Orders of the Day — Scotland (Industry and Employment)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th July 1962.

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Photo of Mr Henry Brewis Mr Henry Brewis , Galloway 12:00 am, 19th July 1962

I cannot enter into the question of an atomic-powered ship. Before building it, one has to be sure that one has the right machinery. We have given numerous Admiralty orders to the Clyde.

With regard to coal pits, it is impossible for the Government to subsidise unwanted services and uneconomic activities. That would lead the country straight away into an economic crisis and would threaten the stability of the position of the whole country.

But today we have a new Secretary of State for Scotland. I congratulate him and hope that I shall not annoy him too much by anything I say. First, I would point out that he has to watch carefully that he gets full co-operation from his Cabinet colleagues. He has to deal with the considerable problem of our railways, a problem in which the Minister of Transport will need to help as much as he can. Also, looming over the housing problem is the problem of the fishing industry.

My right hon. Friend wild need cooperation to stem as far as possible this haemorrhage of depopulation which is pulling people away from Scotland. In what Professor Galbraith would call the old conventional wisdom, it used to be the laissez-faire argument that it was economic to let people go off to where work was to be found. We have to make a complete reappraisal of that idea.

In France it has been calculated that every family which leaves the country area and goes to live in Paris, which is a great magnet for the population of France, costs about £3,000 in housing, waiter, drainage, land and the general infrastructure necessary for civilised living. When a family leaves an area, one has to put on the debit side what has been spent in that area on education and other services in the interest of the worker and his family.

The Scottish Office has considered many foreign countries, including Norway, but it might also look at one or two things which the French have done in Brittany. In 1954 a programme was started in Brittany, which is very much like Scotland in many ways, and is about 500 miles from Paris. At the time the survey was started it was at a fairly low ebb. There were practically no main roads, the roads were in bad repair, and the railway services were on two different gauges so that if one wanted to move goods from this part to Paris one bad to change trains.

Brittany now has its motor factory. Many hon. Members may have noticed in connection with Telstar that the best television pictures were picked up at Lannion, at Cape Finistere, which is about as far away as anywhere could be. It is interesting how the station came to be there. M. Pleven, the former Prime Minister of France, and a Deputy for Brittany, appointed the Surlaut Commission to go round the Paris area Looking at all the Government research stations situated there and deciding which could be moved into areas such as Brittany which needed more science and more research stations. As a result, the radio and telecommunications centre for France was moved to Lannion. Following that, Brittany now has Phillips (Electronics) Co. at Lannion, the Compagnie Generale de Telegraphic at Brest, the Alsacienne Radio and T.V. Co. at Maudeville, Frankel at St. Malo, the Thomson-Houston [Electronics] Co. at Laval, and many others.

This is something that we could well do in this country. However, I appreciate that it is beyond the initiative of the Secretary of State for Scotland, who would need the co-operation of the entire Cabinet. If one goes round the London area, to Teddington, Sunbury-on-Thames, Egham, Virginia Water, and so on, one finds many similar research stations which have no need to be in these congested areas. I cannot mention any particular ones, except two about which I feed rather strongly. One is the Forestry Commission Research Station which is in Hampshire, and the Timber Research Station as Princes Risborough. In Scotland at the moment we have a bigger acreage under trees, but the research work that we are getting in Scotland is done by seven men and a dog somewhere near Edinburgh apart from the universities. I cannot see any reason why these research stations, should not go up to Edinburgh. The wives would be just as happy doing their shopping in Princes Street, Edinburgh, as in Regent Street, London. Why is it strategically necessary to keep the Army in the south of England? Why are Salisbury Plain and Aldershot so essential to the Army? Many of these Government Departments should exercise a sort of voluntary I.D.C. system in which the Departments see that their establishments can be spread about a little more.

I now want to say a word or two about the fifth university. I do not want to go into it on educational terms at all, but we must realise that a new university is equivalent to a major industry coming into a town. We all know that since the war England and Wales have had twelve new universities. Why on earth could not one of these twelve have been placed just over the border in places like Dumfries, to which both English and Scottish students could come, as well as Commonwealth students. I was particularly pleased to see the new development plan for Livingstone, which is on a much bigger scale, and which, in my opinion, would be a very good site for a university.

I am particularly pleased to see that the development plan is on the scale of a city, so that we can get the sort of city amenities and entertainments which people will want if they are to stay in Scotland. One thing which might be included in the Livingstone plan, and I believe the Board of Trade has power to do it, is the building of office blocks in order to get the commercial employment. Private enterprise development can do this and nearly always builds office blocks on an entirely speculative basis and manages to get away with it. I see no reason why we should not do exactly the same thing in the new town of Livingstone.

I should like now to speak about the inducements offered under the Local Employment Act for new industries to come in. On the whole, I think, they are adequate, but the building grant is particularly cumbersome. One has to get an assessor to look at the plans, decide what the value would be if the firm went out of business, as compared with the actual cost of the building, and then, by comparing these figures, the value of the building grant is arrived at. If one gets too much in the way of a building grant, then, obviously, this is the wrong type of factory to come into that area, because it would have such a small residual value if the firm should go bankrupt, and B.O.T.A.C. will tend to refuse money as a loan to equip the factory.

It would be very much better if the building grant were given on a flat percentage basis. The Toothill Report suggests 15 per cent., and the French complain that 20 per cent. is inadequate. I should like to see it at 25 per cent., without having the business of the assessor working out the value of the factory. If one is lucky enough to get Scottish Industrial Estates to build a factory to rent, the rent is quite low— from 2½ per cent. to 4 per cent. If the factory is built for one, and one has to buy it back over a period, the rate of interest at the moment is about 5½ per cent., repayable over ten years, which comes out at 13¼ per cent., which is a very great difference for a new company starting out, as compared with the 2½ per cent. in the case of renting a factory. It is far too big a difference, and, although one is buying the factory on hire purchase and it will become one's own at the end of ten years, one gets no building grant, which seems to me to be entirely illogical and a typical attempt at saving by the Treasury on the building of these factories.

I think that, generally speaking, we are right in concentrating on the industrial areas of Scotland, but there is one passage on page 60 of the Report which makes me very angry. It is about the other development districts, such as Anstruther, Girvan, Rothesay, Sanquhar, Stranraer, Lesmahagow and Cumnock. The Report says: One project was completed in 1961 and another was approved but not started at 31st March, with employment potentials of 100 and 50 respectively. The Board of Trade seem to be too ashamed to say how little they have managed to do in these areas and do not give details in the case where the factory was completed.

These places are the complete Cinder-elks of the Local Employment Act, and I am extremely indignant about the way in which Stranraer has been treated. We have a modern air base at West Freugh, which is used by such firms as Elliott Automation, Blackburn Aircraft and Ferranti, which shows the sort of work which is being done there, and in which the local people are being trained, but it is an open secret that the Minister of Aviation would like to close it down, although it has spent about half a million pounds on it. About a year ago, the "Midas" space project came up, which was absolutely ideal for such an area, but instead of it going there it went to an aerodrome near Carlisle, which was not even in a development district. I have never been able to understand that at all.

Take the case of the great military port of Cairnryan, which was sold to scrap merchants, at the same time as the "Polaris" was brought in and placed in the most half-baked place imaginable— Holy Loch near Glasgow. I cannot understand any reason why it should have been sent up there, near the city of Glasgow, when Stranraer is just as close to Prestwick Airport as is Dunoon, if it comes to flying the crews borne to America. There is neglect of areas like Stranraer, where no Government Department will build an advance factory, and where there is no question of Scottish Industrial Estates building a factory to rent. All we can hope for there is to be able to borrow money at the rates I quoted earlier when we do not get a building grant, when we have an industry which wants to come into the area, which is very suitable for it, and includes people on the board of directors very experienced in that industry, and when the amount of finance available is, as the Toothill Report suggests in paragraphs 20 to 24, suitable for help by the Board of Trade.

While I have great confidence in our new Secretary of State for Scotland and while I thoroughly welcome his appointment, and while I think the Board of Trade has done an extremely good job on the whole in Scotland, I feel that I should be failing in my duty to my constituents, in view of the way in which Stranraer has been treated, if I did not vote against the Government in the Lobby tonight.