HC Deb 16 November 1967 vol 754 cc606-9
4. Dr. John Dunwoody

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs by what date he expects departmental consideration of the report of the South-West Economic Planning Council, A Region with a Future, to be completed.

9. Mr. Dobson

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs when the Government's views on the Draft Strategy for the South-West will be published and made available to the public.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Mr. Alan Williams)

The recommendations in the Economic Planning Council's report are under active consideration and the Government's reply will be given to the Council as soon as possible.

Dr. Dunwoody

Can my hon. Friend assure the House that these considerations will be completed urgently, because the continuing uncertainty, especially about the boundaries of the development area, the spine road to the South-West and industrial development in the far South-West, is giving rise to real difficulty and damaging the economy in the development area?

Mr. Williams

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance, but he will appreciate that some of the points raised in the report raise issues the implications of which extend far beyond the boundaries of the South-West.

Mr. Dobson

Can my hon. Friend possibly go a little further today and give the House at least an idea that the Department will deal speedily with the growth points which are needed in the South-West? Further, is the resignation of the Chairman of the South- Western Regional Planning Council likely to affect his Department's consideration?

Mr. Williams

The answer to the second part of the question is, no, Sir. My right hon. Friend and I had discussions with the Chairman on 8th November. As for the speed of progress, I can assure my hon. Friend that no time will be wasted.

Mr. Robert Cooke

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the report said that the spine road was the key to the problems of the South-West. What progress has been made with that road in the life of this Government?

Mr. Williams

That question—

Mr. Cooke


Mr. Williams

—will have to be put to the Ministry of Transport. It was one of the matters discussed last week with Professor Tress.

Mr. Nott

When his Department has completed its deliberations, will it implement speedily those items in the report with which the Government agree?

Mr. Williams

The items with which we agree will be implemented with the speed necessary for their effect on the area.

23. Mr. Ellis

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what steps he is taking to appoint a successor to Professor Tress as chairman of the South West Economic Planning Council.

26. Dame Joan Vickers

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whom he is appointing to succeed Professor R. C. Tress as Chairman of the South West Economic Planning Council.

Mr. Shore

Professor Tress does not formally relinquish his appointment as Chairman of the South West Economic Planning Council until April 1968. In the coming months I shall be giving careful consideration to the appointment of his successor.

Mr. Ellis

In view of the importance of continuity in this post, will my right hon. Friend say by what date he expects to make the appointment? Will he resist any claims from any particular area within the region in this matter, remem- bering that we want the best possible man for the job, from wherever he may come?

Mr. Shore

My hon. Friend is right to insist that we have the best possible man for this appointment, rather than be influenced by the claims of particular areas. I hope to be able to establish a suitable successor in the next few months.

Dame Joan Vickers

In view of the fact that so little action has been taken under the present Chairman, will the Minister see that someone who really understands the problems of the South West is appointed, remembering that we want action quickly?

Mr. Shore

I do not believe that the hon. Lady really means to be discourteous to Professor Tress, who has, by general agreement, done a splendid job in the South West. [Interruption.] I believe that the report has been widely welcomed as a constructive contribution to thinking about the problems of the region. I shall, of course, try to find a suitable person to succeed him.

24. Mr. Ellis

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what action he will take to assist the South West Economic Planning Council to make specific proposals for the Northern Sub-Region that includes Bristol, in view of the fact that there were no such proposals in the plan, A Region with a Future.

Mr. Alan Williams

The proposals of the South West Economic Planning Council for the Northern Sub-Region have already been set out in paragraphs 406–411 of its Report.

Mr. Ellis

Is not the Minister aware that in the Report it was stated that any conclusions of this kind for the Northern Sub-Region, which includes Bristol, Swindon and these areas, could not be arrived at? Will he take steps to see that action of the kind that is needed is taken? Does he appreciate that it is not a question of implementing a report, because we have not even got the proposals yet?

Mr. Williams

The point made in the Report was that until the Severnside study had been completed, a detailed, comprehensive strategy was not possible. On the other hand, it was pointed out that the existing plans of local authorities for the northern area were at present inadequate. The Council is itself initiating moves to co-ordinate the work of the planning authorities with a view to meeting the foreseeable needs.

Mr. Webster rose

Mr. Speaker

No. 27, Dame Joan Vickers.

Mr. Webster

On a point of order. Is there any criterion about the number of supplementaries you accept when there is great interest in a matter, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker

This is a difficult task and I do the best I can. Dame Joan Vickers.

27. Dame Joan Vickers

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, in view of the resignation of the Chairman of the South-West Economic Planning Council, if he will now consider moving the office of the Council from Bristol to Plymouth.

Mr. Alan Williams

No, Sir. These two matters are not connected.

Dame Joan Vickers

Will the hon. Gentleman consider putting the office in Plymouth, because the South-West is the area in which there is the most need for development? Is he aware that Bristol is a very rich area and that we in the far south-west want attention directed to our problems?

Mr. Williams

I perfectly understand the hon. Lady's interest in this matter, but I am sure she appreciates that it is imperative, for the efficient working of these councils, that they should be near the regional offices of Departments—and this one is in Bristol.