HC Deb 10 March 1964 vol 691 cc245-8
Q2. Mr. Pentland

asked the Prime Minister what correspondence he has received from the Town Clerk of the City and County of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and the Secretary of the North-East Federation of Trades Councils, regarding the economic and unemployment problems of the North-East region; and if he will state the nature of his reply.

Q3. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Prime Minister what reply he has sent to the representations of the North-East trades councils and the Newcastle Corporation on the subject of unemployment in the North-East.

Q4. Mr. Fernyhough

asked the Prime Minister what was the nature of the reply he sent to the letters recently received by him from the Town Clerk of the City and County Borough of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and the Secretary of the North-East Federation of Trades Councils regarding the economic and social problems of the area.

The Prime Minister

I have acknowledged the receipt of these communica- tions and have informed the Town Clerk of Newcastle-upon-Tyne that the terms of the resolution he forwarded have been noted. The points in it have in fact been dealt with fully in this House.

Mr. Pentland

Will the Prime Minister tell us what immediate action he intends to take to overcome the dissatisfaction that was expressed in this correspondence by local authorities and the trade unions about the Government's plan for the North-East? Secondly, will the Prime Minister give the House a categorical assurance that, despite the country's economic and financial difficulties, the Government will not abolish the concessions that were granted to the development districts in the Budget of 1963? May we have that assurance?

The Prime Minister

If any further consultations are required between the Secretary of State for Industry and Trade and the local authorities in the North-East, I know that my right hon. Friend will be only too glad to have them.

As to what the measures have achieved up to now, as the hon. Gentleman knows I was in the North-East only a short time ago. I learnt that last year unemployment dropped by 30,000, and the hon. Gentleman will be glad to hear that the unemployment figure for February dropped from 4.3 to 4.1 per cent. That shows that we have a long way to go, but the process has begun.

Mr. Shinwell

When the right hon. Gentleman paid his recent visit to the North-East, did he make actual contact with the 53,000 unemployed in that area, or with the thousands who are still living in slums? In view of his recent statement in the House that his purpose in travelling around the country was to eliminate contamination, was the right hon. Gentleman afraid of being contaminated?

The Prime Minister

I think the right hon. Gentleman knows that my primary purpose in going to the North-East was a public-speaking engagement—and I am glad that they took it in—but it was also to see some industries. I was not on that occasion visiting the unemployed or the regional organisations. Perhaps on another occasion I shall do so.

Mr. Fernyhough

Does not the Prime Minister realise that although there may have been a reduction of 30,000 in the number of unemployed, the figure was still higher than it had been in any comparable post-war period, and that that is the big grumble of the North-East?

In those circumstances, will the Prime Minister give us a firm assurance that whatever economic and financial difficulties may overtake the present Administration, the pledges which have been made about increasing the social investment programme in the North-East will be honoured, irrespective of anything else?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. The whole purpose of our regional policy is to attract investment to the North-East and to bring employment to that area.

Mr. Pentland

On a point of order——

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Montgomery.

Mr. Pentland

As the Prime Minister deliberately evaded the second part—[interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I cannot hear the point of order.

Mr. Pentland

As the Prime Minister did not answer the second part of my supplementary question, I give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.

Mr. Montgomery

Mr. Speaker, as you called me to ask a supplementary question, am I now entitled to ask it?

Mr. Speaker

Quite frankly, I was not sure what the precise sequence of time was. I was trying to get somebody else to help me with it. I think that it was so essentially simultaneous that I must in the circumstances allow the notice.

Mr. Bourne-Arton

They are running away.


Dame Irene Ward

On a point of order. May I ask for your guidance—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—it is not for you to say! May I ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker? You have ruled on many occasions that if you have called a Member by name he is entitled to ask a supplementary question. Hon. Members on this side of the House thought we heard you call the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Montgomery). Are you changing the procedure of the House?

Mr. Speaker

I am not changing anything. I had to decide a question of fact whether the hon. Member on my left claimed his point of order, to give notice, before I called the hon. Member on my right. I certainly called him, but I thought that the sound of the hon. Member in my left ear came to me first. It is a very nice point of time. If I am wrong, I am sorry, but I must decide these matters.