HC Deb 27 April 1988 vol 132 cc341-2
10. Mr. Hind

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to assist in the development of the Fort William ski area and further development of the Glencoe ski facility; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lang

The Government's policy is that ski development should be initiated and led by the private sector. We are ready to assist, through our agencies, any viable proposals that are put forward.

Mr. Hind

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. I recently spent some time in the Scottish ski resorts—[Interruption.] Is my hon. Friend aware that those ski areas have tremendous potential for tourism and the creation of jobs, and that that potential is not being pursued in certain areas? Will he confirm that the way to deal with that problem is through private sector-led activity? The Fort William development is typical of places where jobs could be created for the betterment of the people of Scotland.

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I was delighted that he was able to benefit from Scottish skiing facilities and I hope that many Englishmen will benefit from them in the future. As regards the development of skiing in the Aonach Mor area, my hon. Friend is right in saying that it is important to have private sector input in any forthcoming development. The previous development plans included 84 per cent. funding from the public sector. Clearly that figure was too high for a project that then had questionable viability. We are, of course, prepared to consider further propositions.

Mr. Harry Ewing

Will the Minister arrange to transport all the Conservative district council candidates to the ski slopes of Fort William and Glencoe so that they can get plenty of practice for the massive slide that they will take next Thursday in the district council elections as a result of the poll tax, cuts in housing benefit and the suffering inflicted on the people of Scotland?

Mr. Lang

I do not believe that that question is worthy of an answer.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Will my hon. Friend remind the hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing) that skiing is one of the fastest-growing participant sports in Scotland? I am sorry that Opposition Members do not enjoy it. Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that where developments take place it is important that they are on a sufficiently large commercial scale so that any developer can properly fulfil his financial obligations in maintaining the environment of the area?

Mr. Lang

My right hon. Friend makes a valid point. Skiing in Scotland is a fast expanding sport, just as Conservative participation in district councils will be fast expanding after next month.

Sir Russell Johnston

Is the Minister aware that both the skiing areas that have been mentioned are in my constituency? It might have been a good thing if he had told his hon. Friend the Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind) that an expansion at Aonach Mor would have been in operation now had the Government taken the positive action towards that development that his hon. Friend appears to be urging upon him.

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend urged upon me the strong involvement of the private sector. The hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) will remember that the previous proposition involved 84 per cent. of public money and the cost per job would have been between £60,000 and £80,000. Given the questionable viability of that plan, that would not have been a desirable use of public funds.