HC Deb 11 November 1970 vol 806 cc365-7
10. Mr. Gray

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what further steps he is taking to attract further industry to the Highlands of Scotland.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

Besides the more effective combination of incentives for development areas now to be introduced, the Highlands and Islands Development Board is supplementing its continuous efforts to attract further industry by a comprehensive promotional campaign.

Mr. Gray

Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to give an assurance that the powers of the Highlands and Islands Development Board will in no way be interfered with?

Secondly, in view of recent Treasury announcements, will he give a further assurance that there is no suggestion of restricting monies available to the Board for development in the Highlands?

Mr. Campbell

The measures which have been announced in no way affect the status and powers of the Highlands and Islands Development Board. Nor do they affect the system of the provision of money for purposes for which the Board was set up.

Mr. Maclennan

Will the right hon. Gentleman say why he refused to entertain the proposal of the Highlands and Islands Development Board that it should be allowed freely to invest, without his approval, sums up to £100,000? Furthermore, will he not be so doctrinaire about the cash value of the grants and loans scheme of the Highlands and Islands Development Board in the Highlands as he has been in his support of the Government's policy for the rest of Scotland?

Mr. Campbell

All these matters are now for me, following the appointment of the new Board at the beginning of this month. Since I came into office at the end of June my main concern has been reappointing the Board, because most of its members' contracts were running out.

Mr. Ross

Does the Secretary of State appreciate that the firms likely to be most quickly and worst hit by the changes from investment grants to depreciation and allowances are those in the new small industries moving into places like the Highlands? Has he not appreciated that all the evidence indicates that he ought to have fought and fought and fought against the application of this policy to Scotland?

Mr. Campbell

I am astonished that the right hon. Gentleman has not understood or even apparently discovered what the changes are. It is not simply a change from investment grants to a system of allowances and free depreciation in the development areas. Part of the change is to more extensive and larger grants under the Local Employment Acts. This is a large proportion of the replacement, particularly to assist the kind of firm, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, coming into an area because it is related to the provision of new jobs.

Mr. Ross

With respect, the right hon. Gentleman's shouting shows how uneasy he is about it. Will he consult the late Chairman of the Highlands and Islands Development Board whether he thought that it was more effective to leave the power with the Board to do it or to do it under the Local Employment Acts?

Mr. Campbell

I shall speak more softly to the right hon. Gentleman. I have been consulting a large number of persons concerned. There is no doubt, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, that there were some projects for which an investment grant was a particularly suitable kind of assistance, but grants will still be available. Grants for development under the Local Employment Acts will be there, but in addition the tax allowance system will be there, too, to help many other firms which benefit from that.

Mr. Clark Hutchison

As industry and communications are so important in the Highlands, will my right hon. Friend impress upon his colleagues the need to keep open the Dingwall-Kyle of Lochalsh Railway?

Mr. Campbell

I have noted what my hon. Friend said.