HC Deb 05 March 1997 vol 291 cc889-91
5. Mr. Kirkwood

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the allocation of capital consents via the capital challenge fund for the financial year 1997–98. [17317]

Mr. Kynoch

My right hon. Friend has today announced full details of the central challenge fund winners. Nineteen bids have been successful in full or in part, with awards totalling £59 million.

Mr. Kirkwood

I am really, really grateful, but perhaps the Minister can put me out of my misery and tell me whether the Scottish Borders council's bid for Hawick has been approved. The bid was well put together and, more than anything else, it provided an opportunity for the health board's plan for a new community hospital and the local enterprise company under the new small towns initiative to come together to form a coherent and integrated approach to social and economic regeneration in the town of Hawick, which is very much needed. If the Minister is about to tell me that he has anticipated all this and has approved the Hawick bid, I will be really very grateful and thankful.

Mr. Kynoch

I am sorry, but the hon. Gentleman was not grateful yesterday, and we made the announcement today. I am sorry to say that on this occasion the Hawick bid has not been successful. The good news for Hawick, as the hon. Gentleman is only too well aware, is that it is one of the pilots for the small towns initiative which was announced a little while ago. It will be up to the local enterprise company and Scottish Enterprise to discuss funding for the projects that are likely for Hawick.

All the bids for the challenge fund were of a high standard and all were judged carefully. Officials from the Scottish Office will be in touch with the local authority in Hawick to discuss how it can modify the bid and come back again for a future challenge fund competition and perhaps be successful.

Mr. Bill Walker

My hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that the people of North Tayside welcome the challenge fund decision. They welcome the fact that the Perth flood prevention scheme is being addressed, together with the subject of Andover primary school in Brechin, which comes within my constituency after the boundary changes. We welcome the news about Edzell. I have a personal interest in Edzell, because I was the chief flying instructor there many years ago. I am delighted that we are now making progress with developments in that area.

Mr. Kynoch

It never ceases to amaze me where my hon. Friend has been and what he has been involved in, but that is why he will be so successful in the general election.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for recognising the fact that Perth and Kinross council's bid for flood prevention works in Perth will be a major beneficiary of the challenge fund. The funding will cover five years, and that shows how the challenge fund bid process can benefit local authorities and enable them to undertake, for the benefit of council tax payers, larger projects than they can tackle under their normal allocations.

Mr. Chisholm

Perhaps the Minister can tell me whether the north Edinburgh bid from my constituency has been successful. How much has been taken out of capital consents to provide some slight reduction in the massive cuts that he has imposed on Scottish local authorities? Does the Minister still think that those cuts are imaginary, as he said yesterday, or is it just his fiddled figures and the so-called savings from local government reorganisation that are imaginary?

Mr. Kynoch

Edinburgh council will receive £7 million for the north Edinburgh project, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman welcomes that good news for the people in Granton and surrounding areas, who will receive significant benefits. When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made his allocation for local authorities, he took full account of the provision for the capital challenge fund to put together a package that was fair and reasonable for local authorities.

The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) did not answer my question, so perhaps the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Chisholm) will do so. The Labour party is critical and asks for more money, but how much more would it put into local authorities? At least, the hon. Member for Leith was honest with his party in Dundee when he told it—although he was embarrassed about it—that the Labour party would go into the general election campaign without committing itself to more funding. The hon. Gentleman cannot be his two-sided self, and refuse to come clean with the Scottish public and say that there will be no more money under Labour.

Ms Roseanna Cunningham

In Perth and Kinross, we are grateful for the announcement today of £18.3 million for the Perth flood prevention scheme, but the Minister will be aware that there is still a shortfall of some £3.5 million on the bid. The rural flood prevention schemes still need £1 million. Six of those schemes are now ready to go ahead. When will the Minister make an announcement about borrowing consents for those schemes?

Mr. Kynoch

I am grateful that the hon. Lady has recognised that we have given something to the flood prevention proposal, because it is not so long since she told me that, in her opinion, we would not give anything to the scheme. We will consider any application seriously, but some of the applications that she mentions have not yet reached the stage of being schemes. When they have, they will be considered.

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