HC Deb 19 December 1979 vol 976 cc614-7
10. Mr. James Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when next he will meet the chairman of the Scottish Development Agency.

Mr. Younger

My hon. Friend with responsibility for industry and education and I have already had preliminary meetings with Mr. Duthie and expect to meet him regularly in the future.

Mr. Hamilton

Many of us on the Opposition Benches congratulate the new chairman and wish him well in his difficult task. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the new chairman that the visit to America of the Under-Secretary of State was a disaster, according to reports in the press? The hon. Gentleman played down the work of the Scottish Development Agency, which did not do it a service. In view of the new Government guidelines, will the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that the Under-Secretary will not be breathing down the neck of the chairman and the board, and will allow the Agency to get on with the work of rejuvenating Scottish industry?

Mr. Younger

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his good wishes to Mr. Duthie. My hon. Friend's visit to America was an outstanding success. He met a number of important firms with investment opportunities in Scotland. I assure the hon. Gentleman that my hon. Friend will, as before, carry out his duties with strict regard to what he is entitled to do by statute.

Mr. Ancram

Can my right hon. Friend confirm with the new chairman that under the new investment guidelines the SDA will no longer be able to subsidise inefficiency or promote subsidised unfair competition as in the past?

Mr. Younger

My hon. Friend can be assured that the new guidelines make it clear that the Agency's investment functions will be much more likely to be efficiently managed with technical skill in investment matters, which will ensure what my hon. Friend has suggested in his question.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Will the Secretary of State accept that the SDA has been a glorious success in its ability to attract jobs and industry to Scotland? Does he agree that Scotland now has a major advantage, as against the Northern region, in its ability to attract jobs and industry for the future? Will the right hon. Gentleman try to sell the idea of a development agency for the Northern region to the Secretary of State for Industry?

Mr. Younger

That is a matter that the hon. Gentleman must take up with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry. I agree that the Scottish Development Agency and those who work in it are doing a good job. The functions that were inherited from several bodies that have been in business for a long time in Scotland have been carried out extremely efficiently. I and my hon. Friend will give the Agency our support to do an even better job in future.

11. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many new factory units have been built by the Scottish Development Agency since its inception.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

Since it was set up in December 1975 the Scottish Development Agency has completed a total of 177 factory units providing some 2.5 million sq ft of factory space.

Mr. Knox

Can my hon. Friend tell us how many of these units have been sold? Has he given the SDA any guidance about whether its attitude to such sales should be active or passive?

Mr. Fletcher

I am not aware of how many units have been sold. I believe that the majority of this accommodation is rented. I agree with my hon. Friend that it would be in the public interest if more sales of these factories could be to their occupants.

Mr. Dewar

Will the Minister impress upon the Scottish Development Agency the importance of looking at existing industrial sites for factories? Has he had any discussions with the SDA about the Singer site at Clydebank? What progress has been made with the Government's plans for some sort of rescue operation in that hard-hit area?

Mr. Fletcher

My right hon. Friend and I have asked the Scottish Economic Planning Department, in conjunction with the SDA and the local authorities, to prepare a working plan for the Clydebank area. We hope that the findings of the group on this project will be available shortly.

Mr. Budgen

When my hon. Friend next sees the officers of the SDA will he remind them that in all their work, whether it is building factory units or otherwise, they should stick to the tight guidelines that have properly been imposed upon them? Will he remind them that there are wider implications than the purely Scottish one, in that they are spending money from the taxpayers of the whole of the United Kingdom, and one of their objectives is to take jobs and investment away from places such as Wolverhampton, which was once prosperous?

Mr. Fletcher

As my right hon. Friend said, the SDA has accepted the new guidelines that we have presented to it. We have every confidence that it will cooperate with us in making sure that the guidelines are carried through successfully.