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New Town Development Corporations

Volume 98: debated on Wednesday 4 June 1986

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next expects to meet the chairmen of the new town development corporations; and what subject he hopes to discuss.

My right hon. and learned Friend plans to meet the chairmen on 14 July this year, when he would hope to discuss a range of matters of interest or concern to the new towns.

Does the Minister agree that the most important thing that the Secretary of State could discuss with the chairmen of the new towns is employment, particularly the protection of employment, and job creation in new towns? Does he also agree that the urgency for that is underlined by recent events in my constituency where the largest departmental store, Woolco, is now to close with a loss of 181 jobs? What new initiatives will the Secretary of State announce to the chairmen of the new towns to create jobs in future?

Obviously the provision of jobs is an important matter, and my right hon. and learned Friend will be discussing that issue. However, the hon. Gentleman is less than fair in suggesting that the new towns have done badly. Between May 1979 and April 1986, £110 million has been invested in the new towns, leading to 23,747 new jobs. In Cumbernauld in the hon. Gentleman's constituency over the past year 43 new companies have come about, 19 local firms have expanded and there are 800 new jobs there, with a promise of 800 more to come. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will welcome that.

Is my hon. Friend prepared to follow the excellent example given in England, where there has been a process of winding up the development corporations and returning towns to democratic control? Is he prepared to take that bold step in order to ensure that towns will develop in their own natural way rather than being force fed with public money?

I understand what my hon. Friend says. The present policy envisages new towns in Scotland being wound up when their populations reach a certain figure, but no corporation will begin to wind up before 1 April, 1990 and the position will be reviewed in 1989. Our current policy is that the new towns' remaining housing stock should on wind up be transferred to district councils, but if the new towns come forward with proposals for disposing of that in other ways, we would give those consideration.

When the Secretary of State meets the chairmen of the corporations, will he consider including on the agenda the disastrous results of housing policies which mean that many of my poor constituents' elderly relatives are unable to join their families?

I am not sure to what precise policies the hon. Gentleman is referring, but if he will write to me on that issue I shall reply.