HC Deb 14 March 1984 vol 56 cc381-2
5. Mr. Knox

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

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart)

Excluding major refits, the agency built from 1975 to 1983 a total of 784 factories comprising 4.95 million sq ft.

Mr. Knox

How many of those factory units are occupied? Is my hon. Friend satisfied that there are sufficient of them to meet anticipated demand?

Mr. Stewart

Yes. Vacancy rates obviously vary over time. My hon. Friend will be pleased to learn that new lettings last year were at record levels.

Dr. Bray

Is the Minister aware that there is a shortage of higher amenity industrial and business premises, especially in areas, such as Lanarkshire, which have not been as successful as other areas in attracting new industry? Will he consider discussing with the SDA whether the types of factory building and industrial estates being developed are appropriate to attract the wider range of business that the older industrial areas need?

Mr. Stewart

I am sure that the agency will note what the hon. Gentleman has said. It has an excellent record in meeting the demands of the market place, including those for higher amenity factories. The hon. Gentleman will be interested to know that currently the agency has 225 units under construction, providing more than 500,000 sq ft of factory space.

Mr. Corrie

Is there a system whereby a customer can discuss with the SDA a specific type of factory that he might require for his purposes? Rather than take over a factory that has to be changed or renovated, would it not be better to use the finance to build a factory specifically designed for a business?

Mr. Stewart

Obviously, the agency believes that the customer must come first. It is geared to anticipating and satisfying market demands as necessary.

Mr. Kirkwood

I accept that the factory building capacity and ability of the SDA are welcome as far as they go, but is the Minister aware that some of the factories that it is developing are not necessarily the most appropriate assistance for rural areas? Is the hon. Gentleman further aware that it is galling for people in Roxburgh to listen to a Border Television news programme explaining what the Council for Small Industries in Rural Areas in England is doing to assist, for example, village shops, when such powers are not available to the SDA? Will he redress that anomaly forthwith?

Mr. Stewart

The agency has as good a record in providing appropriate factory space in rural areas of Scotland as it has in industrial areas.