HC Deb 14 March 1963 vol 673 cc1501-3
6. Mr. MacColl

asked the President of the Board of Trade if, in view of the need to attract new industry to areas of high unemployment, he will obtain powers to assist in the rehabilitation of derelict and unsightly land in areas not covered by the Local Employment Act.

Mr. Erroll

I already have powers under the Local Employment Act to enable me to assist in the rehabilitation of land in areas which are deemed to form part of development districts by reason of the fact that they are within travel-to-work distance of, or constitute an overspill area for, a development district, where this will further the purposes of the Act.

Mr. MacColl

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that my interest in the Question is now somewhat more remote owing to a recent decision of his in the case of Widnes, for which I am grateful? Is he aware, however, that the problem of rehabilitating derelict industrial land is not necessarily directly associated with the amount of unemployment in an area and its chance of being made a development district? Should not the right hon. Gentleman do more to help authorities who want to attract industry to make their towns more attractive?

Mr. Erroll

I appreciate the need for such rehabilitation in areas outside those covered by the Local Employment Act. That, however, is a matter not for my Department, but for other Departments.

Mr. S. Silverman

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is a problem which affects a great many places where unemployment is both high and persistent, whether or not they have been scheduled under the Local Employment Act? Do his powers to deal with derelict and unsightly land apply also to derelict and unsightly factories or to unoccupied and unemployed mills, which constitute one of the most serious aspects in places that are extremely hard hit?

Mr. Erroll

I appreciate that that is a matter of some importance, and I would prefer, therefore, to give a considered answer, but I think that the phrase "derelict land" does include unoccupied land or unsightly buildings if these can be acquired on reasonable terms. My powers extend only to those areas classed as development districts or which serve the employment needs of development districts.

Mr. Ross

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that even in areas scheduled there is room for flexibility in the administration of this Act? If he looks up the debates we had during the passing of the Act, he will see that some of us expressed doubts about this. Is he aware that more help was given under the old Act than under this one as at present administered?

Mr. Erroll

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he has said. I will look into that point.