HC Deb 03 July 1968 vol 767 cc1496-8
32. Mr. W. H. K. Baker

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he now expects to receive the report of Professor Gaskin on the North-East of Scotland.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

In the late autumn. Publication will be arranged thereafter.

Mr. Baker

Is the Minister of State aware that there have been alarming reports of continuing depopulation in the area Can he say what, if any, plans the Scottish Development Department has made for infrastructure working in the area in future?

Dr. Mabon

There have been alarming reports for the last 15 years, if not longer. The study is specifically aimed at arresting depopulation and trying to achieve regeneration of the North-East and we hope that Professor Gaskin's plan will provide us with suitable indications of how we should proceed.

Mr. James Davidson

Will the Minister of State consider setting up a North-East development authority to implement the recommendations of Professor Gaskin's report when it comes out in the autumn, which is when it is due and when, I am assured, it will be on schedule? This suggestion has been pressed for a long time. Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he will reconsider it?

Dr. Mabon

That may help, but I should like to see the report first. I agree with the Aberdeen Press and Journal that Aberdeenshire is ripe for development.

Mr. Dewar

Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that this report will deal with the problems which will arise from Aberdeen's exclusion from Schedule 17 of the Finance Bill, a decision greeted with dismay in my constituency and which, in view of the city's heavy dependence on the tourist trade—a far heavier dependence than that of other Scottish cities—seems difficult to justify?

Dr. Mabon

I sympathise with my hon. Friend's concern, but by no stretch of the imagination could Aberdeen be called a rural area. However, I assure my hon. Friend that Professor Gaskin must take into account these and other factors relevant to the needs of the area.

34. Mr. Wolrige-Gordon

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what further plans he has to assist the development of local economy in the North-East of Scotland; and if he will make a statement.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

The whole of the North-East is a development area, with all the benefits for economic expansion which that status attracts. Professor Gaskin's study should show how best the region can exploit these benefits.

Mr. Wolrige-Gordon

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the practical developments in the economy of the area in the last few years have been the fruit of the work done before the present Government took office, and that making the whole of the country a development area was a retrograde step for local development in this kind of district? Will the Government reconsider their policy in this respect?

Dr. Mabon

I do not accept the first part of the question for one moment. In the years 1965 and 1966 1,100 new jobs were potentially provided by 705,000 sq. ft. of new factory space, which is not a bad improvement on past record. I agree that that is not enough and Professor Gaskin's study must help us on the way to even more.

Mr. Hector Hughes

In the context of this Question, what does "local economy" mean? Does it include franchise, finance and education and what else?

Dr. Mabon

That is a question which should be addressed to the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Wolrige-Gordon), but to answer on his behalf, "Yes".