HC Deb 05 December 1963 vol 685 c1355
29. Mrs. Castle

askedthe Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development when he intends to produce a scheme for the regional development of Lancashire.

Mr. Heath

As I explained to the House on 3rd December, in conjunction with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, I am setting up an inter-departmental group under Board of Trade chairmanship to carry out a survey of economic and planning problems in the North-West.

Mrs. Castle

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that in his speech of 3rd December he was still laying too much emphasis on Merseyside and Manchester when talking about the North-West, forgetting that the real problem in this area arises in the old cotton towns like Blackburn, Darwen, Accrington, Oldham and so on? Will he give an undertaking that he will personally visit all these towns in the near future?

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us when we can expect the report of the survey, and will he give these towns, which get no advantage under the Local Employment Act, at least grants towards the clearance of derelict sites such as are at present enjoyed by much richer development areas?

Mr. Heath

Of course, this area will be included in the study which I announced on 3rd December. Although I have not yet visited these towns since I took office—I have visited them before—I discussed their problems with some of their representatives when I was in the North-West, and I am very much aware of them. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government has, as the hon. Lady knows, arranged for a pilot study to be made in Bolton of urban renewal in order to see how these problems can be handled. As regards grants towards clearance of derelict sites, they are, of course, entitled to the 85 per cent, grant.