HC Deb 17 June 1965 vol 714 cc877-8
22. Mr. Tilney

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will take steps to buy part of the large factories now vacant on Merseyside and to divide them into smaller units for rent, thus encouraging the expansion of feeder industries for the large industrial establishments operating in the area.

Mr. Jay

The Local Employment Acts already provide the necessary powers. I have inquired into the possibility of reconstructing and modernising the factories to which I believe the hon. Member refers; but I find that the cost would be likely to be disproportionate to the employment provided.

Mr. Tilney

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a lack of ancillary industries on Merseyside and, although there may be a large amount of vacant industrial floor space, this space is too costly for small firms, which badly want small factories which are not available?

Mr. Jay

I fully agree that there is a need for employment, though as a matter of fact on Merseyside now, as in most of the under-employed areas, unemployment is lower than it has been for a great many years. If factual information can be advanced which shows that these factories could be used economically, I should be very glad to look at it.

Mr. Heffer

Would my right hon. Friend indicate whether the Government have decided to establish publicly-owned industries on Merseyside and whether the factories of which the hon. Gentleman has spoken could be used in this capacity?

Mr. Jay

We are intending to build two new advanced factories on Merseyside, as my hon. Friend knows, for which we are now looking for land. We are exploring the possibility of establishing new Government enterprises also.

Mr. Ogden

Would my right hon. Friend agree that the conversion of an existing factory would take much less time than the building of a new factory? Although unemployment certainly is less on Merseyside than it has been for many years, it is still almost twice the national average. We want speedy action, although we appreciate all that has been done since last October.

Mr. Jay

That is what one would naturally think a priori, but investigation of these factories by my officers suggests that it might be more economical to build new factories. I remain open-minded on this.

Mr. Barber

Did I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say in answer to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) that he was considering the establishment of publicly-owned industries in this area?

Mr. Jay

Yes, Sir.