HC Deb 24 October 1979 vol 972 cc405-7
9. Mr. Foulkes

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will estimate the effect on unemployment of the reduction in status of the Girvan employment office area from special development area to development area status.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

No, Sir. It is not practicable to isolate in this way the effect of regional policy changes for small local areas where employment prospects can be heavily influenced by individual industrial developments.

Mr. Foulkes

Is the Minister aware that, at a meeting which representatives of the local district council and I had with the Department of Industry, it emerged that two mistakes had been made with regard to factors affecting this area? The Department had used a seasonal unemployment level which was unusually low, and it also had wrong information about the possibility of a mine being sunk in the area. In view of these factors, the Department agreed to review the position. Will the Minister indicate when the review is likely to be completed and when I may expect an announcement whether this area is to have a change in its status?

Mr. Fletcher

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that in July, when the initial announcement was made about the changes in regional policy, it was said that all areas which had been downgraded would be reviewed at the end of three years before the final decisions were taken. In that context, I take it that he is referring to the representations that he has made to the Department of Industry, all of which will be taken into account before a final decision is taken at the end of three years.

Mr. Robert Hughes

The Under-Secretary said that changes in status are to be reviewed. When will the special inquiry into the Aberdeen area begin work and how soon does he expect it to report?

Mr. Fletcher

As I said, there is a constant review of the changes in regional policy. The position in Aberdeen will be included in that review. The authorities in Aberdeen, as in other parts of Scotland, have been assured that the matter will be considered finally at the end of the period.

Mr. Strang

Is the Minister aware that his Department might have difficulty in isolating the effects of the changes in Girvan, but what is certain is that the downgrading of Edinburgh will have a massive and disastrous effect on the level of primary and industrial investment in that city in the years ahead. Surely, after all the statements that he and his colleagues made in Edinburgh about the Labour Government discriminating against Edinburgh in favour of Glasgow, it is time that they did something to reverse this decision.

Mr. Fletcher

The hon. Gentleman will know that the purpose of the exercise was to give maximum help to those areas of Scotland in greatest need. Scotland now has 37 per cent. of the population of special development areas in the United Kingdom compared with 30 per cent. previously, Comparing the position in Edinburgh with all its problems with Glasgow and the West of Scotland, we, and I as an Edinburgh Member, must accept that Glasgow needs the greater amount of aid, and that is what the policy is aimed at.