HC Deb 08 February 1978 vol 943 cc1440-1
9. Mr. Stephen Ross

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will now extend the role of the Development Commission by granting special investment area status to the Isle of Wight.

Mr. Guy Barnett

The term "special investment area" has no statutory significance; it is simply an administrative term used by the Development Commission, and it is therefore for the Commission to decide which areas qualify for special investment area status. However, my right hon. Friend is very anxious to extend the valuable role of the Development Commission as resources allow.

Mr. Ross

Is the Minister aware that the Development Commission has supported the Isle of Wight's call for further assistance, and that that support has been with the Department of the Environment awaiting the approval of the Secretary of State since last October? As unemployment on the island is 9.1 per cent. and is likely to rise still further, I urge him to come to a decision as quickly as possible.

Mr. Barnett

Certainly, we shall take account of that point. However, the Commission's general policy is to designate a special investment area where there is a long-term problem of rural depopulation. I recognise that the Isle of Wight has an unemployment problem, but assistance is being afforded by the construction of small workshops at Newport and by credit and advisory services from the Council for Small Industries in Rural Areas. We are also considering proposals for a three-year programme for 6,000 sq ft of small advance factories annually. I shall take account of what the hon. Member has said.