HC Deb 22 January 1959 vol 598 cc402-3
42. Mr. Prentice

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the contribution of the Distribution of Industry (Industrial Finance) Act, 1958, in relieving unemployment in those areas to which it has been applied so far.

Sir D. Eccles

Sixteen applications for financial assistance, which are expected to give rise to between 500 and 1,000 new jobs, have already been approved, and others are being considered. Steps have been taken to bring the facilities to the notice of firms all over the country, and I hope that many more schemes will emerge as a result.

Mr. Prentice

The right hon. Gentleman refers to 500 or 1,000 new jobs, but is not that a pathetically small total compared with the figure of 100,000 registered unemployed in these areas and about 500,000 unemployed over the country as a whole? Does it not show that this policy is bound to fail unless it is applied against a background of an expanding economy?

Sir D. Eccles

I agree with the hon. Member that the general state of investment in the private sector is an important factor, but we have not had very much time since the Act was passed to get it going. I think that we shall get more results gradually.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in certain parts of the country, notably North Wales, where there is very serious unemployment, the 1958 Act appears to be making no impact whatever? Will he consider whether further special action is not required in these areas of very heavy unemployment? In particular, will he consider the possibility of declaring North-West Wales a Development Area under the earlier Acts?

Sir D. Eccles

I will take note of the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion.

Mr. Grimond

Does the President of the Board of Trade not agree that this Act needs to be supplemented if it is to have any serious effect on unemployment? Will he look in two particular directions, one of which is the need for better transport and the other the need for cheaper freight rates in some of these areas? Will he also bear in mind, as was pointed out in a letter in The Times, the need for getting factory space at a reasonable cost?

Sir D. Eccles

One of the considerations which the D.A.T.A.C. Committee takes into account is that of the differential cost of transport.