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ADVISORY COMMITTEE IN RESPECT OF s. 2(2)(b) SCHEMES

Part of Orders of the Day — SCOTTISH DEVELOPMENT AGENCY (No. 2) BILL [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st October 1975.

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Photo of Mr Hamish Gray Mr Hamish Gray , Ross and Cromarty 12:00 am, 21st October 1975

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) in the way he moved the new clause. I hope the Minister realises he cannot have the agreement of both the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller) and the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). They were asking him to do quite different things.

There is much to be said for putting in safeguards of this kind. I have long been a supporter of the Highlands and Islands Development Board, which has not always been easy, because the board has been the subject of some criticism in the past. I think it has done, and is doing, a good job. It has faults, as do most boards of that kind, but they can be put right, and I hope that in the very near future we shall see some improvements. The board attracts most headlines when it has a failure. If it has supported a company which fails, the Press always latches on to it. This is only natural, because public money is involved. If, by including new Clause 2, we can protect the Agency, there is nothing to be lost. This is not meant to be a restriction on the Agency, and it may be that the Agency will do much of what is proposed in the new clause anyway, but I do not see any harm in writing this into the Bill.

We shall think of the SDA in a different light from the National Enterprise Board or the British National Oil Corporation, which some of us have had a lot to do with during the Committee stage of another Bill. The SDA will be a more personal agency than either of those. The people involved in administering it, from the chairman down, will be very much in the public eye in Scotland. The advice they take is very important, and the fact that in respect of each concern in which they invest they should have to report back periodically with a fairly lucid account of its activities would be an advantage.

The extent of the Agency's participation will probably be considerably limited, initially, because of our present economic circumstances, but there can be little doubt that as time goes on more and more money will be available for the Agency, and since that is public money its expenditure should be closely monitored.

I do not wish to go on at any length about Amendment No. 15 or new Clause 5, but it is surely important that where public money is being spent, particularly when the public are so aware of the economic crisis, every safeguard should be employed.