HC Deb 09 November 1988 vol 140 cc299-300
11. Mr. Doran

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he proposes to take to encourage the presence of business headquarters in Scotland in advance of the single European market; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lang

Through Locate in Scotland the Government continue successfully to encourage companies to establish themselves in Scotland. Many such companies have already set up headquarters for their manufacturing facilities in Scotland in order to serve European markets; and 1992 offers further opportunities for such developments.

Mr. Doran

Perhaps the Minister will agree with me that although it is important to attract new industry to Scotland, it is important also to protect local and indigenous industry. Is he aware that this afternoon the Hall Russell shipyard in my constituency has been forced to bring in the receiver, thus putting at risk 450 jobs and the only remaining shipyard on the east coast of Scotland? Will he join me in encouraging the Overseas Development Administration to allow the yard sufficient draw-down facilities to ensure the completion of the St. Helena ferry, which is now under construction, and assist us in our aim to retain the yard as a viable unit under the receiver, with a view to a successful purchase in future?

Mr. Lang

I have noted with concern and regret the decision of Hall Russell to call in a receiver this afternoon. I hope that the difficulty will prove to be transitional. The ODA will wish to be in touch with the receiver because of its interest in the St. Helena ferry. The ODA stands ready to give whatever help it can to secure the future of the yard.

Mr. Oppenheim

Has my hon. Friend seen the recent figures that show that the output of the Scottish electronics industry has expanded by one third in the past five years and that the number of skilled technical graduates employed in the industry has increased by no less than 25 per cent.? Of the foreign investors that are investing in the industry, American and Japanese companies predominate. All this is excellent news, but it highlights the danger to the Scottish economy of the Fortress Europe mentality that is now so prevalent in Brussels.

Mr. Lang

I take my hon. Friend's point. He is right to draw attention to the success of the Scottish electronics industry, which now provides about 45,000 jobs. Increasing numbers of companies from America, Japan and elsewhere are choosing to locate their manufacturing base in Scotland for the single European market in 1992. This gives a more accurate reflection of the reality of the Scottish economy than some of the comments that we hear from Opposition Members.

Mr. Dewar

Does the Minister accept that the serious and disturbing news about Hall Russell directly threatens the existence of an important and well-established Scottish company? Does he recognise that, whatever the difficulties faced by management, the skills of the work force are still there, the St. Helena ferry order has still to be completed, and, I hope, that further orders can be won? We would all echo the Minister's hope that the difficulties will be transitional, but will he give a guarantee that he will take positive steps to see that the yard remains in business and that the jobs are secured?

Mr. Lang

If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the Government should step in with an open cheque book, I have to draw his attention to the EC directive on such matters. We stand ready to give whatever help we can to the Scottish Development Agency and, as I said earlier, we hope that this will be a transitional difficulty.