Ravenscraig

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:36 pm on 23rd January 1992.

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Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale 7:36 pm, 23rd January 1992

I should be happy to give the hon. Gentleman whatever information is available to the Government, but when one sets up an enterprise zone, one does not know the nature of the employment which will come into different parts of it. The zone is based on six areas, which add up to almost 500 acres. The Government's experience and estimates have been carefully negotiated and calculated as accurately as possible, and they are based on our experience in other enterprise zones and upon expected take-up of opportunities there.

Today I wrote to Sir Robert Scholey, the chairman of British Steel, to say once again that he should release sufficient evidence about the world domestic market situation in the steel industry and about Ravenscraig's costs and other circumstances to shed light on the factors which led the British Steel board to take its decision.

I pressed British Steel to help deal with decontamination of the Ravenscraig site and its restoration to industrial or other use by granting Lanarkshire development agency immediate access to site records and by funding and other support for a site assessment to gauge which parts of the site could be quickly redeveloped and which need special or prolonged remedial treatment.

I have further suggested that British Steel might wish to enter into early discussions with the public agencies involved about the future of buildings on the site and about future site ownership and development, aimed at making the most of potential public and private sector contributions.

I pressed Sir Robert to say by how much the funding of the British steel industry will increase to take account of 1,200 additional job losses since its £10 million programme was announced in north Lanarkshire last June. I emphasised the importance of training measures, as they would give much valued flexibility in tailoring training and retraining to meet likely future needs.

During the past decade, in a sustained and systematic way, the Government have developed a programme to help Lanarkshire. The House will be familiar with the Motherwell project, which has run for about eight years, in which the Scottish Development Agency had invested about £56 million by 1987. That project is estimated to have created or saved about 4,000 jobs. The partnership and commitment to Motherwell established by the project is being maintained through the Motherwell enterprise partnership, led by Motherwell Enterprise Development Co., which had a budget of £930,000 last year.

There is also the Coatbridge project, which ran from 1983 to 1988, in which SDA expenditure totalled £22.8 million—a project judged to have created or safeguarded about 2,500 jobs. A number of enterprise trusts are operating, many initially 20 per cent. funded by the SDA, which now deliver services under contract to the Lanarkshire development agency.

Last year, in response to the developing situation, I set up a working group under the chairmanship of the Under-Secretary —my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart)—to review Lanarkshire's immediate needs and to develop projects. That was an immensely successful initiative, for which I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am grateful also to the many public sector individuals and bodies which came willingly and co-operatively together to develop effectively the sort of plans which are now being implemented—16 early action projects—