HC Deb 18 January 1968 vol 756 cc1944-5
24. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what decisions he has now reached on the Report on the Future of the South-West.

Mr. Shore

I have arranged to meet, together with other Ministers mainly concerned, representatives of the Planning Council on 31st January to discuss their recommendations; final decisions will be made and the Government's reply given to the Council as soon as possible thereafter.

Mr. Digby

Will the right hon. Gentleman speed up the process? Is he aware that the main recommendation was for us to have a new spine road down to the South-West, but this was overtaken two days ago by the extensive cuts in the road programme? How do we stand?

Mr. Shore

The changes which have been announced to the House in the public expenditure programme are among the problems which we have to take into account in our discussions with the planning councils generally, and in particular with the South-West Regional Council.

Dr. David Owen

Can it be right for a major city, with a population of 250,000, to be so dependent on one industry, the dockyard? Surely the events of the last few months, with the suspicions and fears aroused by decisions over public expenditure, make it imperative that Plymouth is designated a development area at the earliest possible opportunity?

Mr. Shore

As my hon. Friend knows, the recommendation that it should be made a development area is in the Regional Council's report, and it is one of the things which we shall be discussing with the Council on 31st January. As for the dependence of Plymouth on the dockyard, I agree that the dockyard accounts for too large a part of the employment in that city, but I ask my hon. Friend not to jump to conclusions about the impact of recent defence cuts on particular dockyards.