HC Deb 06 November 1996 vol 284 cc1223-4
3. Mr. Matthew Taylor

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the provision of financial support to businesses in Cornwall. [524]

The Minister for Industry (Mr. Greg Knight)

More than £4.4 million of financial support has been offered so far in the current financial year to businesses in Cornwall, generating more than £26 million of investment and 538 jobs, and supporting research and development.

Mr. Taylor

It is some years since the West Country development corporation sponsored work by Coopers and Lybrand highlighting the differential financing as between Devon and Cornwall, and areas of Wales and Scotland with lower unemployment and higher wages. For example, DTI development area funding for such areas works out at £46 per head in Scotland and £65 per head in Wales, but only £21 per head in Cornwall and Devon. Does the Minister justify such a differential, especially in view of the great problems of people in Cornwall and Devon?

Mr. Knight

The hon. Gentleman's point is not as meaningful as he thinks. It is not possible to make meaningful comparisons between areas because a range of conditions determines whether a company wants to invest in a particular area. They usually include the availability of a skilled work force and a suitable site. What I can tell the hon. Gentleman is that the assisted area of Cornwall has a higher level of regional selective assistance offers per capita of working population than does Great Britain as a whole.

Mr. Harris

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his appointment as a Minister and thus on ending his silence of several years as a Whip. I also welcome his answer. Does he agree that grants are not the beginning and end of everything, and that what industry in Cornwall would fear, probably above all else, is the imposition of the social chapter and the minimum wage—policies advocated by the Liberal Democrats?

Mr. Knight

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. He is, of course, absolutely right. That is why Great Britain is No. 1 for inward investment. Indeed, only three weeks or so ago I announced a DTI grant that triggered £5.1 million of investment in Cornwall. An American company, Continental Sprayers, decided that it wanted to invest there.