his announcement. For example, incoming firms will be exempted from development land tax; they will receive relief from rates and the local authorities will be compensated for that also there will be a reduction in bureaucracy and form filling for these firms. If the right hon. Gentleman wants more information I shall do my utmost to give him as much as possible.

Will my right hon Friend take steps to encourage employment in the Grampian region so that we can take some—

Order. We have enough to do in dealing with Strathclyde now. In view of the length of questions this afternoon, I think I owe an apology to the Welsh for what I said earlier.

In view of the fact that the Secretary of State is in favour of good ideas, will he not agree that the truck produced by Stonefield Vehicles is a good idea? Will he give an assurance that he will not put any ultimatum to the Scottish Development Agency about private investment in Stonefield Vehicles in Cumnock? Will he also give an assurance that if this company requires additional finance from the SDA, and it has enough money to provide the cash—the Secretary of State has said that the SDA has more money than it knows what to do with—he will not veto the money from that source?

I am very glad that the vehicle produced by Stonefields' has had good reports from those who have tried it. I have been doing my utmost through my Department and the SDA to help to provide a viable future for the company which depends essentially on the entry of private enterprise into it. I thought that at one time the hon. Member sounded a bit doubtful about the wisdom of that, but I hope that he is now wholly converted.