Orders of the Day — Scottish Development Agency Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:53 am on 21st October 1987.

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Photo of Thomas McAvoy Thomas McAvoy , Glasgow Rutherglen 12:53 am, 21st October 1987

; I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for this opportunity to make my maiden speech as the Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen.

I would like to spend some time considering my predecessor, the right hon. Gregor MacKenzie. Many people will remember that Gregor MacKenzie won a by-election in May 1964, ending 13 years of that constituency being represented by a Conservative. It is a sign of the respect with which he is held in the constituency that the former marginal constituency was left in such good stead. He entered Parliament in 1964 and quickly became parliamentary private secretary to James Callaghan and subsequently a Government and Opposition Front Bench spokesman on post and telecommunications matters, industry and the Scottish Office.

In the short time that I have been in the House I have picked up the feeling that Gregor was regarded as a good House of Commons man. In addition, he had the reputation in Rutherglen of being an extremely diligent constituency Member of Parliament. There is no doubt that the partnership of Gregor and Joan MacKenzie was successful in representing the constituency, and I know that he is regarded in the House and still in the constituency with great affection. He is now a Privy Councillor. Many people here and in the constituency would be highly delighted to see him return to Westminster in another place. As the successor to Gregor and a representative of the Labour and Co-operative movements, I have an ideal before me for which I should strive in the next few years, and, I hope, longer.

I should like to describe the constituency. As Gregor's maiden speech was in 1964, some people might need reminding of details of the constituency. Gregor represented Rutherglen from 1964 to 1983, and Glasgow, Rutherglen from 1983 to the recent general election, so most of the years were spent within the old constituency boundaries. The bulk of it comprised the Cambuslang and Halfway area. The communities are based on the mining, steel and iron industries. Unfortunately, with their decline, employment has declined in those areas, but in Cambuslang and Halfway we have communities that reflect traditional values and pride in those occupations.

In the town of Rutherglen, we have a tight-knit local community. At one stage many small employers contributed to the economy and kept the community tight-knit. The town was the oldest royal burgh in Scotland, dating back to the 12th century. In Cambuslang and Halfway and Rutherglen there was a valued tradition of service to local government and a good reputation held by the local councils, which unfortunately, to our regret, was ended by the Government of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) in 1974, with the reorganisation of local government.

Since 1983 the boundaries have been extended by the addition of parts of Castlemilk and Toryglen housing schemes, part of the city of Glasgow. Although those communities are comparatively young, they have the advantage of having people who moved there who represent the best of the great city of Glasgow. It is such people and their fathers and mothers who made Glasgow great.

All the communities that I have mentioned have one thing in common, which causes great blight in many sections—the problem of unemployment. Many people before me have spoken and, I am sure, after me will speak more eloquently of the damage done to the social fabric by unemployment. Having been born, brought up and stayed all my life in the constituency, I have seen at first hand the damage done by unemployment in many areas, particularly the damage done to families and young people.

That brings me to the role of the Scottish Development Agency. It is appropriate that I should make my maiden speech on the SDA because when Gregor MacKenzie was a Minister at the Scottish Office he was directly concerned with it. I am comparatively lucky in having quite an extensive knowledge of the work done by the SDA because of Gregor's continual reporting back to the constituency. The SDA represents a public commitment to employment and the attraction of investment into Scotland. That public investment should be safeguarded and supported, not just tolerated in public life.

As has been mentioned, the review group reported favourably on the reputation of the SDA. Between 1980 and 1985, 5,000 to 7,000 jobs could be attributed directly to the work of the agency. The inward investment represented by Locate in Scotland is crucial because without it, the new technology and the continual flow of new jobs, one ends up with no employment.

It is against that background that I appeal, on behalf of the people I represent, for support for the principle and practice of the SDA. Without being too controversial, may I say that there is a feeling among many people that the support from the Government is ambivalent. In spite of the success of the SDA—we feel that what it tackles it tackles well—it is limited by a lack of resources. There must be additional resources so that the work done by the SDA can be expanded and improved in order to bring more employment to areas such as mine. I believe sincerely that market forces alone will not bring employment to my constituency, and I am sure that that applies to many other constituencies.

The Hoover factory is located in Cambuslang in my constituency and I have some knowledge of that factory because I worked there for 13 years before coming to Parliament. I have first hand knowledge, through the trade union movement within the factory, of the role played by the SDA in securing grants and investment for the Hoover company and securing the future of Hoover at Cambuslang. The investment and support from the SDA is highlighted by the recent purchase by the Hoover company of the land on which the factory is situated. The land was bought from the SDA and the agency was extremely co-operative in its negotiations with the company. The proof of the pudding is shown by the agency's support for the Hoover factory. The factory is now the major European manufacturer of upright vacuum cleaners. We are first in something and that is important to me. In addition, in January 1988 the factory will start exporting upright cleaners to the United States, and, again, that is a success for us. There will be future investment, again with the help and co-operation of the SDA, and early next year we hope to introduce a new range of cleaner motors. In all those issues the presence and support of the SDA was crucial.

We cannot ignore the role of the trade union organisation within the Hoover factory. After some difficulties there is no doubt that the relationship between the trade union movement and the management at Hoover has enabled the SDA to become involved to a greater extent in recent years. I can speak from first hand knowledge of the reputation of the trade union movement within the factory because my brother, Edward, is a convenor for the Amalgamated Engineering Union within the factory.

On the other side of the Clyde from Cambuslang is the Cambuslang investment park. It is situated within the constituency of Glasgow, Shettleston. The SDA has invested in the park. It has built many small factories and has actively encouraged small businesses to set up. I was privileged to be a Strathclyde regional councillor for five years prior to coming to the House. I was also fortunate enough to be chairman of the urban aid committee for the Glasgow division of Strathclyde council. In conjunction with the Scottish Office and other organisations, we planned the application and distribution of urban aid. There is nothing wrong with planning. I sometimes get the feeling that "planning" has become a dirty word. We will not get anywhere unless we plan. The Scottish Office co-operated with Strathclyde in planning the distribution of urban aid, although there were one or two comments about the amount of aid. Planning, through the SDA, must play a role in future investment in Scotland, particularly in my constituency. In my opinion, there is no alternative to planning. There is no alternative to maintaining and expanding the role of the SDA and ensuring that we maintain and increase employment within my constituency.

I know that in previous maiden speeches there has been anger about the breaking of the convention that maiden speeches should be non-controversial. I respect that convention and hope that there has been nothing controversial in my speech. However, I also respect other conventions, one being that when a Member of Parliament is elected it is to represent all his constituents in Parliament. Allied to that, when a Prime Minister and a Government are elected, they also represent all the people. That should be remembered on both sides of the House.

I have put forward the case for the people of my constituency as other hon. Members have done for all those in their constituencies. We need more employment, and the role of the SDA in providing it is crucial. I strongly support not only the future expanded role of the SDA but the provision of more resources. I therefore ask that a commitment be given to expanding the resources of the SDA.