HC Deb 14 April 1959 vol 603 cc797-9
26. Mr. Thornton

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will include the areas covered by the Farnworth and Walkden Employment Exchanges in the list of areas where Government assistance under the Distribution of Industry (Industrial Finance) Act, 1958, is available.

Sir D. Eccles

I am glad to say that the rate of unemployment in Farnworth and Walkden is not such as to warrant our adding it to the D.A.T.A.C. list.

Mr. Thornton

Does the President of the Board of Trade not agree that the proposed reorganisation scheme for the cotton industry plus the recent decision of the Restrictive Trade Practices Court are almost certain to result in an accelerated rate of closing of mills which are now partially operating? Will not this, as forecast by the Restrictive Trade Practices Court, result in a large increase in the wholly unemployed in these areas? Will the Minister consider the problem again, with a view to anticipating the inevitable changes, and scheduling the whole cotton belt?

Sir D. Eccles

The hon. Member is quite right in saying that certain changes have taken place in the cotton industry. We shall have to watch them. What happens to any labour displaced depends on the alternative employment in the district, and we have that fact very much in mind.

28. Mr. Houghton

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has now considered the representations sent to him asking for Todmorden to be added to the list of areas to which the Distribution of Industry (Industrial Finance) Act applies; and with what result.

Sir D. Eccles

The rate of unemployment in Todmorden does not warrant its inclusion among the places eligible for financial assistance under the Act. But I will continue to keep the situation under review.

Mr. Houghton

Will the right hon. Gentleman kindly inform the House what level of unemployment is necessary, and for how long it must last, before an area of this kind qualifies for assistance under the Act? Is he aware that the proportion of unemployment in Todmorden recently was over 8 per cent. and is now over 5 per cent.? How much higher must it go?

Hon. Members

It is getting less.

Sir D. Eccles

The hon. Member may have got the figures wrong, because in March the number of unemployed in Todmorden averaged 1.7 per cent. and, including temporary stopped, the figure was 4.5 per cent. It is necessary to have evidence over a rather longer period as to the number of wholly unemployed if we are not to spread much too wide the aid which can be given under the Act.

Mr Rhodes

Would not the President of the Board of Trade agree that the present criteria for scheduling under the Act make it difficult to discriminate between one area and another? Would it not be far better to schedule the whole of industrial Lancashire as a Development Area now?

Sir M. Stoddart-Scott

Todmorden is in Yorkshire.

Sir D. Eccles

It is difficult, especially when we have a big city like Manchester, to know what to do with places which are within travelling distance of it. If we were to schedule the whole of a great county like Lancashire it would be awfully difficult to pick out the had places.