Orders of the Day — Scottish Development Agency Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:40 am on 21st October 1987.

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Photo of Charles Kennedy Charles Kennedy , Ross and Cromarty and Skye 12:40 am, 21st October 1987

That must be one of the few contributions in the House which show that the hon. and learned Gentleman makes more sense when asleep than awake. I congratulate him. The House will forgive me if I continue.

The changes to the European regional development fund will be extremely damaging to Scotland and will have a damaging effect on the SDA. I hope that the Scottish Office and the Department of Trade and Industry will take the lead within the Council of Ministers to press the matter in strong terms. If they do not the loss will be great.

We also want assurances about the SDA budget since the Minister's arguments are not in line with the facts. I ask the Minister also to examine the index used to evaluate projects in terms of cost per job. Too often political directions come from the Scottish Office. Sometimes there is political unwillingness to approve a major project. That has happened recently in the constituency represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir Russell Johnston). An apparent political unwillingness is sometimes translated into decisions which public agencies have to make when justifying turning down a project on the basis of cost per job. I should like the Minister to consider that matter.

In conclusion I follow on from the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), who spoke about the need for a rural development fund or a full rural development agency of the type that exists within the boundaries of the Highlands and Islands Development Board, but which, as yet, has not been extended to other parts of Scotland. On behalf of my hon. Friends and, I am sure, hon. Members representing rural constituencies in different parts of Scotland I would stress that we endorse the recommendation from the earlier report of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs. I hope that the Minister will be positive in his response to that.