HC Deb 28 March 1984 vol 57 cc274-5
4. Mr. Bruce

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many grant applications were approved (a) in England and Wales and (b) in Scotland under section 8 of the Industry Act for the last financial year; and what was their total value.

The Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry(Mr. John Butcher)

In the last financial year, 106 offers of assistance totalling £11.1 million were made to companies in Scotland under section 8 of the Industrial Development Act 1982. The figures for England and Wales were 1,748 offers worth some £84.5 million in total.

Mr. Bruce

Does the Minister acknowledge that a high proportion of those offers were made to firms and regions which already qualify under section 7? In the revised regional policy put forward in the White Paper, will the Minister give priority to section 8 applications from companies not in areas which already benefit so that projects will not be lost to the United Kingdom, as might otherwise happen?

Mr. Butcher

Section 8 assistance is available on a national basis, using impartial criteria such as additionality and viability. There is no discrimination within that scheme against any region. Whether an application comes from an assisted area is not taken into account.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my hon. Friend agree that the figures show clearly that the Government are still pursuing a policy which means that Scotland is getting more than its share relative to the United Kingdom population?

Mr. Butcher

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Scotland has 8 per cent. of its population employed in manufacturing, it is receiving 13 per cent. by value of section 8 offers. Scotland is doing very well from section 8 facilties.

Mr. Eastham

Is it not a fact that there are no clear criteria dealing with section 8? Do not the Government, therefore, always say that they reserve their position? What issues are involved when the Government talk about projects of national significance? How can authorities know if they come within the criteria?

Mr. Butcher

The criteria are clearly documented and well known to our officials in the regional offices. They are communicated to all applicants, who are given impartial and objective guidance on their chances of compliance with the criteria.

Mr. Shore

Is it not true that the selective assistance under section 7 has been smaller during the most recent year than it was four or five years ago, both for Scotland and throughout Britain as a whole? What provision has been made — whether an increased provision, a static provision or a declining provision — in the public expenditure White Paper for sction 7 expenditure during the next three years?.

Mr. Butcher

It is a question of a balance between automatic and discretionary assistance. Discretionary assistance includes sections 7 and 8. That will be tackled through our White Paper, which will be available for true consultation on the assisted area policy generally.

I take this opportunity to point out that, if we add section 7 and section 8 grants together, Scotland receives 28 per cent. by value of the discretionary assistance available to the United Kingdom.