HC Deb 28 March 1990 vol 170 cc478-80
10. Mr. Cran

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how much inward investment has taken place in Scotland over the last five years; and what steps he is taking to encourage further such investment.

Mr. Lang

Over the five years to the end of March 1989, Locate in Scotland recorded planned investment by companies of about £2.4 billion, associated with the intended creation or safeguarding of more than 40,000 jobs. Locate in Scotland is continuing to promote Scotland vigorously as a location for inward investment, and I have recently increased its staffing.

Mr. Cran

Does my hon. Friend agree that, since 1981, a total of 60,000 jobs have been attracted to Scotland as a result of the Government's policies, and that they almost certainly would not have been attracted in those numbers had a Labour Government been in power, because the Opposition are anti-business? Does he also agree that the Government's inward investment programme is being maintained, as is evidenced by the 2,000 jobs that have just been attracted to Scotland as a result of Motorola coming there? Will my hon. Friend kindly leave some jobs for the rest of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Lang

I would not argue with my hon. Friend about the exact number of jobs that have been created, but certainly a number of indirect jobs follow from the direct jobs that have been created, and they are substantial in number. Over the past five years about 300 projects have been attracted to Scotland, which is an average of one a week every week for five years. That is a dramatic advertisement of the qualities that Scotland has to offer.

Mr. Ernie Ross

If the hon. Member for Beverley (Mr. Cran), who has joined us, is looking for a safe seat in Scotland, following the resignation of his Tory councillors, he is wasting his time.

Perhaps the Minister will ask his right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State a question. In "The Thatcher Interview", talking about the effect that high business rates are having on the closure rate of business in Scotland, the Prime Minister said that closures might be the result of bad management or too much borrowing. Does the Secretary of State fall into line with her judgment on this issue?

Mr. Lang

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should raise the subject of business rates, because the Labour party has been responsible for substantially increased business rates in Scotland over the years, to the great detriment of business. The Government have stepped in with new resources and a progressive plan to reduce business rates in Scotland steadily over a five or six-year period to bring them into line with the rest of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Allan Stewart

Does my hon. Friend agree that nothing could do more harm to Scotland's prospects for inward investment than a combination of the roof tax and the setting up of a Scottish assembly as the only European haven of socialism apart from Albania—a comparison which is perhaps unfair to Albania?

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The reason why we have been so successful in attracting inward investment to Scotland is that we have established an enterprise economy there based on low taxation rates. The high taxes that would result from a Labour Government would drive investment away not only from Scotland but from the whole United Kingdom.

Mr. Beggs

I congratulate the Minister on the success in attracting new industry to Scotland—

Mr. Sillars


Mr. Beggs

But does he agree that Dumfries and Galloway, Stranraer and Cairnryan are as peripheral to the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland is? Is there likely to be inward investment in that region of Scotland?

Mr. Lang

The hon. Gentleman will know of my enthusiasm to attract inward investment to Dumfries and Galloway. As for infrastructure, we have substantially increased investment in the A75—about £50 million has been spent on it in the past decade, and more is to follow. That is of advantage not only to my constituents but to the hon. Gentleman's in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Ian Bruce

Does my hon. Friend believe that the European Community may soon find that the special measures given to Scotland, over and above those given to England, are going to an area which is no longer one of low income and low economic growth, and that it will not allow them in a free-trade Europe?

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend may be assured that the selective assistance that operates in Scotland is part of the United Kingdom scheme which is applied on even-handed criteria and meets the rules and regulations of the European Commission.