HC Deb 11 December 1974 vol 883 cc500-2
12. Mr. Gordon Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress is being made in the establishment of the Scottish Development Agency and whether he will make a statement on its proposed scope and powers.

22. Mr. Reid

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what projection he has made of the first year's operating budget of the Scottish Development Agency.

Mr. William Ross

I have nothing to add to my replies to the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) on 10th December.

Mr. Wilson

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that considerable concern has been expressed in Scotland about reported interdepartmental disagreements between the Scottish Office and the Departments of Trade and Industry in respect of the functions of the Scottish Development Agency? Is it possible for the right hon. Gentleman to assure the House that he has achieved victory if there have been disputes, and that the agency or his own office will take over the functions that have so far been exercised by the Department of Trade and Industry within Scotland, as well as the economic planning facilities that his Department presently enjoys?

Mr. Ross

I very much welcome the hon. Member's confidence in the Labour Party's policy in respect of the Scottish Development Agency, although it is rather belated. He should not believe all that he reads in the papers, and he should be a little sceptical even about things that he says himself.

Mr. Reid

Is the Secretary of State not aware of the growing concern in Scotland, which he has done little to allay, that the Scottish Development Agency will become little more than a powerless offshoot of the NEB? Is not the best way to allay such doubts to state clearly that the assembly will have full powers over trade, industry and development, and direct financing of North Sea oil?

Mr. Ross

The hon. Member should cease his speculation about rumours. We shall be publishing soon a consultative document which will be available to everyone. We shall be grateful for constructive criticism from all parts of the House in respect of it.

Mr. Sproat

Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to see that whatever the document may say he will ensure that the SDA takes as one of its main functions the direction of finance to the north-east of Scotland to get the infrastructure under way—it is at present behind schedule— and to relieve the excessive burden on ratepayers which has been brought about because local authorities cannot cope with the financing?

Mr. Ross

At the moment it is not money which is required in the north-east of Scotland but a proper organisation of resources. It is no good the hon. Member's telling me about housing being needed in the north-east of Scotland today. It should have been provided three years ago, when his right hon. Friends were in office. The regeneration of Scottish industries is an immense task and that does not apply particularly to any one part of Scotland.

Mr. Sillars

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the latest Press rumour that I read about the inter-departmental row is that he has won the battle? If that proves correct, is he aware that all of us on this side will be delighted, and some hon. Members opposite will be disappointed?

Mr. Ross

I ask my hon. Friend to be patient. All will be revealed in due course.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that what is needed in Scotland is cash to modernise old industry and create new jobs? Is this agency to become simply a vehicle, through the NEB, for an extension of public ownership which neither will create new jobs nor is wanted in Scotland?

Mr. Ross

The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood the purpose and idea of the SDA. I suggest that he reads again what we said in our manifesto about it and clears his mind.