HC Deb 27 July 1988 vol 138 cc400-1
11. Mr. McKelvey

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he has taken to speed up the process of settling applications and claims for payment of regional grants.

Mr. Lang

A large intake of applications and claims were received in the period just before the scheme was closed to new applications. Additional staff have, therefore, been deployed in the regional development grants office in Glasgow. The number of cases dealt with is running at record levels, but some delay to applicants is unfortunately inevitable.

Mr. McKelvey

The Minister will recall that I wrote on behalf of Forbes and Whiteford Ltd. in my constituency —a small but successful firm—which has been held up for several months. Its application has been forwarded and it is waiting on the cheque. I appreciate that extra staff have been employed in the office to issue the cheques, but does the Minister share my anxiety that if small firms do not receive the money that they need up front for their small expansions there will be job losses? The number might be small, but they will be vital jobs that we require in areas such as Kilmarnock. Will further staff be deployed so that we can reduce the waiting time to weeks rather than months?

Mr. Lang

I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern, and I appreciate the difficulties confronting small firms. More than one year's applications were received by the Department within about three months. The case to which the hon. Gentleman refers is being considered at this time.

Mr. Oppenheim

Would not more of the same reach the right parts faster if it were not for the regional policies of the TGWU, which seems to put the interests of its members in the prosperous south ahead of those of the unemployed in Dundee, but whose sponsorship money Opposition Members still seem keen to take?

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is also a cause of considerable regret that while the TUC supports the introduction of the employment training scheme, the STUC is resisting the scheme, which is designed to help the long-term unemployed in Scotland.

Mr. McLeish

Does the Minister not accept that the RDG fiasco is another example of the mismanagement of the Scottish economy? Will he tell the House how many applications are still outstanding and when the backlog is likely to be cleared?

Mr. Lang

A considerable number of grants are outstanding. It is impossible to give the hon. Gentleman an exact figure, because of the movement that is taking place. I can tell him that over the past four months 2,000 cases have been cleared and that the clearance rate will accelerate further at the end of the holiday season.