HC Deb 16 November 1967 vol 754 cc609-11
5. Mr. Derek Page

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he will make arrangements for the Hunt Committee to visit the areas of the country having below average incomes.

Mr. Shore

It is for the Committee to decide whether visits to any type of area will help them in their inquiries. My Department is, of course, ready to assist in making any arrangements the Committee may need.

Mr. Page

Bearing in mind that low earnings must be the main factor to be considered by the Hunt Committee, does the Minister not agree that a visit to areas such as Norfolk to see the difficulties encountered by many thousands of people is essential if the problem is to be understood fully.

Mr. Shore

This is a matter for the Committee to decide. It has invited evidence, but should it feel that that written evidence could be supplemented usefully by visits to the area, no doubt it will consider such a proposal.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

When does the Minister expect the Report of this Committee?

Mr. Shore

That is another question. I am not able yet to give an effective answer, because the Committee had its initial meeting only in October of this year.

Mr. Iain Macleod

Can the Minister clear up one point? If we are to have, overall, a larger measure of unused resources, and if the development areas are to do better, does it not follow that the Government have in practice abandoned the grey areas?

Mr. Shore

I am not quite clear how the right hon. Gentleman has arrived at that conclusion, nor on what he bases the assumptions on which the latter part of his question was put.

Mr. Iain Macleod

On the Chancellor's speech.

19. Mr. Roy Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what progress has been made by the Committee set up under Sir Joseph Hunt to consider the question of grey areas; and when the Committee is likely to report.

28. Mr. Haseldine

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs when he anticipates receiving the report of the Committee set up under the chairmanship of Sir Joseph Hunt; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Shore

I would refer my hon. Friends to the Answer given on 9th November to similar Questions by my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Henig) and the hon. and learned Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke).—[Vol. 753, c. 1235–7.]

Mr. Hughes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this Report in anxiously awaited in South Wales, particularly in Newport, which employs many people from the mining valleys of Monmouthshire, and that firms in the town are waiting for this Report before deciding on future development plans?

Mr. Shore

I have already made it clear that the Hunt Committee will produce its report as quickly as possible. Of course we know, as does the Hunt Committee, just how welcome any early report would be.

Mr. Swain

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in Derbyshire we, too, are patiently waiting for this report but that our patience is fast running out? In Derbyshire we have 7 per cent. unemployment in one of the grey areas, and by the time that we get the report our percentage will be higher than that of most of the development districts in the country?

Mr. Shore

The Committee was set up only this summer. It was announced in July and formed during the summer, and it met for the first time on 5th October. The Committee is getting ahead as quickly as it possibly can.

Mr. Clegg

What will the Hunt Committee find out which his Department and the regional economic planning councils do not already know?

Mr. Shore

One of the points with which it will need to deal is the criteria by which one can define an intermediate area. As the hon. Member may have noticed from Questions on the subject, hon. Members are speaking against a background of very different conditions in different parts of the country, and there is a big job to be done of analysis before proposals can be made.