HC Deb 02 April 1968 vol 762 cc174-5
Q5. Dame Irene Ward

asked the Prime Minister whether he will arrange for the Ministers responsible for the North-East to have a special day for answering Questions, as is arranged for Scotland and Wales.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Dame Irene Ward

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the North-East coast has the highest unemployment and the lowest amount of public investment? We can always get at the Ministers of State for Wales and Scotland. The people on the North-East Coast do not believe a word that the right hon. Gentleman says. We should like an opportunity of putting our case, as have Scotland and Wales. Will he get on with it?

The Prime Minister

That would arise for every development area in England. While the hon. Lady obviously likes to run away from the facts of the situation, perhaps she will or will not believe that unemployment in the North-East today is considerably lower than it was in the winter of 1962–63 in the months before the bad weather came, and that was alter her party had been in office for 11 years.

Viscount Lambton

Will the Prime Minister reconsider his decision, in order to improve the status of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, because it is generally believed in the North-East at the moment that he does not know enough about the area to answer questions on it?

The Prime Minister

I have explained the responsibilities of my right hon. Friend, of the President of the Board of Trade and of the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will recognise that if we had to have separate questions for each development area it would deny right hon. and hon. Members many of their rights in relation to questions generally.

Mr. Leadbitter

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in addition to the levels of unemployment to which he has referred, capital investment in the Northern Region today is much higher than in any period before 1964? Much more is being spent on roads, houses, schools and hospitals, and the Members of the Northern Labour Group are satisfied with the progress that has been made.

The Prime Minister

Concerning public expenditure, which was the question raised by the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), in the last full year of the Government which she supported expenditure in the Northern Region for public investment was £70.3 million. In the current year it is £138.9 million. These figures are at constant prices.