20. Mr. Lee
asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that during 1954 and the first six months of 1955, 3,276 new industrial building schemes were started in Great Britain, of which only 446 were in Development Areas; that the majority of these schemes are in those regions in which there are the largest number of vacancies on the books of the employment exchanges; and what action he proposes to take to prevent a serious unbalance of industry to working population in a given area.
§ Sir W. Monckton
My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and I co-operate closely in seeking to secure the proper distribution of industry throughout the country, and fully appreciate the needs of the Development Areas for new industry. New industrial building in the London and South-Eastern Region and other regions with many outstanding vacancies is largely the result of the expansion of existing industry which, for economic reasons, could not move elsewhere.
It is, moreover, misleading to have regard merely to numbers of projects. The Development Areas had one-seventh of the new factory buildings but they should, on the estimates of the firms concerned, provide about two-sevenths of the total additional employment. Unemployment in the Development Areas during the period in question has been falling steadily, and is now under 2 per cent.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that in those very regions where there are most unfilled vacancies—I refer to the London and South-Eastern Region, the Midland 2487 Region and so on—there are the most schemes for new industrial development; while in regions such as the Northern Region, Scotland, Wales, and part of Lancashire, which are the old Development Areas, there is not only the smallest number of unfilled vacancies but also the smallest amount of industrial building taking place? If that continues all the work of the Distribution of Industry Act will be vitiated.
§ Sir W. Monckton
I am aware of the difficulties, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, from his experience, is aware of them also. There are places where industry is expanding and where it can economically expand but they are not the same places as the Development Areas. The trouble is that the President of the Board of Trade cannot make industries develop in a particular place. He does his best to persuade them.
Would not the Minister say that getting rid of industrial building control has caused those industries which were previously in the Development Areas to close down their factories there and attempt to expand the parent factory? Our experience in our period of office was that many firms would have liked to do that. Since control has gone, there is this desire to expand in Birmingham, Coventry and so on, and to close down the former factories.