HC Deb 22 February 1968 vol 759 cc635-7
27. Mr. Henig

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he will request the Hunt Committee to expedite its work and complete its report by July at the latest.

Mr. Shore

I am satisfied that the Hunt Committee is pressing ahead with its work as quickly as possible. I do not think it would be helpful to set an arbitary time limit to the study of the complex issues involved.

Mr. Henig

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a great deal of disappointment with the seeming lack of urgency shown by the Hunt Committee in preparing its report? Is he aware that the grey areas, which feel their problems increasingly, would very much welcome the Hunt Committee getting on with its job more quickly and at least giving my right hon. Friend an interim report some time early this summer?

Mr. Shore

I am glad my hon. Friend referred to "seeming" lack of urgency because I do not think there is any actual lack of urgency in the minds or practice of the Hunt Committee. The last time I was answering Questions I explained to my hon. Friend why I did not think it would be helpful to ask the Committee to produce an interim report.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

The last time the Secretary of State answered Questions, he said that the Hunt Committee had not yet decided what a grey area was. Has he any more news now after six weeks or more?

Mr. Shore

I think the hon. and learned Member is having fun with a debating point. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Probably the most difficult and important job that the Hunt Committee has is to establish criteria—which means in a sense arriving at a definition—of those areas in the country which can be considered to be intermediate areas. This is not an easy matter at all. The Committee has invited evidence from a whole variety of areas which consider themselves to be intermediate. Until that evidence has been properly processed I cannot answer the hon. and learned Member who thinks that this is the simplest thing in the world to settle.

Mr. Wallace

Will my right hon. Friend ask the Hunt Committee if it would be prepared to issue a report on a regional basis on matters on which it has reached a conclusion?

Mr. Shore

I should be surprised if the Committee was able to reach conclusions on a regional basis.

Mr. Richard Wainwright

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept congratulations on his use of the admirable term "intermediate" rather than the harmful term "grey areas"?

Mr. Shore

I am grateful to the hon. Member. It occurred to me that the use of the word "grey" could often be counter-productive in respect of those who use it.