HL Deb 11 May 1982 vol 430 cc115-6

2.42 p.m.

Lord Davies of Leek

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 whether they are now able to give a report on the progress of the enterprise zones as a factor bringing industry and jobs back to the specific inner city areas selected by the Government.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Bellwin)

My Lords, we cannot report comprehensively on the development of the enterprise zones at this stage, because Government requests for information from firms in the zones are being kept to a minimum. However, consultants have been appointed to monitor what happens in the areas designated, and later this year they will be reporting on the first year of operation of the zones. In the meantime we are taking a close interest in developments brought to our attention by enterprise zones authorities or other bodies; and, of course, not all the zones are located in inner city areas.

Lord Davies of Leek

My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that Answer, may I ask whether he is aware that we still need some social control over the geography of employment and that the placing of these enterprise zones is therefore of great importance? Secondly, is the noble Lord aware that a new scheme has been established by the Undet-Secretary only a few weeks ago for painters and decorators in the enterprise zones, whereby they are given £40 a week, taxable, and must have £1,000 capital to start? Will he be able to tell us, not necessarily now, how these areas are selected?—because new housing is of paramount importance in the mobility of labour for employment, and houses to rent come before houses to buy in these enterprise zones. Is the noble Lord aware that on both sides of the House those of us in the Small Business Committee appreciate the efforts that the Government have made in connection with small businesses and enterprise zones?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for the information that he gave me in asking the supplementary question. He seems to know something about the zones that I do not know. I was interested to hear what he said about the scheme for painters and decorators, about which I had not heard. So far as I am aware, this is not an official scheme that comes through my department. I will want to look at it to see the implications or possibilities that arise from it. As to his other observations, I agree that the location and siting is very important. What we did previously was to call for applications from authorities who wanted to have zones in their areas and there were more applications than placings of zones. What happens in future will depend upon what is being achieved. We understand that there is some element of needing to know perhaps more quickly than might have been the case previously. We are hoping to have the consultants' report next month, and we hope to be able to come out with its findings in early autumn.

Lord Northfield

My Lords, would the noble Lord care to comment upon the allegation that a number of these zones are failing by simply attracting some companies to hop from just outside the zone to just inside the zone without any real creation of new jobs? Is this happening to any extent which is likely to prejudice the success of the experiment?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, the noble Lord asks a valid question. if what he said became the rule, it would bring into question the success of the scheme. But we have no general knowledge of this happening. There is the odd situation—and one would expect that. If zones are to be the success that is hoped, they will bring up the whole of the area and not just those which are within the zones; so that everyone should benefit. But only time will tell if this is so.