§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (North Angus and Mearns)
I am glad to have the opportunity of raising the subject tonight of development in North-East Scotland. The timing of this debate is particularly important in relation to what is happening in certain places in North-East Scotland and also the general atmosphere of confidence or otherwise which exists in the North-East at present.
At the outset of this debate I express the hope that it will not become in itself too introspective. There is a terrible danger in any area where there are difficulties of talking ourselves into even greater difficulties than may exist. Therefore I hope that in this debate, which I shall approach in a constructive sense, all who participate will be able to do the same. After all our object is to help the North-East, to help our constituents, to help industry and development. I hope that this is the one aim of the debate which we shall keep firmly in front of us throughout.
While one wants to be constructive, and while one of the features in the North-East has been the degree of cooperation between hon. Members in different constituencies in relation to the troubles we are facing, I cannot help saying in passing that I was disappointed by the statement at the end of last week by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar) criticising some of the things said and some of the efforts made by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. James Davidson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell) in relation to the problem of Inverurie. I felt that it was uncalled for and disappointing because 1379 until now all of us concerned in North-East Scotland have managed to maintain a good co-operative effort—and it is a good co-operative effort that is needed.
§ Mr. Donald Dewar (Aberdeen, South)
This is to some extent a side-issue but I hope the hon. Gentleman will agree that I did not criticise the efforts of any hon. Members but criticised certain hon. Members for complaints against the efforts of others.
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
I am glad to have that explanation from the hon. Gentleman, and no doubt he will enlarge upon it later, but I feel from what I have read in the Press and elsewhere that it did not do any particular good to our cause of helping the North-East. We are viewing this situation in the North-East against a background that is very serious in two respects; first of all, in relation to unemployment. I intend to deal with this fairly quickly because the facts are known to the Minister of State as well as to hon. Members but we have to get the position in perspective.
While in the cities of Aberdeen and Dundee we have an unemployment rate of only 26 per cent.—and I use the word "only" in relation to the unemployment rate in other parts of the area—that percentage is well above the national average. But when we move from the centres of Dundee and Aberdeen we begin to realise just what high unemployment means. In my own constituency of Montrose we have a rate of 5.3 per cent.; in Brechin 36 per cent.; in Banchory 5.3 per cent. If we move to Aberdeenshire, Turriff has a rate of 7 per cent. and Huntley 66 per cent. To take two more examples in Banffshire, the rate in Keith is 7.6 per cent. and in Banff itself 7.9 per cent.
Obviously, to anyone who is at all concerned with the area, figures like these can give no cause whatever for comfort regardless of what may be happening elsewhere in Scotland. But as has been said in earlier debates on this subject in the House, it is not the open unemployment figures but the hidden figures of migration that are so serious. In the White Paper, The Scottish Economy, 1965–70 (Cmnd. 2864) it was stated that the cities of Aberdeen, Banff and Kincardine together in the ten years from 1380 1951 to 1961 suffered a net migration loss of 12 per 1,000 population—the highest figure for the whole of Scotland with the exception of the county of Galloway, for which the figure was the same.
What has worried me more than anything else in the years I have represented a constituency in the North-East of Scotland, even more than the figures of unemployment, has been the figures of migration; because unfortunately, as those who come from the area will know, it is so often the younger, more enterprising people who are leaving the area. My concern is that in building for the future, as we hope we are doing, we are losing the best people, those we should be keeping there in order to build up a successful and prosperous future. It gives me no pleasure at all to remind the House of these facts but it is terribly important for us to remember them as a background to this debate.
What has made the situation critical in recent months, quite apart from the background figures I have quoted, is the closure of the Inverurie Works, which we have been told is to take place at the end of this year. Coming on top of the situation I have described, this is an absolutely crippling blow. This is not a blow in terms of loss of jobs, though that is serious enough in itself; it is a blow to the morale of the whole area. I believe the effects of the closure go far wider than the immediate area of Inverurie itself.
All of us are bitterly disappointed at the speed with which this run-down is to take place. I do not pretend to deal fully with the Inverurie question because the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West, whose efforts we admire and support in trying to solve this difficult problem, will want to deal with it in much more detail, and is in a much better position to do so. None the less, as one representing a neighbouring constituency, I feel that it is right to say that we in other areas feel just as strongly as he does the disappointment over this quick run-down.
Equally, we are concerned that the Government are not showing sufficient urgency in the matter of proper transitional arrangements for new industry, it must be remembered that this is a big works. The type of industry we may get. 1381 because of the very short notice we have, may require special help and special transitional arrangements if it is to be attracted to the area. I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn said last week, namely, that the Government should consider declaring this a special development area, as has been done with areas where there have been pit closures and where difficult problems of redundancy have arisen in a very short time.
We welcome the extra money which has been given for publicity purposes to attract industry, but the time scale allotted will make it very difficult for this money to be used effectively. I am convinced that, welcome though this money is for publicity purposes, publicity on its own will never be enough.
I move on now from the more immediate problem of Inverurie. On the question of publicity, the North-East of Scotland has in general been fairly well served in the past. I mention in particular the very good publicity carried out by the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. All hon. Members who have had any contact at all with the board's most recent publicity programme to try to attract industry to the whole of its area, which is the North-East of Scotland as well as the Highlands, will know about the hydro-electric "Blue Fly'" operation. The type of literature, the way it was presented, and where it was distributed, did tremendous credit to the hydro-electric board in its effort to attract industry to the area. Not only what the board has done most recently but the whole of its past record is something of which people in the North-East should be proud.
More recently I have been impressed by the work of the North-East Development Committee. It held an exhibition in London a fortnight ago at which it produced some very good literature on the facts and future for industrial expansion in North-East Scotland. The committee laid out in a very attractive pictorial form the attractions which the area holds for new industry. It also detailed a number of very great success stories of firms which have done well in this area. If we can show that other firms and industries are already doing well in the area, I believe that this will be the best way to attract more industry 1382 and firms to our part of Scotland. The more success we can show the more success we shall get. In this case success will build on success.
I have dwelt on the question of publicity because what I want to show the Minister of State is that we in the North-East are prepared to help ourselves. What the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board and the North-East Development Committee have done shows that we in the North-East do not sit back and wait to be fed. We have gone out and tried to induce industry to come to the area. A particular example of this is the way in which local authorities have co-operated. In this connection I mention the city of Aberdeen and the counties of Aberdeen and Kincardine, which have joined in the North-East of Scotland Development Committee and have already launched their publicity campaign. They are working together as a body for the interests of the whole area and not just for their own immediate interests in their towns or counties. This is very important, because I have seen in other areas of Scotland that if the effort to attract new industries is dissipated between the different town councils or county councils the whole impact of industrial development can be wasted. When it is concentrated together and we have local authorities, town councils and county councils working together in concerted effort, we are much more likely to see real results than in working as smaller units.
Perhaps I might mention in passing the appointment which has recently been made of a development officer by this committee, Mr. Hutton, who comes from West Lothian. We all wish him well in his new post and hope he can carry forward the work already started by the committee he will be serving.
I want to be constructive. While I shall have certain criticisms to make later, one of the most encouraging features of recent times has been in the growth of new forms of industry based on the raw materials produced in the area. I have always maintained that if we could get industry into the area using the raw materials of that area, such industry is more likely to establish its roots in the area and stay with us, come what may so far as the general economic situation of the country is concerned. It 1383 would be welcome even if it is not producing something which is directly connected with the raw materials of the area.
An example of this is meat processing. I had the privilege of opening a meat processing factory last summer at Banchory. Another meat processing factory was opened at Portlethen nearly two years ago, and there is another one planned for Buckie in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. W. H. K. Baker). This kind of development has given employment to people in the area, it uses the raw materials, and it sends our produce south to the consumer markets in a form much cheaper to transport than by sending it in its raw state.
This is also the case with fish processing. We all welcomed the announcement at the end of last week of a new £600,000 fish processing plant at the Tullos industrial estate in Aberdeen. This is the second plant that has come to Aberdeen recently. It demonstrates that firms are taking account of changes in patterns of consumption, and so on.
One aspect of the raw materials in the North-East which is lacking so far is in the use of forestry products. We have a great many trees growing in the North-East. At the moment one could argue that there may not be sufficient timber of the right quality and type to provide raw material for a manufacturing industry of sufficient size. That may be true at the moment but it will certainly not be true in the next five to ten years. When the plantations of 20 to 35 years ago come to maturity and the thinning stage there will be a tremendous amount of timber for manufacturing industry in the area.
The Minister of State already knows that in Stonehaven the Provost has been very active, through the North-East Development Committee, in trying to interest different bodies in setting up a timber manufacturing industry. This is something that can be followed through. I have been in correspondence with the Board of Trade about it. I hope it is something to which the Government will give not only its passive support, in respect of grants and so on, but active support in co-ordinating the efforts of the different 1384 interests. The Forestry Commission must have a great interest in this because of its own plantations in the area. Perhaps more can be done to assist the potential output from these forests in order to attract industry. The raw material is there, waiting to be used. I would hope to see more action taken in relation to timber, along the same lines as the fish and meat processing development in recent times. I am not thinking in terms of big development, such as at Fort William, but there are many ways in which timber can be used.
Another encouraging development in the North-East is the university in Aberdeen. We have a well-established and flourishing university and also research institutes in the area, which would be an attraction to any form of science-based industry. I welcome the statement in Aberdeen last week by the Chancellor of the university, Lord Polwarth, who is one of the leading Scottish industrialists, outlining some the areas in which cooperation was taking place between the university and the chamber of commerce. Nothing but good can come out of this. If we can get a close tie-up between the research institutions and the university in Aberdeen it will not only help industry but provide an attraction for new industry there.
I have mentioned what I think are the encouraging features for the North-East. Unfortunately, despite these trends there is a feeling throughout the area that our part of Scotland is not getting its proper share of industrial development. There is the feeling that, in some sense, the North-East is at the end of the line. Whether or not it is justified, there is a feeling that at one end, on Tayside, we have these massive plans under way for the great new city in the Tayside area, while on the other side there is the whole question of what is happening in the Highlands. There is the special assistance available to the area through the Highlands Development Board.
This is why there there is this feeling in the North-East. As yet nothing specific has come the way of the North-East. This feeling was summed up very well in some articles last week in the Aberdeen Press and Journal by Ted Strachan, the industrial correspondent. In three thoughtful and thought-provoking articles 1385 he assessed the report of the Scottish Council for Development Industry dealing with centralisation. He demonstrated very clearly how the worries about centralisation can affect the North-East, perhaps even more than other areas of Scotland.
I would question some of the conclusions he drew. In our area we have many firms showing great enterprise and development. We have subsidiaries of national concerns which are also developing and are not showing any ill-effects as a result of their being controlled by boards of directors further south. Nonetheless this series of articles sums up the feeling of unease and concern about the future.
I turn briefly to the things which are fostering this feeling of concern and uncertainty about the future. The first, which brought the whole thing to a head, is the handling of the local works closure at Inverurie. This undoubtedly added enormously to the worry. The second area of concern, with what I want to deal in more detail, is that in those areas of development with which the Government have direct influence we are worried about whether the Government are doing all that they can. I will give two examples. One is to do with the closure of H.M.S. "Condor", the naval air station at Arbroath. I will not go into the defence aspects of this, because my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) has dealt with this extremely well in questioning the whole basis upon which this closure took place.
I am concerned about the economic implications flowing from that closure. The station employs a lot of local people, not only from my hon. Friend's constituency but from mine, too. Have the Government taken fully into account the economic implications and the effects upon employment in the area as well as the defence implications? There is a worry that they have not done so, and this is creating uncertainty about the future.
I turn now to transport. We have had uncertainty in recent months over the future, for example, of Aberdeen Airport. We have had assurances from the Board of Trade that the development of the airport and the maintenance of services will not be allowed to deteriorate, and we 1386 are glad to have them. But when we look at the wrangles taking place over other Scottish airports we naturally get worried about what may happen to Aberdeen Airport and what the future holds for its ownership. This is a question which the Government influence, and we hope to see these problems resolved. We trust that there will not be deterioration. We accept the Government's assurances but we still do not know for certain what the future is to be.
We are also worried about our road links with the south, which are extremely important. The Minister of State must not under-estimate the psychological apart from the physical importance of good road links with central Scotland. Ordinary people as well as industry use these links, and if the hon. Gentleman had been up and down these roads as often as I have he would realise that they are the lifeline of industry in the North-East. I am referring to both roads—the A94 and the A92.
Ten days ago, the Scottish Office published its roads plan. The whole future of the trunk status of these roads is uncertain. We are told that we have to await publication of the Tayside study, and it may be right to do so. But people in the North-East are getting tired of waiting. We want to know what is happening. The Government should show their hand and declare where they stand. Psychologically, good and proper road links are vital if the area is to prosper.
§ The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Dr. J. Dickson Mabon)
I am sure the hon. Gentleman does not want to do damage to the present attempts to bring new industry to the area. The transport links with the North-East are not as bad as people pretend. There are good links all round, and these ought to be a reason for new industry going there now.
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. If I gave a contrary impression, I am sorry.
I turn now to the question of rail links. We were one of the first areas to see the development of the freightliner service. This is a great success and a great service to local industry. At the same time, while our transport links, particularly those of rail and air, are good. 1387 I think there is great scope for improvement of road links, and I am not satisfied with the standard of the roads, particularly the A94. Indeed, heavy transport cannot use the A94 because of a bridge having to be closed because it cannot carry heavy traffic. I am not satisfied with that kind of thing, and I hope the hon. Gentleman is not. This is one thing we want to see put right.
I have two suggestions to make. First, when a local crisis occurs, such as that at Inverurie, more consideration should be given, and more action taken, by the Government. This would do a great deal to alleviate lack of confidence existing in the North-East.
The second point, which I make in some anticipation of the hon. Gentleman's answer, is that the Government will not, I hope, keep fobbing us off, as they have done so many times in the past, with plans that will be published in future. I mentioned this in relation to roads and the Tayside study, but it is also true of industrial development in the North-East in relation to Professor Gaskin's study, which is to be published. We wish him well, and I am sure his study will be of great help, but the Government should not fob us off by talking of plans in the future, with us always having to wait until tomorrow.
The hon. Gentleman must realise that there are immediate emergencies which need to be dealt with now. If there is to be development in the North-East tomorrow, we need action today, and promises for tomorrow are simply not good enough. The people in the North-East are hard headed and practical. We want the Government to declare their hand today.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. James Davidson (Aberdeenshire, West)
May I first say how very grateful those of us who represent constituencies in the North-East of Scotland are for the opportunity given us by the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) to have this subject debated tonight. I shall be as brief as I can, but there are certain points I feel I must make.
Reference has already been made to the attack on me in the Press by the 1388 hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar), who accused me of defeatism, among other things. I do not blame him in the least for attacking me, and I take this opportunity of saying that he has been most helpful in the crisis that has faced us in Inverurie. He has been cooperative all along. But he is an extremely loyal member of his party and obviously thought this was a timeous moment to attack the Member for Aberdeenshire, West. I do not blame him, but to be attacked for defeatism took me by surprise. To one who entered politics in Aberdeenshire, West faced by a 23,000 Conservative vote and a 10,000 Labour vote, and who started absolutely from scratch, it seems a little unjust that I should be accused of defeatism.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. With respect, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will talk about the subject we are debating.
§ Mr. Davidson
I am talking about development in the North-East of Scotland.
In return for the attack on me by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South, I shall accuse the Government of some dishonesty over the whole matter of Inverurie. I hope that the Minister of State knows me well enough to realise that I would not do so unless I had some foundation, at least in my own mind, for it. I shall briefly say why. First, in the White Paper already referred to tonight, which was debated in January 1966, a long-term future was promised for the Railway Workshops at Inverurie. Second, efforts were made to keep me quiet about the matter in advance. I do not wish to go into detail about this, but I am prepared to do so if challenged. The pretence was made that the closure was only a rumour and that publicity would force the British Railways Board into an earlier closure than would otherwise take place. I believe that in the event the precise reverse has been the case. The spotlight of publicity on Inverurie delayed the decision by about two months and enabled us to find a firm willing to come in on certain terms.
On 11th March I wrote a letter to the Minister of State from which I should like to quote. I said:The expected announcement by the British Railways Board on Thurslay, 13th March"—1389 It was actually not until the following Monday—that the Workshops will be closed in six months' time will immediately precipitate an exodus of key personnel, and skilled and semiskilled men under the age of 40.The exodus will be accelerated by the publicity campaign lined up by the Government in conjunction with the Scottish Council (Development and Industry). The vultures who are waiting to pounce on the skilled portion of the labour force, and on desirable parts of the premises will immediately be activated. Piecemeal dissection of the unit will mean the loss of the main attraction to an incoming industrialist: namely, a ready-made skilled labour force and working unit.Representatives of three firms have already inspected the works. Only one…has retained any interest. Although there is an element of risk attached to their proposals, submitted to the B.R. Board, the firm has an encouraging growth potential and worldwide marketing facilities. In my view, Inverurie is unlikely to get any better proposition.I added:The Government alone is in a position to intervene, in terms of the Industrial Expansion Act, 1968, and to provide the ' bridging' mechanism and finance which is essential to bridge the gap of one or two years between the run-down by British Rail and the achievement of a profitable level of trading by this engineering firm or by any other company.I told the Minister in the letter that meantime I had tabled a Parliamentary Question to the Prime Minister for Tuesday, 18th March. It was later transferred to the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs. I asked him to direct a competent authority in the terms of the Industrial Expansion Act, 1968, to prepare an appropriate industrial investment scheme.
Having written that letter, I was able to speak to the Minister of State, and he told me that I was wrong when I mentioned that three representatives from the Workshop floor who had been to see me at the House had said that British Rail would announce on Thursday, 13th March, that the works were to be closed in six months' time. There was only one thing wrong. I had the date wrong by three days. Otherwise everything that I said was perfectly right.
§ Dr. Mabon
I thought that the conversation to which the hon. Gentleman refers was private. I also thought that the letter he has mentioned and my reply to him were confidential. I replied to him on the Tuesday when he came to the House after the announcement was 1390 made on the 17th. We should get the sequence right.
§ Mr. Davidson
Matters which were confidential before the declaration by British Rail that the workshops were to be closed are, in my opinion, no longer confidential. That is a fair assumption. The declaration by British Rail that the closure is to take place has obviously changed the situation. Matters which were discussed in privacy before that declaration are now open and have been discussed in the Press and by everybody concerned. I shall maintain my confidence about matters which are still confidential.
§ Mr. Davidson
Thank you very much.
The Government announcement that an advance factory of 15,000 square feet is to be built in Inverurie is not unwelcome. But we shall be very fortunate if it employs 100 men or women in two years. This 15,000 square feet should be compared with the space in the Inverurie locomotive works, 170,000 square feet—eleven times as much. Possibly this factory, which the Government had up their sleeve, was to be their answer to the Gaskin report, when it is published, which will say, I have no doubt, that Inverurie should be a growth point in the North-East. Therefore, I feel—I may be wrong—that the Government will produce this like a white rabbit from a hat and say, "We have a factory already lined up".
A 15,000 square feet factory is like facing an invasion with home guardsmen with pikes: it hardly meets the Inverurie crisis. At least the invasion faced by home guardsmen with pikes never came, but I am sorry to say that the crisis in Inverurie is inevitable for the people of Inverurie unless the Government take definite action within the next week or two. I propose briefly to outline this action. There is nothing personal in what I say against the Minister of State. I have always had a great admiration for his political ability, energy, drive and 1391 sense of humour, and I hope that he will bring them to bear on the situation in Inverurie.
I tabled a Question to the Prime Minister which was referred to the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs. My Question asked for a competent authority to direct an industrial investment scheme under the Industrial Expansion Act, 1968. In reply, the Secretary of State referred me to the measures announced by the Minister of State and went on to say:These would not exclude the possibility of an industrial investment scheme if a suitable project which could qualify for support under Section 2 of the Industrial Expansion Act were put forward."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March, 1969; Vol. 780, c. 64.]The Industrial Expansion Act seems precisely to cover the situation in Inverurie. If any hon. Member thinks that I am concentrating too much on Inverurie, may I say that I am sure that those of us who know North-East Scotland well will realise that events in Inverurie, being in the centre of the North-East area, have a much more far-reaching effect than the limits of the borough of Inverurie. A real growth point in the borough of Inverurie could have effects which would rebound throughout the four or five counties of the North-East and the City of Aberdeen.
I admit in advance that a representative of my party speaking in the debate on this Act was opposed to it. The reason for his opposing it was, presumably, the same reason that the official opposition had for opposing it, which was that we did not think it would work. Now is the Government's opportunity to show us that it does work.
§ Mr. Davidson
In that case, here is a superb opportunity for it to be shown to work a third time. The Act is, according to the Preamble:An Act to authorise the provision of financial support, pursuant to schemes laid before Parliament, for industrial projects calculated to improve efficiency, create, expand or sustain productive capacity or promote or support technological improvements.Section 1(2) says:An industrial investment scheme may be made by a competent authority with the approval of the Treasury…".1392 I will not quote at length from the Act, but just quote a few relevant parts which will be of interest to the House.
Section 1(3) provides:For the purposes of this Act the competent authorities are the Minister of Technology, a Secretary of State, the Board of Trade, the Minister of Public Building and Works, the Minister of Transport…".and others.
Section 2(1) provides:An industrial investment scheme may be made by a competent authority for the purposes of any project which, in the opinion of that authority, is likely to benefit the economy of the United Kingdom or any part or area of the United Kingdom as being calculated…The Act goes on to deal with the many different ways in which such financial and other support may be given. I will not go further into the Industrial Expansion Act but, having studied it in considerable detail since the situation arose in Inverurie, I am convinced that this is precisely the sort of case that those who devised the Act must have had in mind.
- (b) to create, expand or sustain productive capacity in an industry or section of an industry; or
- (c) to promote or support technological improvements in the processes or products of an industry or section of an industry…"
I ask for the patience of the House for a few more moments while I quote from a letter which I have just written to the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs and which he should have received this morning.
I began by saying that he was probably aware of the background in the Inverurie situation. I went on to say:I believe the present state of affairs can be summarised by saying that, unless an agreement is reached very shortly with a firm interested in coming into Inverurie, the working force will disperse and the burghs's major asset, a skilled and semi-skilled labour force of 500 to 600 men with a variety of engineering and related skills will be lost.As you undoubtedly know, an engineering firm interested has put forward proposals. I believe the Government's reaction to these proposals has been that the firm are trying to drive too hard a bargain and appear to want to have their cake and eat it. My own view is that Inverurie is very unlikely to get the chance of another industry with the excellent growth potential of this firm which can eventually form a growth point for the whole North-East region of Scotland. I understand this is closely in line with the theme of the Gaskin Report which is shortly to be published. I enclose with my letter, with the permission of the Managing Director of this firm, copies 1393 of a confidential letter and detailed programme in connection with the details of the proposals to take over the workshops.I went on to say that if the company comes into Inverurie there is bound to be a hiatus for retooling and retraining of the available force.
This engineering firm to which I am referring already has considerable capital at risk in designing new projects. They are building a factory somewhere in England. They have an international marketing company somewhere in Switzerland, and they have wide contacts in the United States. The managing director has remarked to me in conversation that if Inverurie is not interested he can very easily go somewhere else. He can also sell some of his designs to manufacturers in the United States who are willing to make them. It seems to me that this is an opportunity for the North-East of Scotland, which should not and cannot be missed.
I asked that in accordance with the reply, which I have just quoted to my question of 18th March the possibility might be considered of an industrial investment scheme to underpin these proposals. I pointed out that they fully qualified for support under Section 2 of the Industrial Expansion Act.
I went on to say:Such an industrial investment scheme could make all the difference to the future of the North-East of Scotland, which is in danger of becoming a depressed area. As I see it, such a scheme would have to fulfil three objectives. They would have to purchase or lease the British Railways workshops in inverurie. Alternatively, to my knowledge, Aberdeen County Council are willing to consider purchasing the premises at a reasonable price, provided that they can be sure of reletting…Such a scheme would have to sustain such a part of the existing labour force that the incoming firm could eventually reemploy, and they could sustain it by obtaining contract work from British Rail and other sources. I had a list of several possible sources given to me by the assistant manager of the workshops. This sustaining of the labour force would merely be for the period when the retooling and retraining were in process. Thirdly, they would have to give every assistance towards the retraining programme. If the Government are willing to consider such an industrial investment scheme, I am certain that the managing director, either directly or through myself, would be prepared to give you any additional information which you may require in order to reach a decision.The Minister of State should have received a copy of that letter by now.
1394 This is hardly evidence of defeatism. I rebut that accusation. I am far from defeatist. I believe that the Government mean to do right by the North-East. This is their opportunity. If a better one comes along as a result of the publicity campaign, I shall be delighted. The fact that someone else's efforts have been crowned with success when mine have not does not make any difference. I want to see something come which will fill this gap in Inverurie and save it from becoming a dying burgh, dependent as it is mainly upon this one single industry.
Before sitting down, I would make one more point, and it concerns the airport at Dyce which lies in my constituency but serves the whole of the north-east of Scotland. The answer here is for a consortium of local authorities to take it over and run it as a joint enterprise. However, we are in some difficulty. I have raised this possibility with both sides in the situation. The Board of Trade is willing to consider a proposition from the local authorities that it should be run as a consortium, whereas the Secretary of the North-East of Scotland Development Committee tells me that his Committee is unwilling to initiate such a proposition but would be willing to consider it if it came from the Board of Trade.
We are in something of a dilemma, and I wonder if the Minister of State could not bring together the two sides in this matter and see if, between them, they cannot iron out a scheme whereby Dyce Airport, which is very important to the whole future development and expansion of the north-east of Scotland, could be run by a consortium of local authorities to the benefit of all concerned.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I must remind the House that this is the beginning of the fourth of 20 debates which are taking place during the evening. In the last two hours, two speeches between them have taken over an hour. I hope that those hon. Members who have been fortunate to be early in the ballot for places will remember those hon. Members who are waiting in the queue to speak later in the night.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Dewar (Aberdeen, South)
I want first of all to congratulate the hon. Member for North Angus and 1395 Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) on having raised this important topic. In fact, to those of us who come from the North-East of Scotland it might be referred to as this all-important topic. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will not misunderstand me if I say that, in one way, this is not the best time to discuss the development of the North-East of Scotland in the broad sense since we are at the moment in something of a hiatus awaiting publication of the Gaskin Report, which we hope will effectively lay down guide-lines for the future. While I am not so optimistic as to imagine that publication of that Report will solve our problems, I hope that it will give shape to the aspirations of the area and possibly point to future agitation. In that sense, we find ourselves in a period of transition, which makes our problem tonight a little difficult.
We have, however, the dominating local subject of the closure of the Inverurie loco works, which has been referred to extensively by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. James Davidson). I would be the first to accept that it is a very real problem, although it is one which in every sector, whether it be in the North-East or in the Government, has been matched by a real concern. I should like to think that every party is genuinely anxious to find the kind of solution which will once again put a stable employment platform under the burgh of Inverurie.
There has been a great deal of local complaint, rightly, about the way that the matter has been handled. I have myself voiced complaints fairly loudly about the attitude of the British Railways Management Board and its activities over the last few years and complete lack of forward planning for the future of the Inverurie loco works. In one sense, that is water under the bridge. But it points to certain morals from which we should learn certain lessons which should be driven home to those who have erred in the past.
Concerning Inverurie, the decision has been taken and we must all get together to solve the real problem with which we are faced. I think that we are seeing that kind of effort. We have now got a highly effective alliance, the Board of Trade, the Scottish Office, the North-East 1396 Development Committee and the Scottish Council (Development and Industry), putting their shoulders to the wheel and shoving in the same direction.
I accept, as we all do, that an enormous battery of incentives of one sort and another are already available to Inverurie. These have been backed up by what is a very intensive sales campaign. We have all seen the two brochures which have been produced, which I find effective and I hope will get some results. They are now going out to a very wide range of potentially interested industrialists who, it is hoped, will be tempted to look upon Inverurie as a possible base.
Although the advance factory has been talked down and discounted to some extent in the remarks which have already been made, I regard it as tangible evidence of the Government's faith not just in Inverurie as a continuing industrial entity, but as an expanding growth point in what I hope will be an increasingly prosperous North-East. I hope that all that can be taken as read and will not raise a great deal of disagreement.
I was taken to task by the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns for certain remarks that I made in the local Press. I thought that his lecturette on political ethics was a little prim in tone. I do not think that the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West needs anyone to defend him. As we heard a few minutes later, he is well able to do that for himself. But I hope that all concerned will consider how useful it is, at a time when we are trying to mount this kind of cooperative effort, to turn round and abuse the organisation—in this case the Government—to which one is apparently principally looking for aid.
If one is trying to arouse the sympathy of someone—and I am certain basically we have it—and trying to capitalise to the greatest possible extent on that sympathy, it is not necessarily good tactics to say that a Minister represents a discredited Government in terms of their policy in the North-East and that they are utterly inadequate and lack imagination. If these were the people to whom one was going next week with extremely ambitious and imaginative schemes based on the Industrial Expansion Act, 1968, I am not sure that this 1397 kind of snap polarised reaction to what, in all honesty, everybody must admit are at least useful endeavours in terms of publicity and money spent on publicity is useful.
I hope no one will think that I am arrogant if I say that it is dangerous to judge the effectiveness of a back-bench Member's influence upon Government policy—and here I speak about all backbenchers—which may be minimal, but I believe does exist in terms of the number of column inches on a given subject which can be obtained in a local newspaper.
§ Mr. James Davidson
On this point I have very firm evidence that the timing of the launching of the publicity campaign was unfortunate, because the firm to which I referred regarded it as a breach of confidence that the publicity campaign should be launched in the middle of a ten-week negotiation before it had been given any definite answer by the authorities regarding their proposals.
§ Mr. Dewar
I am getting a little testy with the hon. Gentleman. It seems to me that there has been a danger—and it is an understandable human trait—of the hon. Gentleman getting one solution out of all proportion. Inevitably we all like to think that our own solution is the one salvation for the area which is at the centre of our interests, but it is dangerous to argue that in some way it is a breach of confidence to try to mount a campaign to attract other interested parties before the long and protracted negotiations which would be necessary if anything was to come out of the scheme to which the hon. Gentleman has referred so extensively have been completed.
The hon. Gentleman said that he would be delighted if his pet project was not the one which succeeded if something better came along. If that is a genuine view, and I accept it is, the hon. Gentleman cannot at the same time accuse the Government of having bad timing, of showing a lack of tact, and of breaching confidence because they are taking energetic steps to consider other possibilities at the same time as they are considering a proposal which has been laid before them by the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. George Younger (Ayr)
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the Government will try less hard to help if they are criticised? I find that a shocking suggestion if it is being made.
§ Mr. Dewar
I am not saying that. I am saying—and I think that this is self-evident and reasonable—that sweeping condemnations of helpful action by the Government do not necessarily serve best the cause of co-operation in the North-East.
I do not wish to go at any length into the merits of the scheme about which the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West, has talked. I am not sure whether I would be in order to do so. Through the hon. Gentleman's good offices, and also from a variety of other sources, I have a fair idea of what is involved. I hope that this is being seriously considered, and knowing my hon. Friends in the Government I am sure that it is. All I say is that we must not think that this suggestion provides the only salvation for the area. We must not criticise the Government for seeking energetically to find other industrialists who might come to Inverurie. We must also realise that it is not necessarily true to say, as the hon. Gentleman has done, that Inverurie is unlikely to get a better proposition.
I do not think that the costing for this scheme have been worked out in any detail. I am not sure that it would provide stable employment. Without going into details, as I understand it it represents more of an open option for the prospective employer, and if we accept that the advance factory will employ about one hundred people in about two years' time, against what certainties are offered by the other scheme which has been discussed, I am not sure that the advance factory's final advantages are so negligible.
Let us by all means consider the opportunities available under the 1968 Industrial Expansion Act. I realise that in the past they have been used for schemes on a different scale. I have in mind the aluminium smelter, and also the rescue effort in the computer industry, but merely because we ask the Government to set a precedent is no reason why it should not be done. On the other hand it is also unreasonable to suggest that 1399 they are necessarily being timid or unhelpful because they do not accept at an early stage a scheme which is highly speculative and has not been costed or worked out in any detail.
I hope that we can all continue to cooperate on the real problems of Inverurie, and that we shall not jump to condemn merely because the Government cannot accede to every one of our wishes as quickly as some would like. Schemes should be imaginative, but at the end of the day they have to be practical, and practicality is something that has to be established after genuine and careful examination.
The Aberdeen Press and Journal said the other day that Government planning would be judged on the Government's ability to keep the wheels at Inverurie turning. That is probably a fair point in North-East terms, and I do not quarrel with it, but it is just as true that the North-East will be judged by the amount of co-operation that it is able to give to the efforts made to help it. The attitudes and activities of local authorities, commercial bodies, and the industrial community in the North-East will just as equally be on trial, and I hope that neither side will prejudice the effort by irresponsible condemnation of the other. We have been accused of not being interested in broadening our industrial base. Many times, responsible journals have suggested that we have only paid lip service to the need to attract new industries. This charge is not true, certainly today, but it represents a real threat to our efforts in the North-East.
If hon. Members think that I exaggerate, I draw attention to the article in today's Guardian, an impressive two-page spread on the North-East. It does not project the kind of image of the North-East which I would like to see. It says:Like Edinburgh, Aberdeen has the scrubbed severity of a woman with a bun and no make-up. It is where old men will sit on a snow-bound bench in the cemetery and solemnly proclaim the virtues of Mr. Ian Smith to each other. If it really is ' Scotland's leading holiday resort', then Scotland is in a poor way indeed.…Outsiders"—that is, industrial outsiders—"have managed to invade the North-east.The suggestion still is that we are antipathetic to these incomers. 1400The way the world is running it cannot endure for ever on a distant prospect of Balmoral…and on a notion that industry is most desirable when it consists of a respectful devotion to staghorn craft.I think that that was meant to be helpful, but I can think of no more damaging image for the North East.
Through the excellent work of the North-East Development Committee and the appointment of a new development officer, and through the planning structure which the Government have begun to construct there, we are genuinely beginning to overcome this kind of impression which has been given for too long of our area.
I used the word "defeatists" because, when people say that certain actions of the Government, and the Government alone, are disastrous, and that they are utterly unimaginative and inadequate the impression is projected that the North-east is not buoyant or hopeful or looking for industrial expansion but can only cry "Foul" and "Shame" when every one of its demands is not immediately acceded to by the Government. That would be unfortunate and can only discourage possible incomers.
I am glad that the Minister of State will be in Inverurie on Friday and I hope that then there will be a real opportunity for constructive discussions on what I accept are the real problems of the rundown of the labour force there. But it should be done constructively and not in the form of quick condemnations perhaps all too eagerly given to the local Press. The Minister of State has been of great help in this way in the past. Only the other day he was at the launching of the North-East Development Committee's brochure, and he is due to go to Sheffield, to do something for the town of Arbroath, which is mounting a campaign there. I appreciate his efforts and I hope that we shall have a constructive and helpful meeting at Inverurie and will be able to go some way to remove some of the outstanding worries.
Many changes in the North-East are for the better. For instance, my impression is that the housing projects and the housing programme generally is going very well. In Aberdeen, where there are still 5,000 or 6,000 people on the waiting list, there is plenty of leeway to overtake, but we are beginning to make progress. 1401 The planning infrastructure is going well, but I accept some of the points of the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns about roads, which are of prime importance. I hope that the Minister of State will accept that I read with some worry and indeed distress the White Paper on future road expansion in Scotland.
In an Estimates debate in the Scottish Grand Committee in June, 1967, my hon. Friend talked about the "golden triangle" and suggested that roads to the south of Aberdeen were just as important to the town as the roads into Aberdeen. But ultimately we must be linked into that golden triangle, and at present there is little evidence that we shall be.
We are told in the White Paper that the Aberdeen Stonehaven road is to be the subject of "comprehensive appraisal", but it appears that the roads south of this, whether the A92 or A94, will merely be the subject of minor improvement schemes in the period not to 1972 or 1975 but right up to 1980.
In the debate in June, 1967, it was said, in a rather airy way, that the Government would not be able to manage to make these improvements for the 1972 programme but that the 1975 one would still be available and that such further projects would be concentrated on at that time. It is now a discouraging outlook—indeed, the White Paper is no comfort whatever to the area—to see that we must wait until 1980 or perhaps even a programme after that for major improvements in the road links between the North-East of Scotland and the central belt of Scotland.
We read in paragraph 10(ii) of the White Paper:… the furtherance of planning and economic strategy…may justify road building where the direct return is rather lower than would otherwise be required…Have those words been inserted merely as a sop to the principles about which we talk so much?
With the road in its present state and with traffic split between the A92 and the A94, there is not a chance of reaching the target of 9,000 passenger car units per day, or whatever target may have been arrived at for major improvement. I still believe that, in terms of regional development, there is an enormous 1402 case for scheduling one of these roads, I do not mind which, although I would in fact prefer the inland route, in our major reappraisal before 1980. I said in the earlier debate that complaints would be noised abroad if this did not happen. The White Paper refers to the need for flexibility. I trust this means something and that the Minister will look at this problem seriously and be able to hold out more hope than the White Paper indicates.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian MacArthur (Perth and East Perthshire)
The House will be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) for giving us this opportunity to debate economic development in the North-East of Scotland.
I was interested to hear the curious doctrine being pronounced by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar). He was right to remind us that the tone of a debate of this kind is important because it shapes the image, to use fashionable language, of the areas about which we are speaking. However, I would not agree with his conclusion that we should, because of that, be polite and be careful not to offend the feelings of a fragile Government.
Our concern for the North-East should not dissuade us from calling attention, in a constructive spirit, to some of the faults in Government policy, and to some of the needs for the future and, where necessary, from being highly critical of the Minister who, being a resilient person, will not object to that.
§ Mr. MacArthur
The hon. Gentleman knows that I would not make charges of that kind.
The Minister will not expect special protection in a debate of this kind. He will not expect us to observe the doctrine "Speak kindly to your little boy"—[Interruption.]—although I am informed by my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) that I have the quotation wrong.
The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. James Davidson) gave a list of talents which he attributed to the 1403 Minister. Some were debatable, but the one with which I agreed entirely was the hon. Gentleman's claim that the Minister had an agreeable sense of humour. I support that to the hilt. The Minister has a very agreeable sense of humour, but it is certainly not with a sense of humour that people in the North-East of Scotland survey the industrial scene today. They have a sense of very grave concern about some of the events over the last few years. They share the concern which is very widely felt in Scotland about the alarming fall there has been in Scottish employment since 1965.
In January 1966 the Government produced a White Paper called The Scottish Economy, 1965–1970. My hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell) has it with him. By coincidence—I am sure it was no more than that—the White Paper was published in January, two months before the General Election. It held out right at the beginning of the document the prospect of 60,000 extra jobs in Scotland by 1970. That was the prospect for the whole of Scotland including the North-East, which was covered by a special section in the White Paper. Here we are in March, 1969, and we have seen no advance towards attaining that target. Indeed, we have seen the reverse, a steady decline, for we have lost 35,000 jobs in Scotland since 1965. The Minister of State shakes his head, but those figures were given by his colleague a few days ago in reply to Questions put down by my hon. Friends and myself.
If the hon. Gentleman is to achieve the target of 60,000 jobs next year which were offered to the electorate in Scotland in 1966, he has to find between now and next year 95,000 extra jobs to make up for the loss of 35,000 and provide for a net gain of 60,000 offered in that White Paper. I am told that I must not be critical of the hon. Gentleman. I am not saying that as criticism but to call attention to the very large task with which the Government are confronted. They have made the attaining of the target less likely by some of the unbelievable follies in running the economy of the country.
This concern is felt in the North-East of Scotland as elsewhere in Britain. I 1404 am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the opportunity to say something about my constituency, which spreads deeply into the North-East of Scotland from Glenshee, over the Devil's Elbow, towards Braemar. Perth stands as a gateway to North-East Scotland, and there are certain points of concern there to which I shall refer.
I summarise the problem by saying that there is a pressing need for new industrial development in the City of Perth. There is every reason why we should believe that Perth is attractive to industry. As the Minister knows, Perth is well placed geographically at the centre of Scotland, although at the entrance to the North-East. It is surrounded by beautiful country and has superb amenities which are hardly equalled in any town in Scotland. The local officials in Perth have made a very determined drive over the last few years to try to attract industry by the provision of sites and special financial arrangements. Perhaps most important of all, the quality of labour in Perth is outstanding.
Often the visitor to that part of North-East Scotland is surprised by the spread of industry which already exists in the city. The residents in Perth and in the surrounding countryside know only too well that there has been a disturbing decline in the number of jobs in the city since about 1962 or 1963. There has been a rundown of jobs on the railway. This was largely inescapable, but the rundown has occurred. There has been a marked shrinkage in what I describe as governmental jobs. One or two industries in the town have contracted.
In the light of this it came as a shock to learn recently of the proposed closure of the railway line between Cowdenbeath and Perth. I will not elaborate on that, because the line runs southwards rather than northwards from Perth and the T.U.C.C. hearing was only last week. One of the reasons for the concern about this closure is the fact that the motorway—the M90—which will be one of the main trunk routes to and from the North-East of Scotland, is far from completed. The Cowdenbeath-Kelty by-pass is making good progress, and I am delighted about that. The Minister is adhering to his original timetable of having the whole road completed and the Perth by-pass started by the early 1970s. However, the 1405 road is not there yet. The railway will possibly disappear, unless the Minister relents. The line was not scheduled for closure in the original Beeching plan. It is a totally new idea which has been dreamed up during this Government's term of office.
We have made one or two advances in the City. We have gained a small but promising electronics firm which I believe will make progress. We are delighted that we are getting a stake in a sophisticated industry of this kind. We have not seen the gain in industry which was held out when Perth was included in the Scottish development area. There has been instead a decline in the number of jobs in the city.
To offset the loss of governmental jobs we have gained the headquarters of the Countryside Commission, which I applaud, and a heavy vehicle testing station, which I welcome. These are small gains when set against the erosion of Government-type jobs. I look anxiously to the day when we shall be able to welcome to Perth a major decision-making body like the Forestry Commission. That is what Perth needs. I hope that the Government, in their anxiety to move Government offices out of London and other big cities, will remember that there are some very well-placed smaller cities like Perth and others in the North-East of Scotland which are ready and willing to welcome Government offices, thus relieving the congestion in the great conurbations. The small gains I have mentioned were but little comfort for the people of Perth in face of the assault on the structure in employment in the city brought about by the monstrous Selective Employment Tax. Over half the people in Perth are affected by this tax.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman, even though he comes from Perth, cannot discuss taxation in the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill.
§ Mr. MacArthur
I apologise, Mr. Speaker, for having been tempted along that path. I will leave it at once. One of the fields for large-scale development in Perth and way up through Glenshee in my constituency is tourism. Perth has made some important advances and in Glenshee there has been a remarkable development of skiing over the last few 1406 years. A rather more positive encouragement could be given to the industry than has been given by the Government.
There is one practical point on which I have written to the Minister in the last few days and to which I hope he will turn his attention. In the whole of that part of Scotland from Perth way up Glenshee and way up Strathmore through the small burghs in that part of the North-East of Scotland there was enormous interest in, and great support for, the proposal that the Tayside area should become one of the three population growth points of Britain. When this was announced to the House some years ago the widest possible local interest was aroused. We have the establishment of the Tayside Economic Consultative Council, whose report is to be published later this year. I hope the hon. Gentleman will be able to give us some indication of the latest likely date of publication and whether it is his intention to arrange for a debate on the Floor of the House on that report.
There is a continuing concern outside the great city of Dundee about the rôle which Perth and the other smaller burghs will play in the Tayside development programme. The feeling is that part of the proposal may be that these burghs should become satellites of Dundee and should almost turn themselves into long-distance dormitory suburbs. I hope that is not the intention in the Government's mind and that what we shall see instead is the orderly industrial development of these centres in their own right within a large Tayside industrial complex. That is the pattern of development I certainly want to see, building on the industry that already exists in these burghs, and building too within the sense of existing community. This is sometimes lost sight of when industrial development is considered generally.
At the end of the day it is the strength of the economy of the United Kingdom which makes local development of any kind possible, whether in the North-East of Scotland or anywhere else. I accept at once the argument that it is total economy which matters in the end; it is only from that that the local development we look for can spring. There are times, however, when I despair about the strength of the whole economy, lurching 1407 as we do from crisis to crisis every month, if not every week. In this constant sense of economic crisis in which we live, I sometimes feel that the plight and the problems of some of the smaller towns and communities are lost sight of by the Government. That feeling, I assure the Minister, exists acutely throughout the North-East of Scotland.
§ 10.7 p.m.
§ Mr. W. H. K. Baker (Banff)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar) spoke about the North-East Development Committee. That Committee does not embrace my own constituency, but about a month ago I attended a meeting called by Buckie Town Council of all the local authorities in the counties of Banff, Moray and Nairn, the purpose of which was to look at the possibilities of attracting industry to the area as a whole. The upshot of the meeting was that a committee was proposed to consist of four members each from Banffshire and the joint counties of Moray and Nairn Development Committees to form a committee to consider the problems of the area. I am sure the whole House would wish them well in their efforts; it is the kind of local effort one can only applaud.
In this connection, of attracting industry to such areas as the North-East of Scotland, I would pay my personal tribute to the North Scotland Hydro-Electric Board and particularly to their Industrial Development Officer, Mr. Bailley, for the efforts put into attracting industry to the North-East. I would also pay tribute to the Scottish Industry Development Council. As the Minister of State will know, the Scottish Council offices in London have, as a branch of their establishment, a centre in Piccadilly where exhibitions from developing areas have been held. When an association or amalgamation of authorities puts on an exhibition the Council circulates 400 to 500 firms known to be wishing to expand. I tried to persuade my county council to avail itself of such an opportunity, but it is a small and comparatively poor county and it felt, rightly or wrongly, that the cost of putting on such an exhibition, with the obvious main intention of attracting industry, 1408 was too high. I very much regret that decision. Is not it possible for the Government to give some kind of subvention to help to put on such a show?
I am coming more and more to the opinion that the best way to develop areas in the North-East is to concentrate on locally-produced raw materials—fish, meat and timber. Fortunately, there are examples of private enterprise and endeavour paying off in the area. I shall quote just two instances, both from my own constituency. First, there is the scampi factory at Buckie, utilising nephrops or Norwegian lobsters which are caught in the Moray Firth. In a very few years the factory's output has quadrupled, and it is now exporting as far afield as the United States and Canada.
Second, there is an enterprise called the Banffshire Hand-knits, organised by one person on a purely voluntary basis and consisting of heavy-ply knitting done in private houses. It started in a very small way three years ago. I am very glad to be able to tell the House that within the past three months there has been more output of heavy knitted sweaters and the like than in the whole of last year. This enterprise is also in the export field, exporting to Australia.
Those are two small examples of splendid enterprise. They are small, and we do not ask in the North-East for miracles; we do not ask, for example, for vast motor-car production complexes. But the Government, and particularly the Board of Trade, should give thought to what might be termed the fall-out as a result of the establishment of the aluminium smelter at Invergordon. There is a very short sea journey, and therefore a comparatively cheap transport medium, between Invergordon and the good harbours at Buckie and at Macduff for Banff in the Banff—Macduff area. Is it not possible that a factory could be established as a sort of satellite to the smelter to utilise the aluminium to make components for other production further afield?
To underline the problem we face in the North-East, I would like to quote the unemployment figures for my constituency for the wholly unemployed, taking no account of the temporarily stopped. The figures, as at 10th February in each year, are as follows: in 1966, 572, being 4.7 1409 per cent. of the insured working population; 1957, 675 and 5.4 per cent. respectively; and 1968, 660, representing a slight drop to 51 per cent. This year the total was 717, a large increase, representing 5.7 per cent.
But that is not the whole story. Without continuing depopulation the figures would be much higher. Therefore, in seeking to develop industry in the North-East we must solve the twin problems of depopulation and unemployment. These figures indicate the problem from the unemployment point of view. The figures for depopulation are extremely depressing reading. These are things we must concentrate on getting rid of.
There are several advance factories in the North-East already. In my constituency, there is one operative—and has been for some years—in Buckie, and it is flourishing. There is at present one building in Banff but, regrettably, no 1410 tenant is forthcoming so far. I hope that when a potential tenant is found for it what one tenant of another advance factory in the North-East called "horse trading on rents" will not be indulged in by the Board of Trade. This is a very grave charge to bring, but he assured me that it was a fact. That kind of thing can do nothing but harm in preventing other industrialists taking advance factories.
I end as I began by referring to the North-East Development Committee and by paraphrasing something said by the Lord Provost of Aberdeen in a television interview. Asked what was the biggest selling point for the North-East, his reply was simple. He said, "The labour force is second to none." I am sure that my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite will agree that this is indeed one of our greatest assets. Do not let us throw it away but utilise it to the full to the benefit of the area and of the whole of Scotland.
§ 10.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell (Moray and Nairn)
I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) on applying for the debate and on having succeeded in getting it at a comparatively early hour. In the North-East of Scotland, the present is an anxious time for many living there. The Inverurie closure has, of course, been one of the main points raised in the debate, and it has been a very hard blow to the area. Other factors too have been mentioned.
A few days ago the Minister of State spoke at an exhibition in London. The exhibition was designed to draw attention to what can be offered in the North-East of Scotland to industry. The hon. Gentleman sounded well intentioned, but what concerns those in the area is what is happening now and what the Government are doing, quite apart from the general expressions of intention which Ministers state from time to time.
Hon. Members have referred to particular problems in the area, but added to industrial problems I would point out that two naval stations are to be closed down—H.M.S. "Condor" at Arbroath and H.M.S. "Fulmar" at Lossiemouth. The latter is a very large station and, over a period of 20 years or more, has provided a lot of employment in the area. It is stated that the Royal Air Force is to take over the station, but the extent to which it will be used by the R.A.F. is still unknown. It is still undecided.
I mention this because these closures add to the uncertainly in the area, but, of course, the most worrying place and the most worrying matter are Inverurie and the closure there. I say at once that the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. James Davidson) has been extremely active over this in recent months. But, of course, the importance of the closure is much wider, as he will be the first to admit, than his own constituency. It concerns the North-East as a whole—indeed, the North of Scotland as a whole.
I was there three weeks ago. After the announcement last week I asked a representative to go to Inverurie on my behalf to ascertain for me the situation and local views, in the light of the circumstances of the closure which had just been announced. 1412 That representative and I, on our separate visits, were able to see the Provost and councillors of Inverurie as well as others concerned about the closure. This is a very serious matter affecting about 560 workers. What has made it so inexplicable to many of us is the original statement in the White Paper of January 1966, on page 128, where it is said:There is also a notably efficient railway workshop at Inverurie with 600 workers, for which a long-term future is planned by the British Railways Board.That was only three years ago, and yet some months ago the imminent closure first became known. Now there is the shattering news that the run-down is to be so quick; it is to happen at such a speed that the whole works will be closed by the end of this year. After all the talks that had been going on, those in the area had expected that there would be a reasonable period for this run-down if the closure was decided upon after all. The danger is that men will move away in order to get other work before replacements for the locomotive works can arrive.
Who can blame them? These are men who want to work. They cannot hang around for months or years waiting for alternative work. The small advance factory which the Government have suggested is no substitute—
§ Mr. Campbell
I am glad that the Minister has admitted it. It was put forward when the closure was announced as being a substitute. It has been put to me by people in the last few days trying to represent the Government point of view, that this would be a substitute. That advance factory may take a year to build. Then a firm has to be found for it. I would like the Minister to explain why the Government refuse to make Inverurie a special development area.
This, at least, was a device at hand which would have helped. The special development area was originally brought into existence to deal with pit closures. This situation is similar in every way to a pit closure. The size of the community concerned, the numbers of men to be made redundant, are very similar to those which arise when a colliery is closed 1413 down. I cannot see why the Government did not immediately use this procedure, which could have been of help. As the Government eventually changed their mind about the advance factory, which they had previously refused, I hope that they will reconsider this and change their mind.
In general the Government like to say how much money they are spending in development areas. The disquieting point is that this has not been effective. The amount which is being spent is not a measure of the results being achieved. We on this side believe that the methods to encourage development need to be changed. Money could be used to much better effect so that the regions concerned would really benefit.
§ Mr. Campbell
I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman does understand our policy, from what I have heard from him recently. It is a part of our policy to revert to a principle which we operated successfully in the past. This was to concentrate on particular points in the different areas of Scotland, on the basis that people can travel up to 20 miles to work and that that is much better than having no work. The principle is to concentrate on the places where industry will be most successful. I cannot go into this now but would be happy to take it up again on other occasions.
The principle relating to the best points at which industry will flourish and do well, was first put forward by the Toot-hill Committee in 1961/1962 and then adopted by the Government of the day. It will help, together with other methods of regional development which will be a great deal more effective than those being employed now by the Government. The question of where such points should be was quickly made clear by industry when I was a Minister at the Scottish Office. Industries made it plain that they wanted communications, supplies of electricity, water and many other things of that kind. Often those places were not exactly where 1414 a colliery, for example, had closed. However, this point does not arise in the case of Inverurie because the Gaskin report going into the matter in depth, is expected to find that Inverurie is the appropriate place as a growth point for that area.
Besides the group of local authorities responsible for the exhibition in London, a group based on Banffshire, Moray and Nairn to which my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. W. H. K. Baker) referred got together and held a conference a short time ago with a view to encouraging industry to settle and expand in its part of the world. I thoroughly commend this example of self-help. I should like to draw attention to one possibility in particular which should be explored. It relates to the aluminium smelter at Invergordon. With the easy sea communications in the Moray Firth from Invergordon, it may be possible for subsidiary activities based on aluminium to be situated at other points on the Firth. This could be a useful fall-out from the smelter when it comes into existence, and transport costs would be minimal. I hope that that will be considered.
The Minister tonight has the opportunity to give us information which will help to clarify the Government's intentions in this important area. I hope that he will not just give us a collection of platitudes.
§ 10.28 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Dr. J. Dickson Mabon)
It is never my intention in any debate to give a collection of platitudes. I had the indignity of suffering from that for nine years when in opposition, and I would not inflict it on anyone else.
In my speech at the exhibition to which reference has been made, I tried to give a few positive examples of the attractiveness of the North-East. I am only sorry that my example has not been followed in this debate. I am glad that this subject has been chosen for debate because it gives us a chance to say something about the North-East which we might not otherwise have been able to say until the weekend.
Not all the speeches have been as constructive as the sponsor of the debate, the hon. Member for North Angus and 1415 Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith), thought they would be. He hoped that I would not try to fob the House off with plans. That is rich coming from the Opposition in view of what they did in the North-East when they were in office. What alarmed me very much was the speech of the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell). People in the North-East should read that speech very closely and realise that Conservative policy means the North-East going back to what it was before 1966.
I have enough information about the North-East to know—and this is well exemplified by the hon. Gentleman's own two counties and, indeed, by the County of Banff—that it would be wrong to return to the idea of the North-East being a series of areas rather than one comprehensive area embraced by the industrial centres provided in the Industrial Development Act, which was the backbone of the White Paper of January, 1966. If right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are seriously thinking out their policy again, I would plead with them not to return to the old principle of seeking out certain areas and excluding others.
I can remember the hon. Gentleman telling me once from this Bench that my constituency was not a growth point and that none of my county was a growth point. How we resented that. If any county is developing and has developed in the last four years, it is Renfrewshire, and my own town, as a port of the Clyde, has shown that already.
In extenuation of that defence, if the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) can get in a long discussion about Perth in a debate about the North-East, I am entitled to refer to Greenock, which plays an important part in the economy of the North-East of Scotland. However, I do not say that in any spirit of complaint. I thought that the hon. Gentleman's speech was quite good.
§ Mr. MacArthur
I thought the hon. Gentleman's reference to me was quite good as well. However, he must recognise that I would not dream of abusing the generosity of the Chair in a debate of this kind. But Perth is literally the gateway to the North-East of Scotland, 1416 and Greenock certainly is not. In addition, a large part of my constituency is distinctly within the North-East area of Scotland.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
Does not my hon. Friend agree that Greenock is the exit point for people from the North-East when they want to go to Canada and America?
§ Dr. Mabon
As a matter of fact, that is not true. The depopulation of the North-East, which was extremely severe under right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite—as was proved by their own study which we published when we came to office—is perhaps the most rapid in Scotland. But the movement is to the central belt, and it is from the central belt that we are trying to reinforce Scotland, to stop that depopulation.
I accept that it would be quite wrong to return to the pre-1966 position, with certain parts of the North-East de-scheduled from industrial incentives. That position was a bad one. The arguments which have been produced in the Reports which we have discussed so far show that it is wrong to believe that we can go back to that kind of pinpoint patchwork policy. If we return to it, it will be to the detriment of many of the so-called peripheral areas. Although the hon. Gentleman called for a S.D.A. for Inverurie, he gave away this point by saying that he wants to return to a growth point area, where there is more encouragement to travel. Then he mentioned the specific figure of 20 miles. But Inverurie is 16 miles from Aberdeen. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. James Davidson) has used the argument that, if we are not careful, we could see the labour force being siphoned off by one or two interested firms in Aberdeen, who merely want men to travel to Aberdeen and perhaps live in Inverurie. That would not be good for Inverurie and I accept that.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the advance factory. We have never said that the advance factory was connected with the closure. We have said it would have been there, whether there was to be 1417 a closure or not, because Inverurie is clearly an area of growth in the North-East and a focus of growth.
I want to impress this upon the hon. Gentleman, because obviously he must have an influence upon his colleagues. It would be wrong for us to believe that we can, therefore, de-schedule other parts of the North-East because we choose Inverurie, this place, or that place. If one listened to the arguments which we used to have on the North-East Group about where the next advance factory should be, and the arguments on the Water Bill that we ought not to have unions of groups of counties—Kincardine, Aberdeenshire and the City of Aberdeen on the one hand, and Moray, Nairn and Banff on the other—one would know that they echo the fears of parts of the area that they will not be looked after by the others. That is wrong in the North-East context.
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell
I must make it clear that the hon. Gentleman is giving an impression of our policy, and he has got it completely wrong. I would not in this debate try to make a speech of a quarter of an hour or so educating him on this matter, but the sort of things that he has been suggesting as our policy indicate that he has got it completely wrong.
§ Dr. Mabon
The hon. Gentleman, who is normally extremely careful in his language, had better look at what he said tonight. He will see that he has given us all the distinct impression that there will be a change in policy, if the party opposite succeeds in being elected to office, which would significantly affect the position in the North-East. I should like hon. Members to study closely what the hon. Gentleman said to see what it means.
Since we came to office some significant things have happened in the North-East, and it is worthwhile putting some on record. This is because we have treated the region as a region, not as bits and pieces of the whole area. We have taken the whole of the North-East and made it a single development area. We have given every part of the region an equal chance of the benefits and an equal position in development status. We have authorised five advance factories, as against two in the last few years of the previous Administration. We have given 108 industrial development certificates in the last 1418 five years in the North-East as a whole against a figure for the previous five years which was about 50 per cent. of that. These 108 i.d.c.'s represent 3,058 jobs in that time—a doubling of the rate of creation of jobs.
I give the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire the point that we can double, treble and quadruple the number of jobs, but if redundancies are keeping up, or go faster, doubling and trebling does not overcome the major problem.
We have given ourselves until the end of 1970. The hon. Gentleman must not, in the middle of the game, blow the whistle and ask what the score is. He must wait until the end of the period before saying that we have not achieved our aim.
We used to have this argument about housing, but now we no longer hear it. Incidentally, on housing in the North-East, I remind the House that, as a result of discussions with the counties and the City of Aberdeen, we have managed to get all the authorities—admittedly, to different degrees—interested in housing in the North-East. From 1st October, 1964, to the end of last year a total of 13,012 houses were completed by all agencies in the North-East of Scotland compared with 7,520 in the comparable four and a quarter years prior to that. In other words, there has been an increase of 73 per cent. in house building in the North-East.
There is still a long way to go. Those who study the figures of the counties know that they have a long way to go. A lot of rural depopulation in Aberdeenshire is due to lack of houses. There is a challenge to the county councils particularly of Aberdeenshire, Banffshire and Moray and Nairn to get on with their housing and satisfy the waiting lists or they will lose people not because they do not have jobs but because they cannot get houses. That is often as important for a young man as anything else.
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell
Reverting to the question of jobs, the hon. Gentleman was saying that my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) should judge at the end of the period. The end of the period is 1970. Does the hon. Gentleman mean that in just over a year and a half another 1419 95,000 net jobs will be produced in Scotland, although 25,000 net jobs have been lost in the last five years?
§ Dr. Mabon
The hon. Gentleman used to taunt me in 1966 about the figures for housing and again in the middle of 1967. He used to say that we would never reach our tarket of 40,000 houses which we promised in the 1964 Election, or that we would not manage it by the date promised. In fact we achieved it by the end of 1967 and again in 1968. Therefore, I suggest that before he decries the Government he should give us the right length of time to achieve these targets—[Interruption.] I think I should be allowed to develop my argument about developments in the North-East which are a direct consequence of the whole area being a development area.
§ Mr. Younger
I am sure that the Minister would not wish to mislead the House. Is it not the case that he failed to meet his own target of 40,000 houses by 1966, and that he is going to fail to meet his target of 50,000 houses by 1970?
§ Dr. Mabon
It is not unreasonable to say that, but it is fair to say that these were targets which the party opposite never even had. The fact is that we have set ourselves real targets, not phoney Tory targets which one is bound to achieve, and we have dragged hon. Gentlemen opposite behind our chariot wheels and made them accept targets which, when in office, they could never achieve or even announce. I think that I have proved my point about housing. In the last four and quarter years we have seen a 73 per cent. increase in housing in the North-East.
§ Mr. MacArthur
The Minister has pronounced an extraordinary target doctrine, but earlier he made what I regarded as a very important statement. Is the hon. Gentleman giving us an assurance that by 31st December, 1970, we shall see in Scotland the creation of a net gain of 95,000 jobs over the position today?
§ Dr. Mabon
It is the Government's intention to seek to achieve the target they set in their White Paper in January, 1966, and none of the embarrassments from the other side will stop us seeking to achieve that target. If I were an English industrialist listening to this debate I should be put off going to Scotland. I think that 1420 some of the remarks which have been made tonight, and some of the criticisms which have been made about Scotland, which are supposed to be for local constituency consumption will, in the last analysis, hurt all constituencies in Scotland.
§ Dr. Mabon
Perhaps I might consider what has been said during this debate. Let us consider some of the arguments which have been advanced about locally produced products. The hon. Gentleman was good enough to give us credit for developing the fishing industry in different parts of the North-East. I do not deny that we can develop the food processing side, as witnessed by the recent changes in the industry in that respect. I could recite a long list of the developments which have taken place in the North-East in relation to the primary industries. I am in favour of the development of agriculture, and I could give examples of what has happened in this respect in the North-East. I could give examples of development in forestry. We are being urged to develop the primary industries, and I agree that this should be done, but I maintain the fundamental point about attracting manufacturing industry.
I believe that we must develop manufacturing industry which takes in raw materials from elsewhere, as happens in the rest of the island of Great Britain. I think that we must develop manufacturing industry which manufactures goods from raw materials and then sells them abroad. We must do this if we are to have a stable pattern of employment in the North-East. However much hon. Members may argue for the development of existing industries in their areas, they must argue in favour of attracting manufacturing industry from abroad and from South of the Border. This is the essence of the argument. To revert to the primary industry argument is to my mind to do a great deal of damage to the idea of attracting manufacturing industry.
I do not want to spend a lot of time on Inverurie, but I want to discuss one or two suggestions which have been made. First, I appreciate what has been said in favour of the North-East of Scotland Development Committee and its publicity. It has done well in this regard, and has worked closely with the 1421 Government and with all those concerned locally in achieving this. I give full credit to the North-East Development Committee for its publicity drive. I am sorry that this Committee and the Committee embracing Banff and Moray and Nairn are not thinking of working together, because it would be much better if these larger areas were to work as one, and not separately.
There is now in being the very good North-East of Scotland Development Committee. It works very well, and despite the suspicions of Moray and Nairn, Elgin and Banff, the fact is that they have accepted that this Group works very effectively.
There was reference to Mr. Hutton's recruitment as development officer by the North-East Development Committee. He is a first-class man and has had much success in West Lothian. He would work very well in the North-East, not only in the two counties and the City, but over the other three counties as well. I hope that the local authorities and hon. Members will consider this suggestion constructive. The hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns talked about forward plans. We will be able to discuss this when we have seen the Gaskin Report, which is now being printed and should be published in May, and perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar) will then not be so pessimistic about the roads. We want to consult all the authorities, but want to see them work comprehensively.
I enjoy being a Minister very much and I hope that I will stay a Minister for many years. But there are certain luxuries about being a back bencher which, if only for a moment, I envy. One is that he does not have to choose. Government is choice and Ministers must choose, and a choice means a disappointment for someone. I sometimes wonder whether it is not a good thing occasionally for a back bencher to pluck up courage—never mind the votes—and make a choice. This is a very clear choice—the clearest in the area—between the A94 and the A92. Admittedly, it is on Tay-side, but it is fundamental for the whole North-East.
This matter deserves a little more solemn thought, rather than simply concluding, "We will leave it to the Government 1422 and meanwhile we will embarrass them whatever they choose". This is not a statesmanlike way for experienced Members of Parliament to behave. The older ones at least should know better.
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
Are the Government not falling into the same sin of which they accuse us? First, they said that the A94 would be a trunk road, then they went back on it and then they said that they should start considering it. In those circumstances, should they be pointing the finger now?
§ Mr. Dewar
I assure my hon. Friend that I had no intention of bursting a blood vessel, but I am amazed by the representation that he is making. Will he not accept that local interests are all anxious to make a choice in this matter? I admit that there might be a conflict, there might be different points of view, but what has stopped progress are the staunch and consistent answers from the Government over a long period, to the effect that they are quite unprepared to make up their mind before the Tayside Report appears at the end of 1969. It is a little unfair to accuse us of being unwilling to take the dip when we have been so bravely and finely blocked, in the short term at least, by my hon. Friend's own statements.
§ Dr. Mabon
How sharp is the serpent's tooth of ingratitude. We have listened carefully to the arguments and have said already to the authorities—my hon. Friend does not represent them all—that we will look at the figures. His own speech showed that he could not expect to have this number of vehicles on any two of the roads at the same time. There has to be one choice. This does not mean, of course, that the other road would not have its own development.
I was asked about the North Esk bridge. The construction of the new bridge should begin in 12 or 15 months. 1423 But this does not take us out of the argument about which one of these two great roads should be chosen for the principal development. If I were in the North-East, I would not envy Perth or any of the other areas—Stirling or the South through road developments. They are an integral part of developments which must affect the North-East as well, just as we do not envy our fellows in, for example, Penrith and Carlisle who are seeking the faster construction of the M6 because of the effect that that will have on the Scottish economy.
It is true that, with my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, I shall be in Inverurie on Friday. We shall seek to discuss with the men concerned the position of the railway workshops there. I assure the House that it is as much a disappointment to me as to anybody else that the railways have reached the decision to close these workshops. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that many decisions have been taken by private industry over the years—I am speaking of decisions and plans which have been genuinely meant—but have not been sustained because of changes in commercial practice and alterations in aspects of economic development.
Inverurie is not the only area in Scotland which has had to suffer disappointment and substantial redundancy as a consquence of changed markets and commercial practice. There is no question of dishonesty on the part of the railways or the Government in this matter. There has been no cheating and the same cannot be said of the other allegations which have been made in a variety of "coloured" language.
This decision must be viewed in the light of not just the White Paper but the assessment and information of the railways. All this detail should be examined fairly before people reach conclusions. If they do that they will see the full force of the case. I am as sad as the next man that there should exist a strong case for the closure of the Inverurie workshops. Once the process of consultation was gone through, we tried extremely hard to find an alternative.
This brings me to the applicant to whom the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West keeps referring in the Press. 1424 He has not been able to tell us the name of the applicant. Nor can I. It is unfair for the hon. Gentleman to make others believe that there is only one real applicant for the workshops. It is equally wrong of him to allege that this applicant can guarantee stable, long-lasting employment for more than four years.
The hon. Gentleman scorned the advance factory idea by saying that it could not employ more than 100 men in a year's time. We are not at liberty to discuss this offer. Does he believe that the offer of which he was speaking is better than that? Is he aware that the Government are in possession of a great deal more information than he is? Is he equally aware that no hon. Member can claim always to know everything even about his own constituency, any more than a Minister can claim to know about everything that is going on in a given constituency?
Occasionally the Government know a bit more about those who are interested in going to various areas, but obviously the identity of these people cannot be revealed. For example, I noticed a remark by one person to the effect that the Conservative Party had more contacts with the business world than any of the other parties and that it should be able to find a tenant to take over the Inverurie railway worksshops.
I assure the House that I will accept any tenant, irrespective of political affiliations, who is a genuine applicant and who means to employ the 560 men involved. However, each application for tenancy must be examined and verified. Hon. Members will recall what happened on one occasion when an application in respect of a Scottish new town was not properly examined. That cost the public purse nearly £¾ million.
§ Mr. James Davidson
I accept the Minister's point that the Government often know a lot about a constituency which that constituency's hon. Member may not know. Frequently we try to discover the facts and figures, but without success. I have tried for a long time to obtain figures about the Inverurie workshops from British Rail, and particularly the figures to show why Inverurie is surplus to British Rail's workshops system throughout the United Kingdom. 1425 I have been told, for example, that the cost of bringing rolling stock and locomotives to Inverurie makes Inverurie uneconomic. Other figures which I have obtained prove that Inverurie is, or could be, one the most economic railway workshops in Britain.
I accept that there may be other firms trying to get in. If they will offer better prospects than the firm about which I have been talking, that is excellent be cause I want to benefit the area as a whole. But to say—
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gour-lay)
Order. The hon. Gentleman has exhausted his right to speak. Interventions should be brief.
§ Mr. James Davidson
I take your point, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I finish by saying that I believe that this firm will offer much better long-term prospects than 100 jobs in two years' time.
§ Dr. Mabon
I challenge the hon. Member's claim to know that that is the choice. I challenge him to discuss this matter with the sponsor and, if he is permitted, to make the facts of the application publicly known. The hon. Gentleman rests his case on something which is unknown to the public, and I am not at liberty to compare one application with another. The hon. Gentleman should not mislead people into thinking that the application to which he refers is the best one. He thinks that the London Publicity Committee of the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) is providing inadequate publicity, and attacks it for its production, which I have before me. He attacks British Rail for its production, which lies on the desks of 4,000 industrialists. He attacked the publicity campaign as inadequate.
§ Mr. James Davidson
The hon. Gentleman is incorrect. I said that the Government's measures were totally inadequate and utterly unimaginative, and I stand by that.
§ Dr. Mabon
The hon. Member is standing in his own light. He is supposed to be a good Member—and I have never 1426 believed him to be anything else—and is supposed to be trying to help us to get industry into the area. Here we have a very distinguished committee of business men in London, acting voluntarily and with substantial Government money, trying to attract industry into the area.
I want the hon. Member to agree that what is true of Inverurie is true of the whole of the North-East area. It is a good area, with a good labour force. Here is a skilled labour force, ready and able, in six months, to man a new firm coming into that area—whether in the works or part of the works—for a temporary period, until the advance factory is built. It is ready to use the works on an entirely permanent or partly permanent basis. Here is a labour force that needs jobs quickly. That is the end that we should be striving for, and on that basis I ask the House to accept what has been said in the debate.