HC Deb 30 April 1986 vol 96 cc927-8
10. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what has been the total expenditure by the Scottish Development Agency since its inception.

Mr. Rifkind

The Scottish Development Agency has spent a total of over £940 million in the period since it was formed in 1975 up to 31 March 1986.

Mr. Knox

Will my right hon. and learned Friend say what the agency has spent, a year on average, under the Government and how it compares with the average spent each year under the Labour Government?

Mr. Rifkind

The average annual spend of the SDA under the present Government is £109 million, against a figure of £44 million under the previous Government.

Mr. Millan

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman take this opportunity to correct the impression, which seems to be prevalent in many parts of Scotland, that other worthwhile projects are being abandoned because of expenditure on the Glasgow garden festival? Is it not true that the SDA's allocation is not adequate to enable it to take up all the worthwhile projects put to it? That problem has nothing to do with the festival. An increased allocation is needed for the SDA.

Mr. Rifkind

The right hon. Gentleman is half right and half wrong. He is correct in that the SDA has emphasised that the garden festival is in no way interfering with its allocation of expenditure. The SDA has expressed that view more than once. This year the agency will be able to spend more than £136 million, which is more than in any previous year.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my right hon. and learned Friend realise that a substantial part of the vast sums which the SDA has been authorised to spend have been spent in the Dundee area? Is he aware that one of my constituents, who runs a large timber, haulage and carpentry business, recently advertised twice in the Dundee Courier and Advertiser for joiners but was unable to get a single applicant?

Mr. Rifkind

My hon. Friend is correct to say that the remit of the Scottish Development Agency extends throughout Scotland and includes Dundee and rural areas, both in my hon. Friend's constituency and elsewhere.

Mr. Home Robertson

Why have the Government rejected the call by COSLA and the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs for an SDA rural development fund? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware of the urgent need for the development of jobs and services in rural areas in Scotland? As the Tory Government evidently know little and care less about the rural areas in Scotland, I take this opportunity to give the Secretary of State a copy of Labour's new charter for rural areas.

Mr. Rifkind

We did not accept the proposal for a rural fund for the simple reason that we already spend in Scottish rural areas over 10 times more than the size of the proposed rural fund. Frankly, although it is easy to talk in terms of funds, the resources available to the farming community and those elsewhere in the rural areas are much more important. The hon. Gentleman should be the first to appreciate how well farmers do as a result of the Government's decisions.

Sir Russell Johnston

I should like to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman essentially the same question that was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy) about the Highlands and Islands Development Board, which he failed to answer. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give us a clear yes or no? Is he, or is he not, in favour of expanding the activities of the state funding of enterprise through the SDA and the HIDB?

Mr. Rifkind

I have already pointed out that the SDA has received more funds under this Government than under their predecessors. The HIDB has also received substantial resources. The hon. Gentleman should draw his own conclusion from the facts.

Mr. Forth

Given my right hon. and learned Friend's confidence in the SDA's success, is he prepared to recommend to his Cabinet colleagues that we set up similar bodies in the rest of the United Kingdom, starting, I hope, with the west midlands? Is he prepared to recommend that resources similar to those given to the SDA are given to all such similar bodies, to give every region a fair crack of the whip?

Mr. Rifkind

The SDA's successful achievements have been recognised not simply by Scottish Members but by the former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry—my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan)—and other hon. Members. It is for Members representing other constituencies to put the views that they think appropriate.