HL Deb 16 December 1981 vol 426 cc167-9

2.44 p.m.

Lord Gridley

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Gisborough, who is snowbound in the North, and with his permission and that of the Table, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in his name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are satisfied that enterprise zones are making a successful contribution to economic recovery.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I think it would be for the assistance of the House if I were to make it clear that these two schemes are quite independent of each other. It is too soon to draw conclusions about the overall impact of both schemes, but the early indications are encouraging. Ten of 11 enterprise zones have been designated since June, and a wide range of development is under way in them, including the establishment of a number of entirely new companies. The loan guarantee scheme also came into operation in June, and in its first six months of operation, as I reported only the other day to your Lordships, 1,512 guarantees have been issued in respect of £52.6 million of bank lending. This includes £28.3 million of lending to new businesses.

Lord Gridley

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that Answer. May I ask him whether it is possible for the Government to give greater publicity to these schemes—these imaginative schemes—which they are at present setting up, and in particular to the recent enterprise allowance which has now been initiated to assist the unemployed who may be short of finance and who wish to start up their own businesses?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, the matter of publicity is one that constantly concerns us. I think it is perhaps a little soon at the moment to do this on a major scale. We are monitoring very carefully what is happening. We are anxious not to give any wrong impressions at all, but I am sure that, when the time—hopefully not too far ahead—comes when we are in a position to produce a list of what is being achieved, my noble friend, and indeed all Members of your Lordships' House, who I know are anxious that we should succeed in this, will be pleased with what is taking place.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that there have been reports of at least one undertaking which has moved into an enterprise zone with all its advantages, and then subsequently has closed down its undertaking outside the enterprise zone? If such reports are correct, what action do the Government propose to take?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, of course the noble Lord will have to give me the details of the specific instance so that I can have a look at it. But I would say that that is not something that is impossible. If it was an odd case, then it would not be of great significance, certainly not when measured against the totality of what we are hoping to achieve with this scheme. But in the main the record so far of what is happening is very encouraging, and I think would far outweigh the kind of, hopefully, individual situation to which the noble Lord refers.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that, despite the anomalies which are created in neighbouring sites and neighbouring developments, enterprise zones are welcomed particularly in areas of deep depression like Clydebank in Scotland and also in London's docklands? But, since it is essentially an experiment, would the noble Lord undertake to report after a reasonable period on the success or otherwise of this interesting experiment?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for the helpful way in which he puts his question. I gladly undertake that we shall do just as he says. The important thing however is not to do so too soon nor to give any wrong impression. It is not a question of scoring points, or wanting to show things that have not been achieved. I think everyone is interested in what the scheme genuinely can do and be seen to do, and I am sure that in due course we shall be able to come back with that information.

Lord Northfield

My Lords, the noble Lord says, " in due course ". May I again ask him how long those of us who were disappointed the first time round, like my own new town of Telford, will have to wait to know whether they can have a go at a second chance of having an enterprise zone?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, the noble Lord asks a fair question, how " due " is " due course "? Clearly, at this moment in time I cannot tell him, but he can be quite sure that, if the scheme achieves all, or the greater part, of what we hope, then the case for extension will presumably be overwhelming. However, I think we have to see it really proved further than is the case at the present time.