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Experimental Enterprise Zones

Volume 414: debated on Tuesday 28 October 1980

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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made in setting up the experimental enterprise zones.

(Lord Bellwin)

My Lords, the Government are pursuing discussions with the local authorities concerned on the detailed arrangements for the seven enterprise zones announced by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister on 29th July. We still hope to conclude draft agreements for most of these zones shortly after the Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Bill receives Royal Assent, so that the procedures for setting them up can begin without delay.

My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for his Answer, and understanding that conclusions could not yet have been reached, I am sure that my noble friend is aware that I am asking this Question on behalf of my noble friend Lady Sharples, who sadly cannot be with us. I am sure that she will be satisfied so far as the Answer goes and will look forward earnestly to hearing something more as soon as the current Bill is through Parliament.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that since the private enterprise zones are the solution to many difficulties that are causing disquiet in various parts of the country, speed is of the essence if we are to maintain the morale to get us to the point where he can give us the answer that we think will produce the results?

My Lords, I entirely take the point that my noble friend makes, and gladly assure him that we are in full agreement with what he has said.

My Lords, if things go well, what is the assumption of the number of people that may be employed by these new enterprises?

My Lords, I could not possibly attempt to put any figure of that kind upon it. Everything will depend on the extent to which the private sector become involved, come in, and do what we hope they will do. In quite what form they will do it, in terms of manufacturing, warehousing, or whatever else it may be, obviously I cannot say at this stage.

My Lords, I do not wish to be carping, but for a generation we have seen help in special areas. What zip, what further uplift, is going to be given to small businesses that goes beyond the conceptions of Conservative and Labour Governments over the past 20-odd years?

My Lords, the concept is a very radical one in what it sets out to do—something far more than giving help to assisted areas, or whatever, all of which is helpful but which does not in any way go as far as these proposals do. As we have said all along, they are an experiment. They are a bold attempt to try to do something in some of the worst areas. What they will achieve only time will tell, but we have high hopes for them.

My Lords, the noble Lord, in his list of things which will be done in these areas, very significantly excluded what I call the retail trade. Am I to assume that there will be no normal outlets of that type in any of these establishments?

My Lords, I was not aware that we were excluding anything, as such, at all. We hope that the authorities within whose areas the zones will be set up will do everything to encourage anyone to come in and "do his thing", if I may put it that way, so as to raise the whole of what are otherwise areas of deprivation.

My Lords, will the noble Lord recognise that his Government are creating the sort of situation which is a disgrace to any Government?

No, my Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord would not expect me to respond in the affirmative to that.

The fact is that we are dealing here with areas which have been in this state for many years now. Had the previous Administration been willing to do something about them we might not have to deal with them in the way we are doing now.

My Lords, does the noble Lord appreciate that the enterprise zones, as well as so many other Government efforts, are going to be brought to nothing unless interest rates are brought down?