HC Deb 25 July 1967 vol 751 cc465-523

10.17 p.m.

Mr. Donald Coleman (Neath)

I am grateful for the opportunity to address the House this evening. During the last two or three days certain hints have been cast in my direction to the effect that several right hon. and hon. Members will try to take part in the debate. Because of this it is not my intention to detain the House for any longer than is necessary for me to introduce the subject which we are now debating.

This debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill affords the House an opportunity to debate the problems of the older industrial areas of the country, which, in turn, will, I hope, direct the attention of Parliament and the nation to the human problems which confront the people who live in these areas.

The areas which we are discussing came into being as a result of the Industrial Revolution. They are the areas from which the nation's wealth came in the past. Centred on them were the basic industries on which the nation's wealth depended—coal, steel, textiles, and shipbuilding. Today we are living in an age which is seeing the dawn of the technological revolution, the effect of which can nowhere be seen in greater relief than in the older industrial areas. I am sure that hon. Members who seek to take part in the debate will bring to it their experience of people in their constituencies, and the difficulties being experienced by the industries in their areas. For this reason it is not my purpose to try to discuss the problems and difficulties which arise in industries which are not found in my constituency.

In my constituency there are two valleys which in the last, have played an important part in the development of the coal industry in South Wales. In former days by far the greater majority of those who live there earned their living in the coal industry, but today this form of industrial activity has greatly diminished and those who work in the coal industry are in a minority.

The closures of collieries that have taken place in my constituency bear recital. In this way I can best illustrate the extent of the problem that exists there today. In the Neath Valley, which is one of the most beautiful in South Wales, thanks to the work of the Forestry Commission, the following pits have been closed: the British Rhondda pit at Rhigos, Rock, Pentreclwydau, Garth Merthyr, Glyn Castle at Resolven, Ffaldydre, and Ynysarwd.

I now turn to the other valley—the Dulais Valley. The list here again is formidable. The following pits have been closed: Onllwyn No. 3, Rhos, Onllwyn, Seven Sisters, Brynteg, Dillwyn, and Crynant.

What has this meant to my constituency? It has meant that about 5,400 jobs for men have disappeared. Now it is threatened with a loss of a further 800 jobs, if the negotiations carried on by the Executive Council of the South Wales Area of the National Union of Mineworkers are not successful in preventing the closure of Cefn Coed Colliery, also in the Dulais Valley, which it is proposed shall take place on 27th October. It should be pointed out that the only closures in the list that I have read out that have taken place since my right hon. Friend has been responsible at the Ministry of Power are those at Dillwyn, Pentreclwydau, and Glyn Castle—and the closure of Glyn Castle was announced before this Government came to power.

My constituents are not unmindful of the fact that since this Government came to office new industry has been brought into our area, notably the Ford Motor Company's plant at Jersey Marine, but the stark fact about colliery closures as they affect the Dulais Valley is that although to date 2,800 jobs have ceased to exist in the valley not one new job has yet come there.

Currently the Board of Trade is building an advance factory in the valley, but no one can imagine that when it is completed and a tenant is found it will resolve the local unemployment problem. It is quite understandable that the feelings of those who live in the Dulais Valley and other such valleys are bitter. They suffer from a feeling of being let down when they see their valleys being raped through the disappearance of the means of employment.

For the people who live in the older industrial areas the technical revolution has not meant the prospect of an increased standard of living; rather it has meant the prospect of a diminution in the means of employment for them and for their families, unless action is taken quickly to bring new work into these areas.

For some time now we have been told by the experts—and they seem to have had their way all along—that we must concentrate our industry in areas away from the valleys. Apparently this advice has been accepted. We must call a halt to the implementation of this kind of idea, for unless we do we shall find large areas of this country left completely without the means of sustaining the communities to be found in the older industrial areas. We will write off millions of pounds of social capital and, worse still, destroy communities which have built up traditions of culture and a way of life which has enriched the life of the British people.

One would imagine that communication with the Dulais Valley was difficult if one listened to the experts, but this is not so, because it is wide and easily accessible at both ends, with communications to the Midlands, London and the ports of Swansea and Port Talbot. When the Heads of the Valleys Road is completed, as the Secretary of State told us, in the 1970s, the valley will be only two hours from the Midlands, three from London and half an hour from Swansea and Port Talbot. The Minister should consider these factors to ensure that the survival of these valleys and their communities is guaranteed.

The people living in the older industrial areas are not opposed to industrial and technological change, but what makes them bitter is the sight of their industries dying out and no other employment replacing them and the sight of their young people going elsewhere for work, when they know that, if work were available, they would stay to play their part in their own communities. The other week, driving through a mining valley in a constituency of one of my hon. Friends, I saw something which I deplore and condemn, slogans daubed on walls demanding work. I can appreciate the feelings of those who painted such slogans, for they had seen their valleys denuded of employment, the pits closed and no other employment brought in.

Surely it is not too much for these people to expect that, when one means of employment dries up, another should be found. I hope that the debate will enable the Minister, whom we know to have a great capacity for understanding the problems of these areas, to bring pressure to solve the problems.

10.24 p.m.

Mr. R. B. Cant (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

When we talk of the older industrial areas, the names which come to our lips are those of the Clydeside, South Wales, North-East Lancashire, and so on. I wish to draw attention to one of the smaller areas, a product of the Industrial Revolution, the Potteries, a name associated with the magic of the products of firms like Wedgwood, Doulton, Spode and Minton. They are associated with an industry which, in the words of Lord Stamp, the great geographer, represents the most remarkable industrial concentration in the world, because 90 per cent. of this industry's output comes from within the 30 square miles or so of the administrative area of the city of Stoke-on-Trent.

In the nomenclature which inevitably has arisen in discussion of problems of the older industrial areas, we are getting used to the term "grey areas". Only in a strictly administrative sense could the Potteries ever be called a grey area. I am an adopted son of the Potteries and I have found it an extremely lively, cultured and friendly place. Areas such as the Potteries—if the Potteries are not unique—could be described in socioeconomic terms as areas of intermediate prosperity.

I cannot say that we have a serious unemployment problem, although the problem of short-time working is becoming serious. There is a potential unemployment problem. An area which is dominated by the pottery industry and has associated with it the coal mining industry has a level of family income which is lower than that in the country as a whole. The workers in the pottery industry have acquired a very vigorous and forward-looking general secretary who has brought the wages of the adult male somewhat nearer to the national average. While not detaining the House for too long, I will mention one or two consequences which flow from that.

We have to accept that because family income, even when a very high proportion of women are working in the industry, is low, the social structure of an area such as the Potteries is not in accordance with the national pattern. This must be true of many other areas. I shall not bother the House with statistics, but the population census reveals these facts quite clearly. One of the consequences which interests me greatly, having been chairman of the city education authority for many years, is that although the people of Stoke-on-Trent are proud that in terms of primary education they are the biggest spenders in England and Wales, apart from Merthyr Tydvil, and fourth highest per thousand of population in the secondary education "league table" of spenders, we do not get the sort of educational results we want from our schools. We are going over to comprehensive education and to the high school sixth form type of secondary education in the hope of producing better results, but in an area which to some extent is deficient in terms of middle-class population, this is the sort of pattern which reproduces itself throughout the country.

Incidentally, not a single senior local government officer lives within the city administrative boundaries. Inevitably these areas not only take on this sort of shape, but in physical terms they can be unattractive. We in Stoke are very conscious of the fact that people who approach the city by rail or road are under no illusion that they are approaching a city like Naples. It is deficient in some of the aesthetic characteristics which our great cities should have. Stoke, with the Potteries, is beginning to become increasingly aware of this. It is taking on a sort of corporate image which I do not think it had five or 10 years ago. It is reaching out for a place on the map of the country and we have been richly blessed by the Government in recent times because polytechnical status has been given to a college of technology and we shall shortly have "Radio Stoke" calling. We hope, too, that our local university will have a medical school very soon, but I must not say too much about that.

But, even so, what we need is more assistance from the Government. We need more help with urban renewal because I do not think we can make an area like the Potteries, one of the great centres of population, attractive to executive personnel of undertakings until we have built up the social infrastructure of the City, and this is a very expensive business. The rateable value of a house in Stoke is only half that of the average house in Coventry, and this demonstrates something of our problem. We also need—and this comes nearer to my right hon. Friend's brief—some help with industrial development. We must have this not only on economic but on social grounds. I hope that he will be a little easier when industrialists come to him for industrial development certificates and will grant one or two even though, according to the official yardstick, our unemployment is not higher than the national average.

In the Budget debates, my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury held out a little hope and I trust that it will materialise. I hope that my right hon. Friend will use his good offices with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to get us perhaps 50 per cent. of the regional employment premium and will perhaps think in terms of giving to an area like the Potteries some measure of the investment grant privileges which go to development areas.

I shall not detain the House further. I have made one or two modest requests but I hope I have persuaded my right hon. Friend that this great industrial area, a product of the 18th century, which has become identified in the public mind with the Potteries and which, in future, will be the centre of a city region of North Staffordshire, is deserving of some greater help to supplement the undoubtedly great effort it has made on its own behalf.

10.35 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Probert (Aberdare)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman) on being called so early in this very long debate and—much more important—on his choice of subject. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Neath upon making such an eloquent plea for one of the grey areas. He has delineated quite effectively some of the problems of the older industrial areas which we are discussing, but which may not be within the so-called development districts. I am pleased to say that he is joining a number of us who for many years have campaigned for ways of dealing with the problems of the so-called development areas.

I have taken the view over a number of years that the nation cannot afford to neglect so many areas of the country which can contribute profitably to the nation in terms of productivity, social costs, and, indeed, profitability to industry itself. These are some of the aspects which the nation is completely ignorant about.

I will be brief, because a number of my hon. Friends wish to speak on many subjects. Consequently, I shall deal briefly with only one or two aspects of the problems of the older areas. I may say paradoxically that I shall deal with the advantages of the older industrial areas which can accrue to the nation if we are able to solve the problems. I hope to dispel some of the myths which have grown around the problems of the redistribution of industry which, after all, is what my hon. Friend is really concerned about. Over a period of years there have been quite a number of pit closures in my area resulting in a loss of about 2,000 jobs. I will not develop any debate on the coal industry. Last week I sat throughout the whole of the night listening to my mining friends dealing with this problem. I hope, when we deal with the White Paper on Fuel Policy, that I shall be fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, because I shall then deal with the coal industry.

Fundamentally there are two ways of dealing with the problems which afflict the older industrial areas at the present time. First, there is what I may call the purely surgical approach—to move the workers away from the areas to the so-called more prosperous areas. Secondly, there is the approach of bringing industry to these areas of very high unemployment.

In considering these two lines of approach, it is essential to appreciate which of these two methods will be the more beneficial to the people involved and, in consequence, to the country as a whole.

In recent years much has been done to induce workers to move to jobs in the so-called over-employed regions. We have had retraining schemes, financial assistance for travelling and other costs. All these things are still necessary, but there should be far more emphasis on retraining, not for emigrating the worker, but to make available to industry which is being set up in the development areas the unemployed or redundant workers from the declining industries, particularly in South Wales, in relation to steel and coal. In other words, my plea is to stop emigration and retrain for jobs on the spot.

The Government are making tremendous offers to industry to transfer to the development areas with, as we are well aware, very substantial financial assistance, and I congratulate the Minister of State and, indeed, the President of the Board of Trade on what has been done in this regard.

I want to stress, once again, the importance to the country as a whole of the advantages of the development of the older difficult areas. It is not just a matter of social justice—indeed, it is not just a matter of rectifying social injustice—it is a matter of financial prudence for the nation, and a matter, if solved, which could have very substantial gains to our national economy.

Therefore, we who are making a plea tonight on behalf of the older areas are not merely pleading for charity or merely for the rectification of social injustice. We are asking for a sane approach to these problems purely in the national interest. I have always held the view that in the interests of the nation, in the interests of productivity, about which we now hear so much, and in the interests of costs and finally of our export drive it is far better to bring jobs to the workers in the development areas than it is to induce workers to go to jobs in the over-congested areas.

My researches into this problem over a number of years have shown that the oft-repeated claim that transport costs, for example, would prove excessive if industry transferred to the so-called peripheral areas is quite untrue. It is often the age-old excuse of industrialists who simply do not want to move. As I have said in previous debates on this subject, the Toothill Report on the inquiry into the Scottish economy showed how illusory this claim was. Indeed, the very slight increase in transport costs is far offset by savings in rents, rates, labour costs and, just as important, the low labour turnover in these areas as compared with, say, London and the Midlands. There is also the high expense development on existing sites in congested areas.

From what I have said it is obvious that there must be other reasons which make industrialists loth to move. I have often felt that some industrialists are simply afraid of what they consider to be the unknown. The more objective, or more thinking, are probably more concerned with problems of the kind of labour to be expected, communications, transport services, what might be called the infrastructure.

There are, too, more personal considerations for which those of us who reside in these areas have a great deal of sympathy. These are the housing of families, education of children, amenities and so on, social considerations for the wives, which may particularly affect the executive class. But the industrialists themselves could do much more than has been done.

I have a case, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Neath will be well aware, which concerns the Dunlop Rubber Company which wished to expand on a site on an industrial estate which serves my hon. Friend's constituency and mine. With the co-operation of two adjacent authorities, this company brought down not only its key workers and certain executives but also their wives and children to make a tour of the area. This plan was highly successful in inducing these key workers and their families to agree to come from what they might have regarded as a more salubrious area.

I am glad to say that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade thought that this was such an excellent example that, although he was harassed at that time with other engagements, he squeezed in about two hours of his time to come and meet these representatives of this progressive firm and was present when they were enter- tained at a local college of further education.

I would have liked to have analysed the costs and savings to industry and the nation which result from bringing jobs to the workers because as I said earlier, it is an illusion that that is far more costly than bringing workers to the job. It is beyond my comprehension why successive Governments have not tackled this problem more effectively in the past. However, I do not think that anyone can criticise the present Government, for they have offered tremendous financial inducements and the only obstacle to such regional expansion is that national expansion does not seem to exist at the moment. As we are well aware, this subject was debated yesterday and I do not want to develop that theme, but an analysis of the figures shows that the savings involved in bringing jobs to the workers in this small island of ours would be fantastic.

This bears any analysis by any statistician or economist. In 1964 the results of a study were published, showing that, taking everything into consideration, there is a net gain to the nation of something approaching £1,000 per man who is found work in a development area. If we multiply this by several thousand, we can imagine what the saving will be to the nation of bringing work to the workers, rather than transferring workers to areas with all the social difficulties involved.

This does not take into account the recent financial inducements provided by the Government. I suggest that, even if we included these, the net gain must be considerable. This calculation must surely indicate that the country is losing many millions a year by the underemployment of the labour resources in the so-called difficult areas.

Apart from rectifying social injustice, apart from a more rational distribution of industry, I believe that the country cannot afford to ignore any longer the tremendous potential here. This is so important that I believe that the Government must now view this problem in the same way as we would view a wartime operation.

I say this with the greatest respect to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State who is to answer this debate and without any disparagement to the Board of Trade or the Ministry of Labour, but it is time that the Government appointed a Minister solely responsible for this task. Furthermore, this Minister must not be subservient to the Board of Trade, or the Ministry of Labour, but must be solely responsible to the Prime Minister and with the authority of the Prime Minister behind him. If we have this type of Minister treating this problem as a wartime operation, then we can look hopefully to the future, and bring untold benefit to the nation as a whole.

10.54 p.m.

Mr. Bob Brown (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman) for giving the House the opportunity to debate this most important subject this evening. How right he was when he referred to the fact that the present prosperity enjoyed by the more affluent areas of the country was built up by the older industrial areas. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Cant), referred to the need to improve the social infrastructure, and in this regard I want to refer to my own area, the North-East. We suffer badly from the dereliction of the Industrial Revolution and we have far more than our share of scars on the countryside in the form of pit heaps and other similar things.

I want to pay credit to the Government for the fact that they have made available an 85 per cent. grant for the clearance of industrial dereliction and I must say, quite pointedly, that the local authorities in these areas, my own included, are certainly not taking as much advantage of this grant as they ought to be doing. It is the job of the local authorities in these areas to give the areas a face-lift. With the 85 per cent. grant, the Government have given them a great incentive to get on with the job and I sincerely hope that it will be speeded up.

It is not proper to refer to unemployment figures without, at the same time, referring to those in employment. I do not think that it is generally realised by people who talk glibly about the worst unemployment situation since the beginning of the war that there are more people in employment today than ever before. There are something like 6 million more people in employment than there were in 1940.

In July, 1940, almost a year after a war of survival had started, we had 827,266 people unemployed, as against the total for July this year of 496,372. None of us, on either side, is pleased about that figure, but it is fair to make the comparison and to remind the House that the 1940 figure, because many people were not insured under State schemes, would have been considerably less than the actual total.

The unfortunate part of the present situation is that in addition to having a pool of unemployed, the unemployment is spread unevenly across the country. From "Challenge of the Changing North", a document issued last year by the North Regional Economic Planning Council and which I recommend as good reading, we find that the position in the North is as follows. In 1960, we had 878,000 males in employment; and in 1964, 853,000. This is a minus factor of 2.8 per cent., compared with a plus factor for the rest of the country of 3 per cent.

In 1960, we had 391,000 females in employment; and in 1964, 422,000. This represents a plus factor of 8.1 per cent., as against a plus factor of 6.5 per cent. for the rest of the country. With an increase of 8.1 per cent. in the number of females in employment in four short years—over 20 per cent. in excess of the national increase in female employment—it is not too difficult to see how we get an inflated unemployment figure in the Northern Region.

The sad fact, and one which the Government cannot ignore, is that while nationally, during the period to which I have referred, 1960 to 1964, there was a 3 per cent. increase in the number of males employed, the Northern Region had a minus factor of 2.8 per cent. This is in spite of the fact that, due to Government policy, we have had a tremendously high input of new work, certainly by any yardstick of previous years.

One must ask what is the reason for this negative factor in male employment in the Northern Region. I refer again to "Challange of the Changing North", which deals with expanding and declining industries and the estimated changes between 1960 and 1964 in the numbers of employees. If we look at expanding industries, we find that in the Northern Region we had a plussage of 41.5 thousand males and 34.8 females, a total 76.3 thousand in expanding industries. In the declining industries we had a minus factor of 66.26 thousand males and 3.2 thousand females, a total minus factor of 69.4 thousand—between 1960 and 1964. Here we see that we actually have this minus factor, between the declining industries and the expanding industries, of 24.7 thousand in respect of male employment.

These figures give a quite clear lesson. Whilst the nation as a whole has an old-fashioned economy, it is particularly true of the North-East, and we are paying the price of an over-rapid rundown of old, basic industries on which the North had struggled far too long. We cannot accept and do not want inefficient industry, or to see it carry on inefficiently. We have seen inefficiency in the shipbuilding industry, referred to in the Geddes Report. When Tories talk about shipbuilding in the North-East they always talk of the Swan Hunter group as though it were the standard of efficiency in the industry, and we all know that in fact that is not so. Alongside this sort of talk we have the same people regularly lambasting the National Coal Board, which is responsible for the declining publicly-owned industry.

Let me say in passing that no private enterprise employer could have tackled the rundown of an industry in the humane manner in which the Coal Board has tackled this problem. Every credit is due to the manner in which the Board has dealt with this miserable task of running down the industry. Nevertheless, I recognise, and I think that each and every one of us recognises, that the coal mines of the North-East, and of Wales, to which my hon. Friends have referred, have to be modernised or closed, and the social costs have to be borne by the industry—in other words, on the backs of the miners.

I ask the Minister of State, are Swan Hunter's to bear the social costs of modernising the shipbuilding industry? Is there to be one set of rules for private enterprise and another set of rules for public industry? We accept that moderni- sation and rationalisation, long overdue, of our present industries will create further problems in the North.

Grateful as we are for the steady effort which the Government have made, we cannot be satisfied with a situation where we have steadily almost twice the national average of unemployment. We do not want just the building a of advance factories. I know that the President of the Board of Trade can trot out a proud story about the quite heavy percentage of allocations of advance factory building which the Northern Region has had in the past three or four years. I know this to be so, but we do not just want the building of advance factories: we want advance factories with industry in them from the day they are completed. If private enterprise has failed the North—and I say that private enterprise has failed the North, and pretty badly—why should not the State set the pace? Why not State factories making telecommunications equipment for the General Post Office, which now props up the telecommunications industry? Why not State enterprise making components for the building industry?

I recognise that the Port of Tyne will never be a major national port in the true sense of the word with Teesside and Humberside in such close proximity, but it does, nevertheless, need developing, and I suggest to my right hon. Friend that one way in which it can be developed is by invigorating the river by the introduction of port-using industries.

I look forward to the proposed new transport legislation. Where are the research and development facilities which these modernised industries will require to be sited? Why not in the North?

Under the heading, "Give them Cash", the leading article in the Newcastle Journal of Thursday, 20th July, said: The North-East needs to hear the smack of firmer Government."— we seem to have heard that elsewhere this week— Sacked workers cannot live on promises and platitudes. It is nonsense, for example, for the Government to plead that it cannot place more orders with a firm like Vickers. It can and must. That is a reference to the fact that Vickers failed, on cost and after a second bite at the cherry, to compete with the Royal Ordnance factory at Leeds in tendering for Chieftain tanks. Hon. Gentlemen opposite often quote Royal Ordnance factories as monuments of inefficient public enterprise, yet after a second bite at the cherry Vickers failed to qualify for a share of the order for Chieftain tanks.

It is not for me to make a case for the Government to prop up inefficient private enterprise, but in this instance, as an act of faith in their regional policies, the Government could have said to Vickers—and with 600 jobs at stake they ought to have done so—"In spite of the fact that we do not think you have measured up efficiently in terms of cost, in fact we know you have not on your tender price, we will give you a portion of this order to tide you over until you get more work in your workships". If it is not too late, I think that even now the Government ought to consider this possibility.

Under the heading: Only 126 stay in mining as 4 pits close", the Newcastle Journal of the 20th July, from which I have already quoted said: One thousand miners will work their last shift in four County Durham collieries today. The collieries, all in the south of the county, are being closed because the seams are exhausted. In spite of intensive efforts to re-employ the miners, only 126 of them have been given alternative jobs by the National Coal Board. This is the kind of situation which we face in the Northern Region.

In its editorial the Journal said: There is also a case for a highly streamlined and skilled commando unit to go out and sell the mining areas exclusively. It would need to be an adventurous outfit, headed by a man of high calibre that could cut through red tape and be free of other responsibilities. It could be financed partly by the Government and partly by the National Coal Board. If Lord Robens were prepared to fight for such a proposal he would doubtless have the support of the mining M.P.s". If Alf Robens is listening tonight, let me say that he has my support—and I am not a miners' M.P. Why could not the National Coal Board be encouraged and allowed to use some of the £30 million put aside to meet social costs to attract new jobs and finance the building of new factories, particularly in black spots like North-West Durham, Cumberland and South Wales, where, when the mines close down, there is virtually no other employment? It is not good enough that we should be having vast areas depopulated by the closing of their basic industries.

Perhaps one of the most important issues in a rapidly changing world is that of air communications. Convinced as I am of the close relationship between developing inter-European and inter-continental air links and the location of major office and administrative centres, research and development centres and other institutions for which good air services are vital, I believe that the establishment of a northern airports authority, embracing the airports of the North-Western Region, the Yorkshire and Humberside Region, and the Northern Region, would provide an important basis for the continuing development of the north's international air services.

In addition, it would play a great part in helping the de-congestion of the London airports, about which we have heard a great deal recently. Most important, we could have, with the establishment of good, modern air communication centres such as we now enjoy at the new Newcastle airport, an added attraction for the location of offices and industries based on swift air transport facilities, facilities which at present suffer the inconvenience of a congested London.

I plead with the Government to give serious and early consideration to the establishment of a Government-sponsored research and development centre in the Northern Region, particularly bearing in mind that we are the only region without such an establishment.

11.13 p.m.

Mr. David Watkins (Consett)

My hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman) has chosen an important and topical subject. The debate is essentially about human problems, as he and all my hon. Friends who have spoken have said. It is always human beings and their problems that form the basis of our thoughts and what we say in a debate of this sort.

The Government have evolved and are evolving complex regional policies to deal with these problems. It always seems to me that there is a danger that regional planning can tend to be looked on merely as an emergency operation to deal with the immediate problems in the older industrial areas. I would not seek to underestimate the importance of that sort of emergency measure. Every single mining constituency in the older areas has problems; mine certainly has them as much as any of those of my hon. Friends from mining areas who have spoken. Apart from emergency measures, regional planning means the establishment of the basis for long-term expansion of newer industries within the older industrial areas. Research facilities must grow and new processes and industries must be developed.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Bob Brown) mentioned research and development, which is the theme I want to elaborate on. There is growing awareness in the northern planning region of the need for increased research and development. Four of the famous Tyneside shipyards have just announced their merger in accordance with the recommendations of the Geddes Report. They see as one of the main advantages of this the pooling of technical resources and research and development facilities, which is essential to make them competitive with the foreign shipyards which have taken so much of our traditional shipbuilding export trade in recent years.

An outstanding example of a plant with a successful research and development policy is that of the Consett Iron Company's steelworks in my constituency, which will pass into public ownership at the end of this week. [Interruption.] This matter was discussed there during the election, and, although my opponent strongly opposed public ownership, the electorate expressed their view decisively. Lately, the company has maintained a large research department with over 250 personnel, and is the only major steelworks which produces entirely by the oxygen process which has been so shamefully neglected by so much of the industry over the last 10 or 15 years. There have recently been important developments there in oil injection, which has considerably improved productivity. The company is ready to install a continuous casting plant when the National Steel Corporation gives the go-ahead.

These results of intensive research and development mean that the works is better placed for future expansion today than almost any other in the country—an expansion which will do much to solve the problems of Tyneside and a large area of the North-East. The coal mines which remain open in that area are those that produce coking coal needed for the manufacture of iron and steel. This is an example of how industries are interrelated, because the expansion of the steel industry in that area can play an important part in the problems of the coal industry.

I hope that the National Steel Corporation will announce its decision to expand the steelworks at Consett as soon as possible after vesting day. I have quoted examples of concerns based in the Northern Region and the advantages of having research and development there. There has been some expansion of new industry as a result of the Government's regional policies, and while those of us who represent constituencies in development areas do not feel that there has been a sufficient influx of new industries, we recognise that there has been some. One of the disappointing features of this influx has been the comparative lack of growth of research and development in the growth of new industry.

We have had too many subsidiaries and not enough headquarters firms, which in some respects defeats the object of Government policy. In time of recession or economic squeeze, notwithstanding the relief for development areas, these subsidiaries, sub-offices, and branches tend to be closed first. This defeats the object of dealing with the emergency need for new industries in development areas. Too much of the research and development connected with these industries is in other parts of the country and that is not best for long-term expansion in the areas where that is most needed.

The Government have said that the regional employment premium will encourage research and development in the older development areas, but at present, the premium is payable only to manufacturing industry. It should be extended to include research establishments whether or not they are directly linked with manufacturing industry.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West has already pressed the need for a Government research establishment in the northern planning region and I wish to take this further and suggest that the Government should consider establishing a science-based new town in the region, and that they should locate a Government research station in it. They should take special measures to encourage industry to establish its own research and development establishment within the area of the new town.

This has several advantages. It is recognised that scientists and technicians working on research need, during their working lives, to move between one research establishment and another freely, to widen their experience. If there are a number of establishments within reasonable proximity, they can do that without uprooting themselves and their families and travelling to a distant part of the country. If such a science-based new town were established in the region it would provide a research centre of considerable magnitude which could maintain close contact with the Universities of Durham and Newcastle, and even Lancaster, which, although outside the northern development area, is in proximity to the grey area of Lancashire and the northern area in general. I am certain that the establishment of such a research town would have an influence which would be felt throughout the north of England, to the general benefit of the long-term development of the whole area.

It is argued that we already have enough research and development establishments in the country but that there is not enough practical result from their activities. This is not an unfair argument. But in the older industrial areas it cannot be claimed that we have too much research and development. On the contrary, not sufficient of it is going on. If there has not been sufficient result from the research that has been done, this is in some measure because it has not been directed to the specific objectives which I have been outlining.

A week ago I visited the Services Electronics Research Laboratory at Baldock as a member of an all-party team of three hon. Members. One of the things that struck me very forcibly when going through it was that although it is a defence establishment there is a very great deal of civil research work going on, and research work which is very applicable to the new industries that we particularly need to develop in the older industrial areas. I would mention work on gas lasers with possible application to metal cutting and welding to a degree of accuracy not yet achieved, ion implantation which might lead in the not too distant future to a break-through in automated manufacture of micro-electronic devices, and work on neutron tubes which has possible application in the treatment of cancer. This is the sort of work which might well be transferred to a Government civil research establishment in the northern area, something which would be entirely in line with the proposals in the Defence White Paper, which proposes a £30 million reduction in defence research, because it would assist the objects of that reduction by channelling more of such research into civil research, particularly in the older industrial areas where it is so very much needed.

I appreciate that other hon. Members wish to speak in this debate and other debates—[An HON. MEMBER: "Keep going."]—and in spite of that friendly interjection I shall not continue too long. I have spoken of the advantages gained by firms in the Northern Region from the research and development programmes which have been established there, and I have made the point that there has not been enough growth of research and development among the new industries which have moved into the region. Although I recognise the importance of short-term measures to deal with the immediate problems of the area, it seems to me that an increase in research and development is essential for the long-term growth and expansion of new industry, which is the only long-term solution to the problems of the older industrial areas. In particular, I hope that my suggestion for what I have called a science-based new town will be looked into, taken up and acted upon.

11.30 p.m.

Mr. Alec Jones (Rhondda, West)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman) for giving me an opportunity to speak in this debate, for I share the concern expressed by my hon. Friends about the problems which affect our older industrial areas in general, with special emphasis upon the particular problems of our constituencies. I shall spend most of my time in speaking of the needs of Rhondda, West.

The legacy of the people of Rhondda is a hard one, and the price which we, the present inhabitants, are having to pay for our past is high. In figures, that high price is 8 per cent. unemployment. This cold and callous statistic hides much human suffering, misfortune and indignity, and, despite the ameliorating effects of the improved unemployment benefits, for which the people of Rhondda are grateful, this misfortune persists to a great extent today.

The extent of our problem is the extent of the decline of our coal industry. It is reflected in the population figures of the Borough of Rhondda. From a thriving community of 168,000 in 1923–24, it has shrunk to about 98,000 in 1966, a drop of 70,000 people, all in my lifetime. The constituency was once dotted from top to bottom by collieries famous in the industrial life of South Wales—Cambrian, Park Dare and Naval—and of all the collieries which once existed one only remains today, and from that one not a ton of coal is lifted.

Our railway system, the old Taff Vale railway system, was brought into being mainly to serve the needs of coal mining, and on that system today not one ton of mined coal is carried.

Those facts illustrate the extent of the problem which besets not only Rhondda but other areas which have suffered the collapse of their basic industry. For the Rhondda, it is not the run-down of our basic industry; it is almost the complete collapse of that industry.

Alongside that gloomy picture of the past is the ideal of the new post-war factories which are even now producing, among other things, clothing, furniture, electric torches and batteries, life-saving rafts and equipment, metal tubes for industrial use—all new things and ideas for Rhondda which can offer a new and better life for our people. The production of these goods shows what can be done given the desire, the means and the absolute determination on the part or the Government not merely to talk and to plan but actually to get things done.

The development of these new industries demonstrates several facts of life in my constituency. First, it shows the ability and adaptability of the labour force. We have men and women in Rhondda willing and able to acquire new techniques and skills if they are given the opportunity to train. Second, it demonstrates the determination and ability of those industrialists who have come to the Rhondda to make a success of their endeavours. Without wishing to be invidious in making a selection, I mention the successes of firms like Rollo Hardy and Ray-o-Vac, whose achievements in the export market bring pleasure, I am sure, to the President of the Board of Trade. They bring advantages to the people of Rhondda and they bring advantages to the trading position of the nation as a whole.

If there will be a figure engraved on the heart of this Member of Parliament for Rhondda, West, it will be the figure 8—our 8 per cent. of unemployed, who, unlike Mr. Micawber, cannot go on waiting, and ought not to be expected to go on waiting, for something to turn up. While we wait the depopulation of our valleys—especially in respect of our young, energetic workers—continues and our plight worsens.

I want to refer to the advance factory programme. This is a noble and good concept, which we welcome, but when I put down a Question to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade on 20th July I received an Answer stating, in effect, that construction had already started on one factory—that factory was announced in September, 1965, nearly two years ago—and that it was expected to start another one next month—that factory having been announced in May, 1966, 14 months ago. This timing always seems related to the delay that occurs in the acquisition of land, and the delays affect not only advance factory programme but industrialists in existing factories who are at the moment desirous of expanding inside the borough of Rhondda. The protracted negotiations necessary in the acquisition of land causes these industrialists to lose patience, confidence and all interest in the possibility of expansion.

I urge the Government to take steps to speed up the acquisition of land and, if necessary, to appoint a man specifically for this purpose, for when it is left in the hands of too many Government Departments, local authorities and the National Coal Board nothing but delay seems to result.

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Douglas Jay)

I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend says, and for these reasons we are now purchasing land well in advance of the need to build factories, notably in the Llantrisant area, which is near my hon. Friend's constituency.

Mr. Jones

The news of any steps to speed up the acquisition of land will bring gladness to the people of Rhondda and other areas which experience the same delays.

I referred earlier to the adaptability of the workers of the Rhondda—but they can adapt themselves only if they are given the opportunity. I know that we now have three Government training centres in Wales, and I welcome the fact that the Royal Air Force station at St. Athan is being used to train men in industry. Some industries prefer to train their own workers, particularly young workers. But what about the old ex-miners? I accompanied a deputation from three local authorities in South Wales, Rhondda, Pontypridd, and Llantrisant and Llantwit Fardre. We met the Minister of Labour and asked that a new Government training centre be established in the areas of those three authorities. We were turned down.

I appreciate the pressure which the Minister of Labour is under from all regions for an expansion of Government training facilities, but there is evidence of a need for more skilled men in an area like Rhondda. Even if the availability of skilled men in a development area as a whole is adequate, inside the area there are districts with an acute shortage of skilled labour. This is the view expressed to me by managing directors of successful enterprises in the Rhondda at this moment, and it is borne out by a survey I carried out on 20th June.

I sent letters to the Ministry of Labour employment exchanges at Treorchy, Tonypandy and Ferndale—the three employment exchanges in the area, asking about the availability of skilled labour. There were three skilled fitters, one nearly 60, one electrician, no managerial grade executives, one supervisor and 18 trained clerical staff, of whom 13 were over 60. The position is, of course, subject to change"— wrote the manager of one labour exchange but, generally, the number of registrants in the above occupations at any given time is generally quite low. These difficulties indicate that, despite the training and retraining steps being taken by the Government, much remains to be done in areas like this.

Have the Government considered using the facilities that are available in technical colleges in some of these areas? Why not make use of the vacant pit baths in old coalmining areas like Rhondda, certainly as part of a temporary crash programme to fill the short-term need? Unless more is done to retrain people, the skilled labour to man the new industries for which we are hoping will not be available. No industrialist will take an advance factory if the skilled manpower is not available locally.

The Government's main instrument to attract new industries to areas like Rhondda is persuasion. On another occasion I might quarrel with that. However, the financial inducements being offered are substantial and are, in some cases, massive. The Government's intentions in this matter and much of this money could be wasted unless we tackle what has come to be known as the "environmental problem"—the large-scale eyesores and ugliness of some of the old industrial areas. In Rhondda we specialise in derelict pitheads, crumbling buildings and mountainous slag heaps—all part of the mass of rubbish left by the industrial past.

I may be asked what this has to do with financial inducements. The answer is that these eyesores act as a positive disincentive to industrialists who might otherwise establish new enterprises in development areas like Rhondda. The Welsh Office has established a special unit to study these problems and this unit is doing good work. The Rhondda Borough Council is also co-operating with the Welsh Office to solve this problem. But I appeal to the Minister of Power to get the National Coal Board to clear up the rubbish when pits are closed. Coal mines should not just be closed and the rubbish left behind. If the National Coal Board does not have a legal responsibility to clear it up, it certainly has a moral one.

Mr. Bob Brown

Would not my hon. Friend agree that if the N.C.B. cannot afford to clear away this rubbish, it should qualify for the 85 per cent. grant which the Government make to local authorities?

Mr. Jones

I was about to say that if the N.C.B. is not financially able to rehabilitate these old sites, the task should become a direct responsibility of the Government. Much wealth has poured out of the old industrial areas like Rhondda. It is time that the nation, which has benefited from that wealth, returned some of it by clearing away this rubbish. These scars and reminders of the industrial past must be removed.

There are many other problems of the older industrial areas. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) mentioned communications, housing, schools and hospitals. Any of these could be the subject of a speech, but I see one or two hon. Friends beginning to fidget, so I will draw my remarks to a conclusion. I welcome the steps which have been taken to deal with these problems. I have mentioned some things which could be tried now. We were told at one time that it was so difficult to get sites, but now we have a whole list of sites which have been prepared. We have the manpower with ability to work and to be trained. We have the experience of industrialists who have shown that the job can be done. I call on the Government to declare and demonstrate by their actions their determination to revitalise these old areas so that the aspirations and hopes of my people can become realities.

It has been a great pleasure and pride to know of the concern of my hon. Friends in this problem. I am concerned that not one member of the three parties represented on the other side of the House has taken part in this debate.

11.47 p.m.

Dr. John Dunwoody (Falmouth and Camborne)

I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman), not only on his selection of subject to debate this evening, but on his ability to get it fairly high in the list of subjects which were put down to discuss on this Motion.

I do not wish to detain the House for long, but it would be wrong if in a debate on the older industrial areas there was no mention of Cornwall. In Cornwall industry first started in this country. Tin mining in my constituency was probably the first real industry, certainly the first exporting industry. Cornwall today is much more than a holiday pleasure ground to which many millions, including, I suspect, many hon. Members, look forward to going in the next few weeks or months. It has much more to offer than Cornish cream and pasties. It has industrial areas and problems connected with them. I want to talk about those problems and the solutions to them which we should be talking about.

Problems of the industrial area of Cornwall have been with us longer than those connected with coal mining and the wealthy industrial areas of the North. The collapse of the tin mining industry in the 1920s occurred earlier than the industrial depression which was the beginning of the troubles for many constituencies which have been discussed this evening. Our problems, which apply particularly to Falmouth and Camborne, are those of attracting new industries and solving the problem of unemployment, which must be measured in more than percentage terms. Tonight we have talked about 6 per cent., 8 per cent., and 10 per cent. unemployment, but I remind hon. Members that a man out of work is 100 per cent. unemployed. When there are percentages such as these there are insidious effects in the community. The 6 per cent. or the 8 per cent. are always the same people in the community and there is a significant number who are out of work for many weeks or months.

We also have the problem of trying to retain young people in our area. The last thing we want to do is to deny them opportunities for travel. But what is wrong is that so many highly-skilled youngsters are driven out of the area not because they want to go but because there is insufficient work for them to use their skills in their home areas.

We have to improve communications. We have been told that it is easy to exaggerate the communications problems of development areas. I agree to a certain extent but in my development area communications are a very real problem. Some hon. Members will be going to Cornwall this summer and they will have reminders of this when travelling along the Exeter by-pass and winding their way along the A30 into Cornwall through the traffic jams which are inseparable from holiday weekends in that part of England.

Another great problem is that of the standard of the social services in the development areas, and particularly in West Cornwall. Far too many of them are not developed in the way they are in some other parts of the country. From this stems a sense of rejection and social isolation.

Finding solutions to these problems is not easy. It would be naive to believe that this or any Government will be able to solve them overnight. But increasing attempts have been made in recent years to solve them and I shall pay my tribute to the efforts made by the Government, which far surpass any made before.

I remind my right hon. Friend of the publication last week of the Report of the South-West Economic Council, "A Region with a Future". This produced not only a very large amount of valuable information but some very important recommendations for future development of the area. I realise that it is impossible for my right hon Friend to give dogmatic opinions on these recommendations tonight, but I hope that he will be able to assure us that the Department will seriously consider them. They are valuable recommendations and require such serious consideration, and we in the region owe a great debt of gratitude to Professor Tress and his colleagues on the Council for the Report.

I believe that the Government in the last three years have taken action far surpassing any that has been taken previously and we are beginning to feel the first impact of their efforts in West Cornwall. We have seen the special help given to development areas increasing all the time. More and more advance factories have not only been planned and built but occupied, providing jobs for those who have been out of work far too long. We are seeing the selective use of industrial development certificates having a significant effect. The regional employment premium will help development areas. I believe that we are seeing the first signs of rejuvenation and renaissance in some depressed areas which have for so long been left behind.

But we have to do much more in the future and I want to explore one or two ways which I hope the Government may use in doing so. I still remain unhappy that we divide the country into development areas and the rest. We should search for some means of variation in assistance, some greater element of flexibility in our assistance to development areas. We do this with many other forms of assistance—for example, in grant aid to local authorities. We do not divide them into two categories—those who get aid and those who do not. We grade the help according to need. I should like us to try and achieve something on those lines in our help to development areas.

All too often, the far South-West development area, because the form of assistance is uniform throughout the development areas, still gets left behind the other development areas in that it is a small area, isolated geographically and still with comparatively little industry. We need new industry; we need jobs. We need industry of the right sort, industry with a future which can offer career prospects to these bright youngsters who are so often driven out of our area today. More than that, we need industries which provide decent wages and decent working standards for the people in our area. It is wrong that in an area like Cornwall, where living costs are almost without exception higher than anywhere else in the country, average wages should be the lowest. If only these industries could be created by economic policies we would be doing a considerable amount of good.

We want to improve our social services. Many of our social services are at far too low a level in our area. The housing conditions of many of my constituents are abysmally bad. It is wrong that in 1967 I should have to be taking up housing problems with Ministers and local authorities on behalf of constituents of mine who not only have no running water, no electricity, but who also have no fixed baths and no sanitation. A few days ago I was concerning myself with a constituent whose only source of water was a water butt which was filled by rain coming from the roof of little better than a shed in which the family lived. The water from this source was not only for washing, but for drinking and cooking. This family, with young children of both sexes, had no sanitation facilities whatever in this place they called home.

On education, far too many of my constituents' children have to go to outdated Victorian primary schools. The backlog of primary school building in Cornwall is probably the greatest in the country. As for health, in which I am particularly interested, patients have to travel long distances to hospital. It is nearly 200 miles to the nearest teaching hospital.

Turning to artistic and cultural services in the area, we find that we are truly in what is almost a desert. There are a few brave people who are trying to fight against the apathy that exists in this direction in our area. These are important things which the Government should be thinking about.

The Government should also be thinking more about communications. I do not want to go into the details of communications, except to say to my right hon. Friend who will be answering the debate that I wish that greater consideration could be given to the development of domestic air services in parts of the country like the far South-West. By the fastest kind of public transport, it takes me nearly eight hours to get to my constituency. There are few hon. Members who take longer to get to their constituencies; yet there must be a hundred or more whose constituencies are further from Westminster than is mine.

This debate has been of considerable significance. As has been said, it is of considerable significance that every contributor has come from this side of the House. This is because we are concerned not only with the problems of our constituencies, but with the more general social problems which this subject evokes.

We should be thinking a great deal more about creating equality in our community not just between individuals, but between regions, cities and the various counties of this country. If we do this we will eliminate some of the most glaring injustices that exist in our society. We in Cornwall are asking not only to share fully in the prosperity of the country in the years to come, but to be given the right to share fully in the hard work that is needed to create that prosperity.

11.59 p.m.

Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

In an excellent constituency speech the hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Alec Jones) chided this side of the House for not joining in and paying some attention to the debate. In chiding us he advertised his newness. In these Consolidated Fund Bill debates, when time is allocated to specific subjects, it is considered courteous of the other side not to muscle in and take up time unnecessarily, and that is the sort of mood that we have to respect.

However, a form of slander cannot pass unnoticed. The hon. Gentleman said that in his area new industries had replaced the old industry, but those new industries were established because of the special arrangements made by the Government which I supported. We did not have the high rate of unemployment which now obtains, or anything like that rate. But it would be wrong to turn this into a party wrangle and it would be wholly out of keeping with the mood of the debate, but the record should not contain unchallenged the innuendo that we did nothing about unemployment when the things of which the hon. Member could boast were the result of the efforts of the previous Government.

I have the greatest interest in the retraining of miners who have to leave their old established industry and go into new jobs. I hope that the Minister of State will tell us what the Board of Trade is doing in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour about this problem. Far from being uninterested, I have organised at least two Adjournment debates on this subject. In my own constituency special training facilities have been made available and negotiations with the trade unions involved have resulted in reduced periods of apprenticeships to make it worth while for more mature men to get special training for new jobs.

This problem is not confined to one area, but it is not in keeping with debates on the Consolidated Fund for hon. Members, even by implication, to try to turn the debate into a party wrangle. I hope that the Minister of State will refer to helping to increase the export drive. I hope that the Government will revise the G.A.T.T. and make the positive contribution of offering export incentives.

I have intervened only because this side of the House was chided for not taking part in the debate. We were adhering to etiquette, and our record of office shows that the allegation that we did nothing has no basis.

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

Does not the hon. Gentleman recognise that what my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Alec Jones) was trying to establish was that those who are interested in improving employment prospects in their constituencies have the right to know what alternative policy —I suspect that there is none—would come from the Opposition? It is rather alarming that there is this gross disinterest about the unemployment problem. although it is not surprising, because while right hon. Gentlemen opposite were in office, the rate of increase of jobs in Wales was only half the rate in England.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Hon. Members opposite are entitled to know our views, but not on the Consolidated Fund, not when the subjects for debates are in these little schedules so that the whole list can be covered. However, the Opposition have used at least two of their Supply Days during this Session for debates on this problem and have then offered solid alternatives, and on every occasion the hon. Gentleman has voted against us.

12.4 a.m.

Mr. T. W. Urwin (Houghton-le-Spring)

I welcome the opportunity to participate in the debate. I was interested to hear the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) spring to the defence of his party. He is not by any means an unworthy champion and one understands the reasons which prompted him to offer that kind of defence. But although on behalf of the Opposition he has expressed concern about unemployment and specifically referred to the efforts of his right hon. Friends when in office to deal with the problem, those efforts, following on the representations through Lord Hailsham, as he then was, now the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), came too late. In the 13 years during which right hon. Gentlemen opposite enjoyed office, they could have done much to alleviate the problems confronting the development areas, particularly in the North.

I welcome this opportunity to speak and thank my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman) for raising this subject, although at the same time I must bemoan my own ill-luck at not having been drawn earlier in the Ballot. While we address ourselves to the development of the older industrial areas, I hope that too much attention will not be focused on this to the exclusion of the necessity to continue to develop the basic industries in these under-developed areas. In the Northern Region attention must be focused on the declining industries of shipbuilding and coal mining.

Here we are entitled to complain about the tardiness of employers in the shipbuilding industry at not having implemented more quickly the Geddes Report's proposals about the modernisation and reorganisation of shipbuilding. Unfortunately in the North, the traditional areas of shipbuilding and mining, an area which has been responsible for some of the best ships ever built, we now have a recession, rising unemployment and, perhaps by the end of the year, an even worse situation than that existing now. I sincerely hope that the rest of the Northern Region will learn very quickly the lesson to be drawn from the consortium which has been set up for the Tyne.

The riches of our country have been based on the indigenous resources of areas which we are proud to represent. The prosperity of the country has been largely built up on the mining industry, despite the hazardous nature of the work in which many of our fathers and forefathers have been involved. While we would never expect that people should continue indefinitely mining coal, and would hope that the time will come when this will be unnecessary, we have to face the stark reality that, as far as we can see ahead, it will be necessary for men to go down into the bowls of the earth in order to supplement our fuel supplies.

I would remind my hon. and right hon. Friends that for some time past there has been declining confidence in the Government because of their attitude towards a fuel policy. There is an understandable difficulty in arriving at a coordinated policy. I recall very well attending the Durham Miners' Gala a fortnight ago, which is the oldest trade union demonstration in the world, and certainly the most democratic of any known to have taken place in trade union history. I have attended those demonstrations since early childhood.

I recall with joy and pleasure the attitudes of those who participated in those great demonstrations. On Saturday week, however, I noticed that instead of the spontaneity and natural gaiety with which people formerly joined the procession, marching behind banners and brass bands, there was on the faces of the people who represent the mining communities anguish because the colliery which their banner represented might become extinct before the next miners' gala. Every one of us would like coal mining to become unnecessary, but we have to appreciate that, as far as we can see ahead, it will continue to be necessary.

I wish to refer to the proposal to build a power station at Seaton Carew, outside the perimeter of my constituency, and to draw attention to the fact that in the area of the site there are six large, modern coal mines which, if a decision were taken to have a conventional coal-filed station, could pour in coal at a price highly competitive with any other kind of fuel.

We on this side have repeatedly pressed my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power to decide in favour of a coal-fired power station in that part of the North-East. The Durham area secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers has described it as a direct insult to think of any other form of energising fuel than coal. In answer to a Question last week, I was told that since vesting day it has cost the Coal Board £30 million in modernisation and pro- viding new technological developments, machinery and the rest in those six pits.

One wonders how that tremendous investment will be recovered in the event of the power station being nuclear powered, as appears likely. More important still in human terms, 8,000 jobs for coal miners will be at risk, with little possibility of alternative employment being provided quickly enough to take up the slack if the power station is not coal-fired.

In addition to the situation of the declining basic industries, it is generally realised that what is required in the Northern Region, as in the other areas from which my hon. Friends have spoken, is much greater diversification of industry. I join my hon. Friends in paying a well-deserved tribute to the Government, including my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, who is present tonight, for their tremendous efforts to improve employment prospects and to rejuvenate the economic development of the Northern Region, as of the other underdeveloped areas.

My right hon. Friend, in replying to the debate, can rightly point to what the Government has been able to do since 1964, which is far in excess of what the Opposition, when they were the Government for 13 years, were ever able to do for us in new employment opportunities.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Very questionable.

Mr. Urwin

I do not get the point. It is very important.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

It is very questionable whether the efforts which have been put on the Statute Book by the present Government have produced anything like the result of the efforts made by the previous Government for the special areas.

Mr. Urwin

Speaking purely from memory, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the present Government have provided at least 66,000 jobs since 1964, since they came into offce—

Sir Harmar Nicholls

And high unemployment.

Mr. Urwin

—and even the unemployment rate is not as high as it was in the worst days of Conservative Government, especially in 1963. Moreover, as to the efforts which have been made by this present Government, one shudders to think what the unemployment position would have been had successive legislation not been introduced by my colleagues on the Front Bench.

Mr. Coleman

Is my hon. Friend aware that the problems we have in South Wales today are because the Government of the party opposite ran down the Board of Trade to such an extent that it has been very difficult indeed for this Government to get those programmes off the ground?

Mr. Urwin

I would agree entirely with my hon. Friend in what he says, and we were retarded. I speak here representing a constituency in the north of England, and for many years right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they were in Government, former Ministers of Labour and Presidents of the Board of Trade, used to come to the Northern Region and rely on our advice and they say they had nothing to offer us, and they could give us no alleviation for the crisis by giving new employment opportunities. I repeat what I have said before in this Chamber, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St Marylebone arrived complete with cap and bells in the Northern Region, but came much too late, 10 years too late, after 10 years of Conservative Government.

I want to progress, because there are other hon. Members who would like to participate in this debate, I am sure. Whilst my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench can quite properly claim that they have done a good deal to cushion the effects of the economic strictures introduced last July, and to good effect, there is an underlying note of warning. What we want in the Northern Region, as in the other underdeveloped areas, is not a kind of fly-by-night industry, casual industry, which comes in, takes advantage of the grants which are available, and then, in a matter of months, disappears from the scene altogether. In the face of declining industry we need something of a basic nature. As my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. David Watkins) and my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Bob Brown) said, we need research and development establishments. Efforts should be made to get firms together to participate jointly in research and development. The note of warning I would add is that there is factory space in the Northern Region as yet unused. Here, of course, is a very serious situation.

At the risk of being heavily criticised, I would suggest that, while there are certain measures which have redounded to our advantage, there is one great weakness: the legislation is permissive, permissive to the extent that prospective developers in the region have too much opportunity to involve themselves in selectivity, too many opportunities in the development areas to go round here and there and to decide upon the sites most suitable to them. We find development areas in competition with one another because of that.

At the risk of being criticised, I would suggest that the Government should be more direct in relation to this problem, if it is to be solved at all. If we are to create balance, and remove the imbalance between regions, between the underdeveloped and over-developed regions, may be it will become necessary to direct industry. In saying that I fully appreciate that direction of industry means, inevitably, direction of labour, too. This is not wholly acceptable, even in the political movement which we on this side of the House represent. Let us also bear in mind that thousands of our people are directed because of circumstances beyond their control. I am speaking specifically of mining.

From time to time when the Government have considered decentralisation we have made our case for overcrowded Government Departments in London to be moved to our areas. The last example of this was the Royal Mint. We made a powerful case to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for it to be moved to the North. We lost, and I congratulate my Welsh colleagues on getting it sent to their area, but I hope that in any future decentralisation the north of England will be considered for the siting of establishments which are being moved out of London.

We in the Northern Region expect the regional employment premium to have a great effect on the employment situation in that area. The gross sum of £203 million over seven years, representing £29 million a year, will make a tremendous contribution to the economic resurgence of the region. There may be some justification for saying that it should be applied more selectively than the Government have so far envisaged.

We live in an area which has a great deal to offer. It has been described as the gateway to the Lake District, and we are not far from the Northumbrian coast. As a result of what my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade said in reply to a Question recently, I am a little concerned about the fact that we are not receiving as much by way of Government grant for the development of tourism as is being given to the Scottish and Welsh Tourist Boards.

The Northern Region has the skills and the resources that are necessary for industry. There is a lot of talk about retraining, but at the moment there is far too much under-employment of the available skills. I hope that attention will be paid to this aspect of the matter.

12.23 a.m.

Mr. Michael McGuire (Ince)

I add my congratulations to those which have been offered to my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman) for initiating this very important debate, and as a Lancashire Member I want to discuss certain matters which are particularly relevant to my area.

In some ways this is a continuation of the debate last Tuesday night on the borrowing powers of the National Coal Board. The debate lasted until eight o'clock in the morning, and we discussed at great length the decline of the mining industry, and what we considered to be its impending further decline. It is noticeable that with the exception of the lone ranger the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls), who no doubt hopes to increase his majority at the next election, all those who have spoken in this debate have referred to the way in which the decline of the coal industry has affected their constituencies. This has particular reference to my Welsh hon. Friends who have spoken, because many of the problems of unemployment, retraining and so on spring from the rapid decline of the coal industry in South Wales and, perhaps to a lesser extent, in the areas of my hon. Friends from northern and north-eastern constituencies.

I do not want to rake over the embers of our debate on the Coal Industry (Borrowing Powers) Order, and I do not suppose that to do so would be in order. When we talk about the older industrial areas and their problems we are really talking about the decline of such great industries as coal and cotton, and the heavy industry which was ancillary to them, shipbuilding and—we sometimes forget—the railways. Those industries remain great, but they were once much greater.

I want to concentrate on the problems of the decline of the coal and textile industries in Lancashire. Hon. Members will probably be surprised to know that at its zenith in 1914 the textile industry employed 650,000 people. In 1951 it employed 330,000 people, and in 1967 we are down to 110,000 people employed in it. More jobs have disappeared in the coal and cotton industries in Lancashire since 1951 than in coal and shipbuilding in the whole of Scotland, Wales and the north-east. That is astounding.

My hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Thornton) asked my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour on 9th June … how many jobs have been lost in the last 16 years in textiles, mining and agriculture in the North-West region; and how this compares with the jobs lost in Scotland in agriculture, mining and shipbuilding during the same period."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th June; Vol. 747, c. 279.] My hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour replied that 227,000 jobs in those categories had disappeared in the North-West region, and 96,000 in Scotland. Even adding the thousands that have disappeared from the primary industries in Wales and the North-East, one gets a smaller figure than that for the disappearance of jobs in Lancashire since 1951.

This does not take into account the considerable decline in employment on the railways, which we tend to forget. There is a continuing decline in the railways. There is a reduction in the motive power sheds, the goods yards and shunting yards. There can be tragedies concerned with the decline of the railway industry just as much as those connected with cotton and coal.

I will instance a town I know very well, Earlstown, which was really a railway town, built around the making of wagons and engines. The recent decline hit it savagely and it still has not got over the effects of its dependence on one industry, as with so many towns in Wales and the North-East.

I hope that the Labour Government will end the neglect of the railways and the consequent choking of the roads. When we tackle this problem, Lancashire in general and my constituency in particular will benefit. The rundown of Lancashire's great industry of textiles is causing great concern there. Like other areas where primary industries have declined, we need better retraining. I do not want to kick into our own Labour goal, but we can occasionally be quietly critical and it is justifiable to criticise our retraining record, which, at a figure of about 30,000, is pathetic compared with that of Sweden, which has a much smaller population.

In this modern technological and space age which is also a euphemistic age, employing terms like "redeployment" for unemployment will not soften the blow. Ex-cotton workers, ex-miners and ex-railwaymen want to be retrained in technological industries, which is essential as much for sound economic reasons as for anything else. New industries are no good without the skilled manpower, which I hope that the Government will do something realistic to provide. The main problem is that of the over-40's who are not easily adaptable, and whom employers are often loth to take on and the Government should tackle this with greater vigour.

Lancashire has particular problems and needs more growth areas and a more limited concept of new towns. Some old towns whose primary industries are declining need diversification of industry, with a new town as a growth point built on. The new town of Skelmersdale in my constituency has not solved all the problems. On the contrary, new towns bring more problems, like those connected with requisitioned land, than many older ones.

There is also the problem, which I had to raise in the House, of the people who still live in the old town which is designated to become a new town. They are a little jealous of those who come in and take jobs which the older residents think they should be given, while they still have to travel to their jobs because only a certain percentage of jobs can go to old residents in the old town.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Board of Trade, who is to reply, told me at the end of an Adjournment debate that if there had not been a new town, the old town people would still be travelling and that they will have the benefit of the new town development and will be considerably better off in future. The biggest problem in the new town of Skelmersdale at present is of too high rents. People have been brought in from older industrial areas where they were used admittedly, to much worse housing, but in Skelmersdale the rents are exaggerated. I hope something will be done about this. There is also the problem of blending the new town. There is a need for recreational facilities, but I realise that I would be out of order if I pursued that.

One of the things which militates against us in Lancashire is linked with industrial dereliction, which we have in too large a measure, particularly where cotton was made and to a much larger extent where there was coal mining. I do not need to describe graphically the dereliction left behind when mines close, for hon. Member's, even those who do not live in mining areas, are familiar with it.

We should tackle land reclamation with more vigour. We have not a continent to plan with, but a tight little island, and every acre reclaimed is a valuable asset for the future. I hope that this and successive Labour Governments will encourage growth centres in the older industrial areas. Growth areas, with diversification created by modern industry which will be brought to them, will mean that we can guard against the sole dependence on one industry of present towns and villages.

This is particularly a problem in Lancashire, and I speak as a Lancashire Member. I hope that when we have eliminated the dereliction and the squalor that goes with it, we can have in Lancashire the kind of atmosphere I always sense in the South and especially in the South-East, where there is a vastly different way of life, and different communications. People want to stay where they have been brought up and the Government should tackle this problem with vigour and charity for the people in the older industrial areas which made the country great. I will not trot out all the arguments about coal and cotton being the foundations of the country's greatness because that is admitted. I conclude by expressing the hope that we shall make these towns and villages in the North and in Lancashire in particular worthy places to live in in this new technological and space age.

12.40 a.m.

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

I am very sorry, Mr. Speaker, that your wife is so soon having the experience and inconvenience to which all our wives become accustomed because of the peculiarities of the working habits of this House. But I console myself with the thought that even if I were to sit down immediately it would not substantially reduce the length of the period that you and your colleagues in the Chair will have to endure tonight.

I hope I shall be excused if I do not indulge in the temptation which such a subject as the older industrial areas offers to slip into a constituency speech. It is a natural temptation but one that I prefer to resist because it was not my intention originally to take part in the debate. It has been a good debate, and interesting points have been raised, and I should like to follow certain of those points, though I hope I shall not cover the ground already covered.

The hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls), for whom as a Member all of us on this side of the House have considerable liking—we always enjoy his contributions—gave us an utterly inadequate explanation why hon. Members opposite have shown no real interest and have not attempted to participate in the debate. It was extremely good of him to explain to those who came to this House in 1964 and since that the Conservative Members always feel that they should not participate in debates initiated on this side of the House. I can tell him that when people are in the dole queue they are willing to forgo the niceties of Parliamentary procedure and would be far happier to see more enthusiasm in tackling their problems and less regard for the traditional practices of the House.

I want to look at the problem of certain attitudes which prevail when we try to deal with the difficulties which con front the older industrial areas. First, certain problems arise from the attitude of even the Board of Trade. To some extent the Board of Trade is guilty, not only under its present occupants but under their predecessors, of taking a static as opposed to dynamic approach to the problem of the old areas. There is a presumption that a uniform policy is valid. But no single policy is necessarily valid for all development areas or even for all parts of any one development area. One can have areas of unemployment which are already in the process of redevelopment, or one can have areas of unemployment which are declining into further unemployment. Those two different types of area need different approaches to their problems

Looking at it from another point of view which my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Alec Jones) will appreciate, some areas have an economic potential and just need an economic redevelopment—they already have an infrastructure—while others areas—to some extent they will probably be very old single industry areas like the Rhondda—have not much apparent potential and need not only economic redevelopment but social redevelopment because even their infrastructure is obsolete.

The point I make is that in certain development areas or parts of development areas the infrastructure is an essential prerequisite to solving the problem, whereas in other parts no great difficulty is presented in that respect. It is for this reason that I am not exactly happy about the extension of the S.E.T. premium concept to the development areas. I regard it as rather too sweeping a way of trying to deal with the problem. It is not refined or precise enough. We are all glad that the money is available to meet the problem in these areas, but there could be a more precise use found for it.

For those areas which need economic and social redevelopment, it is no good thinking in terms of establishing a new factory wherever an old unit of employment goes into decline. It is far better to recognise that certain commuting points should be established, for instance, that trading estates should be established in South Wales at the heads of the valleys and at the mouths of the valleys, so that the work is concentrated and the infrastructure costs are minimised because the need to create it is confined to a few localities. For instance, spending on roads can be reduced to some extent and made more efficient.

The point which I constantly make to the Board of Trade—though with rather frustrating lack of success—is that within the development areas there should be a two-tier approach to these problems. The Rhondda needs more inducements, it needs more financial aid or temptation to industrialists than, perhaps, does Port Talbot. Within a development area, there are black spots as well as grey areas.

We must have regard also to public attitudes. The public themselves, particularly in the old industrial areas which, by their nature, were badly planned, with factories hopelessly on top of homes, are accustomed to what has been the historical layout. But where there is this unplanned intermingling of homes and employment, it is not practicable or desirable to re-establish industry again in precisely the same places. Otherwise, we shall recreate or regenerate these areas exactly in the image of the past, which we have so often denounced as having been unplanned and irresponsible.

It is imperative that all our constituents, therefore, should appreciate the value of mobility, in some senses a limited mobility and in some senses perhaps, a quite extreme mobility. Voluntary depopulation is not always to be regarded as abhorrent. The parties are inclined to slip into the habit—we all do it—of thinking that there is something sacrosanct about our historical population patterns. They should never be forced to, but, if people want to leave an area—many young people want to leave the smaller old industrial areas—their removal should not be used as a political bludgeon with which one party can beat the other. In the nature of things, population has never been static in location, and there is no reason to assume that it should be.

The other mobility is mobility to the job. In the older industrial areas, because of the hopeless intermingling of jobs and homes, people have not been accustomed to commuting. In London, people think in terms of commuting which, perhaps, absorbs a ridiculous amount of time.

On the other hand, when one refers to commuting in relation to some of the older areas one is referring to a very small amount of time spent in travelling. But there is still a reaction from the public which is out of all proportion to the benefits they would get if they came to terms with the fact that it will be necessary to travel perhaps for half an hour to find a new job.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West and my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Bob Brown) have referred to the problem of spoilheaps. All those who come from these areas of the country recognise that the Government are trying to tackle the problem and to alter the policies effectively so as to enable us to recast these areas. In the operation of these policies some faults may be put right.

Several hon. Members have said that the 85 per cent. grant is extremely helpful. It certainly is, especially if, in the case of areas such as Rhondda, with the rate deficiency grant it becomes 95 per cent. This would be a positive inducement to local authorities to clear the spoilheaps but for one factor which is not often referred to, namely, the fact that the applicant for one of these grants does not get the full 85 per cent. or 95 per cent.; he gets a percentage of what is considered to be the value of the site after it is cleared. I think that it is the Board of Trade which makes this decision; certainly it is a Government Department which decides what the price should be.

So what started out as a generous objective does not quite work in that way, in many areas. It would be better if Government Departments showed confidence in their own evaluation and said, "We will give you a 95 per cent. or 85 per cent. grant for a start and say that this is the site value after the work has been completed, but we will reclaim that amount on the sale of the land." The land is worth that much only if the local authority can sell it. If it does not—as sometimes happens—the Board of Trade, or whoever makes the evaluation, will have been wrong on the basis of its grant procedure.

These are important and valid points in our policy of dealing with spoilheaps, and the situation could easily be put right, beneficially to this country and at no tremendous cost to the Government. It could enable us to deal far more efficiently with the problem both sides would like to see dealt with—the problem of restoring old industrial areas to something like their original beauty by getting rid of some of the grosser eyesores.

I am convinced that the Government are making genuine attempts to solve the problem. Both sides want it solved; all that we disagree about is the solution. Our constituents want to be convinced that the solutions are realistic. In most cases they are, with a few provisos that I have mentioned. But it is not enough for them to be realistic they must also be quick. If they are not people will spend far too long in the dole queue. It is not a matter simply of £.s.d. or of a lower income level; reports from industrial psychiatrists show alarmingly that after people have been unemployed for long periods—perhaps two years—a psychological disintegration is created, together with a breakdown of personality and sense of purpose. It is important that we look at this problem as one not only to be solved but to be solved quickly.

12.55 a.m.

Mr. Arthur Davidson (Accrington)

I shall be brief because the problems of Lancashire have been dealt with by the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire), but I am grateful to have the opportunity to deal with some of the problems besetting my area of North-East Lancashire. I had the benefit of an Adjournment debate on the economic problems of North-East Lancashire, answered with some eloquence by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Department of Economic Affairs. He gave an interesting analysis of the causes of much of Lancashire's malaise, and I agreed with his remarks. Significantly he did not say what the Government's solutions would be.

I hope that the Minister of State will be a little more forthcoming and detail what the Government intend to do to help North-East Lancashire. The problems are twofold. On the one hand, there is the immediate problem of the contraction in the cotton industry. It would not be right for me to go into that now, but I must tell the Minister of State, if he does not already know it, that there is a major problem of a lack of confidence in the future—indeed, in the very existence—of an industry which has been synonymous with Lancashire since the Industrial Revolution.

He cannot assuage the deep feelings in Lancashire, caused by the contraction of the industry, by a clever presentation of the facts and statistics, particularly when the forecasts presented recently by the Board of Trade do not coincide with the estimates of both sides of industry in Lancashire.

We were told that there would be a resurgence in the prosperity of the cotton textile industry in July, but July has now come, and we are still awaiting it. There are longer-term problems facing us. Many of the problems detailed tonight affecting development areas also affect Lancashire. But whereas the Government have given assistance to these areas, which I do not begrudge—and I pay tribute to the Government for doing so—they have not given assistance to North-East Lancashire, which suffers from many of the same ills.

There is the long-term problem of industrial ugliness, as a result of a legacy, not of this Government, but of neglect by successive governments for years past. It is no god describing the degree of ugliness. Ugliness is ugliness, and it is wrong that in 1967 thousands of people should be expected to live in this unhealthy environment. There is also the problem of communications, physical not verbal. This is one of the reason why there is such a drift of young people from the area. It is not surprising, because rail communications between North-East Lancashire and the two main towns of Lancashire, Manchester and Liverpool, are quite appalling. It is also wrong that in 1967 it should take well over an hour to travel the 20 miles from my constituency to Manchester.

A problem with which we in North-East Lancashire are very much concerned is the lure of development areas. It is obvious that growth spots surrounding North-East Lancashire entice industry to those other areas and our part of Lancashire is by-passed. Some extra inducement should be offered to existing industry to stay and develop in this part of the county. I hope that the Government will bring forward a plan to give Lancashire a mid-development status.

I welcome the fact that a committee is now sitting and examining problems of grey areas, but I hope that the Government will not take refuge behind it. I am sure that they will not, but I am a little surprised that a committee should be set up to find what should be known already and is visible to the naked eye. There has been far too much talk about grey areas. I hope that areas in need of special assistance will be given a rather more colourful name. I hope that the Government will come forward with plans to help Lancashire, which has done much to increase the industrial prosperity of the nation. It did much to return the Labour Government and the Labour Government have done much for Lancashire. I look forward to my right hon. Friend giving us, not optimistic words and figures, but the promise of speedy action.

1.03 a.m.

Mr. Edward Lyons (Bradford, East)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman) for introducing this valuable debate. One of the oldest industrial areas and one of the most important in the United Kingdom, is the West Riding of Yorkshire. I am the only back-bench Member from the West Riding to seek to take part in this debate.

The West Riding is an area of high employment and it is a heavily populated area. The population is hard-working. Therefore, there may be a temptation for the Board of Trade to consider that its attentions would best be directed to other areas where unemployment is the principle concern, but if the Board of Trade were to do so, it would be utterly misled as to the true position in the West Riding. Delighted as everyone is with the high level of employment in that area, there are very ominous indications in the textile districts of the county. There is a tiny rate of population increase, housing is old and depressing in many instances, there is a very sluggish tempo of economic growth, and with migration of population from the area the keynote is obsolescence rather than growth.

There is altogether too much dependence on textiles and, although elements in that industry are fighting hard not to submit to contraction which is taking place bit by bit, they appear to be losing the battle, partly as a result of new techniques being used elsewhere and partly as a result of the fact that certain developing countries are able to make do for themselves. The present stagnation in the textile areas could develop, given an accelerated downturn in the textile industry, into something much worse. I should like the Government to take action ahead of that contingency.

This area, although one of high employment, is one of low wage rates. The textile towns have wage rates lower than of towns surrounding them. Low wages mean less purchasing power, which in itself constitutes a disincentive to local expansion. Further, low wages mean an inability often to afford good housing and to pay the rates necessary to provide first-class amenities and an attractive environment.

Full employment, therefore, has meant for places like Bradford not prosperity but simply the absence of the extremes of poverty. The City Treasurer of Bradford, in a bitter outburst, has declared his belief that Bradford has been written off as a city without a future at either regional or national level. There is a widespread feeling in the city and other textile towns in the West Riding that their claims are ignored nationally.

Leeds has taken on the functions of a provincial capital and Bradford has been called, for example, by the Economist, "the unknown city", cut off from the Yorkshire plains. The incredible thing about the textile towns is that, although much wealth is earned there, it is not spent there. The people who are chiefly the beneficiaries of the local industry do not wish to live there.

A very high proportion of the executives, academics, professional men and directors earn their livelihoods in Bradford but live away from it. They have concluded, it would seem, that Bradford is out of date and unattractive, a place out of which to scoop wealth, but not one in which to spend it or enjoy it. This is something which can be said of other towns in the Yorkshire textile area. It is a dreadful indictment of local environment. The facilities of these towns are enjoyed during the day by commuters who contribute nothing as domestic ratepayers.

That is the dismal picture—old buildings, low wages, over-dependence on a single industry and towns geographically slightly off the main stream. I urge strongly that the situation desperately needs attention. I beg my right hon. Friend to remember that the people in the older areas, particularly in the textile areas, provided much of the wealth of this country for a very long time with no very great reward to themselves.

I beg my right hon. Friend to provide incentives designed to produce the rapid tempo of growth which is the only cure. Give us at least in the textile areas of West Riding half the extra incentives now being provided for development areas. My hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. Arthur Davidson) has referred to such areas as "mid-development areas". Make us into a "mid-development area".

So far, not a single regional headquarters has been brought to Bradford, although it is the largest centre in the textile area. There is a dearth of new industries and I ask the Government to think again about the grey areas and provide these incentives so necessary. It is no use waiting until disaster overtakes this area of Yorkshire. The Government must think ahead, and I hope that they will act now.

1.10 a.m.

Mr. F. V. Corfield (Gloucestershire, South)

It had not been my intention to intervene, but I have been fascinated with the debate and I join in the general congratulations to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman) who introduced it.

I was invited to outline the alternative policies, but I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, and the rest of the House that I will not fall into that trap at this time of night. The purpose of the debate is the rectification—I think that is an overoptimistic expectation—of grievance before Supply, but at least we can state our grievances, of which there has been no shortage.

Hon. Gentlemen opposite have sought to console themselves by making somewhat bogus comparisons of what the present Government have done with what their predecessors did. I call them "bogus" because most hon. Members seem to think that nothing ever happened before my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) went to the North-East. Perhaps a more useful and enlightening comparison would be what the present Government said when they were in opposition. As we are approaching the holiday season, which ought to be a season of goodwill, perhaps I should not remind them too much of their own "stop-go", never mind any abandonment of full employment, and all the rest. I am basically a kindly man, so I will change the subject.

The truth of the matter is that we are faced with a fairly intractable problem which is aggravated by the sheer speed of change of the older industries, which is far faster than anyone could have foreseen. Newer industries are coming in, the nature of which none of us could have foreseen, let alone their growth. In many cases, industries with advanced technology do not absorb the same quantity of labour, and, where they do, they absorb a different quality of labour. The biggest problem, which has emerged from the speeches of many hon. Members, is that the level of unemployment, which used to be the basis for this sort of operation, is simply not a suitable criterion, because it gives no indication of the number of skilled people available, which is the all-important factor for the industries which are moving in.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Urwin) who made the point that there was perhaps too much competition in the sense that there were too many possibilities for industries to choose from both within a particular development area and between development areas. But this is absolutely inevitable and we should face up to it. Otherwise we are asking Governments to do something they are not equipped to do. The plain fact is that at any particular time there can be only a limited amount of industry, so to speak, on the move. Industry cannot suddenly be created without a demand for its products and all that goes with it. Unless there is industry available no Government can suddenly guarantee to put an industry there and employ the labour.

In the long term the industries which are required are those which generate, or at any rate are likely to generate—none of us is a prophet—their own technological growth. With industries that merely mop up unemployment, although they are valuable in the short term, there is a great danger that they will merely reproduce the conditions which we are facing today. We are in danger of building the development regions into what might be called production subsidiaries, with the research and technology being done elsewhere. This will never hold the young and energetic and enterprising and clever people we want to hold in these areas.

I find myself in great sympathy with those who were urging Government research establishments in some of these areas. I would go even further and try to build some of the universities in the areas and make them into universities with world reputation in certain technologies, because that is where one gets the liaison with the executives and technologists. One has to make it attractive for them to work in those areas by making it possible for them to keep pace with modern technology and modern advances without feeling that they must be in the South-East to do so. One of the problems is to create a counter-magnet to the South-East and all that there is there. This is one of the enormous problems which we have to face in retraining.

As has been said, it is those who are over 40 who are the least adaptable, and many would work in the new industries which themselves are labour intensive and which would absorb unskilled workers in turn creating a demand for more unskilled workers among the younger generation, who themselves would reach the age of 40 without a skill, and so a vicious circle could be produced.

I am rather against the suggestion that we should have small areas of new town, areas of growth, because I agree that we must not be fascinated by the idea that there is something sacrosanct about replacing job for job in precisely the same place as before, because an economy cannot be run on as inflexible a basis as that.

I agree with the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Dr. John Dunwoody) that communications are at the heart of the problem, communications between regions and equally, if not even more important, communications within the development areas to allow people to commute and to have a choice of job, even though it may not be absolutely on their doorsteps. I regret that the Government did not put the £100 million which they were prepared to put into the employment premium into the infrastructure, the roads, the research establishments and the universities and all the other things which offer attractions to the technologists and scientists who must be retained if these areas are ever to "get off the ground" and be prosperous.

I cannot believe that if the communications of the South-West were put right, there would be anything to stop it from "getting off the ground" finally and for ever. It has absolutely everything except communications—it has the climate, the scenery and the people. It is an absolute tragedy that the Government have missed that point of view.

It was complained that we had run down the Board of Trade. I sometimes find it fascinating to consider the spheres in which the Board of Trade has been expanded and I wonder how the development regions are helped. The Board of Trade employs 1,200 more people because the industrial development allowance has been scrapped and replaced by grants, which could equally well have been provided by taxation allowances or free depreciation. Does it make sense to make this expansion instead of retaining the relatively small figure? It gives no employment in the development areas, but only in Whitehall.

1.18 a.m.

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. George Darling)

The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) was wrong about his last point, as about so many others when trying to score party points. He is very much better when he is not trying to score party points. The regional offices where most of these people are employed are in the development areas.

I join in the congratulations given to my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman) not only for raising the issues which have given rise to an interesting and important debate, but also on his astuteness in wording the title of the debate so as to allow everyone to get in and to cover the widest possible area of discussion.

The debate is concerned with the problems of the older industrial areas. Hon. Members representing some of the older industrial areas have been concerned with the rundown of the older basic industries and some have given the impression that those basic industries were now to be wiped out. This is not the case.

The basic industries on which this country's prosperity has been built—coal, iron and steel, shipbuilding, cotton and, as one of my hon. Friends mentioned, the railways—have, for one reason or another, suffered a considerable rundown in employment. My hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire) mentioned the cotton textile industry. Between 1950 and 1967 this industry has lost 200,000 workers. About 100,000 workers have been lost to the railways, shipbuilding has lost about 55,000 and coal mining has lost about 175,000 workers. Nevertheless, there is a future for those employed in the rationalised and streamlined versions of these industries.

We look forward to there being a bright future for the iron and steel industry from Friday of this week. The new look which this industry is having will, I am confident, build it up into a more ambitious, efficient and expanding industry than ever before. We also believe that the Shipbuilding Industry Board, with its reorganisation proposals and with the amalgamation of shipyards, will give the shipbuilding industry a new future.

I appreciate that many of the operatives in the cotton textile industry have not only felt the effects of rationalisation, but also the effects of a free trade policy and can hardly be expected to approve, in present circumstances, of the turndown in trade as a result of the damping down of home demand. They have, therefore, suffered three blows at once and one can understand their feelings of anxiety. But they should accept that the future of the industry depends on streamlining and rationalisation. Measures are coming along, with the reorganisation of the Cotton Board into the Textile Council and with the Council including the manmade fibres section of the industry. With the research that is being carried out into the reorganisation of the industry and with the measures that are coming along, the industry will, we hope, expand and become viable.

Many hon. Members have raised the fundamental issue of unemployment, particularly in the development area. In a constructive speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Neath—who, I agree, has something about which to complain—said he was in favour of the Board of Trade building advance factories but thought that they were not being built fast enough in areas which were facing particularly severe unemployment problems as a result of the rundown of, in his constituency, the coal mining industry.

It may be of interest to the House to know that in factories put up by the Board of Trade in the development areas, there are probably more than I million people employed. In South Wales, one person in every three employed in manufacturing industry works in a Board of Trade factory. In Scotland the proportion is one in eight and in the development areas in England it is about one in ten. This is a considerable achievement. It would not have been possible to have dealt with some of the unemployment problems in the development areas if the factory building programme and the building up of industrial estates by the Board of Trade had not been undertaken.

In dealing with the financial help which has been given to private firms to go into the development areas during the seven years since the passing of the Local Employment Act, 1960, I will follow the lead of the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South and not make party points, although I am tempted to do so. To 31st March this year, all the forms of assistance which has been offered to firms to go into development areas totalled £230 million over the seven years, and £123 million of that was in the last three years. It is building up all the time.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Cant) brought us to the fact that it is not only in the development areas that we have problems not merely of unemployment. In most of the non-development areas there is not a great problem of unemployment, but there are problems of what my hon. Friend called intermediate prosperity when, for instance, the level of family income is below average and the social pattern is somewhat different from the general social pattern of the country. In Stoke-on-Trent, for instance, a city I know well, the population is composed almost entirely of wage and low salary earners and the area tends to be unattractive.

My hon. Friend said that in areas such as the Potteries—and this applies to the areas of North-East Lancashire—there is need for urban renewal and help with diversification of industry. He suggested that the way to do this is to give the area 50 per cent. of the regional employment premium. My hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. Arthur Davidson) suggested an intermediate grant between the 25 per cent. outside the development areas and the 45 per cent. within them. These are problems which can be looked at.

It is certainly true that there are far more grey areas—as I will call them to reduce the length of the debate, so that hon. Members may get on with the rest of the subjects listed for tonight—than people imagine before they consider the problems. Those grey areas are the subject of the Government inquiry under the chairmanship of Sir John Hunt. We have noted the hope expressed by several hon. Members that the Government will not hide behind that committee and that the committee's work will produce results within a reasonably short period.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) talked about the retraining of, for instance, older miners for new jobs on the spot. He said that he was not pleading for charity and that it was better, cheaper and more in the national interest to bring industry to the workers where there is a rundown in an industry like coal and there is local employment as a result, and that the way to provide for the changeover from one type of job to another was to retrain the men on the spot.

There is a very, very important point here. First of all, particularly the older miners, the chaps over 50, are, as we know from experience in every part of the country where we have had to put advance factories into coal mining areas, the most adaptable people imaginable. One can understand it. They have all the skills of the miner, and long experience of all kinds of difficult jobs to be done. They are adaptable; they want to stick in the job they have come to after being thrown out of the mines, and they are very competent people. But there is another important advantage in retraining these people and making industrialists understand what good people they are, and that is that in the factories which take them there is going to be no labour turnover for at least 10 years, or whatever period of working life the older miners themselves want. This is something we can do, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare—bring home to industrialists the value of these older miners in starting off new enterprises in development areas.

We want more and more industrialists to show an interest in the development areas. We at the Board of Trade have been surprised how little some industrialists know about the opportunities and the financial inducements available for putting industrial expansion into development areas. My hon. Friends may have seen the advertisements the Board of Trade has been putting into various papers to draw attention to the value of development areas to industrialists. It is, I think, too early to begin to assess the results in any statistical way, but certainly the number of inquiries leads us to believe that we shall be getting a much better response to our appeals to industrialists to go into development areas than we have been having for some time, and that, I know, will help to cheer up some of my hon. Friends.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Bob Brown) raised the question, as did other hon. Members, about doing far more to remove what he calls the scars of dereliction, the scars of the Industrial Revolution, the spoilheaps and the rest. This is something to which we must pay attention, and I can assure hon. Members that the views they have put forward will be borne in mind.

My hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. David Watkins) also raised a point which I must mention, because it is a complete myth. He said that too many subsidiaries and not the headquarters of firms go into the development districts. He may have come across evidence of subsidiaries going into them, but I can assure him that the ratio is the other way round, and that we get more firms, either without subsidiaries, or with subsidiaries, and both headquarters and subsidiaries, in development areas. We get more developments of that type than we get branches of major firms established outside the development areas. I have also taken note of the observations he made about the need to put research establishments into development areas.

I have some good news for my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda. West (Mr. Alec Jones). He raised questions about the advance factories there. I do not want to go over the troubles. I think he understands the troubles we have in getting suitable land and in acquiring land. The first factory we announced in September. 1965, he says has not yet been started. That is true. There has been another reason for the delay. But it has been allocated, and a firm is going to take it over, and its size is to be extended to 37,000 sq. ft. for the benefit of the firm.

We had difficulty in obtaining a site for the second one which was announced in May, 1966, but I think my hon. Friend knows that building has started, and will be completed before the end of this year. We have not started on the third one, but I think that the information about the first one will not be unpleasing to my hon. Friend. We have site difficulties there, and I shall not go into the problems now.

I have one observation to make about the speech of my hon. Friend the Mem- ber for Falmouth and Camborne (Dr. John Dunwoody). His is not exactly a grey area, but it suffers from some of the problems encountered in the grey areas in that the level of wages is not up to the national average, and the job opportunities are so few that although the employment statistics do not give the impression of a great deal of unemployment, there is considerable under-employment, and one would like to see what the figure would be if everyone were to register. There are so many people, particularly married women, who know that they will not get jobs that they do not bother to register.

The South-West Plan was published only last week, and we have not had time to study it, but we have not neglected the South-West. The total financial assistance given to the area last year was £615,000, and the total since the 1st April, 1960, is just under £4 million. This money has been provided for industrial development in the region. As I am sure my hon. Friend would agree, compared with what goes on in other areas, this is not a great deal.

I cannot answer my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Urwin) about whether the power station at Seaton Carew will be coal-fired or nuclear-powered. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power is here, and he is not going to answer the question, but I assure my hon. Friend that his views will be given serious consideration.

We do not allow fly-by-night firms to go in and take advantage of grants provided in the development areas. If a firm receives a grant, and goes out of business within five years, the money is repayable on a sliding scale. In many cases we own the factory premises and the equipment as well. We can therefore see that the money is returned, but very few firms collapse, because they are very carefully examined before any grants are made to them.

I have taken note of the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Ince about the rundown of the mining industry, and the provision of growth centres and new towns. I am not sure that I agree with all my hon. Friend's views, but I will see that they are properly examined.

By talking about the problems of the West Riding of Yorkshire, my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, East (Mr. Edward Lyons), brought home to me the fact that there is a saying locally, which he probably knows, that if there is any truth in the idea that God had a chosen people, they came from Hallamshire. Because I represent a section of Hallamshire, I do not want to get involved in a public discussion about the problems of Yorkshire, but I would like to discuss privately with him the problems which my hon. Friend raised about Bradford. I was not aware of the seriousness with which he regards some of the problems in that part of the world, and I shall be glad to discuss the matter with him.

This has been a most interesting and constructive debate, and if I have failed, as I am sure I have, to answer all the points which have been raised, I assure hon. Members that their contributions have been most useful to us, and will be properly considered.

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