HC Deb 17 June 1997 vol 296 cc108-9
11. Mr. Salmond

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he will next meet Scottish Enterprise to discuss measures to encourage economic development. [2339]

Mr. Wilson

My right hon. Friend and I intend to have regular contact with Scottish Enterprise. We met members of the Scottish Enterprise board on 6 June at the local enterprise company board members conference in Dundee. Yesterday, I had a very useful session with the chief executive and senior management team of Scottish Enterprise in Glasgow.

Mr. Salmond

At such meetings, will the Minister discuss the impact on economic development around the coastline of Scotland if the capacity reductions in the fishing industry fall on the Scottish fishing fleet as opposed to the flags of convenience fleet? Does the Minister accept that the proposed deal emerging from the intergovernmental conference falls far short of what is required to deal with the flags of convenience problem and of the Prime Minister's commitments to the Scottish Fishermen's Federation before the election? What was the Scottish Office input into the IGC relating to flags of convenience? What is the Scottish Office position on the matter?

Mr. Wilson

I imagine that when we discuss fishery matters with Scottish Enterprise, the acting chairman in particular will be well informed on them. As far as present negotiations are concerned, we should wait and see whether anything comes out of the IGC. I assure the hon. Gentleman that my colleague the Minister with responsibility for fisheries has been deeply involved in the discussions.

Mr. Eric Clarke

May I ask my hon. Friend about future investment in Monktonhall colliery in my constituency? The men invested £10,000 of their money to keep the colliery open. The Coal Authority has now put it into care and maintenance. I thank my hon. Friend and his Department, as well as the Minister at the Department of Trade and Industry, for their efforts, but the colliery is reaching its 11th hour. Has anyone come along and agreed to keep it open? Three hundred and twenty jobs are at stake in my constituency and the constituencies of other hon. Members in the area and it would be a great loss if Monktonhall colliery were to close.

Mr. Wilson

I share the sentiments that my hon. Friend expressed. As he was good enough to recognise, we have put a lot of work into the matter during the past few weeks. As he knows, I have had a couple of meetings with him and representatives of the National Union of Mineworkers. We managed to extend the deadline for the switching off of the pumps. The situation is very regrettable. A great deal of investment went into Monktonhall and the flooding has clearly come as a devastating blow to the people who work there. My hon. Friend said that we are at the 11th hour—we are well into it. The problem is that in spite of the efforts that we initiated as a result of our meeting with him—to scan the world looking for anyone who was interested in taking over or investing in Monktonhall—we have had no response. There remains only one interested party. I met that party last Friday. There are real problems with the financing arrangements that he is able to produce, as my hon. Friend knows. In all seriousness, we must make progress soon if this saga is to have anything less than a sad conclusion. It is costing £100,000 a week to keep the pumps going. A case can be made for that if there is a serious expression of interest, but if one looks around the world and finds no one who is interested, obviously a conclusion has to be reached at some point.