HC Deb 06 November 1962 vol 666 cc920-44

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

9.17 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

I wish to take this opportunity to call the attention of the Minister and of the House to the situation afflicting us in Sunderland and make a plea on behalf of the townspeople of Sunderland. I very much appreciate that the Parliamentary Secretary has been up to the North-East. I expect he is fully seized of our difficulties. We hope that some action will follow.

I do not wish to deal with the North-East as a whole but with Sunderland in particular. I emphasise that even since the hon. Gentleman's visit the position on the North-East Coast has deteriorated. Mr. George Chetwynd said the other day that within the last month the position has deteriorated to such an extent that, whereas last month there were 25 men after every job, there are now 60 men after every job. That is a desperate situation.

I can put it in another way which also shows how grave the situation is becoming. One of the arguments about the difficulties of introducing a new industry used to be that it wanted a particular labour force. It might need a large number of skilled craftsmen. There are now areas of the North-East Coast which certainly could provide an ample number of craftsmen for any new industry.

I turn to Sunderland. As the hon. Gentleman knows, my main argument is that the Government made a serious mistake in taking Sunderland off the list of development areas and putting us on to the stop list and preventing us from having access to Government aid. This was a serious mistake for which there was no justification. Twelve months ago there was a slight marginal improvement in the employment situation. But I strongly took the view then, and it has now been borne out, that all that was happening was that we were enjoying the benefit of cyclical improvement.

I believe that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade is an economist. The position is that the plateau of unemployment has gone up successively over the past five ox six years, and whereas this was an improvement compared with 1958 it was not compared with 1956. It was a serious deterioration. What has been happening in Sunderland is that over the past five or six years the position has been getting steadily worse without sufficient action being taken to counter it.

This is revealed in spite of the very complacent reply I had from the hon. Gentleman's predecessor in the summer. We have now 5,960 unemployed. This is a rate of over 6 per cent. Among men we have had a rate of unemployed of 6 per cent. continuously over the last three or four years. This is not only a high level of unemployment but it is about 2,500 more than we had at this time last year, and it was about this time last year that the Board of Trade decided to take us off the list of development districts.

There is a point which I am sure the hon. Gentleman will appreciate. I always emphasise it because of the human tragedy within it. Within this overall number of unemployed we have always had an exceptionally large number of disabled unemployed. We have had continuously 400 or more. This represents the very tragic figures of many families in Sunderland. It is about 16 per cent. of our unemployed. I appreciate that the Remploy factory is being extended again and has been extended in the past, but I would emphasise once more that this is a feature of towns which depend on heavy industry and whilst I appreciate what is being done by Remploy I think that much more should be done. This is a problem we have had for many years.

If we look behind the present high level of unemployment and this deterioration over the past month or two, what are the prospects? I think that the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that as far as one can see the prospects are not encouraging. The third quarterly figures for shipbuilding were very depressing. This has got to a depression level when for a quarter we have had only 34,000 tons of new orders against launchings of over 300,000 tons. Only 840,000 tons now remain on the order book, and unless something happens the industry can come to a standstill in a year or two.

We have to realise that the position can get worse, because redundancies in shipbuilding will occur in the next few months. It is against this background that we have the further aggravation of the closing of one of the factories of Thorn-A.E.I. I emphasise that this was not unknown. It was known in the summer. I personally knew in June or July that this firm had decided to transfer certain of its work to Kent. What I did not know was the extent to which the work was to be transferred. What discussions have there been about this? That the firm had a transfer of work in mind is known. To what extent it had that in mind I do not know because I was not consulted and I now want to know what discussions there were.

The company has been particularly helpful on the North-East Coast. It has helped the Government to pursue their development area policy and it is important that a large concern like this should know what the Government have in mind. It has repeatedly been said by Government spokesmen, "You need not worry about a thing. There are 8,000 jobs in the pipeline." Surely the Government realise that words like that affect decisions taken in board rooms of firms such as this? I am particularly concerned about this because a different result might have occurred had the Government, six months ago, said, "We cannot be complacent and it would certainly be disastrous if a large factory like this closed down."

This is all particularly galling to us in Sunderland because I recall that two or three years ago this whole matter represented a major issue at the time of the last General Election. At that time I repeatedly pointed out that a sufficiently realistic issue was not being made of the employment position in Sunderland. In the midst of the General Election the Government said that there had been a spectacular fall in unemployment. It fell, in fact, by about 250 when the September figures were published that year. The argument used by certain people in that election was that the labour candidate for Sunderland, North was "resorting to scare tactics".

The Leader of the House, then the Minister of Labour, said, "This is merely a passing problem." I believe that they were his exact words. I recall. after it was pointed out that it was only a passing problem, the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) flourishing a letter from the Board of Trade—I do not blame him because he had received such good advice as he could obtain—stating that the jobs were in the pipeline.

I said that the measures then being taken were not sufficient and that more would have to be done or the heavy incidence of unemployment which we were enduring at the time of the General Election would persist. It seems that that incidence has not merely been persisting. While 1959–60 was a bad year and 1960–61 was rather better, a high level persists and it looks now as though we shall get an increase in unemployment which will make the figures worse than they have ever been.

The Minister of Pensions, when he enjoyed the hon. Gentleman's office, used to come to the North-East and speak to us. He now tells us that we should migrate and I hope that we shall be told tonight that this is not so and that we are not being written off. He used to say, "You should do something to help yourselves" and I should like to emphasise that we in Sunderland are doing everything possible to help ourselves. We have an industrial development officer and we are trying to do all we can. Very much to the credit of the town council, we have always said that there would be no difficulty about housing key workers. That is a courageous statement for my local authority to have made because we have a desperate housing situation. We purchased the Usworth airstrip, not because this helps the good people of Sunderland at large, but because we were told that it would help us in attracting new industries, that one or two of the big industrialists in the town would be helped, particularly in their work in the export market, if we did this, and that we would then be in a better position to attract industry from outside.

The Corporation has developed the North Hylton Road Estate. I used to argue with the hon. Gentleman's predecessor that it would be an excellent thing that the Board of Trade should open a second estate. We have done it for the Government. We have slum cleared an important extra site for industrial development in the centre of the town. Thanks to the Corporation, we have got 112 acres which will be available for industrial development. Against this, I was happy to learn, when I asked the other day whether there was any factory space available for Government factories—and this was before the decision of Thorn-A.E.I.—that there is no factory space available in the town. Unfortunately, by the end of the year, because of the Thorn-A.E.I. decision, more factory space will be available.

I have mentioned the Government factories, and I should like to emphasise a point of considerable importance to the hon. Gentleman. We can exaggerate the contribution which these factories have made to our difficulties in Sunderland. The figures at the moment are good. We have more employed in these factories than we have ever had before. We have about 7,000 employed in the factories, which is excellent, and it is very unfortunate that against this we have the loss of Thorn-A.E.I. I pay tribute to the industrialists on the Pallion Estate for the increase in employment that there has been over the last 12 months, and it is unfortunate that there has been this setback. Moreover, this has been relatively a small contribution to our difficulties in Sunderland, because in 1951 over 5,500 work people were employed in these factories. All that these Government factories have done so far as our current difficulties are concerned is to provide on average new employment for about 100 or 150 a year—no more. I emphasise this because we have to do remarkably more if we are to meet our difficulties.

What are the Government doing? The Government say, "Well, you have got jobs in the pipeline. The pipeline is so choked up with jobs that we do not worry about it". I want the hon. Gentleman to give a realistic, as I am sure he will because he brings a fresh mind to this, account of the jobs in the pipeline and how long they have been in the pipeline. In May, 1960, there were 2,000 to 3,000 jobs in the pipeline. How many of these jobs have been filled and how many remain to be filled. How many of these jobs are based on realistic estimates. Because I was on the trading estate company at one time I know of the estimates which were made in the past of the potential employment which the Pallion Estate, for instance, might have provided.

The two points that I raise with the hon. Gentleman are: how real are these jobs and how realistic are estimates for the future as to the jobs now to be provided? This is important because my criticism of the Government is on two scores. First, they said—and this was the basis of the decision—that it is unlikely that high unemployment would persist in Sunderland. This has been disproved. Secondly, we have had the impression the whole time, not only in the past 12 months but over the past three or four years, that we were so choked with perspective jobs that really we were being unnecessarily alarmist in saying that the position would be aggravated.

I will tell the hon. Gentleman what the position has been over the last twelve months. During the past twelve months 2,050 new jobs have been created and filled in Sunderland. However, although we have provided these new jobs, our unemployment is 900 more. That was the figure in the summer. At that time, I asked the hon. Gentleman's predecessor to put Sunderland back on the list of development districts, and he replied that he would not do so. He said that employment prospects in Sunderland were such that the Minister would not be justified in accepting further applications for financial assistance. On the face of it, that has been disproved. I emphasise the disparity revealed by the fact that the rate of provision of new jobs is outrun by unemployment to the extent of 900. What is more, this is just a simple statement of the position without regard to school-leavers, without regard to redundancies which we then knew were coming in the shipyards, and without regard also—though we had notice that something was being considered—to the redundancy of between 700 and 1,000 workers at Thorn Electric.

I understand that the hon. Gentleman's case is that there are now 8,000 jobs in the pipeline, but this total of 8,000 extends over five years. I do not know where the hon. Gentleman gets his figures. I have no access to the pipeline and I can never look at it. All I know is that it is supposed to be choked with new jobs. But let us suppose that we have a pipeline with 8,000 new jobs in it. This would be completely inadequate for our needs in Sunderland because school-leavers alone require at least 7,000 new jobs in the next five years, quite part from the normal wastage one has in industry. Can the hon. Gentleman satisfy the House that there are sufficient jobs in prospect to deal not only with unemployment in prospect but with the simple issue which we cannot avoid, which is there and which is calculable, namely, the problem of the school-leavers?

I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will not talk about new problems being dealt with by old solutions. This is what the Prime Minister is doing in referring to Perdio. Perdio was not provided to deal with the Thorn Electric-problem. Perdio was part of the provision against a background of unemployment already there, which I do not believe was truly envisaged in realistic terms at all. It is no good saying that some of the people will get jobs in Perdio. Perdio was there to provide jobs for other unemployed. If the Prime Minister and the Government are saying that, what it really means is that they are telling Sunderland that it must expect 6 per cent. unemployment and accept it. We are not prepared to do that.

What can the Government do to help? They can help us, in the first place, by making clear that they recognise the problem and by patently and obviously saying that the problem exists, and it is their duty to give us what assistance they can in aiding our own efforts and so forth. I pay tribute—I very rarely have the opportunity—to the Minister of Transport. He has acted very quickly. We have three new road schemes which we otherwise might not have had. This is something. It is a help, and I do not decry it. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for making that decision and for being politically intelligent enough to notify me at once that he had done so. But I want the hon. Gentleman to tell me what he is doing about housing. This is one of the important matters. We have a desperate housing situation in Sunderland and any assistance we can have we should welcome.

Another possibility is school building. The Government cut our programme down to about 5 per cent. of what we were prepared to do. I ask the hon. Gentleman to restore it to 100 per cent. Let us build all the schools which the corporation said it was ready and willing to build. I can never understand the economies of the Government in this sphere. I am talking about next year's programme. The crisis was last year. Surely we shall be told that next year we can build all the schools that we said we were prepared to build.

I am glad to see that the Government have assisted in a couple of sewerage schemes. We have a big interceptor sewerage scheme. When I took this matter up last Session I got no help at all. I presume that I could not get any because Sunderland was not a development district. I say to the Government that they should make us a development district. This is very important to us. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary was impressed with this in his visit to the North-East, as he would be impressed in a visit to any industrial area. This is a matter of cardinal importance.

When it comes to public services, the Government can keep Dr. Beeching away from us, but this is a matter which affects the climate of an area. Certainly the older industrial towns want all the help the Government can give them. Public services make a good deal of difference to the attractiveness of a town when it comes to persuading industrialists to invest in it.

We have proposals for the civic centre. Again, this is a matter which could be expedited by the Government. I know all the arguments about what the Government can do. They can help us on Government contracts. I know the difficulties of this because of the poor return which we have had in the past. But it is something if the Government say, "We will do what we can to help you". At any rate, that shows earnest.

I emphasise the cardinal value of being a development district. I am pleased that the hon. Member for Sunderland, South has recanted on this. I very much regret that over the years he has conspired with the Government. His argument is that we should not appear to be a poor re- lation and should not beg for help, but I should not have thought that charity was a feature of the development district scheme. This is a recognition of difficulties and a matter of the Government saying, quite properly, "If a case can be made out, although what we do will be limited, we will do what we can to help you".

The Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday spoke about the North-East Coast getting the benefit of the next wave of industrial expansion. I know that he is genuine about this because he said the same thing when he was President of the Board of Trade. We should be on the development district list. I do not know when this wave of expansion is coming, but it is a poor reflection on the Government for them to say to Sunderland, "We are not concerned about you because we are not yet in sight of the wave of industrial expansion. We take such a depressing view that it is not worth thinking about it." Psychologically, there is a lot to be said for at once recognising the claims of Sunderland if that is the Government's case. Otherwise they are saying that there is no chance of this depression lessening or of this wave of expansion coming.

Since the Chancellor was at the Board of Trade he has repeatedly made it clear that, as we have done worse than other development districts in recent years, we in the North-East would benefit when the next expansion came. If the Government have opened psychological warfare on depression, they had better bear this in mind.

This is a practical matter, and I wish to mention a few ways in which assistance can be rendered. I emphasise that we have our own industrial officer. He is doing everything that he can to attract industry to the town, but at the same time the Government are doing everything that they can to dissuade industry from going to the town. I am not exaggerating. The Parliamentary Secretary's predecessor once said to me, "We can use the industrial development certificate procedure to prevent industry from going to Sunderland". He was optimistic enough then to express such a view. I said that if I heard any suspicion of that I would at once seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment, even though I recognise that other places may be more deserving. If, however, through our own efforts we got an industry that was determined to come, we would not tolerate the Government stopping it coming.

That is the position. We have had experience of this. The industrialist who is persuaded to discuss matters with Sunderland then goes to the Board of Trade. The Department emphasises that there are other areas of greater difficulty and our efforts are set at nought. This is the most important plea for putting us back on the list of development districts. Things are made doubly difficult for us if we are not on the list. Apart from that, the other major factors are that we do not get the B.O.T.A.C. loans and we do not get the possibility of advance factory building.

Concerning advance factory building, I have argued the case for Sunderland for the past twelve months. I bring these two facts to the Minister's attention in support of our case. I understand the reluctance of any Government—because it is a risk—building in advance. I know the doubts which existed about the advance factory at Jarrow, but, fortunately, it worked out well. Oddly enough, in Sunderland we have an advance factory built by private enterprise, on speculation. What has concerned me is that the building of the factory has led to the builder meeting many difficulties which I do not think would have existed had we been recognised as a development district. It would be encouraging to the builder if the Government showed their confidence by also competing and going into the building of advance factories.

This is of vital importance psychologically. We are trying to attract industry to an area such as the Sunderland area. It is psychologically important for the Government to show their confidence that there will be provision for more employment by themselves taking a risk and building an advance factory.

I am sorry that I have taken advantage of the earlier hour of the Adjournment to speak at greater length than I intended, but this is the cardinal overriding issue in Sunderland. In the light of our experience of the last twelve months, we feel that we would be aided and assisted if we went back on the list of development districts. If the Minister takes that step, we will respond to the best of our ability.

I would have said to the hon. Member for Sunderland, South that it is not true that by pressing this case we are creating the impression that we cannot manage our own affairs. We want to work in partnership. We took a courageous step when we set up our own industrial officer, because we have thereby brought great criticism upon our shoulders. We have taken risks in promoting factory estate development. We have given first priority all the time to bringing new work to Sunderland. We have exceptional difficulties. I hope that as a result of tonight's debate and of the Minister's visit to the North-East, so that he will see for himself, he will help us in the North-East. That is more important to us locally in Sunderland.

We stand or fall as an area. In the North-East, we do not believe that we can save ourselves at the expense of our neighbours. This is a problem which affects us all in the North-East. As a matter of policy, the Government say that they will help certain areas within a region of difficulty. In the region, we in Sunderland, together with one or two other areas, have particular difficulties. We see them aggravating in the next few months. We hope that, as soon as possible, the Government will reverse their decision and come and help us in Sunderland.

9.50 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. David Price)

In replying to the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), I wish to make it clear right from the outset of my remarks that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and I share entirely the hon. Member's concern about the unemployment problem in Sunderland. I do not want there to be any doubt about that. In the Board of Trade we are, as I hope the House knows, deeply concerned by the growing problem of unemployment in the North-East of England as a whole, and that is why, as the hon. Member kindly mentioned, I made a special point of visiting the North-East the week before last—although I apologise to the hon. Member and citizens of Sunderland that, in the short time of a few days, I was not able to visit his borough; but no doubt there will be ample opportunity to do so in the future.

Our concern in the Board of Trade over this problem is shared by the whole of the Government, and I hope that was made clear by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer both in his speech yesterday from this Box and also in the speech he made at the Mansion House early in October. We are determined, as is the hon. Member, to nurture a major improvement in the economic fortunes of the North-East as a whole.

The North-East has many attractions to offer new and expanding industry, and I believe that Sunderland, as the hon. Member indicated in one or two of his earlier remarks, has evidence of this within its own boundaries, but these attractions are, in my view, not sufficiently appreciated outside the north-east of England. The hon. Member made reference to the North-East's resources of highly skilled men. I know from my own industrial connections with the North-East, though they were slightly to the south of Sunderland, that this is a fact, but I think that the hon. Member, and his colleagues from the North-East, will agree with me that this is not sufficiently appreciated by the industrialists in the Midlands and south of England. I am sure that one thing we can all agree on is that we must sell the North-East to the industrialists in the South and Midlands.

The hon. Member made mention of the Ministry of Transport and the roads. I hold very firmly the view that one of the most important things to get right, if one wants to get a more even distribution of industry round the country, is the whole communications infrastructure. I do not take any sides on particular issues—'between roads, rail and air. I think the whole communications infrastructure, which includes telecommunications, for firms want these modern teleprinters, is absolutely basic to getting a better distribution of industry round the country.

Turning to Sunderland, the subject of the hon. Member's Adjournment debate, as I see it the main reasons why the position in Sunderland has deteriorated are, first, the recession in shipbuilding, and secondly, the increase in school leavers. Let us look for a moment at the general employment position. The Sunderland group of employment exchange areas includes Pallion, Southwick, and Sunder- land itself. It extends rather wider than the county borough. The insured population of the Sunderland group in 1961 was 87,000 people. Of these 8 per cent. were in mining and quarrying, 43 per cent. were in manufacturing industries, and 49 per cent. were in service industries, including, of course, clerical work. The House will observe that nearly half were in these services. The largest source of employment in manufacturing industry was shipbuilding and marine engineering, which accounted for 14½ per cent, of the total insured population—in actual numbers, some 12,800 people. These figures illustrate very clearly, I think, what one knew almost by instinct—the dependence of Sunderland on the fortunes of shipbuilding.

Turning to the current unemployment position, I think I can add a few figure, in depth to what the hon. Member has told the House. In October, 1961, just over a year ago, the unemployed represented 4.1 per cent. of the total insured population. In October of this year they represented 67 per cent. of the total insured population—in actual numbers, 5,777. But within these overall figures the male unemployment position was considerably worse than the female, representing 8.1 per cent.—in figures, 4,652—as against 3'9 per cent.—1,125— for females.

This is a serious situation. I do not wish to get into pro or anti-feminist arguments as to the number of women employed or unemployed in relation to men, but clearly a male figure of that level must be a matter of very deep concern to everyone, and certainly my right hon. Friend and I recognise this very fully. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are as anxious as he is to see an early and dramatic reduction in these figures.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned many factors, but the most important is the number of new industries going to Sunderland—in human terms, new jobs and jobs in prospect. I am glad to tell the House that the jobs in prospect in the Sunderland area are substantial and depend on projects which may be regarded as reasonably firm—some of them absolutely firm—and not on rather vague hopes.

Sunderland has been one of the most successful areas in the North-East in securing new projects. Sunderland County Borough has proved itself to be an active and successful local authority in these matters. It has put itself out to attract industry to the borough. The hon. Gentleman gave some details of this. It had the foresight, as he indicated, to employ a very active development officer. Self-help of the kind which Sunderland has carried out is a valuable adjunct to our efforts at the Board of Trade to steer industry to places of high and persistent unemployment. I like to think of Sunderland as an excellent example of that partnership between the Board of Trade and the local authorities upon which success in attracting new industries so much depends.

As the House knows, Sunderland was made a development district when the Local Employment Act came into force in April, 1960. By December, 1961, it looked as if there were so many jobs coming along that if the Board of Trade continued to assist more new industries there might be undue competition for the labour force then available. We thus stop-listed Sunderland in order to assist areas which were apparently less fortunate.

The object of the Act was to give priority to the worst areas and if that treatment was given too widely it blunted the weapon. Looking back, I think that we were quite right to do what we did. There were a number of important firms coming to the area or expanding there. On the engineering Slide I mention particularly Hepworth and Grandage and David Brown Industries. On the female side there were Perdio and Jacksons, the tailors. Another expanding firm of importance was Ericsson Telephones. These firms and a number of smaller ones were expected to provide nearly 4,000 new jobs—two-thirds, I am glad to say, for men.

We do not see any reason to revise this estimate. We still see these jobs coming along and, although the exact timing must always have a slight element of guesswork in it, I can say that we may hope to see one-third of these new jobs arising in the course of 1963, and another one-third by the end of 1964— that is to say, 2,600 jobs within the next two years, spread evenly between the two years.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned a figure of 8,000 jobs. I am fairly new to my Department and I have never mentioned that figure, but I have had inquiries made and I am assured that as far as the Department is concerned this figure has never been bandied about, as it is now, as the number of jobs in prospect.

The number of jobs in prospect was 4,000. I should be interested to hear from the hon. Gentleman how the figure he mentioned is arrived at, because we all agree that it is frightfully important to get these forecasts as exact as possible. The figure which we originally arrived at arose from the firms with I.D.C.s.—

Mr. Willey

I believe that it was information I got from the Board of Trade last December. But the estimate has varied.

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. Rees.]

Mr. Willey

The figure has varied from about 2,000 to 8,000. As I understand it, that is the currently accepted figure.

Mr. Price

I am assured that the figure of 8,000 has never been bandied about, but I should be interested if the hon. Gentleman could let me have details, because I am sure he will agree that if we are to get sense into planning ahead we have to try to improve our techniques. Broadly, the method by which we get the number of jobs in prospect is that firms let us know when they initially put in their I.D.C. applications, and then keep in touch with us, either directly or through the Ministry of Labour, so that we can keep these figures up to date if their progress is slower than expected or if they are in advance of expectations. This means, over the next two years. 2,600 new jobs in prospect.

What has changed is not our view of the jobs in prospect, but the subsequent loss of the then existing jobs, notably in shipbuilding, tied in with the increase in school leavers. I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the latter was predictable, but not the former.

The hon. Gentleman made some mention of Thorns. I hope that Perdio will take on most of the workers discharged by that firm, but, nevertheless, as the hon. Gentleman frankly indicated, that leaves a total loss of job opportunities for girls. We must recognise that this transfer by Thorns of part of its work is unfortunate for Sunderland, but most of Thorns' activities in the North-East still remain there, and it is the firm's intention to expand its activities where it can in that area.

The hon. Gentleman made a good deal of play about Government assistance, but I reject any suggestion that we have not in the past helped Sunderland. Since the passing of the Local Employment Act, 1960, the total amount offered under Sections 2, 3 and 4 of that Act is over £2,100,000 to provide about 5,000 additional jobs. Some of those are already in existence, and some are in the course of being created, but that is the sum of money which has been laid out. We cannot quote publicly any details of specific financial assistance offered to individual firms, nor the names of firms to which such offers were made.

To put it another way, since the Act came into operation I.D.C.s have been approved for a total area of about 1¼ million sq. ft., providing over 4,000 new jobs. There has been a certain amount of expansion, with Government assistance, in existing factories which do not require I.D.C.s, and expansions of less than 5,000 sq. ft. which do not require I.D.C.s. I thought that the hon. Gentleman might take me up on why there was a discrepancy in the figures, and I wanted to explain that this was not a discrepancy, but arose because there were slightly different bases on which they were calculated.

The hon. Gentleman referred to Government factories, but he might like to know that there are about 7,000 people employed in Government-financed factories, although some of them are of an earlier vintage.

As the hon. Gentleman indicated, Sunderland is naturally concerned at the expected increase in the number of school leavers. Last January the county borough told us it estimated that there would be more than 17,000 children leaving school in Sunderland over the next five years. After allowing for the natural labour turnover through retire- ment, and the general factors that come in normally on labour turnover, it is predicted that 5,000 new jobs will be needed over the next five years additional to those already needed to satisfy the existing unemployed. This does not take into account any other industry that might have to reduce its labour force.

But, as I pointed out earlier, not all these are industrial; nearly half the insured population is employed in service industries, and, clearly, many school leavers will find jobs in those industries and therefore outside the manufacturing industries. As I understand it, the chief concern in respect of school leavers is the shortage of semi-skilled and unskilled jobs for young people. I understand that Sunderland has a rather higher proportion of apprenticeships than the national average. That is an excellent thing.

As for coal mining, which engages a number of people but accounts for only a small proportion of the total employed, I am glad to know that the Sunderland area is not one where a run-down in coalmining employment is expected. On the contrary, the Wearmouth Colliery in Sunderland, which at present employs about 2,000 men, is now undergoing reconstruction and will need to increase its labour force by about 600 in the next four years.

As the hon. Member has pointed out, the future prospects for shipbuilding are, to say the least, unpredictable. It has been forecast that 1,000 of the 13,000 shipbuilding workers are likely to lose their jobs in the next year because of the shortage of orders. For the first time in years one of the two berths in the Sunderland shipyard of Sir James Laing and Sons is empty. The marine engineering works of George Clark are to close in November, but most of the 270 employees will be transferred to other works of the company.

On the other hand—and this is the one bright light in the shipbuilding position—Doxfords have secured one of the only two substantial orders for new ships placed in Britain in the third quarter of 1962.

Nobody can say how long the depression in shipbuilding will last. The depression is world-wide. There is an international excess of capacity in relation to demand. But I hope that the increases in the depreciation allowances, announced yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will be of some help to the shipping industry and thus to the shipbuilding industry—because I am sure that everybody will agree that unless the shipping industry wants new ships there is little that we can do to help shipbuilding.

We can all agree that the uncertainties as to the future of shipbuilding, taken in conjunction with the increasing number of school leavers, means that more industry is needed in Sunderland. Obviously the Board of Trade can help Sunderland most when industry is expanding and on the move. I believe that the whole range of measures announced yesterday by my right hon. Friend will set the climate and provide the incentive for industry to expand. A tough I.D.C. policy in congested areas by the Board of Trade, combined with the obvious attractions of Sunderland to expanding industry, should go a long way towards providing the new jobs which Sunderland needs.

This brings me to the 64-dollar question raised so cogently by the hon. Member; should Sunderland be reinstated as an active development district? At present it is stop-listed development district, but it still gets the priority in I.D.C.s that a development district gets, and I shall be interested to hear from the hon. Member of any case where a firm has asked for an I.D.C. and has been turned down.

Mr. Willey

They do not get as far as that. There is an inquiry, but nothing comes of it because the inquirer seeks advice from the Board of Trade.

Mr. Price

Obviously the Board of Trade's stop-listing 'takes Sunderland one step down in priority, as compared with a full development district, but it has priority over anything that is not a full development district. If any active development is proposed by industry in Sunderland, broadly speaking it will be granted the necessary I.D.Cs. If the hon. Member knows of any case in respect of which he feels that this prospect had been frustrated I hope that he will communicate with me at the earliest opportunity. A tough I.D.C. policy in congested areas, combined with the obvious attractions of Sunderland to expanding industries, should go a long way to provide the new jobs which Sunderland needs.

The great question is, should Sunderland be reinstated? I appreciate the hon. Member's arguments but tonight, much though I should like to do so, I cannot comment on them. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is at present reviewing the list of development districts and will be announcing changes in the North-East on Thursday. All I can say tonight is that he is reviewing the list with care and understanding, and the same applies, without any comment which I can make, on advance factories. Again, he is considering this with care and understanding, and announcements will be made on Thursday, as was forecast by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last night.

Whether Sunderland is reinstated or not, it is our purpose in the Government, as it is the purpose of the hon. Member for Sunderland, North and my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland. South, to attract more industry to Sunderland so that the new and the expanding can not only take care of the old and the declining but will also reduce permanently the level of unemployment. This is the common purpose in which the hon. Members for Sunderland and the Government are partners together.

10.12 p.m.

Mr. Charles Grey (Durham)

I am sure the House is grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) for raising the important matter about putting Sunderland back on the list of those available for grants. We understand that we must wait until Thursday before we have a definite answer, but I must point out that the Parliamentary Secretary's reply to my hon. Friend will not be received with any satisfaction. There was too much vagueness in it and many irrelevancies, and we cannot let it pass without comment.

The Parliamentary Secretary recently visited Sunderland, and I am sure that he has been made fully aware of the position in the whole of the area. I am sure that he got to know the position in Sunderland when he was there. Perhaps he would like to know my affiliation with Sunderland. I live within striking distance of the town, and am a supporter of the Sunderland Football Club, which gives me a direct interest in the affairs of Sunderland. It is one of the things which one likes to enjoy when one goes to a marvellous town like Sunderland. We like to feel that we have there a prosperous area with full employment and a good deal of confidence in the future. It will be interesting to hear what the President of the Board of Trade says on Thursday, but I assure him that we shall join my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North in a huge protest if he does not put Sunderland back on the list available for grants.

Sunderland is only part of the great problem of the whole of the North-East. We are concerned, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) said yesterday, about the massive unemployment in the region compared with the rest of the country. It is more than twice the national average, and this has been the situation ever since the war. We have never reached a position less than that. It always seems to be the case that while two-thirds of the country is all right, the North-East—and I include Scotland and Northern Ireland—has to be worse off than the rest. We cannot be satisfied with that position.

I know that any amount of promises have been made. For instance, in his Mansion House speech some time ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that £70 million extra would go to the North-East for public works. When we try to examine where this £70 million is going, we cannot find out. It is not split up into fractions. We do not know how much Scotland will get and how much the North-East will get. We asked the Minister of Health how much would go for hospitals, and he said "Nothing". We asked how much would go for school building, and we had a rather vague reply which meant nothing at all. One wonders where the £70 million is going. Perhaps when the President of the Board of Trade has read this speech, as I hope he will, or when the Parliamentary Secretary has conveyed this to him, he may tell the House what the £70 million means in actual employment in the Northern Region and Scotland—

Mr. Speaker

I must indicate a difficulty. I do not want to interrupt the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Grey), but we have a discussion upon notice given by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) the terms of which were Government assistance for Sunderland, not for Scotland, the North-East, or Northern Ireland. The difficulty about what is now going on is that I do not know to what extent, if any, the Minister has been given warning that he should reply about some other topic than assistance to the North-East in general. I do not know if he could assist me. I think he will know what is in my mind and my duty in the matter.

Mr. Grey

On that point, Mr. Speaker, I had a word with the Parliamentary Secretary about the points I was going to raise. I had that behind your Chair and I assumed from that that we were "O.K." to go on.

Mr. D. Price

I had a quick word with the hon. Member just as you were going into the Chair, Mr. Speaker. Although I am happy to listen to the hon. Member, I came into the House to reply to the hon. Member for Sunderland, North. Although I am happy to listen to general arguments and I am interested in the general problem, I think the hon. Member for Durham will not expect me to give a reply to him this evening.

Mr. Speaker

Be it clearly understood that I create no breach of the convention, and on that understanding I say let us listen.

Mr. Grey

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I mentioned Scotland because obviously it is linked with the £70 million. I shall not labour that further.

We have had a number of visits recently. The President of the Board of Trade has been to the North-East and more recently the Parliamentary Secretary. We had the Minister of Labour and also the predecessor of the Parliamentary Secretary. I think he must have a split personality now he is Ministers of Pensions and National Insurance. He must say one thing as a Minister and a different thing when he is addressing a Conservative conference or a meeting.

We met the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance time and time again when he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. He told us nice things and was quite charming. We were quite pleased with him, but when he addressed a Conservative conference he suggested that perhaps the best way out of our difficulties in the North-East would be to migrate elsewhere. We begin to wonder whether these people are sincere in their efforts to find ways and means of obtaining employment for the people in the North-East. Such a statement was completely deplorable. It is an issue which cannot be allowed to go by without our expressing our great discontent. It should be withdrawn completely, or the Government should tell us exactly what they intend to do for the North-East.

The question of jobs in the pipeline comes up again. It comes up in every speech made by Ministers, but we do not know what is in it apart from the fact that they say there is so much in the pipeline. Somehow they get lost and they leak, but we never have the facts. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North that we should treat this pipeline business with scepticism. We would be pleased if we could be told how these figures are obtained and if we could be sure that they are facts which the Government are telling us and not vague unrealities.

There is also the question of juvenile employment. We now have young people unemployed who left school in the middle term of the year. This is rather a tragic situation. If these young people do not find jobs now, I do not know in what way they will develop in later years. To get the best from our young people we must try to find them jobs now. The President of the Board of Trade should keep this in mind when he makes his statement on Thursday.

There is another industry in this area in which I and my hon. Friends are deeply interested. It is the furniture industry, where the position is very dark. There are all sorts of Government restrictions imposed on deposits on furniture and arrangements for hire purchases which make matters difficult—

Mr. D. Price

indicated dissent.

Mr. Grey

The Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head. But I have visited a furniture factory and I know that it is impossible for these factories to exist merely by making domestic furniture. They rely on Government contracts, and if more of such contracts could be placed in the North-East they would stimulate this industry. The workers in furnishing industry are highly skilled and if they leave the industry that skill will be lost. These people cannot be transferred to other parts of the country to engage in similar work, as can miners for example.

We were all dissatisfied with the reply which the Parliamentary Secretary gave to the points raised in this debate. He read his brief in a charming manner, but I wish that the hon. Gentleman had taken more notice of what has been said instead of just reading a brief.

10.22 p.m.

Mr. R. M. Bingham (Liverpool, Garston)

I have listened carefully to what has been said about Sunderland and the question which was put to the Parliamentary Secretary about whether? Sunderland is to be rescheduled and receive the full facilities available under the Local Employment Act. I appreciate that I cannot be given an answer tonight to the question which I wish to put, but I hope that next Thursday some kind of answer may be provided. My question is, what is the percentage figure of unemployment which qualifies an area to receive the facilities provided under the local employment legislation? If it is over 5 per cent. the area which I represent, Merseyside, would qualify, and I ask that that area be reinstated.

10.24 p.m.

Mr. Ernest Popplewell (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)

I am sure that the pleasant manner of the Parliamentary Secretary and the way he has addressed the House has created a false impression of what is happening in Sunderland and the adjoining areas. I was surprised when the Parliamentary Secretary chided my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) and said that he knew nothing about the 8,000 jobs which were referred to by my hon. Friend. In a Written Answer on 23rd July the hon. Gentleman mentioned a figure of 8,000 jobs. There were 3,200 jobs in respect of the development districts of Northumberland, Durham and the North Riding. I agree that it is not just Sunderland. It was estimated that new factories in connection with the 3,200 jobs would cost £1 million. Regarding the other 5,000 jobs to make the total of 8,000, the hon. Gentleman said that they were covered by the industrial development certificate issued for fourteen factory projects with a total area of just under 1 million square feet. The Parliamentary Secretary should not have said that he did not know where the 8,000 came from.

Mr. D. Price

Important though Sunderland is, it does not include all the area the hon. Gentleman has just mentioned. He has the answer in his own statement. The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) was talking about 8,000 in relation to Sunderland. Eight thousand over a wider area is an entirely different matter. We were talking about Sunderland. Surely the hon. Member can see that point.

Mr. Popplewell

That is sharp practice.

Mr. Price

It is not sharp practice.

Mr. Popplewell

It is a little like sharp practice, because the Parliamentary Secretary in effect implied that the 8,000 jobs referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North were a myth.

Mr. Price

The hon. Member for Sunderland, North was talking about Sunderland.

Mr. Popplewell

The Parliamentary Secretary must have known—

Mr. Speaker

Order, order. It is not in order to accuse another Member of sharp practice. I require the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the phrase.

Mr. Popplewell

In deference to your wishes, Sir, I certainly withdraw the phrase "sharp practice", although I had rather thought that it was a Parliamentary phrase, but I am subject to your guidance. If I am wrong in saying that, I will say that the Minister had a very agile mind when he tried to escape and say that he knew nothing about the 8,000. He himself mentioned the 8,000 in reply to the Question asked by my hon. Friend. There was no need for him to make a mystery of it.

The position revealed at Sunderland indicates another weakness in addition to the whole latent weakness in connection with the Local Employment Act. We used to have a north-east trading estate. When the estate was controlled by a group of individuals from the North-East looking after the North-East, it made good progress, to say the least. When the Government came to power in 1951, they abandoned the idea of local trading estates and established the National Trading Estates Association, as I think it is called. In the North-East since that development took place it is regrettable that, according to my information—I am subject to correction—these new projects have brought only a little more employment to the North-East as a whole over the last eleven years. If the information I am given is correct, only a few more personnel were employed on the Central Trading Estate in 1961 as compared with 1951. The same is true, I understand, of the Team Valley, the West Churton and the Hartlepools Estates and all those which are now to come under the purview of the National Trading Estates Association. I do not know whether this is a significant fact, but nothing like so much development has taken place as happened previously.

On 23rd July, we kept the House up nearly all night discussing this problem of unemployment. I make no apology for that. It is terrible when the Minister of Pensions comes to the North-East and implies that it is a decayed area and that nothing can be done about it, and is complacent about the 15,000 or 16,000 people leaving the North-East each year. This has been going on for a number of years, but nothing has been done about it. It is terrible when people talk as the Chancellor did yesterday and say that we have to depend again on public works. This is too reminiscent of the events of the 1920s and 1930s. That was the only remedy that there was in those times for the North-East and many other areas—large-scale public works. Surely in this day of suggested expansion the Government should look a little further ahead than that—

The Question having been proposed, at Ten o'clock, and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at half-past Ten o'clock.