Industry and Commerce

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21 October 1992.

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Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns , Chelmsford 12:00, 21 October 1992

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the prospects for industry and commerce in Scotland.

Photo of Mr Allan Stewart Mr Allan Stewart , East Renfrewshire

Scottish industry and commerce are striving hard to improve their competitiveness, to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by the completion of the single European market and the creation of the European economic area. The recent cut in interest rates will certainly help in that regard.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns , Chelmsford

Does my hon. Friend agree that the prospects for Scottish exports have become greatly enhanced in recent weeks?

Photo of Mr Allan Stewart Mr Allan Stewart , East Renfrewshire

My hon. Friend is—[Interruption.] I do not know why the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) is laughing. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Scottish economy is highly export-oriented. We export a higher percentage of industrial production than does the United Kingdom generally, particularly to the European Community. There is no doubt that the depreciation of sterling against European currencies improves the competitiveness of Scottish exports. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has set up Scottish Trade International, which brings together the expertise of the Scottish Office and Scottish Enterprise. The Scottish exports forum, which brings together a large number of people from the public and private sectors to improve exports, will meet under my chairmanship on Friday. The task of ensuring that Scottish business takes full advantage of new export opportunities, particularly in Europe, will be an important item on its agenda.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Falkirk West

Has the Secretary of State yet received the Quayle Monroe report on the possible privatisation of Scottish Water and its effects on Scottish industry and commerce? Will he, in the interests of open democracy, place a copy of it in the Library, so that the House may have a frank discussion on the full facts? For example, domestic users in the Central region of Scotland pay water charges of only £20 per annum, compared with more than £200 per annum in many parts of England and Wales that are supposed to be served by privatised water companies.

Photo of Mr Allan Stewart Mr Allan Stewart , East Renfrewshire

The report to which the hon. Gentleman refers is confidential—

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Falkirk West

Why? We have secret government instead of open democracy. That is a disgrace.

Photo of Mr Allan Stewart Mr Allan Stewart , East Renfrewshire

For reasons of commercial confidentiality. I may tell the hon. Gentleman and other Opposition Members who appear to be expressing an interest that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will issue a consultation paper in the next few weeks, and we look forward to receiving from the hon. Gentleman what will no doubt be considered and constructive comments.