Renfrew District (SDA Expenditure)

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th January 1987.

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Photo of Mr Allen Adams Mr Allen Adams , Paisley North 12:00 am, 14th January 1987

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what percentage of Scottish Development Agency money has been spent in Renfrew district since 1981.

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

In the period April 1981 to Nov ember 1986 the agency has spent a total of £15·6 million in Renfrew, representing 2·4 per cent. of its total budget.

Photo of Mr Allen Adams Mr Allen Adams , Paisley North

Is the Minister aware that 250,000 people live within the Renfrew district and that over the past decade more than 20,000 jobs have been lost in manufacturing industry in that area? Only last week 600 jobs were lost at Babcock and Walcock Power Ltd., which is a high tech industry based in Renfrew, yet the Scottish Development Agency has spent only 2 per cent. of its overall budget for the past five years in this area. That is disgraceful. What does the Secretary of State intend to do to increase that percentage, and does he intend to instruct the Scottish Development Agency to take account of the dire and grave situation that now exists at Babcock and Walcock in Renfrew?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

I recognise the problems of Babcock's, but I am sure the hon. Gentleman appreciates that there is a worldwide recession in the demand for power generating equipment. The development of the Scottish Development Agency's initiative reflects the concern in the Renfrew district. I shall meet the district council next week, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I shall be as sympathetic and helpful as I can.

Photo of Mrs Anna McCurley Mrs Anna McCurley , Renfrew West and Inverclyde

Will my hon. Friend take into account the fact that we have been able to attract the firm of Compaq to my constituency of Renfrew, West. If we are able to attract such firms, it would be advisable for the Minister to initiate action along the lines of the successful Inverclyde initiative, perhaps on a larger scale. Will my hon. Friend consider granting special status for Renfrew, bearing in mind that traditional areas such as that district have difficulty in competing with the new towns and the enterprise packages that they can offer?

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

May I ask for brief questions?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

I recognise the problems mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mrs. McCurley). We are, indeed, anxious to get the Renfrew initiative under way. We are ready to give active and speedy consideration to any viable opportunities.

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the fact that Compaq has been attracted to Erskine, and about 365 jobs will be created there in the next four years. This is an important success for Locate in Scotland.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Paisley South

It will take the next four years to create half the number of jobs that we lost last week. Does the Minister accept that a decade ago over 20,000 women were working in the cotton industry in the same area, but that now there are only about 1,100? The entire Linwood factory has been decimated. Originally there were 8,000 workers, now there are none. Does the Minister accept that at the time of the Linwood closure, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mrs. Curley), the Secretary of State promised special measures but they have not come forward? Compaq is good news, but we have not been given a good deal.

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will recognise the importance of the initiative that we are considering and the success that we have had in broadening the manufacturing base of the Scottish economy. I recall the hon. Gentleman's prognostication in August 1978 that unemployment would rise to over 3 million, whichever party was in power.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

Given the problems faced by Renfrew district and every other area in Scotland, what possible help can it be to impose, this week of all weeks, and today of all days, further moratoria on the payment of regional development grants in Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom? How long will the moratoria last and why, having lost 192,000 manufacturing jobs in Scotland, are the Government now destroying the means by which industrial recovery could take place?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

I am sure the hon. Gentleman recognises the substantial take up of regional development aid under this Government. As he knows, two systems overlap at present, and this has created a bulge which will lead to a certain waiting period, but not an intolerable one.

Photo of Mr Allan Stewart Mr Allan Stewart , East Renfrewshire

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he has said about a meeting with Renfrew district and about the Renfrew initiative, but does he agree that a successful strategy for Renfrew must be based on successes in the area, such as the substantial expansion plans at Glasgow airport and the success and expansion of English Sewing at Neilston in Renfrewshire, in my constituency? Is it not appalling that Opposition Members should concentrate so much on the bad news instead of giving a balanced presentation?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to those important successes. I understand that investment at the Neilston plant totals about £7 million and will create approximately 760 jobs, which is rather more than was envisaged when originally planned. I believe that it is the major thread manufacturing plant in the English Sewing group.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

I presume that the Minister is familiar with the contents of the Government expenditure plans for 1987–88 to 1989–90, which were published at noon today. He will know, therefore, that they contain an announcement of further moratoria on the payment of regional development grant to cover new regional development grant as well as old grant. How long will these moratoria last? What will they save the Treasury, or, more important, on the other side of the coin, what will they cost Scottish industry?

What possible defence can there be for weakening a central plank of industrial policy when bad news crowds in on almost every side and when, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) has said, the Department of Employment's own figures show that between June 1979 and June 1986 we lost 192,000 jobs in manufacturing industry in Scotland? What possible justification can there be for further cuts in the industrial incentives and industry budget for Scotland?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

I understand that the waiting period for RDG2 will be about two months, compared with four months for RDG1. That waiting period reflects the bulge that has arisen as a result of the substantial number of applications. However, the provision for next year is some 26 per cent. above what was originally anticipated.