HC Deb 22 April 1970 vol 800 cc406-8
19. Mr. Noble

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what calculations he has made of the effects of the Budget on the work of the Highland Development Board.

Mr. Ross

The reduction in Bank Rate, the permitted increase in bank lending for productive investment in agriculture and manufacturing industry, and the increase in the initial allowance for industrial building in development areas should provide useful additional incentives to industry in the Highlands.

Mr. Noble

Has the Secretary of State made any calculation as to why the large increases in cost of living and the costs of unit production are much greater in the Highlands than in other parts of Scotland? Is he not aware that this is the major problem of the Highland Development Board in trying to attract new work there?

Mr. Ross

I appreciate and welcome the right hon. Member's interest in the work of the Highland Development Board, since it was not always evident in the early days. If he looks at the reports produced by the Highlands and Islands Development Board, despite considerable difficulties—and one should not underestimate the difficulties of these remote areas —they have been making considerable progress. In relation to the Budget, I think it will be very helpful.

Mr. William Hamilton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) described the Act under which the board was established as a Marxist measure? Is it to be presumed that he is now supporting the progress of Marxism in the Scottish Highlands?

Mr. Ross

I cannot answer for the right hon. Gentleman and his conversion to support of the Highland Development Board, but no doubt he will remember that I described his criticisms as emanating rather from Groucho Marx.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

Does the Secretary of State accept that one of the greatest factors affecting the Highlands is transport costs, and that a large proportion of these results from taxation, and what is he going to do about it?

Mr. Ross

The hon. Gentleman had an opportunity to make a speech on that point, as did his right hon. Friend, during the Budget debate.