HC Deb 10 May 1967 vol 746 cc1493-7
29. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he is taking to obtain a comprehensive review of the probable effect of the Government's proposal for regional em- ployment premiums on investment in Scotland from the Scottish Economic Planning Council.

Mr. Ross

At it meeting on 14th April the Scottish Economic Planning Council had a wide ranging discussion about the regional employment premium during which the possible effects on the Scottish economy were thoroughly examined.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed that the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) has expressed measured dubiety about the effectiveness of this proposal? How does he think that a proposal to add an extra £1 per head to the Government's dole to industry will encourage investment in Scotland at a time when manufacturers can see no prospect of either profits or markets?

Mr. Ross

I do not know whether I should gather from that that I can write down the hon. Gentleman as being against it. It would be unwise of me to comment until we have received comments from those from whom we have invited them. We have had the first suggestion of reactions from the Scottish Council (Development and Industry). I have had some discussions with the chairman and we are arranging further meetings on the subject. Other interests and individuals have written to me wholeheartedly in support.

Mr. G. Campbell

In the process of consultation for which the Government have provided, will there be scope for representative views to be ascertained in regions such as the north-east of Scotland and the Highlands?

Mr. Ross

As the hon. Gentleman probably knows, both the North-East and the Highlands are represented on the Scottish Economic Planning Council, but there is nothing to prevent any individual, no matter where he is in Scotland, from conveying his views to me, or to the D.E.A.

Mr. Dewar

Will my right hon. Friend accept that the almost universal initial reaction to the proposals has been to welcome them as an example of the unprecedented commitment of the present Government to the redevelopment of the Scottish economy?

Mr. Ross

It is true that the Scottish Council (Development and Industries) recognises the general proposition as an indication of our determination to deal with the problem of the regions.

33. Mr. Clark Hutchison

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received about the exclusion of Edinburgh from the proposed scheme, whereby the Government pay a regional employment premium to manufacturing industries; and what reply he has sent.

36. Mr. Wylie

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether, in view of the increased investment grants now payable in development areas, and the recent proposals for a regional employment premium to manufacturing establishments in development areas, he has received any further representations from Edinburgh Corporation or other interested bodies on the exclusion of Edinburgh, Leith and Portobello as a development area; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Ross

I have received joint representations on these matters from Edinburgh Corporation and other interested bodies in the City, and separately from the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, the Leith Dock Commission, and individual firms. The bodies concerned have been informed that their representations will be taken into account in the Government's consideration of the proposal for a regional employment premium.

Mr. Clark Hutchison

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that this will make competition for industries in Edinburgh very much harder and very unfair? Is he aware that I myself have received several representations? Why do the Government treat Edinburgh so' scurvily?

Mr. Ross

We do not treat Edinburgh scurvily. I remind the hon. Gentleman that he has previously made these gloomy prophecies about what would happen to Edinburgh and he has told us about all the firms which would not develop. He might go to see whether all that came to pass. He would discover that there have been considerable developments in Edinburgh—without advantages—since that time. It still has the lowest unemployment of Scotland.

Mr. Wylie

Do the firms which have made representations include firms from the industrial estate as Sighthill in my constituency? If not, will the right hon. Gentleman accept from me that a number of firms are greatly concerned about the joint effect of the regional employment premium on top of the distinction in regional development grants?

Mr. Ross

I accept this and I have a long list of the firms in Edinburgh which have written. I have had more representations about the regional employment premium from Edinburgh than from anywhere else. I get the impression that industry in Scotland is glad to have the premium and that those who object are those who write.

Mr. Stodart

Why was the Minister of State reported as saying the other day that the question of Leith Docks on its own had never been examined before, when that suggestion has been put to the right hon. Gentleman and the President of the Board of Trade time without number in the last two years?

Mr. Ross

The subject of Leith has been put to the Government before, but it is very much more difficult to examine a site than an area.

Earl of Dalkeith

Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that, so long as he allows himself to be pushed around by a junior Minister at the Board of Trade, his reputation will continue its sad decline?

Mr. Ross

I wish that the noble Lord and his friends would make up their minds. They complain because we give too much assistance in Scotland and say that we should concentrate it more, and at the same time ask for it to be spread further. I wish that they would make up their minds whether the regional employment premium is good or bad. The noble Lord says that it is bad. Now the Edinburgh people say, "It is so bad, give it to us too."

Mr. Woodburn

With regard to Leith, which is the port of Edinburgh, the Government have made a big investment in the re-creation and rebuilding of the docks. Would my right hon. Friend assure us that nothing will hinder that development and that every encouragement will be given to that specialised purpose of developing the port of Edinburgh?

Mr. Ross

My right hon. Friend will appreciate that the development of the docks is going ahead, as is the procedure over the representations which we have had. When we are considering the comments about the regional employment premium, all this will be taken into account.