Economy and Employment

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3 March 1993.

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Photo of Dr Norman Godman Dr Norman Godman , Greenock and Port Glasgow 12:00, 3 March 1993

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he last met the chief executive of Scottish Enterprise to discuss the economy and employment.

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

I have frequent meetings with the chairman and chief executive of Scottish Enterprise to discuss a range of economic, employment and training issues in Scotland.

Photo of Dr Norman Godman Dr Norman Godman , Greenock and Port Glasgow

Leaving aside for the moment the intense local speculation concerning Mimtec and Faulds Farm, Gourock, may I remind the Secretary of State that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), told me just 13 days ago that more than 48,000 people in Strathclyde, 2,000 of whom live in Inverclyde, have been unemployed for more than 12 months? Will the Secretary of State ensure that Scottish Enterprise involves itself in the sale of Scott Lithgow so that more employment may be provided in the area? Does he agree that if Scott Lithgow were brought into the enterprise zone it would be very attractive to a potential inward investor in shipbuilding or shiprepairing?

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

The hon. Gentleman must know that I cannot hold out any hope that it will be possible to change the boundaries of the enterprise zone. However, the very existence of the enterprise zone, together with the other benefits, schemes and initiatives that the Government and Scottish Enterprise bring to Inverclyde and other parts of Scotland, has helped to sustain the area's economy quite effectively during the period of recession. The hon. Gentleman mentioned unemployment. He should not overlook the brighter signs. Unemployment in his constituency, far from rising in the past year, has fallen. Although the level is still too high, it is more than 4,000 lower than it was six years ago.

Photo of Mr Ian Bruce Mr Ian Bruce , South Dorset

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, under the rules governing assisted area status and enterprise zones and the European Commission's rules, only 15 per cent. of the population of the United Kingdom may have assisted area status? In view of the great success of Scottish Enterprise in bringing jobs to Scotland, is not it now time for the assisted area status of some Scottish areas to be given up to other parts of the United Kingdom? It is clear that those parts of Scotland no longer need assistance.

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

As my hon. Friend knows, the assisted areas map is drawn on an even-handed basis across the United Kingdom, taking account of objective criteria that have been agreed. In this respect, Scotland is no different from Northern Ireland, Wales or England. However, the assisted areas map is under review. The issue is being carefully considered to ensure that we get the right structure and the right map for the future.

Photo of Brian H Donohoe Brian H Donohoe , Cunninghame South

What progress has the Secretary of State made in pursuing companies that came to Irvine, were given massive grants and have now left without repaying any money to Scottish Enterprise? What progress has been made towards recovering this money?

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

Regional assistance is carefully controlled. Resources have to be repaid if the investment to which they relate is not undertaken within a certain time limit. That happens on rare occasions. If the hon. Gentleman knows of any cases in his constituency, I shall certainly follow them up and give him a detailed and specific reply.