HC Deb 13 May 1963 vol 677 cc917-21
1. Mr. Grey

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science, as representing the Lord President of the Council, what decisions Her Majesty's Government have reached following the recent tours of the Lord President of the Council of the North-East.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Science (Mr. Denzil Freeth)

Her Majesty's Government have announced a number of decisions affecting the North-East since my noble Friend paid his first visit on 15th January last. As the list of these is long, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. In addition, the North-East will also benefit from the new and increased facilities being made available to firms in development districts.

Mr. Grey

This is a complete avoidance of answering the Question. Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that I am asking what plans there are for the North-East? I am sure that on reflection he must agree that this Answer is disgraceful. We want more information. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that at the moment, in spite of what has been provided, there are still over 67,000 unemployed in the North-East and that we want a great deal more done than has been done?

Mr. Freeth

If the hon. Member will read the list of decisions which Her Majesty's Government have made, he will see that they will go a very considerable way towards reducing the large figure which he mentioned as existing at present.

Following is the list:

Government measures to assist the North-East

23rd January 1963

£325,000 programme of clearance and development work on industrial estates in the North-East announced.

28th January 1963

Financial help for Group apprenticeship scheme on Tees-side announced.

4th February 1963

Admiralty shipbuilding orders worth £10 million placed in North-East.

4th February 1963

Special additional allocation of roadworks to the value of £550,000 for the North-East.

18th February 1963

The target starting date for the construction of the first phase of the new permanent Central Office of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance at Benton, Newcastle, brought forward to August 1963 to help ease the unemployment problem in the North-East.

26th February 1963

Tees-side added to the list of development districts.

5th March 1963

Announcement that the Ministry of Housing and Local Government were to open a Regional Office for the North-East.

8th March 1963

Electricity Board authorised to increase investment by £7.5 million—of which £4.5 million to be spent directly in the North-East and other development areas. The gas industry was also authorised to bring forward about £2 million of maintenance work in areas of unemployment.

11th March 1963

Construction of two cargo vessels for Ghana to be financed by a British Government loan and steered to the North-East.

1st April 1963

D.S.I.R. branch office opened in Newcastle.

1st April 1963

Government offer of a total grant of £250,000 towards the cost of new development at Newcastle airport announced.

3rd April 1963

Government offer a loan of up to £2 million to the Tees Conservancy Commission to complete the Lackenby Dock scheme.

3rd April 1963

Facilities in Government training centres to be doubled. Over half of the increase to be in Scotland and the North-East.

8th April 1963

Further programme of thirteen advance factories announced. Five for the North-East at Aycliffe, Blyth, Stockton-on-Tees, West Auckland and West Hartlepool.

8th April 1963

Minister of Labour announced that a new Government training centre would be opened at Middlesbrough and the existing centre at Felling considerably expanded.

30th April 1963

Ministry of Public Building and Works inquiry centre to be opened in Newcastle to bring shipbuilders and local authorities and others together to consider prefabricated house building by shipyards.

17th April 1963

The starting date of a new Crown building at Stockton (£127,000) brought forward to August 1963 to help ease the unemployment problem in the North-East.

7th May 1963

Remainder of Tyneside added to the list of development districts.

8th May 1963

Order for the construction of one new Leander frigate transferred from Vickers' Barrow Yard to the High Walker Yard, Newcastle.

2. Mr. Grey

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science, as representing the Lord President of the Council, if, following his further visits to the North-East, he will now make a comprehensive statement on his tours of the North-East.

7. Mr. Owen

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science, as representing the Lord President of the Council, if he is now in a position to make a statement on the outcome of the regional study of the North-East.

Mr. Denzil Freeth

The examination of the many issues arising from my noble Friend's visits to the North-East is well advanced and has already resulted in a number of decisions, as I indicated in my Answer to the previous Question. My noble Friend will shortly be making a comprehensive report to his colleagues.

Mr. Grey

But it is now more than three months since the Minister visited the North-East, and his visit added to the list of many visits which other Ministers have made. Is it not time, therefore, that a plan should have been prepared and that we should have it, instead of waiting until just before the General Election so that it may be used as a gimmick?

Mr. Freeth

The report to which I referred was the report which my noble Friend was making to his colleagues. It would not be in the natural course of events that this should be published in the terms in which he presents it to his colleagues, or even that it should be published at all.

Mr. R. W. Elliott

Is my hon. Friend aware that the influence of the Lord President of the Council on the affairs of the North-East is already obvious to those who wish to see it? [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] Is my hon. friend further aware that the majority of people in the North-East see this appointment as representing to the North-East the greatest opportunity ever?

Mr. Freeth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his words and I will draw my noble Friend's attention to them.

17. Mr. Short

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science, as representing the Lord President of the Council, when the Lord President last visited the North-East; when he will next visit the area; when his plans will be published; and how many staff are employed by his Department in the North-East.

Mr. Denzil Freeth

From the beginning, my noble Friend has planned the execution of his special responsibilities to the North-East in three phases: first, the two extensive tours of the region in February and March, on which he was accompanied by a number of senior officials from the executive Departments; secondly, his discussions with his colleagues which led to the Government's decisions announced in the Budget and since; thirdly, his impending report to his colleagues on the longer term and their consideration of it. My noble Friend does not at present envisage making any further tours comparable to those in the first phase, but hopes to visit the region as occasion permits.

Mr. Short

The hon. Gentleman has not answered the last point about the number of staff employed in the area, but does not the Answer which he has given make nonsense of the idea that the North-East has a Minister of its own? The Lord President has not visited the area for months, he has no immediate plans for visiting the area, he has produced no plan for the area and he has virtually no staff in the North-East working for it. When will the Government stop playing about with the silly gimmick that the North-East has a Minister of its own and get down to the job of providing some employment in the area? That is what we want, not gimmicks.

Mr. Freeth

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government has already set up an office in the area since my noble Friend took over his special responsibilities. Also, the D.S.I.R. is setting up a regional office in the area. I hope that what the hon. Gentleman suggests is not that we should set up in the North-East a microcosm of Whitehall, because I do not think that that would necessarily improve the speed with which we want to get things done.

Mr. Grey

Did I understand the Parliamentary Secretary to say in his original Answer that the Lord President of the Council does not intend to visit the North-East in the near future?

Mr. Freeth

No. I said that my noble Friend did not at present envisage any further tours comparable with those in the first phase. He certainly intends to visit the North-East in the near future. There is a Question down today which specifically asks when he is going and where.

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