HC Deb 16 June 1955 vol 542 cc739-40
21. Dame Irene Ward

asked the President of the Board of Trade how far he is continuing the policy of encouraging the establishment of new industries on the trading estates under the Distribution of Industries Act; and how far this policy applies to the West Chirton Trading Estate.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

We encourage the establishment of new industrial units in the Development Areas by all suitable means, including the building of Government-financed factories on the trading estates. Suitable projects for West Chirton would certainly be considered, but there are at present other parts of the North-Eastern Development Area whose need for new industry is more pressing.

Dame Irene Ward

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the possibilities of the trading estate on Tyneside are not being fully explored owing to the fact that we have no date yet for the Tyne Tunnel? Will he have a word with the Minister of Transport on this subject in order that we may develop our new industries, for which it is so important to have modern communications?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I will certainly bear in mind all the points that the hon. Lady has mentioned.

Mr. Chetwynd

Is the President aware that the recent policy of the trading estate companies in more than doubling the rents of these Government factories is having a seriously discouraging effect upon many of the tenants in the area.

Mr. Thorneycroft

It has to be borne in mind that these Government factories are let below the economic rent and that is one of the factors which is intrumental in attracting industries to these areas. That policy continues.

Mr. S. Silverman

When the right hon. Gentleman is looking round for areas which in his opinion have a prior claim to assisted factories, will he direct his attention to the North-East Development Area in Lancashire, and in particular to the Borough of Nelson, of whose registered unemployed no less than 65 per cent. are employed in one industry, and where the need for diversification is higher than in any other place in the country?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Certainly. Indeed, it was the previous Government which scheduled that area as a Development Area for the purpose of diversifying the industry there. I am also grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding us that it is in that area that the biggest factory ever undertaken by a Government in a Development Area was undertaken by a Conservative administration.

Mr. Boardman

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that one of the overriding troubles with the Distribution of Industry Act is that it empowers no one to distribute industry, and that it was only effective so long as building licences were in operation? Will he do something to amend the Act to bring it into line with current conditions?

Mr. Thorneycroft

The hon. Gentleman will realise that all parties in the House have agreed that the compulsory distribution of industry is something which should not properly be undertaken by Government, and that we should go on continuing to rely upon the various attractions, such as factory building at below economic cost and other methods, rather than resort to compulsion.