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Inverclyde Enterprise Zone

Volume 175: debated on Wednesday 4 July 1990

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6.

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the operation of the Inverclyde enterprise zone.

The Inverclyde enterprise zone was established in 1989 and has a 10-year life span. It is, therefore, much too soon to assess its impact on the local economy.

However, in addition to the 870 jobs already created or planned, I am pleased to be able to inform the House that the American electronics company Sorensen Ltd. yesterday announced the takeover and expansion of Domain Power Ltd. which is expected to create a further 400 new jobs in Inverclyde.

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I think that I was expressing hope when I referred to question 14.

The enterprise zone suffers from large areas of dereliction. Where those areas surround listed buildings, there is a major problem of persuading investors to come into the zone. I refer to the engine works in Arthur street in Greenock and the Gourock ropeworks in Port Glasgow. I wish that the Minister would show a smidgen of the concern about and commitment to the community that were shown by his grandfather, who built the engine works in Arthur street. With regard to the Gourock ropeworks, is the Minister aware that the people of Port Glasgow deserve a quick solution to the problems of dereliction surrounding that fine listed building? Let us have some action on that building and the area of dereliction surrounding it.

It is more likely to have been my great-grandfather. The buildings to which the hon. Gentleman referred are being given close attention, but it is primarily a matter for their owners. The Inverclyde enterprise zone has some geographical difficulties in that it is split among 11 sites covering 274 acres. However, the SDA has already spent or committed £14.3 million towards clearance of dereliction and factory construction. That is a reflection of the way in which it is approaching the matter. The hon. Gentleman might like to know that unemployment in his constituency has fallen by more than in any other constituency in Scotland, bar one, over the past three years. That is a reflection of the success of the Government's policies in the Inverclyde area.

Does my hon. Friend accept that no other enterprise zone has greater prospects, contains finer buildings or a finer work force, is on the Clyde or has such magnificent prospects? My hon. Friend should encourage Scottish Enterprise to promote that enterprise zone with vigour because no place could be more vigorously successful than that part of Scotland.

My hon. and learned Friend is absolutely right. The enterprise zones in different parts of Scotland are one aspect of the Government's policies to promote the development of enterprise and the regeneration of the economy. The overall success of those policies is revealed by the fact that the fall in unemployment over the past three years has been the biggest single fall for the past 40 years. The dramatic improvement in employment is a reflection of the success of our policies.

Is the Minister aware that the recent decision to allow the Braehead development, which is a monstrous plan, to go ahead will do irreparable damage to the Inverclyde enterprise zone and to nearly every industrial development in Renfrewshire? Will the Minister make a statement about that? I have never seen such a stupid planning decision, particularly when we consider that Inverclyde district council, Renfrew district council and Strathclyde council are totally opposed to the abominable Braehead plan.

The hon. Gentleman will know that that decision was given the closest and most careful consideration. However, there are a number of encouraging initiatives in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, including those at Ferguslie park and Renfrew and the developments at Linwood. Unemployment has fallen in the hon. Gentleman's constituency by more than 2,200 in the past three and a half years.

Order. Mention has been made of question No. 14, which leads me to the conclusion that hon. Members would like to get on to that question. There is interest also in question No. 11, so we should now move on rather more rapidly.