HL Deb 07 December 1982 vol 437 cc113-6

2.49 p.m.

Lord Sandys

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what additional employment has been created so far in established enterprise zones.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, our estimate is that by 31st May this year some 3,000 jobs had been provided in the 11 enterprise zones designated across the United Kingdom by firms new to the zones.

Lord Sandys

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that very encouraging Answer. Can he say whether any lessons have been learned in the established enterprise zones which will be applied to the newly allocated zones which were announced only a short time ago?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, the consultants' report which was produced was called a Year 1 report and, basically, it looked at the areas of the zones prior to designation. This report was published earlier this year and any lessons learnt from it will be taken into account. I understand that the consultants will be submitting their Year 2 report to the department very soon—and again, any lessons learnt from that report will be taken into account.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, while the noble Earl claims credit for the 3,000 extra jobs which have been created, do the Government also claim credit for the scores of thousands of people who have been thrown out of work during recent months?

The Earl of Avon

No, my Lords. As we have discussed in this House for a long time, nobody enjoys the unemployment which there is, but we believe that what we are doing with enterprise zones is something of great benefit to these areas and to the people there.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, in so far as this is possible, can the Government ensure that firms which move to these enterprise zones are not ones that move for the sake of the grants alone, thereby depriving other deserving areas of jobs? Can the Government also ensure that the type of firm is such that it alleviates severe unemployment, rather than be of a type which is not labour intensive but which may also use a great deal of land and thereby derive substantial rate concessions from being in an enterprise zone?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, has indeed put his finger on one of the problems of this particular project. We do not know the precise number of jobs arising from firms moving into an enterprise zone, but we believe it is a reasonable assumption that these firms are generally committed to moving into a new location anyway. In setting up new premises—especially in an enterprise zone, with its attendant benefits—they have an opportunity to expand both their operations and their workforce. Even now, these are fairly early days to get full facts and figures from these zones, but we are monitoring the kind of question which the noble Lord asked—and there are some very good stories to tell.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, is not one of the attractions of these zones that they are also local authority enterprise zones?

The Earl of Avon

Yes, my Lords, most of them are owned by local authorities.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that in County Durham there are at least 12 areas where unemployment is more than 20 per cent.? In the town of Consett, about which I have spoken to your Lordships before—as the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, will tell your Lordships—unemployment is around the 30 per cent. mark. It will now be around 30 per cent. in Redcar, with the latest redundancies at British Steel. What plans do the Government have to introduce more of these zones?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, will be aware, we have just announced that we are introducing 13 additional zones, which I believe is a fairly good response after the original zones were introduced some two years ago.

Lord Ross of Marnock

My Lords, can the noble Earl tell us what the cost of these 3,000 new jobs will be? While we are grateful for anything that is done, does he appreciate that at Clydebank in Scotland, which was the first enterprise zone, we lost more than 3,000 jobs—which is the number of jobs the noble Earl boasted about as having been created for the whole of the country?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, if I may take the last point first, I understand that as a result of the enterprise zone at Clydebank, some 822 jobs were created. Again, this is a beginning because factories are still being built, and so there is more to come. In replying to the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, I would like to make three points. First, less than 18 months after the first zone was designated, it is still too early to assess all the costs. Secondly, much of the cost of initial development in the zone will support activity over a number of years. Thirdly, the success of the enterprise zone initiative should be measured not only in terms of jobs provided in the zones but also in the spill-over benefit of increased demand. At the moment, we believe that the cost will be about £10 million.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, is there not a serious threat to the Government's good intentions; namely, that if we do not save British Steel, then the enterprise zones and indeed the engineering trades covered in the first Question this afternoon will all come to nought; and the Government's policy will simply end up in robbing Peter to cheat Paul?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I feel that a comment on steel when we are discussing the enterprise zones is a little wide of the Question.

Viscount St. Davids

My Lords, does the noble Earl not agree that what is important is to support successful new industries in high technology areas, rather than lose hundreds of millions of pounds in trying to support aged, dying industries or in deluding the workers by trying to support co-operatives for them which are simply made out of the small, dying bits of dead ducks?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I hope that the noble Viscount will visit some enterprise zones. I feel that he is totally awry in his comments. There are no delusions and there are no dying industries; these are new places which are being developed for new jobs for people in a creative atmosphere.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, will the noble Earl remind the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, who spoke of "dying bits of dead ducks", that when ducks are dead, they can no longer be dying?

Lord Tordoff

My Lords—

Lord Denham

My Lords, we have now spent 19 minutes on three Questions and quite a long time on this Question, and I wonder whether we should not perhaps move on to the next Question.

Several noble Lords

Hear, hear!