HC Deb 19 July 1978 vol 954 cc526-8
16. Mr. Nicholas Winterton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about the position of Lewis Offshore Ltd., in the Western Isles.

Mr. Gregor MacKenzie

The Government have considered a number of proposals, but in the absence of orders no solution has emerged which would provide a secure future for the yard. I understand that virtually all the remaining employees were made redundant on 30th June but that the company is keeping the yard on a care and maintenance basis in the hope of attracting further orders.

Mr. Winterton

Is the Minister aware that the problems of Scotland are not the sole prerogative of those who live in Scotland or of those who represent Scottish constituencies? Is he aware that a Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee visited Scotland and the Western Isles, and is deeply concerned about the problems of employment in the Western Isles? Will he also appreciate that Lewis Offshore Ltd. is vital to the future prosperity and well-being of the Western Isles? Bearing in mind the Government's considerable involvement in North Sea oil through BNOC, will he ensure that orders by BNOC are brought forward to ensure that Lewis Offshore Ltd. continues to play a part in the life of the Western Isles?

Mr. MacKenzie

I take the hon. Gentleman's first point. Any hon. Member, irrespective of where he comes from, is entitled to be interested in Scottish affairs. Indeed, as we have always said from the Dispatch Box, we want to preserve the economic integrity of the United Kingdom. I noted the fact that the hon. Gentleman finds a great deal in favour of BNOC, which indicates his support for nationalisation, but I am bound to say to him that I cannot ask BNOC to direct work to any particular yard in that way. The hon. Gentleman will know that there is a shortage of orders and that a number of yards in Scotland are in competition. It would be very wrong for the Government to try to direct anyone to a particular yard.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there was great anger and frustration in the area over the failure of the Government to provide the very modest sum that was required to keep the yard going until order business picked up? Is he aware that within two months the unemployment rate has doubled, from 6 per cent. to 12 per cent.? Will he bear that in mind?

Mr. MacKenzie

The right hon. Gentleman might give the Government a little credit for the fact that a great deal of Government money was put into this facility in the first place. He might turn his attention and his criticism to those in the company who are responsible for this situation. After all, we in Government have given considerable financial assistance in order to provide employment in Stornoway.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that while there is great disappointment at the final results at Lewis Offshore Ltd., there was a great deal of appreciation for the work done in making available to the company the possibility of tenders when work becomes available? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that Lewis Offshore Ltd. was offered temporary employment subsidy, but that this could not be given because the company refused to withdraw its redundancy notices?

Mr. MacKenzie

I indicated to the company, as did my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, that the temporary employment subsidy was available. I also indicated this fact when I met the Lewis action group, but the company did not take this up because it was not prepared to accept the conditions connected with the temporary employment subsidy.