HC Deb 19 June 1963 vol 679 cc603-12

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

10.46 p.m.

Mr. Albert Roberts (Normanton)

After dealing with places all over the world, we now return to our own country and to my own county, Yorkshire. I am raising this Adjournment debate tonight because I feel that the President of the Board of Trade and the Parliamentary Secretary should consider what kind of industry and diversity of industry and population are required in my area. I know that the President of the Board of Trade is either a very popular or unpopular man, and in this case, as far as I am concerned, he is unpopular. I am concerned because I believe that the right policies are not being put in hand.

The growth of industries because of their national importance matters locally as well as regionally. The Parliamentary Secretary knows why I am taking a special interest in the West Riding of Yorkshire. For generations we have had staple industries and we can boast that we have sustained the economy of the United Kingdom for a long time. At the moment, I believe, we are producing the biggest profits for the National Coal Board. Ours is a prolific coal field and employer-employee relationships are as good as any in the United Kingdom.

But for years there has been a drift of population to the South and South-East and the Midlands and one is bound to be concerned for a constituency like mine and others in Yorkshire. We claim to be a development district. We are not crying out "Action stations". We well understand and sympathise with the greater unemployment in the North-East and Scotland and parts of Wales and Lancashire.

The President of the Board of Trade has adopted a panic policy. He is trying to divert industry from Yorkshire to the development districts. If we are not asking for new industries, why should the President of the Board of Trade try to take away those that we have? The right hon. Gentleman has failed to take cognisance of the arguments which have been put to him on this issue. He has dug his heels in and said that industry must be sent to the development districts. I do not disagree with that, but I believe that these industries should be sent from the South, from the South-East, and from the Midlands.

The pattern of industry in Yorkshire is changing. If we are at all forward-looking, I believe that we must plan not for the next year or two, but for the next fifteen or twenty years. The West Riding is the most populous part of Yorkshire, yet there are only two people per acre. Land commands a terrific price in the Midlands and the South, but this state of affairs could have been avoided if, ever since 1951, consideration had been given to ensuring that there was a proper diversification of population and industry.

Many towns in Yorkshire are losing their populations, among them Castle ford, Shipley, Mexborough, Sheffield, Halifax, York, Normanton, Barnsley and Wakefield. One has only to look at the figures issued by the Registrar General to realise this. We are not asking for new industries; we have developed our own industries, and yet the President of the Board of Trade is trying to take away our industries and send them to other parts of the country.

At present, 110,000 men are employed in the mining industry in Yorkshire. Does the Parliamentary Secretary realise that within the next five years 20 per cent. of our manpower will be unable to find employment in the mining industry? Although the mining population is going down, the production of coal is going up. I am pleased about this, but what will happen to the young men and boys who will be unable to obtain work in the mines? Not long ago the Parliamentary Secretary told me that the Coal Board was taking care of its redundancy problems. Within the next six years two collieries in my constituency will close. What will happen to the boys who leave school and are unable to find work in the area?

We have been told about opencast mining in the West Riding. Our countryside looks like a battlefield, and it has been like that since 1941. We therefore claim that we have a right to receive some of these new growth industries, but the President of the Board of Trade says that these industries are ideal for the development districts.

The heavy woollen industry is facing heavy competition from other sources. In places like Morley, Batley and Dewsbury the Board of Trade should give consideration to the pattern of industry likely to develop over the next few years. If we look at the pattern of employment we find that for 1961, dealing in thousands, in London and the south-eastern district it was 5,120, whereas in the West Riding it was 1,225. The percentage increase for London and the South-East was 12 per cent.; in the West Riding it was negligible. All the regions mentioned in the "Regional Pattern of Industry" have a figure above that of the West Riding with the exception of Wales, Scotland and the northern region.

Why does the President of the Board of trade want to destroy viable industries in my county? I know that a new plastic industry has started from scratch and is being developed, but we have no electronics industry and will have no motor industry in Yorkshire now that it is closing down in Doncaster and going to the North-West. We are dependent on the traditional industries. We are afraid that sufficient consideration is not being given to what is likely to happen in the near future.

I was alarmed when I looked at the District Bank Review, which deals with some figures concerning the regions I have mentioned. This no doubt was after spending a terrific amounton research. It tells us that vehicles, engineering and electrical goods industries are situated in the South and the Midlands. In the East and West Riding, Northern Scotland and the northern region they are put down as negligible. I claim that in the coal zone alone in the West Riding 30,000 females are prepared to take jobs if they could be made available. I can give figures concerning Pontefract, Castleford, Barnsley, Rotherham and other areas, If the Parliamentary Secretary is interested I shall be willing to supply him with details.

I shall not be acrimonious. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will not disagree that I am trying to fight for something which is important to the well-being of the West Riding. It is time that real consideration and planning were given to this matter, not that panic action should be taken just because there has been a rapid increase in unemployment in certain parts of the country. By all means those places must be helped. There is nothing more demoralising than unemployment. I realise this and I also realise that if more consideration were given to proper planning it would be seen that the kind of growth industries to which I have referred should be allowed more or less equally to spread throughout the country instead of being allowed to collect in one or two parts.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept the points I have put forward and encourage our industries as much as possible. At least the Minister has no right to upset industries where employers and employees work well together and where the industries are viable. He has no right to tell such people that they must go elsewhere. My challenge to him is that he must give this consideration. I am not concerned only with the present but with the future. When applications are made for I.D.C.s, the President of the Board of Trade and the Parliamentary Secretary should say to our own industries, "You are doing a good job and we will put nothing in the way to prevent your progress."

11.1 p.m.

Mr. George Jeger (Goole)

The employment pattern in Yorkshire is rather similar to that which occurred recently in the North-East. May I draw attention to the figures given only two days ago in the House? The north-eastern unemployment figure was 5 per cent. At that time, two days ago, the unemployment figure in a black spot in my constituency, Thorne, was 6.6 per cent. The national average is 2.4 per cent.

I appeal to the Minister to do something along the lines suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. A. Roberts) in recognising the changing pattern of industry in Yorkshire, taking account of the diversity of industry there and making some effort to deal with a black spot such as Thorne and to a lesser extent, Goole, by encouraging new industry to go there, or if that cannot be done, by giving en- couragement and assistance to existing smaller industries, so that they may be able to expand and to provide the local unemployed people with the work which they are anxious to do.

A little while ago, on one of the 15 occasions that I have raised local unemployment in the House this year, I was told by the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Labour that the unemployed of Thorne could go a dozen miles away to Doncaster where there were better opportunities of finding work. The latest report of the local employment committee says: There are very few openings in Doncaster and little improvement is to be expected there. In the light of that, I should like the Minister to review the consideration which was given to the local position a little while ago, when my Question was answered, and to see whether anything can be done, either separately in Thorne and Goole or by combining the two into a development district and dealing with them as a concerted whole.

Recently, special consideration was given to shipbuilding in the North-East. We can do shipbuilding in Goole and Thorne; it is done, but far too little, and far too many would-be shipbuilders are unemployed. I can devote only a moment or two to this issue, by courtesy of the hon. Member, and I want to give him time for a full reply, but I hope that he will give Thorne and Goole special consideration in the same way as it was given to the North-East.

11.5 p.m.

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

I very much welcome the opportunity to reply to some of the arguments advanced by the hon. Members for Normanton (Mr. A. Roberts) and Goole (Mr. Jeger).

The hon. Member for Normanton gave us notice that the Adjournment debate would embrace the vast subject of industrial development in the whole of Yorkshire. Although my own county, Hampshire, at cricket recently, disposed of Yorkshire in three days, I should not dare attempt to discuss the industrial problems of Yorkshire in 10 minutes, and I shall confine my remarks to the West Riding and particularly to that part of it in the neighbourhood of Normanton.

Even with this attempt to limit the subject, it is obviously quite impossible to do justice to it in the time available or, indeed, to answer all the hon. Member's questions.

The hon. Member complained that in the Board of Trade we are unreasonable in refusing industrial development certificates for projects in the West Riding and that we are depriving Yorkshire of its own industry by steering the expansion of local firms to other parts of the country. He and I have discussed these matters together on a number of occasions, and if I have not so far convinced him of the rightness of our policies, I hope that I shall be able to do so tonight.

In terms of actual unemployment, the West Riding has few problems compared with the less favoured parts of the country. I recognise, and will make reference to, the particular problems of Goole in a moment. I will give the House some recent comparative figures on unemployment to illustrate this. In the West Riding in May, 1963, the average rate of workers wholly unemployed was 1.6 per cent., compared with a national average of 2.3 per cent. and with rates in the North-East of 4.7 per cent., in Scotland of 4.5 per cent., on Lower Merseyside of 5.7 per cent., and in Ireland of 7.8 per cent. These are our major problem areas, and I am sure that the House would agree that they must have the first call on new industrial projects.

I have great sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that we should think these things fifteen or twenty years ahead. I agree that that is a very good thing if one can do it, but one must give the priority where the unemployment actually is now and not where it might be fifteen years ahead. Any hon. Member who found himself in my position would make the same priority.

I realise that the West Riding is a large area and that the average figure may hide local problems. Let me break down my general proposition in some detail. In the main industrial centres of the West Riding, with their well diversified industrial structures, the rates in May were as follows. The House will forgive me if I reel off some figures quickly: Bradford, 1.7 per cent.; Barnsley, 2.5 per cent.; Doncaster, 2.3 per cent.; Halifax, 1.2 per cent.; Huddersfield, 0.9 per cent.; Leeds, 1.4 per cent.; Rotherham, 2.1 per cent.; Sheffield, 1.7 per cent., and Wakefield, 1.2 per cent. Nevertheless, we realise that the West Riding has its industrial and its social problems.

Mr. Jeger

What about Thorne?

Mr. Price

I will deal with Thorne separately.

The labour force of the two traditional industries—coal and wool textiles—has declined over the last decade. We recognise that. But this fall in employment has not caused any significant rise in unemployment generally. Therefore, we are entitled to assume that people coming out of lost jobs have been absorbed by the prosperous and often newer industries of the main industrial centres—the hon. Member for Goole (Mr. Jeger) will notice the phrase "main industrial centres"—which I have just listed. Nor should there be any likelihood of serious unemployment arising in future.

Now, coal. The Yorkshire coalfield, as the hon. Member for Normanton has rightly observed, is an efficient and very profitable one, the largest in the country in terms of employment, the second largest in terms of output. It presents no major problems or major difficulties of redundancies arising from closures. Indeed, it is a receiving area for manpower displaced by closures elsewhere in the country. Lord Robens has spoken recently of the brighter future ahead for the coal industry, and I think that we are entitled to assume that the future of the Yorkshire coalfield seems assured for a number of years to come. I say a number of years because in all these extractive industries it is very difficult to speculate when we get on to the hon. Gentleman's 15- to 20-year cycle.

The wool textile industry, which to many of us is almost synonymous with the words "the West Riding", is Britain's sixth largest exporter whose annual sales abroad consistently reach between £140 million and £150 million. It is true that the production of the wool textile industry was slightly lower in 1962 than in the two previous years, but this year all the signs to date are upwards. In the longer term, the industry should be able at least to maintain its position and to improve its productivity. It is true that this may well be achieved with a continuing slow decline in employment. I want hon. Members to know that we are aware of this.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the question of jobs for women. Another problem in the West Riding, which again we recognise, is the shortage of jobs for women and girls, particularly in the smaller towns. We know, too, that thousands of women and girls have to travel long distances to work daily to get to the major industrial centres. For this reason, we have welcomed—I ask the hon. Gentleman to recognise this—the introduction of female employing industry, and I can assure the House tonight that we shall continue to take a favourable view of new projects in the West Riding where labour is predominantly female.

There was the question, too—the presence and voice of the hon. Member for Goole tonight draws our attention particularly to it—of pockets of unemployment within the general picture which I have presented to the House. We recognise that pockets of comparatively high unemployment exist in places such as Thorne, which I think is the most serious one, Maltby, the Hemsworth group of employment exchanges, and the Mexborough group.

These are mainly comparatively small places within travel-to-work distance of larger and more prosperous centres of employment, but we realise that such towns have a need for suitable new industry. I also recognise that the hon. Member's problem in Thorne is probably the most serious of all I have mentioned. In the time available I cannot give particular attention to it, but I should like him to know that we are aware of it and I should be happy to discuss it with him some time in the near future.

The House knows that, subject to the overriding needs of the development districts, we are prepared to approve suitable developments in these places. We do and shall continue to keep a careful watch on them, but any development must be related to available labour. If the shortage is of work for females it is no good encouraging heavy industry to set up in a town, and conversely.

The hon. Member has said that we have encouraged West Riding firms to move away to other parts of the country. It is true that some West Riding firms have established factories in Northern Ireland, in the North-East and in Scotland, for example, Jeremiah Ambler, of Bradford, and Hepworth and Grandage, of Bradford. It is not unreasonable to expect expanding firms in these prosperous towns to make some contribution towards our distribution of industry policy. The moves made by these firms have, of course, been to their own advantage by providing them with ample supplies of labour compared to the labour problems which many of them faced in the West Riding, as well as being to the advantage of the areas to which they have moved.

We must hope and expect that such movements of expanding Yorkshire industry to areas of greater need will continue. It is only by such means that the problem of the development districts can be solved. I am sure that the House would agree that it would be scarcely reasonable to demand that the Midlands and London could or should supply all the expansion that is needed for the development districts. On the other hand, even in these prosperous areas we have approved local-based expansion which could not be expected to move elsewhere and we have welcomed reasonable new developments in places where there is a special need.

To put the hon. Member's complaints into perspective, the House may be interested to have information about the issue of industrial development certificates for Yorkshire in the period from 1st January, 1960, to 31st May, 1963. In that period we have refused industrial development certificates in only 13 cases in the West Riding and in three of these cases approval was subsequently granted. In the same period we have issued 736 certificates for the West Riding. The jobs arising from these certificates represented about 0.8 per cent. of the estimated working population of the West Riding in 1962.

Within the hon. Member's constituency, we know of the forthcoming closure of the "West Riding" Colliery and of the British Railways depot and sidings, but we understand that the workers in both cases will be offered suitable employment near at hand and that in neither case are redundancies likely. Employ- ment in the new colliery at Kellingley, not far from Normanton, will probably build up, I understand, to as much as 2,400 by about 1966. The completion of the Sheffield-Leeds motorway, which will make the West Riding quickly accessible from other major industrial areas, will be of great significance to West Riding industrial development. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has told the House that he hopes that preparation of the Don Viaduct, and some substantial part of the road works, could be completed in readiness to start construction in the financial year 1964–65.

While the need for new jobs in the West Riding cannot be compared with the need in the development districts, we realise that there is a big need for improvement in and renewal of the social infrastructure. In some places this need is comparable with that of the older industrial areas which form so much of our development districts. Thus I acknowledge, and my colleagues in the Government do, that the West Riding generally is an area where for a long time there have been problems of slum clearance and redevelopment, and, while much has been done, much still needs to be done, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government is determined it shall be done.

Therefore, I would say, in conclusion, that the solution of the problems of the West Riding lies not in a change of our general policy towards the issue of industrial development certificates, which I hope I have shown hon. Members is rather more reasonable than the hon. Member for Normanton suggested, or in a change of our policy of steering new industry wherever possible to development districts. The solution will lie in the general upturn of the economy which will result in a higher level of activity of firms in the West Riding generally as in firms throughout the country.

This, I believe, is beginning to take place, steadily but surely, on the basis of expansion without inflation rather than on a basis of boom and bust.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at sixteen minutes past Eleven o'clock.