HC Deb 11 March 1987 vol 112 cc218-25W
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister if she will update her answer of Monday 24 February, Official Report, column 402–6, listing the attainments of Her Majesty's Government from 1979 to date, to take account the achievements for 1986–87, giving a breakdown of those achievements within Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to my reply to him of 24 February 1986 (Official Report c. 404–8) and my reply to the hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) of 20 February (Official Report c. 801–9) which taken together list the achievements of the Government since 1979 in respect of the whole of the United Kingdom.

More detailed information in respect of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is as follows:

Wales, in common with the rest of the United Kingdom, has benefited from the Government's economic policies. These have helped to tackle the problems arising out of the fundamental changes which are taking place in the structure of industry. The historical dependence of Wales on coal and steel has now ended but both sectors continue to make a substantial contribution. The steel industry currently operates profitably and major improvements in performance have been achieved by British Coal with output per manshift increasing by 70 per cent. since 1983–84. Substantial investment is being made in both industries.

The promotion of industrial change has been actively supported. Unemployment has been falling steadily in Wales since the early part of 1986 and has fallen faster in Wales than most other parts of Britain. Since 1979, £235 million has been contributed under regional selective assistance for projects forecasting 61,000 new jobs and safeguarding a further 33,000 jobs. Since the new regional development grant was introduced in November 1984, £74 million of grant has been offered for projects forecasting over 20,000 new jobs in addition to the above.

Following the establishment of WINvest in 1983, 213 inward investment projects have been secured creating 25,000 jobs. The Welsh Development Agency has played an important part in the regeneration of communities through the provision of factories, investment packages, land reclamation and other services. Factory allocations by the Government agencies have reached record levels — 2.5 million sq ft in 1986, more than double the highest recorded figures prior to 1979. A large number of new industrial projects by companies throughout Wales has been announced in the past year.

The youth training scheme has given vocational training to nearly 74,000 young people since it was launched in 1983. Of these over 16,500 have entered two-year YTS. About 18,500 adults are expected to receive MSC training in 1986–87. Through the expanded enterprise allowance scheme nearly 14,000 unemployed people in Wales have been helped to start up in business.

It is estimated that the number of self-employed had risen to over 154,000 by 1986, an increase of 39,000 over June 1981; more than a quarter of the manufacturing plants have opened since 1979. Enterprise agencies are actively helping to create jobs and further measures to support the small firm sector are being developed. The three enterprise zones contain over 440 companies and nearly 4,000 jobs in these zones have been created since designation. EC funds have contributed £1,311 million since 1979 to assist the development of new industries in areas most affected by structural change.

A major programme of investment has been undertaken to tackle the problems associated with urban decay. £144 million has been spent on urban programme schemes which have made a substantial contribution to social and economic development. In addition the urban development grant scheme has helped bring forward fifty private sector investment projects totalling £144 million "triggered" by a public contribution of £25 million. A valleys initiative was launched in 1986 which is helping to improve substantially the environment of urban centres in the South Wales valleys. A major redevelopment of south Cardiff has been launched and a Cardiff bay Development Corporation established which is expected to encourage investment on a very large scale around Cardiff bay.

The Development Board for Rural Wales continues to assist with the provision of factories, investment advice and a range of community developments within its area. A new grant, the development of rural initiative, venture and enterprise has been introduced to stimulate private sector investment of benefit to rural areas. In 1984 the less favoured area was extended to include about 80 per cent. of the country and this enabled additional support to be given to farmers. Substantial support continues to be given to the farming industry; proposals have been made to help farming and the rural economy to adapt to the need to reduce agricultural surpluses. Increased weight is being given under the planning procedures to the protection of the environment and job creation.

A substantial trunk road programme of £700 million has been undertaken since 1979 providing 22 miles of new or improved motorway and 93 miles of trunk road. Twenty-six miles of trunk road are now under construction. A major scheme to upgrade the A55 dual carriageway across North Wales is currently underway and this includes the very large civil engineering contract for the tunnel crossing on the Conway estuary. Significant progress has been made in improving rail services. The deregulation of local bus services has been completed with the level of provision remaining the same but with a saving in the level of revenue support. The Government are committed to safeguarding the existing Severn crossing and to be in a position to provide a second crossing by the mid-1990s.

A substantial programme of housing renovation has been achieved and the promotion of home ownership has been an important consideration. Owner occupation has increased from 59 per cent. of stock in 1979 to 67 per cent. currently. Some 57,000 public sector dwellings have been sold to their tenants and over 50,000 new homes have been built for sale.

Between April 1980 and December 1986 some £383 million was paid on 120,000 renovation grants to the private sector. Over the same period local authority capital expenditure on the renovations of their own stock totalled £294 million. Over the last two years allocations to the housing authorities and to the Housing Corporation have increased by 40 per cent.

Current expenditure on education in 1984–85 was 2.5 per cent. more in real terms than in 1978–79. Pupil numbers in that period have dropped by 10 per cent. so that expenditure per pupil is at a record level. 69 per cent. of the under-fives are in nursery classes, an increase of 40 per cent. since 1979. The number of enrolments in local authority colleges of higher education has increased by 50 per cent. since 1979 and taking all higher education sectors in Wales together, student numbers have increased by 20 per cent. in that same period.

The promotion of improved standards of education has continued in line with developments in England. The Government have also pursued a policy of active support for the Welsh language and direct Government expenditure of over £13.5 million has been made since 1979–80.

Spending on the Health Service in Wales is up by 28 per cent. in real terms since 1979; the number of staff directly concerned with patient care has increased by 13.5 per cent. between 1979 and 1985. Five major new hospital developments have been completed as well as two innovative new community hospitals in that time. Between April 1979 and March 1988, £490 million will have been spent, at 1986–87 prices, on the hospital building and development programmes. The number of patients being treated in hospitals has increased—in-patient cases are up by 76,000 per annum (22 per cent.) and the numbers of new out-patients by 64,000 or 15 per cent. New services have been introduced, including three renal dialysis units and a computerised kidney donor register, a bone marrow transplant unit and a genetics centre. In addition, whole-body scanners have been installed at strategic locations throughout the Principality. The general management function has now been established in all Welsh health authorities and a corporate management programme for the service has been issued for consultation. Two significant initiatives have been introduced relating to the care of mentally handicapped people and the elderly.

In Scotland, since 1979 over 89,000 public sector tenants have bought their homes and owner occupation has risen from around 35 per cent. to over 42 per cent. 140,000 new homes have also been built since 1979.

Over 200,000 private sector grant applications have been approved and the number of houses below tolerable standards reduced from 114,000 in March 1980 to 57,000 in 1986. The annual capital allocations to local authorities for expenditure on their own housing stock have risen by 60 per cent. over the last three years. The numbers of sheltered dwellings and of amenity dwellings have both more than trebled since 1979. The housing association movement's investment programme has exceeded £100 million in each of the last six years.

Expenditure per pupil is higher than ever before, an extra £60 million is being allocated to local authorities in 1987–88 to resource the deal on teachers pay and conditions of service; more students are in full-time higher education than ever before (79,000 against 69,000 in 1979); the number of students in non-advanced vocational further education has increased by 27 per cent. (1979–80—140,500 to 1985–86—178,400).

A recently agreed package of EC structural proposals will cover a range of measures designed to encourage new construction and modernisation of fishing vessels, to constrain excess capacity and to expand fishing opportunities outside EC waters. In particular the package extended the list of preference areas to include the "West of Scotland" and this will enable applicants from this area to qualify for a higher rate of community aid. The value of fish landings in Scotland reached a new record in 1986 at £234 million, more than double the 1980 value of £114 million. White fish value increased by 11 per cent. and shellfish by 18 per cent. offsetting the decline in the mackeral catch due to the poor weather.

Fish farming recorded continued success with increasing value and employment both direct and in processing. Continuing confidence in the future is reflected on the investment side. In 1986 the sea fish industry authority paid out Government grants amounting to £7,902,408 for the construction of new fishing boats and the modernisation of existing vessels in Scotland. As part of our commitment to practical conservation fishery protection and control have been strengthened.

In 1986–87 Government support to Scottish agriculture will amount to over £330 million. The Government successfully secured the Agricultural Development Programme to improve the structure of agriculture in the islands. We plan to put some £38.7 million into the programme over five years. The details of the ADP are now being worked up in consultation with local interests. The ADP should be in operation towards the end of this year.

Manufacturing productivity in Scotland has increased by nearly 6 per cent. a year between 1979 and 1985 Scottish manufacturing exports in 1985 showed an increase of over 4 per cent. on 1984. Service sector employment in Scotland showed an increase of over 40,000 between June 1983 and June 1986 and over the same period the number of self-employed increased by 24,000. Over 85,000 people are now covered by the Government's employment and training measures in Scotland. Estimated expenditure on the YTS in Scotland is £85 million in the current year.

In 1985 there was a net growth of 1,400 in company registrations in Scotland. Between 1979 and 1985 the output of the Scottish electronics industry rose by around 150 per cent., in real terms, and electrical and instrument engineering output in Scotland nearly doubled. Under the new regional development grant scheme introduced in 1984, offers amounting to over £100 million have been made to industry in Scotland, associated with the creation of some 30,000 jobs. Since its establishment in 1981 the "Locate in Scotland" organisation has helped to attract to Scotland projects expected to result in planned investment by 300 overseas companies of over £1.8 billion, and to create or safeguard some 40,000 jobs. The Scottish Development Agency is currently spending some £130 million a year, and the Highlands and Islands Development Board some £35 million a year, on economic development in Scotland. The budgets of both agencies have been substantially increased since 1979, and their roles enlarged.

Between 1979 and 1986, the Scottish Development Agency offered almost 1,300 loans to small firms valued at £20.4 million. The SDA's small firms information centre received almost 106,700 inquiries between 1979 and 1986, from which more than 38,700 counselling sessions were arranged.

Since the inception of the extended enterprise allowance scheme in 1983, 18,600 unemployed people have been helped to start up in business in Scotland.

Over £600 million has been invested in the motorway and trunk road network, and 221 miles of motorway and major trunk road improvements have been completed. The 127 mile reconstruction of the A9 from Perth to Easter Ross has been completed; substantial progress has been made on other routes, including the Perth to Aberdeen route (which has been largely upgraded to dual carriageway standard) and the A75 Gretna to Stranraer route; and 25 bypasses have been opened, relieving communities of through traffic. A further 30 miles of motorway and major trunk road improvements, including four bypasses, are under construction. Over the same period, annual expenditure on structural maintenance of existing trunk roads has increased by about 50 per cent. in real terms.

The Government have continued to develop and improve the sea transport services in the Highlands and Islands, recognising the importance of good transport systems to the economic and social well being of the island communities. Government support for ferries and coastal shippers has increased from £5.1 million in 1979 to £13.6 million in 1986–87, an increase of 55 per cent. in real terms. Capital expenditure on piers and ships, completed or in progress, is £40 million.

The Countryside (Scotland) Act 1981 gave regional councils power to designate areas as regional parks to make provision for and maintain informal recreation facilities in selected areas of countryside without interfering with other established land uses such as farming, forestry or commercial sporting management. So far two regional parks have been designated (Fife regional park and the Pentland Hills regional park) and two others (Loch Lomond and Clyde/Muirshiel) are proposed.

A new grant scheme to ssist the care costs of voluntary bodies in the environmental field has been introduced in Scotland, with an allocation of £150,000 in 1987–88. Arrangements are also being made to extend UK 2000 to Scotland.

On law and order, the chief constables have been encouraged to increase the visible police presence on the beat and in public places. The rate of police grant has been increased to 51 per cent. in 1986–87, providing an additional £3 million for policing, and a major programme is in hand to replace police and fire service radio communications. New powers for the regulation of public processions and demonstrations have been enacted and increased attention has been devoted to crime prevention with local authorities being encouraged to play their part.

We are intensifying the campaign against drug misuse. The 21-man drugs wing of the Scottish crime squad has been established and all eight Scottish forces now have a specialist drug squad or unit. Further legislative changes are being made to improve the criminal law including providing powers which will enable the courts to confiscate the proceeds of drug trafficking and will provide customs officers with enhanced powers of detention for suspected drug smugglers. Aside from enforcement and prosecution we are providing central funding amounting to over £1 million annually to support local facilities for the rehabilitation of drug misusers, some of whom have now become infected with the AIDS virus; and we are continuing to promote major public health education campaigns to counter drug misuse and curtail the spread of AIDS.

We have established the Scottish Legal Aid Board which will take over responsibility for most aspects of legal aid administration on 1 April 1987.

Between 1970 and 1986 the number of doctors has increased by nearly 7 per cent., the number of qualified nurses by over 26 per cent. and those working in the professions allied to medicine by 25 per cent.

A further five major new hospital developments bringing the total since 1979 to 47, have provided a total of over 5,400 beds and over 450 day places. Management of the NHS in Scotland has been strengthened by the appointment of a general manager for each health board and of unit general managers within boards. This will make for more effective planning and decision-taking and better use of resources. We are already seeing the fruits of these initiatives in the form of improved efficiency within boards, thus ensuring that the optimum amount of resources are devoted to patient care.

In Northern Ireland, the dedication and professionalism of the security forces have continued to bring successes against terrorists. Considerable numbers have been arrested, and successful prosecutions mounted for terrorist offences, while large numbers of weapons and explosives have been seized. The Royal Ulster Constabulary has, by its conduct over the period, further enhanced its reputation for even handed and disinterested enforcement of the law.

The Government remain committed to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, signed in 1985, which seeks to develop further our unique relationship with the Republic of Ireland. In particular, it offers a framework for co-operation with the Republic, including improving co-operation on security matters between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Garda Siochana. The agreement also offers reassurance to both sides of the community that their identities and interests will be respected, and that any change in the status of Northern Ireland would come about only with the consent of a majority of the people of the Province. Good progress has been made in implementing the agreement.

Substantial resources have been made available to finance the job creation efforts of the Industrial Development Board (IDB), the Local Enterprise Development Unit (LEDU) and the various training and retraining schemes. IDB and LEDU promoted 6,685 jobs and renewed or maintained a further 8,178 in 1986. Since the inception of the IDB in September 1982 over two thirds of new inward investment has been attracted to the areas of greater need in Northern Ireland.

At the end of December 1986, 25,600 people were benefiting from the special employment and training measures run by DED, including 6,450 on action for community employment schemes, 1,950 on the enterprise allowance scheme and 9,000 on the youth training programme.

Gross expenditure on the housing programme has increased by 64 per cent. since 1980–81. The level of unfitness in old housing has reduced from 14 per cent. in 1980–81 to around 10 per cent.; the proportion of dwellings lacking basic amenities has been halved. Grant aid for the improvement and repair of private dwellings in 1986–87 is twice the 1980–81 level; expenditure by housing associations has tripled in the same period. Over 32,000 houses have been sold by the Housing Executive, and an estimated 60 per cent. of householders in Northern Ireland now own their properties.

Expenditure on the health and personal social services increased by 13.9 per cent. (after adjustment for inflation) between 1979 and the last financial year. Staff numbers increased by over 9 per cent.; in patient cases by 10 per cent.; and the number of out-patient attendances by 23 per cent. A new tower block at Belfast city hospital was completed in 1984 at a cost of £70 million and is now fully commissioned. Work began last year on a new block at the Mater hospital, Belfast at a cost of £10 million, and forward plans include a new hospital in Antrim at a cost of £35 million.

In education there is a higher participation rate amongst the under-fives and for those over compulsory school age. Spending per student in secondary schools is 16 per cent. above the 1979 level in real terms.

There is a continuing successful programme for the revitalisation of the city centres of Belfast and Londonderry. A total of £28 million was recently allocated towards urban regeneration in Belfast over the next three years, in addition to existing budgets for comprehensive development, environmental improvement and urban development grant. Since 1981 an additional 2,325 jobs have been created in the Belfast enterprise zone; 1,600 of these were new to Northern Ireland.

Total investment to date amounts to £28 million of which £20 million is from the private sector. Urban development grant of £14 million through pump priming attracted £44 million of private investment. These grants have assisted a wide range of commercial and industrial projects including the provision of 300 units of speculative accommodation for small businesses and 400 units of private sector housing. Private sector investment in major retail and office developments either completed in the past three years, underway or committed, is in excess of £150 million and this is a further indication of the growth of confidence in Belfast.

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