HC Deb 05 December 1984 vol 69 cc343-4
9. Mr. Millan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on his Department's aid to industry.

Mr. Younger

As announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 28 November, responsibility for the administration of regional development grant in Scotland is being transferred from the Department of Trade and Industry to the Scottish Office. My Department's funding of both the Scottish Development Agency and the Highlands and Islands Development Board is being maintained at very high levels.

Mr. Millan

Is the Secretary of State aware that, even with the present disgracefully high levels of unemployment in Scotland, there are still shortages of skilled labour? That being so, does he agree that it is scandalous that there should be proposals to close skillcentres, including one in my constituency? As he is one of the Ministers directly responsible for the Manpower Services Commission, will he ensure that those proposals—the case for them is argued on the flimsiest grounds, as I have seen from the paper that is to go to the MSC on 13 December—are withdrawn and the skillcentres allowed to get on with the job which they are so well equipped to do?

Mr. Younger

I appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman says about the centre in his constituency, and I agree that those who work in these skillcentres are dedicated people, who have done good work for a long time. However, if the right hon. Gentleman carefully studies the papers that he has been given he will find that the amount and the quality of the training that is to be done is not being reduced, but increased. All that we are trying to do is to get the premises and buildings put into line with modern training conditions, and this is long overdue.

Mr. James Hamilton

Will the right hon. Gentleman recognise that the Government's policies on trade and industry are doing nothing for the people in Lanarkshire? Is he aware that in my constituency there were 32 liquidations last week? Is he also aware that in my constituency a skillcentre is closing in Bellshill? Bearing in mind that over 20 per cent. of our people are unemployed, is it not time that the Government took their finger out and did something about the unemployed and about helping to train unskilled people?

Mr. Younger

I think that it is an annexe of the skillcentre that is due for closure in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. The amount and the quality of training have increased. We are merely trying to get the type of premises brought up to date. As to regional support in general, the hon. Gentleman will know that Lanarkshire has had many important new developments, and he has warmly welcomed some of them in the House.