HC Deb 24 January 1963 vol 670 cc270-5
Q1. Mr. Speir

asked the Prime Minister whether he is now able to announce additional measures by the Government to encourage full employment in the north-east of England.

Q2. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Prime Minister whether he has now come to a decision on the appointment of a member of the Government or an independent commissioner who will be responsible for dealing with the problem of unemployment and redundancy in the north-east region.

Q4. Mr. Milne

asked the Prime Minister what action is now being taken, by the Departments concerned, to treat as a matter of urgency the continuing unemployment in the north-east of England.

Q8. Mr. Winterbottom

asked the Prime Minister if he will indicate the duties of the Minister for the North-East; whether the Minister will have the authority to reorganise existing programmes affecting roads, schools, housing, cultural requirements, etc., by which the North suffers social disadvantages in comparison with the South in the competition for new industries; and if the Minister will be empowered to correct the uneven balance of these matters as part of his effort to cure unemployment in the North.

Q15. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Prime Minister if he will state the duties and area of operation of the Minister whom he has newly appointed to deal with the problems of unemployment.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan

I would refer right hon. and hon. Members to the Answer which I gave on 22nd January to Questions about the responsibilities of my noble Friend the Lord President of the Council.

Mr. Speir

While appreciating the point made by the Prime Minister, might I ask him if he realises that whereas London and the South are suffering great inconvenience and some hardship from the shortage of fuel—and particularly from electricity cuts—and are now threatened with a greater shortage of coal, there is an abundance of these commodities in the North-East and, indeed, a surplus of gas and electricity? There have been no fuel cuts at all in this area. is this not another reason for urging industry to come to the North-East rather than to remain in the South?

The Prime Minister

1 always thought that there was a better climate in the North than in the South. [HON. MEMBERS:"Answer."] These are additional reasons for underlining what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Shinwell

As the right hon. Gentleman is no doubt aware, I put my Question on the Notice Paper before Lord Hailsham's appointment. Can the Prime Minister say whether it is the intention of the Government, through the medium of Lord Hailsham's investigations in the North-East, to promote a short-term as well as a long-term cure for unemployment? Is he aware that immediate measures are essential, because unemployment is rising in the North-East and there is considerable hardship, and as yet the Government have devised not even a palliative to deal with the short-term problem?

The Prime Minister

Regarding the short-term problem, a great number of measures of a palliative kind have already been taken. We have the very large new authorisation of public expenditure. But I thoroughly agree that there are, too, both the short-term and the longer-term problems of the character of the industries and the need for introducing new industries, both of which we shall try to do.

Mr. Milne

Is the Prime Minister aware that the appointment to which he refers is really an admission of failure on the part of the Government to cope with this problem? Will he ensure that the Ministers responsible for bringing about this state of affairs are replaced at short notice by others?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I think that that is a rather ungenerous approach. While I have no doubt that everything is said to be the fault of the Government of the day—including the weather—I have no doubt that the appointment of my noble Friend has been generally welcomed in the North-East.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Why, in construing the expression "North-East", does the Prime Minister refer solely to the north-east of England? What about the north-east of Scotland where unemployment is extremely high? Why is the north-east of Scotland being treated as a foreign country?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that the north-east of Scotland is being treated as a foreign country. It is being treated as part of Scotland, for which the Secretary of State for Scotland is responsible.

Mr. G. Brown

In view of the Prime Minister's remarks about a generous approach, will he explain the remarks he made at Liverpool the other night in which he blamed it all on the Opposition? Since Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland already have Ministers specially to look after them and already have very heavy unemployment problems, why does the Prime Minister feel that the addition of Lord Hailsham for the North-East will make any difference there?

The Prime Minister

I think that his appointment has given pleasure in the area. [HON. MEMBERS:"No."] I have seen the reception there. I believe that his appointment will do good and I am confident that it will be accepted in the area in a very different spirit from that shown by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown).

Mr. Pentland

Is the Prime Minister aware that hon. Members on this side of the House who represent the North-East are sceptical about the appointment of Lord Hailsham because we feel that he lacks the authority to do anything about the problem? May we take it from what the Prime Minister has said that if Lord Hailsham decides, in view of the unemployment figures published today, that work should commence immediately on, say, the building of a new power station at Durham, the Prime Minister will assure us of the approval of the Government and the Cabinet so that the work can proceed without further question?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Member has announced his scepticism, so I shall not try to help him. All I can say is this. I think that this appointment will help us to bring prominently before the Government the subjects and questions about which, as the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) said, there is both a short-term and a long-term problem. I hope that we shall be able to deal efficaciously with both.

Q6. Mr. W. Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister what criteria were used in deciding to appoint a Minister with special responsibilities for dealing with unemployment problems in the North-East; and to what extent these criteria will be applied to other areas of high unemployment, including Scotland.

The Prime Minister

I asked by noble Friend the Lord President of the Council to undertake special responsibilities in relation to the problems of the North-East because I thought this would be helpful. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland already has similar responsibilities as regards Scotland.

Mr. Hamilton

But is the Secretary of State for Scotland to be judged by results? If he is, he will be sacked on the spot. In view of the figures of unemployment announced today—'and incidentally, Mr. Speaker, might I draw your attention to the fact that Members of Parliament have not had those figures made available to them although they are published in the Press today—

Mr. Speaker

Not in the middle of a Question.

Mr. Hamilton

—could the right hon. Gentleman give us any hope at all of any immediate ameliorative programmes he has up his sleeve and which it seems he led the Scottish T.U.C. to believe he had?

The Prime Minister

I suppose that in the long run we are all judged by results—

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

The Prime Minister

We have had three such judgments passed by the people—

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

The Prime Minister

—and I feel fairly confident about the fourth.

Mr. Callaghan

Is the Prime Minister aware that he will be judged, not on whether he can succeed in getting unemployment down, but on why his Administration have allowed it to rise twice in five years to this unnecessarily high level?

The Prime Minister

I remember when we were reproached for having what they called an affluent society which was said to be a disgraceful thing.

Mr. Ross

Will the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that in this connection it is not merely men that matter but measures; and that there is the conviction throughout all Scotland, and in all political parties there, that the measures so far applied to unemployment are totally inadequate? If he does not believe me, will he look at the speech made yesterday by one of his noble Friends in another place? The time for discussion is over. What we want is action, and speedy action, and less optimistic dithering about a serious problem.

The Prime Minister

Yes, and it is by actions that we shall be judged, and by which we are prepared to be judged.

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