HC Deb 02 May 1990 vol 171 cc1017-8
5. Mr. McFall

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what studies have been commissioned by his Department into the economic consequences for Scotland of the introduction of single European market; and what action has been taken as a result of these findings.

Mr. Lang

The single market committee of the Scottish Economic Council, which I chair, has commissioned and published three booklets this year on aspects of the single European market as it affects Scotland. Further work is currently in hand.

Mr. McFall

Is the Minister aware of the potentially grave consequences of the single European market for Scotland, and not least for the Scotch whisky industry? Is he further aware that unless there is Community agreement on full fiscal harmonisation for alcoholic drinks, and unless intra-EEC duty trade-for-trade is safeguarded, the Scotch whisky industry will have far more to lose than to gain? Is this another example of the Secretary of State's interest being for the Prime Minister in Scotland rather than for the 16,000 whisky workers?

Mr. Lang

The hon. Gentleman should be aware of the substantial improvements in the whisky industry in recent years, which are to some extent the result of the 30 per cent. real terms reduction in duty payable by that industry. That is reflected in the fact that the industry now has exports of £1.5 billion a year, which is a dramatic improvement. Clearly, the industry is doing well.

Sir David Steel

Does the Minister accept that before the creation of a single market in 1992 it is absolutely essential that he reconsiders his refusal to create in Scotland rural development areas on a par with the rural development facilities in Wales and the facilities enjoyed by the development commission in northern England? If he does not do that will not Britain lose out on European funding as well as Government funding after 1992?

Mr. Lang

The right hon. Gentleman is aware of our substantial success in obtaining development funding from the European Community—some £800 million in the past decade. In addition, we have made bids under RENAVAL and RECHAR to enable certain parts of Scotland to be eligible for further funding. We are certainly representing the interests of all the relevant parts of Scotland.

Dr. Reid

Is the Minister aware that the Scottish steel industry will be even more vulnerable after 1992 unless it obtains the desperately needed investment in its plants? Is he further aware of the information from the steel union conference in Aberdeen this week that imported steel is already replacing what ought to be produced from Scottish plants? Why has the Minister or the Secretary of State still not met the chairman of British Steel? Why are they idle spectators when decisions are being made which will affect the long-term future of the industry?

Mr. Lang

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State will shortly be meeting the chairman of British Steel. We are all very keen to ensure that the Scottish steel industry continues to prosper. However, investment decisions must be a commercial matter for British Steel. They will be taken on the best competitive advice and information available to British Steel.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Is my hon. Friend aware of the deep concern in the supply side of the Scottish offshore industry—contractors and others—about the procure-ment directives of the European Commission? What is he doing to ensure that the interests of that very important section of Scottish industry are properly represented?

Mr. Lang

My right hon. Friend knows that we resisted the implementation of that directive, but it was decided by majority rule. We are keeping in close touch with developments. I well understand my right hon. Friend's concern.