HC Deb 19 December 1968 vol 775 cc1541-3
3. Mr. Ridley

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what steps he plans to take to contain the rise in the cost per job to public funds of providing employment in the development areas, in view of its rise from£1,130 in 1964–65 to£7,770 in 1967–68.

The Minister of State, Department of Economic Affairs (Mr. T. W. Urwin)

I do not accept the hon. Member's figures, and would refer him to my reply to his similar Question on 14th November. We intend to continue to strengthen the economy of the development areas, including the provision there of new employment.

Mr. Ridley

If the Minister of State cannot accept my figures, why has he not published his own? Is he aware that these figures are derived from Parliamentary Answers? Does he not realise that no one will believe him until he is brave enough to publish the true figures?

Mr. Urwin

I would advise the hon. Gentleman that it is virtually impossible for him to calculate, on the evidence available to him, and reach the conclu- sion that he has apparently arrived at. In fact, the only development area assistance which is strictly and specifically relevant to the provision of new jobs is under the Local Employment Acts, and the figure is£630 per job.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Is my hon. Friend aware that on this side of the House, if not on the other, there is a strong feeling that he should resist any attempt to reduce the support being given to development areas as long as unemployment is as high as it still is in many of our constituencies?

Mr. Urwin

I take note of my hon. Friend's point. I am sure that he will be aware that the policies in train are having the desired effect in the development areas, and I cannot see any possibility of reduction at this stage.

Miss Herbison

Will my hon. Friend ensure that neither pressure from the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) nor from the Leader of the Opposition will turn the Government aside from continuing their very fine work in the development areas until we are assured of what is the most important thing for any man, which is that he has a job and is able to care for his family?

Mr. Urwin

I am sure that the whole House—or at least hon. Members on this side—will note what my right hon. Friend says. I appreciate the point she makes. In the economic debate just two or three weeks ago, the Leader of the Opposition described the area incentives as a Shibboleth. It is high time that the Opposition came fully into the open and told the country, as well as the House, their attitude towards the generation of new employment opportunities in those areas.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Is the Minister of State aware that the root of the question lies in the argument about value for money; that we on this side do not share the optimism exhibited on the benches opposite that the Government are getting value for money in terms of new jobs? Will he not recognise that there is a very good case for increasing spending on the infrastructure rather than individually subsidising individual firms?

Mr. Urwin

It must be understood that a good deal of time is needed to gauge the influence of particular aspects of incentives. I would suggest to the hon. Gentleman that the figures of industrial development certificates show that the combination of assistance to both labour-intensive and capital-intensive industries is attracting a large number of new jobs. We are not complacent about the position, but the development areas as a whole have been strengthening their industrial basis.