HC Deb 03 February 1993 vol 218 cc311-3
6. Dr. Reid

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received regarding the Lanarkshire economy; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lang

The coming into operation two days ago of the Lanarkshire enterprise zone has been widely welcomed as the latest step in the Government's extensive programme of special help for Lanarkshire.

Dr. Reid

I do not need to remind the Secretary of State of the continuing need for investment in Lanarkshire. We welcome the additional resources that were made available to Motherwell district, in particular for 1992–93, but I remind the right hon. Gentleman that that was before the closure of Ravenscraig, and there is a continuing need, particularly for infrastructural projects, especially the M8 upgrading and the M74 link. May I commend to the right hon. Gentleman the five-year plan developed by Motherwell district council for economic and commercial development?

I was at the Ravenscraig Burns supper on Friday night. The right hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that there were 500 people there, although Ravenscraig was closed, but less pleased to know that not one of them sent him their regards.

Mr. Lang

Perhaps when I answer the hon. Gentleman's question they will wish to do so belatedly. The Government's commitment to upgrading the infrastructure of Lanarkshire is very marked and is readily demonstrated not only by what we have already announced but by what we plan. I am glad to be able to tell the hon. Gentleman that the upgrading plans for the A8 between Baillieston and Newhouse are making good progress, we are increasing the roads budget for Strathclyde regional council, totalling £7.4 million over the next two years, and we have also designated the enterprise zone which, on nine sites covering 500 acres, will provide very welcome attractions for incoming industry to Lanarkshire.

Mr. Riddick

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the decision by Hoover to concentrate all its European production at Cambuslang will have a beneficial knock-on effect in the economy of Lanarkshire? Does that not wholly vindicate our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's decision to push for an opt-out of the job-destroying social chapter?

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Clearly, President Delors was right when he said that Britain, by opting out of the social chapter, was creating a paradise in this country for inward investment. Not only have we won those 400 jobs for Hoover, but we have had the announcement today of Direct Line Insurance creating 200 new jobs in Glasgow and of Escom UK Ltd. creating 140 new jobs in Ayrshire—and, of course, we had the recent announcement of 700 jobs at the Army personnel centre in Glasgow. A lot of good things are happening for jobs in Scotland.

Dr. Bray

Is the Secretary of State aware that there is continuing confusion in Lanarkshire due to the lack of a strategy embracing the steel site, which is where the problem began and is the biggest area of derelict industrial land in Scotland? Mistakes are being made in planning and in capital programmes because there is no coherent development strategy. Will the Secretary of State make sure that the options are fully spelt out forthwith and taken into account by all the authorities concerned?

Mr. Lang

The hon. Gentleman is wrong to say that there is no coherent strategy. British Steel and Scottish Enterprise are working closely together on the problems of the steel site. It is not something on which there can be a quick fix; it has to be done gradually over time and at considerable cost. That is one reason why the enterprise zone that we have designated does not include part of that site. The £50 million of anticipated public expenditure costs associated with that site over the next decade can be under way as quickly as possible, with the attraction of new industry into the area.

Mr. Tom Clarke

On the serious issues in Lanarkshire, does the Secretary of State accept that unemployment has increased by 25 per cent. in that county in the past three years? Nothing that the Government have done on derelict sites, the failure to resuscitate Gartcosh or even the proposals for rail privatisation will help those problems in the least. Given that when Ravenscraig closed, the Prime Minister said that he would not forget Lanarkshire, Lanarkshire still feels very much a forgotten county. What does the Secretary of State for Scotland intend to do about that?

Mr. Lang

If the hon. Gentleman does not know, he should get out and go around his constituency. He would see on the ground evidence of all the work that the Government are doing. Lanarkshire development agency's budget next year will approach £50 million. The Government have encouraged the development of the Mossend rail terminal, which is of great importance to the future of the hon. Gentleman's constituency. Although unemployment in Lanarkshire has risen by about 2,000 this year, the figure is still more than 15,000 lower than it was at the height of the previous recession in 1987.