HC Deb 21 March 1963 vol 674 cc546-50
15. Mr. J. Howard

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will consider taking steps to provide a subsidy to those local authorities situated in areas of high unemployment who are prepared to exempt industry in those areas from rates.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

No, Sir.

Mr. Howard

Does not my right hon. Friend consider that practical encouragement is needed and that the alleviation of rates for a fixed period of years would accelerate the establishment of businesses in these areas and probably also assist those businesses already established there to expand?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am very far from lacking sympathy with my hon. Friend's general purpose, but, as he will recall, we are only just coming up at the beginning of next month to the full rerating of industry which the House discussed and considered some time ago. I do not think that there is any case for reversing that process.

23. Mr. Ross

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent steps have been taken to ensure that the placing of contracts by Government Departments is done with full consideration of the needs of areas of high unemployment.

57 and 58. Mr. J. Robertson

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what measures are taken to allocate work to firms in development areas;

(2) under what conditions work for Government Departments is offered to firms situated in development areas where such firms have not been successful with their original tender.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

All staff concerned continue to be under instruction to give special consideration to firms in development districts. Where competitive tenders are submitted firms in such districts are always given a chance to tender. If the tenders of such firms fail to obtain a substantial part of the order, they are offered 25 per cent. of the contract at a price equivalent to that of the successful tender.

Mr. Ross

Surely the Minister appreciates that the offer which is then given is such that it is almost impossible for it to be accepted. Will he have a look at the figures of unemployment announced this morning, for they give him no room for complacency? Whatever the right hon. Gentleman thinks is being done, is is not clear that it is not meeting with any considerable success? Is he aware that a recent examination of estimates shows that the Government have a massive power of industrial patronage? Can we not have a more purposeful direction of this work so that it goes to areas like Scotland and the North East where the work is badly needed?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

If the hon. Member will study my main Answer—which, I admit, is quite complicated—he will see that very real preference is given in this respect to firms in areas where there is unemployment.

Mr. J. Robertson

Does the Chief Secretary agree that there is need to channel more work into the development areas? Will he have another look at the system of allocating the share of contracts to see that firms in the development districts are given a fair price in order to carry out their contracts?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

This matter is kept under review. On the wider issue to which the hon. Member refers, he will be aware of the number of recent announcements of additional work for these areas which has been authorised.

Mr. W. Hamilton

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what statistics are kept in the various Departments concerning the allocation of contracts, because a week or two ago the Secretary of State for Air was unable to give the details when he was questioned by hon. Members who represent Scotland? If they do not keep these statistics, will the Chief Secretary assure us that they will do so from now on?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I quite agree that we want, as part of the keeping of this under review, to see how this is going. I am not aware of the Answer to which the hon. Member referred and which was given by my right hon. Friend, but there may have been special circumstances.

Mr. Jay

Does not the recent failure of the Government to place any further substantial contracts with Messrs. Short Bros. and Harland, Belfast, completely cut across the policy which the right hon. Gentleman says the Government are pursuing?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I do not think that an argument based on a particular firm has any significance in the context of the general policy, because it cuts out references to the other contracts to which I have referred and about which announcements have been made in recent weeks concerning firms in these areas.

24. Mr. Willis

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent steps he has taken to ensure that Government spending is used to assist areas of high unemployment.

26. Mr. Lawson

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he is taking to ensure that the spending of Her Majesty's Government is directed more than at present towards areas of persistently high unemployment.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I would refer the hon. Members to the announcements made in this House on 8th November, 1962, 27th November, 1962, 17th December, 1962, 4th February, 1963 and 14th March, 1963.

Mr. Willis

In spite of these announcements, would the right hon. Gentleman examine the Answers that have been given to Scottish hon. Members in past months about the extent to which Government spending is being directed towards Scotland? After making that examination, will he make further efforts to see that a greater proportion of the expenditure is directed to areas of highest unemployment?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I think that if the hon. Member will look fairly at the announcements to which I have referred, he will see that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made a considerable number of announcements of extra additional work for Scotland: for example, in respect of electricity and roads.

Mr. Lawson

Does the Chief Secretary consider the very fact that there is such a concentration of Government spending Departments in London results in a heavy bias in favour of the placing of contracts and orders for Government goods in or near London? Will he do what he can to rectify this heavy bias in favour of this part of the country?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I do not think so, because orders have to be placed where the articles in question can be produced; and much of the heavy industry to which these orders relate is not represented in the London area at all.

Mr. Manuel

Will the right hon. Gentleman have another look at the so-called schemes designed to help local authorities in clearing derelict areas and other schemes for the short-term relief of unemployment? Will he assure himself that this is not just applying to schemes which have already been endorsed and are merely brought forward in the programme? In my constituency I have proof that newer schemes which would come within the ambit of the statement are being refused because they had not been previously authorised.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am not sure whether the hon. Member is on the point of the general minor works relaxation of control or the question of the clearance of derelict sites, a Question about which I answered a moment ago. On the latter, I have said that a statement has been promised, although I cannot anticipate it today.