HC Deb 24 October 1979 vol 972 cc400-2
5. Mr. Strang

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with the Scottish Development Agency following his speech in the Scottish Grand Committee on 17 July; and if he will now make a statement on the Agency's policy towards direct investment in industry.

Mr. Younger

I have had full and helpful discussions with the Agency, and we have reached a very large measure of agreement on the form of the Agency's activities in the future. I hope to make an announcement shortly, when remaining points of detail are settled.

Mr. Strang

Is the Secretary of State aware that, bad as are the changes foreshadowed in the Industry Bill, much more damaging would be any attempt by the Government to curtail industrial investment in Scotland by the Agency? Surely he accepts that it would be doctrinaire madness to curtail investment at a time when there will be a massive slump in employment and investment in some of our major industries in Scotland.

Mr. Younger

When the hon. Gentleman discovers what we announce about the new guidelines, he will find that there is no discouragement whatever to the agency from investing in viable projects which will be helpful and produce good, solid jobs for the future.

Mr. Buchan

Surely the Secretary of State would agree that the biggest problem now facing investment in Scotland is the stupid and reactionary decision of the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday to permit a complete and unprohibited outflow of capital. This was precisely the malaise in the 1950s and 1960s. Given that kind of haemorrhage, how does he exonerate his own behaviour in crippling the investment prospects of the SDA?

Mr. Younger

I have in no sense crippled the investment prospects of the SDA. As a matter of fact, it will have in the current year approximately 16 per cent. more to spend in real terms than it spent last year under the previous Government.

Mr. Douglas

Following the question by my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan), would the Secretary of State care to indicate the value of the Agency's office in New York, in view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's decision yesterday? How does the Secretary of State hope to induce direct investment into this country from the United States after such a decision? The transfer of funds will now be in the opposite direction. This is an insult to the Scottish people. What action did the Secretary of State take in the Cabinet on this matter?

Mr. Younger

If the hon. Gentleman wishes to ask a question about the announcement made yesterday by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he will no doubt table a question to the Chancellor in the usual way. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher) has recently visited New York and tells me that the SDA's operations there are going extremely successfully.

Mr. Harry Ewing

Does not the Secretary of State's answer illustrate the sheer hypocrisy of the Secretary of State and his junior Minister in running around all over Scotland, seeking to spread hope where none now exists as a result of the actions of the Secretary of State on the Scottish Development Agency? How on earth can the Secretary of State justify reducing the investment capabilities of the SDA from £2 million to £1 million, and cutting its budget by £17 million?

If the Secretary of State is so interested in saving money, it would have been better had his Under-Secretary of State stayed at home answering the parliamentary questions that took him 13 weeks to answer, rather than going to America, to which the capital will flow from Scotland. We shall not get any inward investment as a result of the decisions made by the Secretary of State and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Younger

If I had to choose between going round Scotland spreading hope and going round Scotland with the hon. Gentleman, spreading gloom, I am glad to say that I should choose the former of the two courses.

Mr. Speaker

May I say in passing that it is unparliamentary to accuse anyone in this House of being a hypocrite. It is well known that there are no hypocrites here. We must find other words with which to express our emotions.