HC Deb 22 February 1968 vol 759 cc637-8
33. Mr. Milne

asked the Secretary of State for. Economic Affairs what discussions have taken place to assess and take action on the number of jobs required in South-East Northumberland in the next two years arising from projected pit closures in that area.

Mr. Frederick Lee

Action has been taken to deal with the problems arising from colliery closures by scheduling the relevant part of Northumberland as a Special Development Area in which exceptionally favourable terms for industrialists are made available. A more searching and detailed study of the economic prospects and potential of this area is in hand.

Mr. Milne

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, although these long-term objectives seem to be operating favourably, the position for the next 18 months to two years looks very grim? Will he speed up the survey and make a closer examination of the situation?

Mr. Lee

I am pleased to be able to tell my hon. Friend that the Northern Economic Planning Board hopes to complete its preliminary studies next month. There are now 3,600 jobs in prospect for males in the employment exchange areas covering most of my hon. Friend's constituency. We have had the recent news of the decision to set up a £24 million nylon plant at Cramlington, and this kind of development is very much to the point.

Mr. Shinwell

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that the Northern Region Economic Council has been studying this problem ever since it was initiated about three years ago? Is it still studying? When will the Council come to a decision about anything which will affect the position in the Northern Region?

Mr. Lee

I do not think that my right hon. Friend can have heard what I said. I talked about the Board, not the Council, making this survey. I know that my right hon. Friend, even with his experience, cannot remember a time when there was not this kind of trouble in the Northern Region. We are doing more to attract industry there than any other Government have ever attempted. At the moment the signs are that we are succeeding. I very much hope, along with my right hon. Friend, that in the next few months there will be an appreciable drop in unemployment levels there.

Dame Irene Ward

Will the right hon. Gentleman issue in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of the recommendations made by the Northern Economic Planning Council and what action has been taken either for or against, with the dates on which the decisions have been taken? Then we should know in the North of England exactly where we stood, which we do not know at the moment.

Mr. Lee

I will do what I can to help the hon. Lady in that respect. All the recommendations were not made to the Government. Quite a number of them were on issues which the Council itself would take up. A number of the issues which were directed to the Government have either been completed or are in the course of completion.