HC Deb 11 February 1981 vol 998 cc846-7
5. Mr. Ancram

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what consultations he has had on the siting of the Scottish Exhibition Centre; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

My right hon. Friend has not yet received a detailed proposal from the Scottish Development Agency, but when considering it he will take into account all relevant factors, including alternative sites and public expenditure implications.

Mr. Ancram

Is my hon. Friend aware of the strong feeling in the city of Edinburgh that the choice of a site near the city would bring much needed business not only to the city but to the region? Will he use all his influence to make sure that it is decided to site the centre as near Edinburgh as possible?

Mr. Fletcher

A number of hon. Members have made representations to my right hon. Friend about the siting of the exhibition centre and he will take them all into account before reaching a decision.

Mr. Steel

Bearing in mind the limits of public expenditure, will the Government also consider extending the Royal Highland Show ground rather than putting money into a completely new site?

Mr. Fletcher

As I am sure the right hon. Gentleman knows, there has been some lobbying on that project, quite fairly. In considering the expenditure implications to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, my right hon. Friend will also take into account the possibility of attracting private funding.

Dr. M. S. Miller

Although the House will not be against exhibition centres, what will be left to exhibit, other than our nakedness, once this Government have finished their hatcheting?

Mr. Fletcher

I do not share the hon. Member's gloomy view of Scottish industry. He must know that, while there is unemployment in Scotland, new jobs have been created just in the last few weeks at a number of prominent Scottish businesses, including some in the West of Scotland.

Mr. Peter Fraser

Before my hon. Friend gives in to the grandiose pretensions of some local authorities, which seem to wish to saddle their ratepayers with an expensive white elephant, will he take into account the views of users of exhibition centres, who have said, among other things, that they would probably prefer to see the Kelvin Hall expanded and improved rather than a new venture undertaken?

Mr. Fletcher

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. In engaging consultants to survey the prospects for an exhibition centre, the Scottish Development Agency has taken that fact into account.

Mr. Harry Ewing

If the Minister does not share the gloomy prospect for Scottish industry, is he really not aware of his own record in closing down industry after industry in Scotland, of doubling unemployment in the short period of 18 months, and of the fact that there are fewer job vacancies for school leavers in the Parkhead area of Glasgow and in every other area of Glasgow? What is there to be cheerful about with that kind of record?

Mr. Fletcher

The question relates to Government support for an exhibition centre in order to try to improve the prospects of Scottish industries, and that is typical of the view we take of the prospects for Scottish industry, rather than the gloomy view of the hon. Gentleman.