HC Deb 26 July 1960 vol 627 cc1278-9
19. Mr. N. Pannell

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will state the progress made in providing employment in the development districts specified under the Local Employment Act; and if any changes are contemplated in the list of these areas.

24. Mr. Tilney

asked the President of the Board of Trade what progress has been made in providing employment in the development districts designated under the Local Employment Act; and whether he proposes to make any changes in the list of these districts.

Mr. Maudling

Considerable progress has been made. If projects go ahead as planned, new jobs in prospect in these districts are about 74,000 against average unemployment over the last twelve months of 133,000. There are three places, Merseyside, Llanelly and Sheerness, which I hope to be able to take off the list in the near future. The de-listing of these places depends on the outcome of applications for assistance at present under consideration, but to avoid the frustration of further applications and to concentrate our efforts on the remaining development districts and Northern Ireland, I have decided not to accept any more applications for these three places.

I am not at the moment proposing to add any places to the list.

Mr. Pannell

When considering the removal of Merseyside from the list, will my right hon. Friend take into account the present difficulties confronting the motor industry, which might frustrate or delay the plans it has in Merseyside at the moment?

Mr. Maudling

Yes, certainly. That is why I have not actually taken Merseyside off the list, but have said that if all goes ahead as we hope, it will come off the list. In the meantime, it would be wrong to take on new applications. The figure of unemployment on Merseyside, at 3.4 per cent., is 20,000, and jobs in prospect amount to 33,000.

Mr. H. Wilson

Not only as representing a Merseyside constituency but as the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor who first scheduled Merseyside as a development area, may I ask him, when considering this matter, to pay very careful attention to the danger of Merseyside becoming over-dependent on one single industry which, as we all know, can be highly vulnerable? While we have expressed our appreciation of the work done to bring motor car firms to Merseyside, may I ask him to be very careful to see that Merseyside does not suffer in the future, as so many other areas, including Merseyside, have suffered in the past, from being over-dependent on a single source of employment?

Mr. Maudling

I certainly take that point—it is important. Of the 33,000 jobs in prospect, the motor industry accounts for 18,000—leaving 15,000 quite apart from the motor industry—against a total unemployment figure of 20,000, so I think that the position is really rather encouraging.