HC Deb 03 March 1993 vol 220 cc287-9
6. Mr. Ernie Ross

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he last met the chairs of the local enterprise companies in Scotland to discuss unemployment in their areas.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart)

My right hon. Friend and I frequently meet chairmen of local enterprise companies to discuss a range of economic development and training issues.

Mr. Ross

How can LEC chairmen make plans for training, or deal with unemployment, when companies behave like Timex in Dundee, which sacked all its workers in the middle of a dispute? What have the Minister and the Secretary of State been able to do about the abuse of employment legislation that that company has visited on 343 workers since I raised the matter last Thursday?

Mr. Stewart

The hon. Gentleman has indeed raised the matter with my right hon. Friend and me. As I believe, he knows, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service stands ready to assist if both parties to the dispute agree. That has not happened so far, but I know that the local enterprise company in his area is widely supported by the private sector and by local authorities.

Mr. Gallie

Will my hon. Friend accept the thanks of all Ayrshire Members for the tremendous achievement of Scottish Enterprise in retaining Digital in the constituency of the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes), which is adjacent to mine, thus saving some 1,000 jobs? Scottish Enterprise deserves our compliments.

Mr. Stewart

I find myself in an unusual position: not only do I agree with my hon. Friend, which is fairly usual, but I endorse the public tribute paid by the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) to Locate in Scotland, which worked extremely hard to ensure the continuation of that highly successful operation in Ayrshire. I am sure that it will go from success to success.

Ms. Rachel Squire

Is the Minister aware that Fife Enterprise is struggling to deal with the second highest unemployment rate in Scotland? In south and east Rosyth, for instance, it has already reached 12–1 and 12.5 per cent. respectively, and unless the submarine refitting order is awarded to Rosyth dockyard it will soon be 30 per cent. or even higher. When does the Minister intend to meet representatives of Fife Enterprise—and, indeed, Fife regional council—to discuss the creation of jobs for the Fife area? When does he feel confident that he will be able to celebrate the award of the refitting order to Rosyth, thus saving 18,000 jobs related directly and indirectly to the dockyard and ensuring that they have a future in the Fife area?

Mr. Stewart

The whole House will understand the hon. Lady's concern about what is an important matter for her constituency. As she knows, I am a Fifer myself. She will also know that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence is carefully considering the position of the dockyards. I assure her that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I are in constant touch with Fife Enterprise, and we have every confidence in that body. It is widely supported, by the private sector, the regional council and the district councils.

Mr. Fabricant

Is my hon. Friend aware that Opposition Members, as well as myself, attended a meeting of Nomura International, the well-known Japanese merchant bank? Is he aware that Nomura identified the social chapter as the single factor which would increase unemployment throughout the United Kingdom? Does my hon. Friend not find it amazing that Labour supports the social chapter?

Mr. Stewart

I note from the cheers of Labour Members how strongly they agree with the sensible point made by my hon. Friend. Having been in Japan for a time last September—

Mr. Eric Clarke

Not in Scotland?

Mr. Stewart

Let me tell the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Clarke) that Japanese companies in Lothian provide an enormous number of jobs and are constantly expanding and investing. I hoped that Opposition Members would join me in welcoming that.

Mrs. Ray Michie

Has the Minister had an opportunity to meet the chairman of Argyll and the Islands local enterprise company to discuss the effect on unemployment in Argyll and Bute of the announcement that it was to be excluded from objective 1 status?

Mrs. Ewing

And Moray.

Mrs. Michie

And the effect on Moray, Arran and various other places. What has happened? Why has there been such confusion? Whose fault was it? Can the Minister assure us that Argyll and Bute will be included in objective 1 status when the matter goes before the Council of Ministers?

Mr. Stewart

I appreciate the hon. Lady's point. As I think she will know, the territorial definitions are made by the European Commission itself. She will also know that the Government have consistently made the case for the whole highlands and islands enterprise area.

Mr. Harris

Reverting to the question asked by the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Ms. Squire), does my hon. Friend accept that those of us who have the honour and privilege to represent the south-west of England look at the question of the dockyards from a very different point of view and that we maintain firmly that, on any objective assessment, the submarine refitting order should go to Devonport?

Mr. Stewart

I have no doubt that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will read my hon. Friend's comments.

Mr. Connarty

Returning to the question of the enterprise boards in Scotland, has the Minister had an opportunity to discuss with Forth Valley Enterprise and other enterprise schemes around Grangemouth port the deep concern that they feel about the dirty tricks which appear to have been played against the Forth ports, including Grangemouth, by Scottish Enterprise? Is he aware that the report compiled by PEIDA did not include a substantial number of facilities at the ports? It would appear that Locate in Scotland and Scottish Enterprise are attempting to sell the idea of a port at Rosyth, which might be welcome, by doing down and hiding from people facilities at the port of Grangemouth and elsewhere which have already received substantial investment. I have written to the Secretary of State for Scotland about this. Has the issue been raised with him by the enterprise board chairman?

Mr. Stewart

I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's letter to my right hon. Friend. Scottish Enterprise has been involved in a study of a possible port development at Rosyth; I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman is apparently opposed to Scottish Enterprise considering developments which might involve net additional jobs for Scotland.