HC Deb 13 December 1962 vol 669 cc578-9
Q7. Mr. Jay

asked the Prime Minister which Minister is responsible for co-ordinating Government policy for bringing work to areas of unemployment.

The Prime Minister

Co-ordination of the many aspects of national policy involved is best secured by consultation between the Ministers concerned in different aspects of the problem.

Mr. Jay

Does that Answer mean that the Prime Minister has departed from the system which has been in force under almost all Governments since 1945 of placing the main co-ordinating responsibility on the Board of Trade? If there is no main co-ordinating Minister now, may not this be one explanation of the lamentable condition of these areas?

The Prime Minister

On certain aspects it remains upon the Board of Trade, but the more general aspects, such as the general economic matters, rest with the Treasury.

Mr. Dugdale

Is the Prime Minister aware that under this Government there are very few areas today in this country which are completely free from unemployment, and that the policy of moving industry from the Midlands and from London to the North can result only in an equalising of hardship all over the country?

The Prime Minister

While we must now be the last to minimise this difficulty, it would be a great mistake to exaggerate it. Compared with the situation in many other countries, the situation in this country is a very powerful one. We have to strike, as right hon. Gentlemen know from their own experience, a very delicate balance. An unemployment figure of 300,000 means a boom and very heavy over-employment in some areas. When it rises to 700,000, it is very serious. Our real trouble is surely not so much the general problem but the special problem of special industries and special areas.

Mr. McMaster

In co-ordinating the Government's policy on unemployment, will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister ensure that he also co-ordinates with the Ministers in Northern Ireland so that an area which has still a higher and more persistent unemployment problem, in the face of unemployment in this country, can continue to attract new industry?

The Prime Minister

Yes. It is for that reason that we have had this very close relationship with the Government of Northern Ireland. My right hon. Friend made a statement on this the other day. I have had several meetings, and continuous meetings, with the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Gatiskell

Does the Prime Minister appreciate that merely to concentrate upon the special areas, although these are enormously important, cannot solve the problem if there is also unemployment in other areas of the country? What is necessary is general expansion, combined with special action to steer industry into the special areas.

The Prime Minister

Yes. It is exactly that action which is being taken.