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Renfrew District Council

Volume 114: debated on Wednesday 8 April 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next intends to meet representatives of Renfrew district council to discuss its recent economic initiative.

I met representatives of Renfrew district council on 23 January to discuss proposals for a local economic initiative, and wrote to the council on 10 March with my conclusions. I have received an encouraging response and hope that an agreement can be reached on the present proposals as soon as practicable.

Will the Minister accept that, rather than an encouraging response in words, we should like some cash to fulfil the pledge that the Government gave at the time of the closure of the Linwood factory? Does he realise that the cost in public expenditure of the unemployment in Renfrew district is well over £100 million, and that that will apply to the projects under the economic initiative scheme? Putting that into public investment could wipe out entirely the unemployment facing my constituency of Paisley, South.

The SDA has agreed to meet half the initiative's operating costs and to second staff to it. It has also committed itself to £4 million of environmental improvements. In addition, Renfrew council's current expenditure guideline this year is 7·7 per cent. above assessed need, and 4·2 per cent. above last year in terms of the inflationary increase. In addition, the SDA's LEGUP scheme has approved projects in Renfrew worth £270,000. So a substantial amount of cash is available from a number of different sources.

Will my hon. Friend explain to Renfrew district council that any sound, concrete proposal that it puts forward for economic regeneration in Renfrewshire will be greeted favourably by the Government and that the finances will be looked into? Until it comes up with the goods, we in this place cannot come up with the goods. Will he confirm that the phoney unemployment statistics that it tries to foist upon us are completely unacceptable and are no substitute for good ideas for the area?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The most successful outcome of the initiative can be achieved by the co-operation of the district council and the Scottish Development Agency. I earnestly hope that that is now being achieved. I hope also that the arrival of Compaq in the district will enhance the employment prospects and the fact that the Sizewell order is going ahead will be of advantage to Babcock.