HC Deb 10 November 1976 vol 919 cc390-1
3. Mr. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many new jobs have been created to date as a result of the work of the Scottish Development Agency.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Gregor MacKenzie)

In detail, this is a matter for the Agency. I am satisfied, nevertheless, that the Agency's industrial investment, factory building and environmental activities to date will have a significant impact on both the creation and the maintenance of employment. Factory lettings alone will, it is estimated, account for over 2,000 jobs.

Mr. Henderson

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a reply like that puts a smokescreen across the work of the Agency? How can he reconcile his answer with the words of the former Secretary of State for Scotland, the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), that the Agency would produce an industrial transformation in Scotland? Does he agree that putting the Scottish Development Agency into the present unemployment situation is the equivalent of sending an army with peashooters to fight a modern war?

Mr. MacKenzie

I must say that that is one of the daftest supplementary questions I have heard since I joined the Scottish Office. The Agency has not yet reached its first birthday, but already there have been two substantial factory building programmes and investment in two major companies that will help to create and maintain jobs. We all appreciate the worthwhile environmental work that has been done by the Agency in a very short time.

Mr. Selby

Did Alexander Stephens Engineering take advantage of the offer to approach the Agency for financial assistance before it closed down?

Mr. MacKenzie

The Stephens issue is quite another matter, as my hon. Friend well knows. I know that the Agency has been able to help in Govan not only in employment but in environmental matters that are important to my hon. Friend's constituency.

Mr. Monro

Does the Minister of State realise that his answers are astonishingly uninformative and complacent? How many jobs has the SDA retained through pseudo-nationalisation, and how many has it actually created?

Mr. MacKenzie

I have already indicated how many jobs have been created or are likely to be created as a result of the factory building programme. I have indicated, too—I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have noticed this in the Press—the work that has been done by the Agency regarding Ranco Motors and only recently as regards Munrospun Knitwear of Edinburgh. The hon. Gentleman should cast his mind back to the debates that took place in the House about the Highlands and Islands Development Board. There was great opposition from the Conservatives, but my postbag is now filled with letters written by Conservative Members asking whether I can get help from the HIDB as well as from the SDA.