HC Deb 03 May 1972 vol 836 cc366-8
8. Mr. Sillars

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if, in view of continuing concern about employment prospects in South Ayrshire, he will state what further action is proposed by his Department to help to solve the problem.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

Within the fields for which the Scottish Office is responsible I have authorised the expenditure on public works in Ayrshire of over £6 million under the additional works scheme. I am confident that the measures to stimulate the national economy and the strengthened regional measures announced in March will also have a beneficial effect on employment prospects in South Ayrshire.

Mr. Sillars

Is the Secretary of State aware of the most recent proposals from the National Coal Board now being put to the unions concerned in South Ayrshire which will have the effect of producing large-scale redundancies and reducing job opportunities in the near future? Bearing in mind this fact, will the right hon. Gentleman send one of his Ministers to South Ayrshire for the purpose of meeting the people involved, including the local authorities, as a preliminary to his office accepting the responsibility for devising a solution to our acute problem?

Mr. Campbell

I am aware of and concerned about the future of the mining industry in the area as a result of proposals which are being considered. But provided that the National Coal Board succeeds in retaining its main customers, it should be possible to keep redundancies to a minimum. The question of ministerial responsibility for the industry lies elsewhere, of course.

Mr. Brewis

Has my right hon. Friend any information about the number of mines that were closed in South Ayrshire under the last Administration?

Mr. Campbell

I could not supply that information without notice.

Mr. Ross

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the concern and lack of confidence in the recent measures is not confined to this side of the House and that all the available Members representing Ayrshire constituencies, including the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean), had a meeting with the chambers of industry? Will the right hon. Gentleman take note of three points with which that meeting was very much concerned? The first was the inadequacy of help for existing industry under the present scheme. The second was the need for an early and generous statement about the future of REP. The third was the question of a basing point, especially for special steels, in Ayrshire.

Mr. Campbell

I note the right hon. Gentleman's three points. However, we announced recently that a Scottish Industrial Development office is being set up without delay. That can take initiatives besides dealing with grants and loans in Scotland, and we have ended the situation in which there was a difference in incentives for existing industry wishing to expand as opposed to incoming industry.