HC Deb 25 November 1965 vol 721 cc736-7
23 and 24. Mr. Armstrong

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (1) what steps he is taking to ensure that the Economic Planning Council for the Northern Region is giving priority to the need for new industry in the part of Durham which is west of the Great North Road;

(2) what plans he has for the establishment of new public enterprises in those parts of West Durham affected by pit closures.

26 and 28. Mr. Urwin

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (1) what estimate he has made of the extent to which the economic recovery of the Northern Region will be retarded when the recently announced programme of pit closures is completed;

(2) if, in view of the uncertainty in the coal mining industry following the announcements of further pit closures, he will now increase capital investments in the Northern Region in order to establish alternative publicly-owned industries.

Mr. William Rodgers

The Northern Economic Planning Council is urgently considering the implications of the pit closure programme in the light of the remedial measures the Government have already put in train and in order to ensure that the present prosperity of the region is maintained.

Mr. Armstrong

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the policy initiated by the previous Administration on the North-East, which classified West Durham as a "travel to work area", not only caused bitter resentment throughout the whole of West Durham but has had disastrous consequences so far as attracting industry is concerned, and that we now believe that positive measures by the Government for public enterprise are essential to that part of the country?

Mr. Rodgers

Yes, we are very fully aware of what are the special problems of the west part of the County of Durham, and we are taking full account of them in preparing our plans for the region.

Mr. Urwin

Does my hon. Friend appreciate the shattering impact that the recent news of pit closures has had throughout the coal industry? Secondly, will he also recall that the Plan itself, so far as closures are concerned, means a [most a compulsory mass migration from the Northern Region into other coalfields in different parts of the country, thereby increasing the difficulties with regard to new jobs and capital investment which is needed to a far greater extent, despite the efforts of my hon. and right hon. Friends in the Board of Trade to provide jobs in these last few months?

Mr. Rodgers

We are fully aware of the acute social problems that the necessary decisions about pit closures have produced, but I am sure that we can deal with them both in personal and welfare terms and also make sure that the Northern Region contributes increasingly to national prosperity by making full use of the manpower in it at the present time.

Mr. R. W. Elliott

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the National Plan adopts the conception set out in the Hailsham Plan growth areas, and, in consequence, will he realise that the National Plan in this respect is sensible, as it is only to growth areas that industrialists will go?

Mr. Rodgers

We recognise that some places have a greater potential for growth than others, but this is no reason why we should neglect the real human problems in areas like the west part of the County of Durham.

Mr. Barber

Will the Minister give the House a categorical assurance that it is not the intention of the Government to establish entirely new nationalised industries as envisaged in these two Questions?

Mr. Rodgers

I certainly will give no such categorical assurance.