HC Deb 24 November 1959 vol 614 cc319-38

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Colonel J. H. Harrison.]

9.20 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

I am greatly obliged to my hon. Friends for the restraint they have exercised tonight, because it affords us more time than I had anticipated for discussion of the important matter of which I have given notice.

I want to give voice to the very real anxiety felt in my constituency, and in Sunderland as a whole, as the shadow of unemployment deepens and as we seem to be getting no response from the Government. We are becoming increasingly upset at the apparent complacency of the Government against a background of aggravating unemployment.

I begin by calling the attention of the House to the way in which unemployment has developed in Sunderland. Until 1956 and 1957 unemployment fell more or less continuously in Sunderland. In September, 1956, there were fewer than 2,000 unemployed. In October there were just over 2,000 unemployed. This position obtained in 1957, when in September we had just over 2,000 unemployed and in October, 2,120. In 1958 the position changed substantially for the worse. In September we had 3,405 unemployed and in October 3,733 unemployed. This year the trend has continued to worsen. In September we had 4,872 unemployed and in October, 4,946. In other words, over the past two years, in spite of the economic recovery which may have taken place in the country generally, in Sunderland unemployment has been more than doubled and has increased by 2,826.

This means that we now have an apparently rising level of unemployment. We can say that for all practical purposes it has already reached 6 per cent. We can say also that the prospects for this winter are worse than they were for last winter. This is not new. It has developed over the last two years.

Against this position in Sunderland, in the surrounding area, indeed in the whole of the northern region, the un- employment figure has also doubled in the past two years. In immediately adjacent areas, such as Jarrow and South Shields, as the Board of Trade recognises, the difficulties of obtaining employment are not much less than they are in Sunderland. That is why I call attention to the prospects for the coming winter.

Within Sunderland we find ourselves still as dependent upon two basic heavy industries as we were before the war. We find that 40 per cent. of the working population is still engaged in coal mining and shipbuilding. We are fortunate in our coal mining in that at the Wear-mouth Colliery a good deal of capital expenditure has been incurred by the National Coal Board, and we hope that that colliery will employ a considerable number of Sunderland miners for a long time to come. On the other hand, we have also to consider the general coal position. I do not wish to speak at length about shipbuilding tonight, but we have to appreciate the difficulties that are rapidly overtaking this great national industry.

I am very happy to know that the Minister of Labour is coming to the North-East early next month. He will be very welcome. I am very sorry that we have not had a visit from the President of the Board of Trade. In view of our difficulties, I think that we are entitled to expect such a visit. I share with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) what he himself has described as the considerable disquiet there is in Sunderland at the failure of the Government—and I am not anticipating whatever explanation the Parliamentary Secretary may give—to help us get alternative work. I do not want to deal with it now, but we will have to deal with the major question of shipbuilding, and consider once more the possibility of alternative work in this industry. Tonight, I want to deal with attracting further industries and enterprises to Sunderland.

The new factories that have been brought to the trading estate at Pallion admittedly employed 5,400 people and, admittedly, they now employ 300 more than they did at this time last year. That makes some contribution to overcoming our difficulties, but I would emphasise that the trading estate factories are, in fact, employing only 100 more than they were in 1956. In other words, they have made no real contribution to the difficulties we have faced over the last two years. I would also stress that they are employing fewer people than they did in 1951. This emphasises the failure of the Government over the past years to provide alternative work, and new forms of work, in Sunderland.

I want to touch on a project that we welcome, although it is not quite as attractive as it seemed a few months ago when it was first announced by the Parliamentary Secretary. In June, we were told that we would have a new factory. Subsequently, we learned that it would be a factory for the 60-Minute Cleaners. At the beginning of this month we were told that the plans and estimates were being drawn up. What progress has been made?

I welcome the possibility of bringing 170 new jobs to Sunderland, but the problem has become particularly urgent now for two reasons. First, a few years ago we were fairly satisfied with the opportunities in Sunderland of work for women. We are no longer satisfied. In fact, in the trading estate factories there are 1,000 fewer women employed than there were in 1951—yet there exist real opportunities for providing employment for women.

The second reason is this. Since the Parliamentary Secretary made his statement about this project we have got rather more than 500 additional unemployed people. We cannot afford delay in these circumstances.

Again, whereas this new factory, if it does come to be built, will provide 45,000 square feet, we now know that, next year, the Bristol Siddeley Engine Company is to close a factory of 66,000 square feet. Even if we have this new development, the overall position on the trading estate will be a loss, unless we find a new tenant for the factory to be vacated by the Bristol Company.

It is not surprising, therefore, that, in spite of the possibility of having the 60-Minute Cleaners, there is a good deal of anxiety and disquiet. Quite apart from the possibility of providing some employment for women, we must be realistic when thinking of the contribution which the trading estate can make in solving our difficulties in Sunderland. It will provide employment for about 5,500, but I know well enough that it was estimated that it would provide for at least double that number.

The time has come for the Government to write down these estimates. We cannot expect the Pallion Trading Estate to provide employment for much more than it is employing now. We must recognise that the figures which are put out by the trading estate company are very unrealistic, and we must work against the background of basic figures. We must limit any expectations we have about employment which can be provided on the estate. We should not deceive ourselves with figures of potential employment. There has been a considerable falling away in the provision of employment for women. Also, in spite of all that has been said by the Parliamentary Secretary and other spokesmen of the Board of Trade, the possibility of further development at this trading estate is very limited indeed, particularly if the 60-Minute Cleaners factory is built.

My own view about this—I expect that it may be shared by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South—is that, over the past few years, in the North-East generally and in Sunderland in particular Development Area policy has been a dead letter. We have had really very little response from anyone concerned. It is true that, after some pressure in the House, we got ourselves recognised as a specially designated area under the Distribution of Industry (Industrial Finance) Act, 1958, but no assistance has yet been made available to us. We have not had very much out of that Act. If I think of the various matters which have been called to the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary, what I quarrel about more than the fact that nothing has been done is that very little effort has been made to do anything.

I will give an illustration. The corporation, as the hon. Gentleman knows, made available the three sites, twenty acres, which would have cost £126,000 to develop. I know the dilemma of the Government. This will be a matter which will, no doubt, be discussed in Committee on the Bill at present before the House. I know that their powers are very limited. But what did we find? At the end of the day, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government said that they did not consider the case one which should be considered for grant. It is no good the Parliamentary Secretary saying that the expenditure involved would have been very small. This is not only a matter of pounds, shillings and pence, but of the attitude of the Government towards a town which is facing very real difficulties.

What upsets me is that the Government ride two horses, both of which are very discouraging to us. First, they say, "Our powers are limited and we could not help you very much anyway". They then say, "The help with which we could provide you would be so trifling that we will not provide you with any at all." It would have been much better if the Government had sent someone of sufficiently high power up to Sunderland to see what could be done about these cleared sites. That would have shown an initiative and desire to help us in our difficulties.

I have raised repeatedly the issue of advance factories. I would remind the Parliamentary Secretary of what the Minister of State said when I raised this matter on the Adjournment a few months ago. He said: … we have not set our faces against ever building in Sunderland ".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th April. 1959; Vol. 603, c. 613.] That is not very encouraging. It is important that we should have a constructive and helpful attitude from the Government. This is not a matter to be doctrinaire about, because the Government are building advance factories in other places. I would not have been so upset if the Government had made a thorough inquiry into Sunderland and presented to the House difficulties in the way of proceeding to build advance factories in Sunderland. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary will say that we shall have a vacant factory in Sunderland itself. Previously, it was a question of five vacant factories in the neighbourhood of Sunderland. I emphasise that it is not enough to present us with our own difficulties. We are not talking about hundreds of unemployed but thousands who have been unemployed now for a considerable time against a background, as far as informed opinion goes, of increasing unemployment.

In bringing to the Parliamentary Secretary's attention the question of advance factories, I would ask him to face up to this matter realistically. I do not want to raise any issue about nationalised industries, but I would remind the hon. Gentleman of the experience of other countries, such as Sweden and the United States, and say that, if we are to have a location of industry policy, the Government must be prepared not only to build a factory, but, if necessary, to operate it. That has been done not only in the socially democratic country of Sweden, but it has been done in the United States.

If we have difficulties in securing a better location of industry, I believe that the Government will have to face up to this problem. I have always held the view that the Government should be prepared to do this. I do not ask them, and particularly I would not waste time by asking this Government, to go into public enterprise lightheartedly, but if a case can be made out for expanding industry in an area which is suffering from exceptional unemployment the Government must hold themselves ready. If private enterprise will not take the step, not only to build a factory but actually to go into production.

I doubt whether even advance factories will meet our need in Sunderland. It is for that reason that I have pressed upon the Government the necessity of considering the development of a further trading estate. This is not a new proposal by any means. I have proposed the building of a trading estate on the north bank of the river. I know that that is not a particularly good site and that it provides, perhaps, only 35 acres for factory building, but there is a great importance about this site which should not be neglected.

One of the difficulties of heavy industrial towns such as Sunderland is the appearance of the town. This is one of the real handicaps in attracting new industries. It was for that reason that I always vigorously put forward this proposal. What is needed in Sunderland is that the river bank, particularly north of the river, should be made more attractive. This is one of the ways in which we might serve two purposes, not only providing new employment, but making the industrial face of the town more attractive to industrialists who are looking for new locations for their industries. As the President of the Board of Trade himself and his predecessors have said on previous occasions, these psychological factors are important.

We now have another proposal which I have asked the Board of Trade to consider. That is the question of the Usworth airfield, which on the face of it is a very good site for industrial development. It is no longer used by the Air Ministry. It is true that it is outside the present borough boundaries of Sunderland, but that is not a factor which should affect industrial location. It is well situated because it would not be inconvenient to areas outside Sunderland and it would be particularly convenient to the new housing development in the north of Sunderland. I want to know the position about it.

I should like to know how the Board of Trade runs its affairs at all. The Parliamentary Secretary knows that I have raised this matter in the House. On 3rd November, I asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he has taken to provide a new trading estate for Sunderland. The President of the Board of Trade replied: None, Sir."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd November, 1959; Vol. 612, c. 835.] I was quite aware that at that moment the Board of Trade was discussing this question with people in Sunderland. In fact, the chairman of the general purposes committee said the other day that discussions were now taking place between the Board of Trade and the Corporation.

How serious is the Board of Trade? In the House of Commons, the President was saying that no steps had been taken to provide a new trading estate for Sunderland. At that very moment, his officials were discussing the matter in Sunderland. I understand that they are concerned not only about the Usworth airfield, but also about other possible sites in Sunderland.

It seems to me that this is a dangerous trend developing concerning the location of industry generally and particularly affecting us in Sunderland. This is one of the things that disturbs me about the new Bill. It seems to me that the President of the Board of Trade is trying to abnegate his responsibility. He tells the House that he knows nothing about the development of a trading estate in Sunderland. His officials, however, are willing to encourage the Corporation to seek a trading estate. This is not meeting the problem of the location of industry and helping the Development Areas.

This is a responsibility which must remain primarily with the Board of Trade. I know that in the case of Sunderland the Corporation is endeavouring to appoint an official to attract industry to the town. I welcome and support the work that has been undertaken by the Wearside District Advisory Committee and the work that everyone in Sunderland is doing to endeavour to attract new industry to Sunderland, but we cannot leave this to local initiative. The whole idea behind the distribution of industry legislation and, I hope, behind the new Bill is to ensure that the Board of Trade will undertake its responsibility to help us in places like Sunderland to attract new industries. We do not want this responsibility to be left merely to local initiative.

I hope, therefore, that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to say at least that his right hon. Friend was misinformed when he replied to me on 3rd November. I hope he will also be able to say that the question of a new trading estate is being seriously considered, and I hope we shall get rid of the complacency that our level of unemployment is insufficiently high to disturb us in Sunderland. We know in particular that the shipbuilding industry faces real difficulties in the next year or two. For these reasons, I hope that we will get a helpful reply from the Parliamentary Secretary.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)

The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) and I share at least one thing in common—the desire to promote the highest possible level of employment in Sunderland. I was therefore particularly grateful to the hon. Member when he picked up a phrase which I used before, during and since the election about the considerable disquiet that exists not just in Sunderland but throughout County Durham about future levels of employment in that county and in the North-East generally.

This is a basic ingredient, something bred into the people of the North-East from experience in the past and memories which hon. Members older than myself have more colourfully than I have. Nevertheless, even the most embittered of politicians, outside this House naturally, would agree that it would be impossible even for a person like myself, still fairly young, to have grown up in the North-East in the years between the wars without knowing very deeply the bitterness, hostility, uncertainty and degradation that came from those years of unemployment. That is why those of us from the North-East will never cease to shout out loud to champion our cause and to see that we have a fair deal in comparison with the rest of the nation in maintaining our levels of employment.

But I ask the hon. Member for Sunderland, North, in painting his picture, not to try to create the impression—and I do not think that he wants to—that Sunderland should live by trading estates alone.

Mr. Wiley

Hear, hear.

Mr. Williams

The hon. Member rightly paid tribute to the part played by the shipbuilding industry in providing the basic employment for Sunderland, but that is not enough. Indeed, it is not enough at this moment, and perhaps for the next year or two, for shipbuilding will go through a further recession and perhaps bring higher levels of unemployment to Sunderland, Tyneside and other river towns of this land Therefore, we must be doubly aware of the dangers facing towns like Sunderland, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Jarrow and South Shields where a great number of people depend upon the shipbuilding industry for security of employment and their standard of living.

In addition in the North-East generally, as I have implied in talking earlier of County Durham, we have the bedevilling influence of the decline of the coal industry. This is a fact of life, whether we like it or not, which aggravates the position not just in Durham but throughout the county. I agree that what is needed is a reinvigoration of the policy of diversification of industry, if I may use that terrible term. We need a greater spread of industry in the North-East. We, the pioneers of the Team Valley Trading Estate, who set the pace and showed the way for the nation before the war, can surely demand some dividend from the nation today.

The hon. Member for Sunderland, North made relatively severe criticisms of Government activities over the last two years or so, for it is in the last two years that this problem has become most apparent. It is worth commenting that these two years have covered the time during which the Government, in their wisdom or, as some hon. Members might think, otherwise, have taken severe and strict action to control prices and overcome the basic problem of our economy since the war, which is the forever upward movement of prices and wages. In these two years certain consequences have flowed from that. One has been that it has been progressively more difficult to draw industry into areas such as Sunderland and the North-East because industry has been unwilling to expand.

Now we are moving to an expansionary phase and it is likely that industry will be more willing to look to areas such as Sunderland, Durham and Tyneside for its development. One need only look at the traffic jams that occur in this great capital city of the Commonwealth every day of the week now to realise how ridiculous it must be for the majority of industries to expand in the great cities, such as London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, and that a point must be reached when it becomes profitable to divert attention away voluntarily to the areas where unemployment is at present high.

I do not say that voluntary effort is enough. That is why, like the hon. Gentleman, I welcome the Local Employment Bill, which I believe will help us, particularly in Sunderland, although I have certain reservations which I may be able to put before the House next week. I believe that the mood of national expansion in our economy, allied to the new Bill introduced by the Government, will bring succour and help to areas such as Sunderland, where we need it most definitely and most immediately.

9.51 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) on bringing this matter before the House, primarily for his own constituency. I also congratulate the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) on having been afforded the opportunity of putting in a few words for Sunderland as well. I thank them both for including the surrounding area in the appeal they have made, because Sunderland is within the surrounding area of my own constituency. I agree with what my hon. Friend said about the aspect of Sunderland; when one goes to Sunderland one never thinks one is in South Shields.

For some months, I have had correspondence with the Board of Trade about the reopening of a factory in my own constituency. In fact, I have been highly honoured by the fact that all three Members of the Government in the Board of Trade have at one time or other written to me on this subject. The latest, and in some ways the most encouraging, was the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary, for he said that there had been a number of inquiries about the factory. Of course, if one had not been engaged in trying to let factories and buy land one would not have known, but that, of course, is always the way in which the development of such transactions is described. There are always a number of people trying to get this site, and the real problem is not to find someone but to sort out the one who should take the place.

I regret to say that although that letter was written to me some time before the election, nothing has materialised, and in the meantime the unemployment situation has been aggravated. What the two hon. Members who have spoken for Sunderland have said about it is equally applicable to the other towns within the area which is roughly known as the North-East Coast or the Wearside and the Tyneside.

As the hon. Member for Sunderland, South has said, memories in that area are very bitter, and the worst is generally assumed the minute men begin to get stood off. The previous period of unemployment was so prolonged that people gat into a frame of mind in which in the comparative prosperity of the after-war years they were always haunted by the fear that we might get back to the old position at some time or other.

I regret to see time after time in comments in the Press the statement that shipbuilding must be recognised as a declining industry. I can think of nothing more futile for a great island, a maritime and industrial community such as ours, than to allow shipbuilding to get back to the parlous position that it was in before the Second World War broke out. If there is a decline in the shipbuilding industry, it will be more than a matter of local unemployment. We must try to get a sense of proportion and perspective about the importance of this industry on which the towns in that area largely depend. Ship-repairing is in the same plight, except that in addition ship-repairing suffers while national trade is slack. One does not get much ship-repairing if no ships are sailing.

We are in a desperate frame of mind in these areas because of what we experienced in the later 'twenties and 'thirties of this century. On 17th July, the mayor of South Shields asked industrialists and trade unionists in the area to meet him. He also invited me. This was during the printers' strike, and the Press were not represented. So, at a meeting that might well have been a case of the pot calling the kettle black, the realisation that no immediate publicity was going to be given enabled the parties to talk in a spirit of co-operation, which was very advantageous.

One of the greatest ship-repairers in this country was present and had recently been round Scandinavia. He told us that he had managed to collect some orders and that the thing that he had to compete against most was the way in which the British shipbuilding and ship-repairing industries had been written down in the British Press. He complained that everywhere he went in Scandinavia he heard that it was no good sending ships to Britain to be repaired because of the many industrial disputes that were keeping the industry in a poor condition. He is a man whom I have known for a long time, and I respect him because he always speaks frankly. He was indignant that his efforts had been impaired by what he regarded as slanderous statements about this industry.

We do not want to see anything like another epidemic of efforts by Shipbuilding Securities Ltd. who killed this industry in sites that used to be very productive. We ask the Board of Trade, and anybody else who may be concerned with this, to bring home to the British people—as I hope we shall be able to bring home to the shipbuilding and ship-repairing areas of the country—the importance of maintaining good employment so that the great teams of men that work for particular yards can be kept together. They were so broken up in the years just before the Second World War that, even in the height of the war, we were never able to get the men back into the industry to carry on the great cooperative efforts that such a team of men represent when they are engaged in highly skilled trades of which they are proud. My own constituents used to line the piers at the mouth of the Tyne to see the "Mauretania", which was a recognised symbol of the skill and the enterprise of the men who had worked on her in pre-war days at Palmer's yard at Jarrow.

It being Ten o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Gibson-Watt.]

Mr. Ede

We have a vacant factory in my area, and what we need is for that factory to be occupied by some trade which will employ skilled male labour. I sincerely hope that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade will be able to say to all Members representing the North-East Coast that the needs of the area are constantly in mind and that the Government are doing their utmost to maintain and revive work in the area and to send to it other trades which will enable men of high skill to be able to exercise their skill in these days when the outlook for many of them for months has been very dark indeed.

10.1 p.m.

Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

What has already been said applies to my constituency even more acutely. My latest information is that Jarrow now has an unemployment rate of more than 9 per cent. If Jarrow were separated from Hebburn—at the moment there is only one unemployment exchange for the two towns—I am sure that the unemployment rate in Jarrow would be nearer 12 per cent. There is little need for me to remind the Parliamentary Secretary of what that means to a community such as Jarrow which had such bitter experiences in the inter-war years.

I have raised this matter in correspondence. I have written to the Ministry of Labour and, before the General Election, to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. Since the election I have questioned the Minister of Labour and the President of the Board of Trade. Every time the problem is raised, we find that everyone is willing to do his best, but no results seem to accrue from all those gigantic administrative efforts.

The position is getting worse. The Parliamentary Secretary is aware that for some time I have been agitating about a factory which has closed. He will remember that before the election he wrote me a letter, the contents of which were not very pleasant, since he wrote bad news, but which are still confidential. I hope that some day the hon. Gentleman will send me a confidential letter which is pleasant. I will tell him the sort of confidential letter I should like him to send.

I understand that Ford's are now to have a great expansion and that there is some argument about where Ford's new factory is to be sited. If the hon. Gentleman or his right hon. Friend would write to me that as a result of private efforts he could now confidentially inform me that Ford's were to go to Jarrow, I should be delighted.

I do not want to be unfair to the hon. Gentleman, but he knows that since the election the position has become worse. There are more unemployed in Jarrow and there are more on short time. Future prospects are bleak. Even though I do not expect the hon. Gentleman to reply tonight—he had no prior information that we should have the opportunity to raise these matters—I hope that in a matter of days or weeks he will be able to give me some information which will give hope to many people who are now feeling very low and despondent because of the condition of their town.

10.5 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. John Rodgers)

I am grateful, as I think the whole House will be, to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) for providing us with the opportunity to discuss the serious problems of industrial development in the North-East particularly round the Sunderland area, and the considerable disquiet which we know exists in this area. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I share the deep concern that is felt.

As he said, the unemployment during this year has averaged over 5 per cent. and is now 5.8 per cent. according to the la test figures. Unfortunately, it is apparently deteriorating and not improving in spite of the fact, as the hon. Gentleman pointed out, that the overall economy is improving all the time.

We recognise the serious need for employment not only for men but for women, too, which is a new situation that has arisen fairly recently in this area. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) will forgive me if I do not answer in detail the points which they made because I had no previous knowledge of them and I did not come armed with particular statistics about them. I will, however, at a later stage make some observations about the shipbuilding industry in general.

The Government are not unconcerned. I think that it was not very fair of the hon. Gentleman, who is usually so fair in his statements, to suggest that we were not concerned. We have shown our concern. Whether we have succeeded or not is a different matter. It is not entirely within the power of the Government to command success in this field, but we did show our concern for the problems of the district when, for instance, in March of this year we put Sunderland, Pallion and Southwick on the list of areas for which assistance may be available under the 1958 Distribution of Industry (Industrial Finance) Act. It is perfectly true, as the hon. Gentleman said, that very little has been heard from that. I regret it as much as he does. I wish that more use had been made of the facilities there for business men, and I will do what I can to bring their attention to the availability of these resources in the Sunderland area.

We fully appreciate the hon. Member's concern at the outlook for coal mining, shipbuilding and ship-repairing, particularly as these industries account for nearly 30 per cent. of the insured male population. The latest information which I have, however, is that, in spite of the depression that exists in these shipbuilding and ship-repairing industries, three firms are at present going ahead in Sunderland with modernisation schemes which should make them more able to compete, and eventually lead to improved prospects.

I share the view of the right hon. Gentleman that we should not get into a frame of mind in which we see shipbuilding as a permanently declining industry, like cotton. Here is an industry which is one of the most important to our country, and we must try to revitalise it and keep it healthy. Although the industry is undoubtedly facing a serious problem, there are signs that it is taking steps to help itself, and we shall do what we can. The Government have the problem of these areas dependent on one or two industries such as these very much in mind. That is really what the existing Distribution of Industry Acts are trying to do. Where industries are contracting, whether permanently or temporarily, we are trying to bring about diversification of industry. This is desperately needed in this area, and we shall do our best to bring about further diversification.

We have no power to command firms to go to these areas. All we can do is to offer them certain inducements in them and to deter them from trying to develop where they sometimes wish, leaving it to those areas where the unemployment figure is above the national average to attract particular firms to them. We feel that the policy of trying to bring diversity of industry to these areas is a better way of beating the challenge of change in the pattern of demand and industrial techniques than the policy of concentrating on steps to shore up declining industries. I think that that is a wrong policy; it is a temporary expedient. If we can diversify we can do a lot better, and under existing legislation a considerable amount has been done to help solve Sunderland's problem.

In August of this year, factories on the Board of Trade premises at Pallion and Southwick provided employment for about 5,400 people. This represents 13.4 per cent. of those engaged in manufacturing industries in this town. It may be that that is not as large a number as we had all hoped, by this year of grace, but it must be remembered that as techniques improve and machines are made more nearly perfect they can very often turn out more work with less men. There is a continual problem of technological unemployment due to better machinery, and this may be one reason why, on the Pallion Estate, the number of employed has not risen in the past few years as steeply as we had hoped. The factories on the Pallion Estate comprise over 800,000 square ft.

I should like to say a word about the hon. Member's remarks concerning the new factory for 60-Minute Cleaners. I was not quite sure what he was getting at. As far as I know, there has been no undue delay since I first gave him this information. The estate company was informed at the beginning of this month that formal approval to go ahead had been given. I cannot tell him in detail the position with regard to the actual construction of the factory, but there has been no hold-up by the Board of Trade.

An extension for another firm which is already a Board of Trade tenant has also been approved in principle, and is expected to provide 60 additional jobs. A third firm, new to the area, was allocated an empty factory on the Pallion Estate in August of this year. It is expected to provide 100 jobs within two years. I am unfortunately aware of the close-down of the Bristol Aeroplane Company's factory. The firm has decided to vacate one of its four factories and to concentrate its production in the three that remain. As my right hon. Friend told the House, we will do all we can in the Board of Trade to find an alternative tenant for that vacated space. We cannot do more than that.

I now turn from Government factories to industrial development in Sunderland generally. It is encouraging to note that factories and extensions recently completed are expected to provide about 400 new jobs; that premises now under construction are expected to provide over 100 new jobs; and that premises approved but not yet started are expected to provide over 250 new jobs. The hon. Member for Sunderland, North adverted to a suggestion he has made on several occasions in this House, namely, that a new Government trading estate should be established on the north bank of the river. We share his desire to see an increase in the amount of space made available for use by industry in and around Sunderland, but I must point out that room for 200,000 sq. ft. of factory space is already available on the Board's estate at Pallion, besides a further 60,000 sq. ft. at Southwick, although that is earmarked for Ericssons' only. He also asked what extra jobs would be created when the Pallion Estate was completely filled with tenants. I could not give him an estimate of that without previous knowledge, and even then it would be difficult. It all depends on the type of factory.

We recognise that there is a shortage of new industrial sites in the area concerned, and our regional office, in conjunction with the National Coal Board, is trying to find sites within easy reach of Sunderland which are not likely to be subject to subsidence. I think this was the point he had in mind about my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade not reporting on the activities and official discussions going on in the area. They are looking for sites and they are looking at the airfield site, but I cannot give any details. It is among the sites that are being considered.

Mr. Willey

I had in mind that here are two different things. The hon. Gentleman's officials can help the corporation in surveys and looking for sites. That is one thing. I am asking the Parliamentary Secretary whether the Board of Trade is concerned about finding sites or a trading estate, whether it is interested. I think there is a big difference between the two approaches. I still feel that this should be primarily the responsibility of the Board of Trade.

Mr. Rodgers

We co-operate in looking for new sites where there is a shortage, but that is different from the problem which the hon. Gentleman raised. To the question of whether we have made a decision now to start a new trading estate, the answer is, "No." We have not done that, nor at the moment are we contemplating such a decision.

We feel that with new legislation going through the House we must wait before we make a decision to spend public money on a new trading estate in this area.

That is also the reason why we are waiting and will not commit ourselves to the building of new advance factories. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there was considerable discussion in this House about advance factories. We are building three, and we shall judge from the result of that experiment whether the building of advance factories should be extended. But at present we have insufficient evidence to prove that they are an effective method of attracting industrialists to a particular area. I cannot, therefore, give an assurance that we would be prepared to build advance factories in the Sunderland area, though we are prepared to build other factories.

The hon. Gentleman raised the question of the corporation's proposals for the clearance of sites for industrial use. Our powers at the moment, as I have explained to him before, are limited under the terms of the 1945 Act, to land which is legally derelict and to work on that land sufficient to enable it to be brought into use. Grants cannot be made towards the cost of subsequent redevelopment, and the one application from the corporation which we have considered was for land which was not derelict but did require redevelopment. It was not possible to bring this within the provisions of the Act.

Sunderland's first and prime need, as the hon. Gentleman himself said, is to attract new industry, and I am pleased to note the proposal of the corporation to appoint a commercial representative whose responsibility would be the attraction of new industries to the towns. Our Regional Comptroller has been associated with the meetings of the district committee of Regional Board for Industry at which this proposal was discussed, and he has agreed to assist the representative in any way he can. I should like to commend the local authority on its initiative, and I hope that this will prove a fruitful way of providing employment.

Mr. P. Williams

My hon. Friend is not saying, in making that suggestion, that the first responsibility should rest on the commercial representatives and the second responsibility on the Board of Trade? Surely the matter must be the other way around.

Mr. Rodgers

I am not saying that for a moment. We have a responsibility, but a little self-help does not do any harm, and the enthusiasm of the people in the locality can assist to steer industry to this area.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would like me to say something about the position in Sunderland under the terms of the new Bill when it becomes law. However, I am also sure he realises that I cannot give any undertaking that Sunderland, or any other town, will he included in the list of places to he assisted under the provisions in the new Bill, which has still to pass through most of its Parliamentary stages. But I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the case of Sunderland will be carefully considered at the appropriate time. We recognise Sunderland's case, and we shall do all in our power to assist.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at nineteen minutes past Ten o'clock.