HC Deb 15 November 1962 vol 667 cc564-8

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:


To ask the President of the Board of Trade what criteria he took into account when selecting recently the sites for advance factories.

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. F. J. Erroll)

With permission, I will now answer Question No. 55.

The decision to build four more advance factories in Central Scotland and five more in North-East England was taken as a special measure of assistance for the two areas with the most persistent unemployment problems. Other advance factories recently announced have been small factories mainly intended to bring relief to more or less remote places likely to be affected by colliery closures and other special factors.

The new factories, on the other hand, are to be larger and will be in places that both need new employment and are likely to be attractive to growing industry. The aim is to attract to these areas substantial firms which might provide a nucleus for industrial development on a larger scale than could be sustained in more remote areas.

Mr. Hoy

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what number of jobs are likely to be provided by the factories proposed to be erected in Scotland?

Mr. Erroll

On the average about 200 jobs per factory, but it varies, of course, according to the type of tenant who ultimately will take them up.

Mr. Proudfoot

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his Answer, may I ask him to look again at the areas in East Cleveland which have recently been put into a development district and which had an ironstone mine closure? Will he see whether the criteria for these factories fit this particular case?

Mr. Erroll

I shall be glad to do what my hon. Friend has suggested, but it is a difficult matter for me to select the areas because I recognise that there are other areas which are just as deserving as those selected. The limitation is not on the ground of finance, but on the rate at which we think likely tenants are to be found. I shall consider sympathetically any suggestions made by hon. Members in any part of the House regarding any districts.

Mr. Bottomley

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that on Tees-side the steel and chemical industries, because of modernisation, will need less labour? Is he doing anything about advance planning to improve further employment possibilities in an area which is already over-burdened with unemployment?

Mr. Erroll

I am fully aware of the difficulties in the district mentioned by the right hon. Member and I am using the full powers conferred upon me by the Local Employment Act to attract new industry to those localities.

Lady Tweedsmuir

Will my right hon. Friend consider that if, in Scotland, he places advance factories only in the industrial belt, such areas as the northeast of Scotland will suffer more than at present? Does he realise that there are great potentialities for growth away from the industrial belt of Scotland?

Mr. Erroll

Yes, Sir. I appreciate the potentialities for growth and in the previous list of advance factories announced in June and July for Scotland one was at Sanquhar and one in Stranraer, in Wigtownshire, which shows that we are not solely concerned with the industrial belt.

Mr. Shinwell

How long will it be before these advance factories are built, and before they are in production? Is it not likely that they will not be ready for eighteen months or two years? Surely it is desirable, because of the high rate of unemployment in certain areas in the North-East, in Scotland and elsewhere, that the Government should immediately proceed with a large programme of public works to alleviate the effects of the present problem?

Mr. Erroll

The first job is to acquire the necessary land to build factories. That is proceeding as quickly as may be. Then we shall build the factories rapidly and do our best to get the tenants in as soon as they have shown interest in leasing the factories. I cannot put a precise date on any of these matters because it depends on a variety of circumstances, especially the acquiring of land.

The question of a programme of public works to alleviate unemployment goes wider than the original Question I am answering.

Dame Irene Ward

While thanking my right hon. Friend for a rather imaginative placing of one advance factory in Chester-le-Street, which indicates a new appreciation of how to plan to meet our problems, may I ask him to tell us now when we are to have a new road to fit in with the new communications for the North-East Coast? Is he aware that just putting down a few advance factories is not all that we want? We want a great, new imaginative programme in many directions.

Mr. Erroll

I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport is considering what can be done to improve road communications in the North-East. I can only say that I am very glad it is his problem and not mine. Mine is to get on with providing new factories as soon as possible.

Mr. Thorpe

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his chances of successfully siting these advance factories will be considerably reduced if any of the branch railway lines leading to these areas are closed down? May we know what discussions he has had, or will have, with the Ministry of Transport to see that one Ministry does not cut the railways while another Department is trying to re-create industry in the same area?

Mr. Erroll

I do not think that it necessarily follows that branch lines will be closed down exactly where advance factories are going up [Laughter.]—for the very good reason that we are not as incompetent as the hon. Member suggests we are. In fact, many of the smaller modern factories make extensive use of road transport. That is why I am so glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) referred to roads in the North-East, which, of course, are of considerable importance to the develoment of the area.

Sir C. Osborne

Will my right hon. Friend issue a very necessary warning that the mere building of new factories will not of itself guarantee full employment and that what is necessary is to get businesses from the Midlands and the South-East to be willing to go to the north of England and take work to the people?

Mr. Erroll

I have great respect for what my hon. Friend has just said. The new factories will not of themselves guarantee new employment, but we have had considerable success in letting not only the advance factories which we have already built, but existing factory space which is in Board of Trade ownership. I believe that the existence of these factories and the fact that we are building mare will be a powerful inducement to industries in those parts of the country which my hon. Friend mentioned to go to these areas.

Mr. Ross

Is the right lion Gentleman aware that the action he has taken for Scotland in no way matches the need? May I ask exactly what he proposes to do about unemployment in Ayrshire? If he has not already taken action, will he do so immediately, bearing in mind the additional tragic blow which came to Ayrshire recently, not only by the loss of life but also by the loss of over 1,000 men's jobs in the Barony colliery in Auchinleck?

Mr. Erroll

I am not suggesting for a moment that the building of advance factories will solve the whole unemployment problem, but 'that it will make a contribution to doing so. As to Ayrshire, we announced in July that we were to put up a factory in Cumnock, in the south. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) is for once notably silent during supplementary questions.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot debate these wide topics without a question before us.