HL Deb 28 July 1981 vol 423 cc740-1

8.14 p.m.

Viscount Long rose to move that the draft order laid before the House on 23rd June be approved. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Elton, I beg to move that the draft Industrial Investment (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1981, a copy of which was laid before this House on 23rd June 1981, be approved. This short order brings Northern Ireland law on the payment of grant towards capital expenditure on the provision of industrial premises broadly into line with that of Great Britain. In Northern Ireland, existing powers under the Industrial Investment (General Assistance) (Northern Ireland) Act 1966 limit the payment of grant to a person who incurs capital expenditure on the provision of a factory for his own use. In Great Britain, Part I of the Industry Act 1972 provides for the payment of regional development grant to any person who incurs expenditure on providing industrial premises when those premises come to be occupied by a qualifying activity.

In effect, grant is payable to a person who builds a factory for his own use or to a person who builds a factory for leasing to a manufacturer. The order will therefore ensure that a grant incentive will be available to private sector investment in Northern Ireland in the same way as it is in Great Britain. In the past, most of the factory provision in Northern Ireland has been met from public funds, and it is hoped that the incentives to private investors will assist in establishing a private sector share in the market for speculative factory building. I am hopeful that by the bringing of Northern Ireland law into line with that of Great Britain the order will achieve the result of attracting funds from the private sector for the provision of new industrial premises. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 23rd June be approved.—(Viscount Long.)

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Blease, who is unfortunately unable to be with us this evening, I should like to thank the noble Viscount for explaining this order. We on this side of the House welcome the order in so far as it beings Northern Ireland into line with legislation in Great Britain for the payment of capital grants to private industries for the construction of industrial premises. Whatever may be the benefits in the long term to Northern Ireland's industrial potential, it would seem unlikely in the short term that this legislation will provide the kind of assistance which is urgently required to promote productive employment, as, unfortunately, spare factory space is not all that scarce a commodity in Northern Ireland. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to assure your Lordships that development sites will be released by the appropriate authorities in new towns where land is nearly all vested in a public body. Perhaps the noble Viscount would also be able to define for your Lordships what he means by "a qualifying industrial purpose".

Viscount Long

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, for his kind comments on this order. Perhaps I might deal with his first point, which concerns the land available and whether the authorities would release it, and how much land there is. At present the Department of Commerce has only 35,000 square metres of factory space available for immediate occupation. Other stock is being refurbished, but there is clearly a market for the private sector in respect of factory building. The important thing here is to encourage employment, of course.

In his second question the noble Lord asked what the factories would be used for. The purpose would be entirely the bringing in of new industry, manufacturing industry, as such. I hope that answers the noble Lord's question.

On Question, Motion agreed to.