HC Deb 08 March 1968 vol 760 cc841-932
Mr. Speaker

Before I call the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett) to open the debate, I would point out that almost every Member who has a constituency which lies in the region which we are to discuss is seeking to catch my eye in this debate. Long speeches will keep out other hon. Members who have equal right to be called. If speeches are reasonably brief I ought to be able to call everybody.

11.17 a.m.

Mr. W. E. Garrett (Wallsend)

I beg to move,

That this House, whilst appreciative of the efforts of the Government in relation to the social and economic developments within the Northern Economic Planning Region, will welcome further initiative to overcome the high rate, of unemployment. I hope to follow your advice, Mr. Speaker, and make my speech as short as possible. Nevertheless, I hope to be able to make several points which I hope the House will bear in mind. I am pleased to see present here many hon. Members from constituencies outside the Northern Region.

In opening this debate, I am conscious of the fact that I am dealing with a region which contains 6.2 per cent. of the national population. It is a region with long traditions of industrial activity going back to the early period of the Industrial Revolution, and indeed, most of the basic industries such as coal mining, shipbuilding, engineering and steel manufacturing have provided much of the vast accumulation of wealth found in many of the commercial and business interests in the City of London. No one can deny that the region, both in nationtal emergency and in peace time, has played a vital part in the prosperity of the nation.

It is unfortunately true that it is a region which has always suffered the full blast of poverty and unemployment whenever there has been a recession, and in the present economic climate this is no exception, as the following statistics will show. At the moment it has the highest rate of regional unemployment. In the North-East, there are 4.7 per cent. unemployed compared with 4.1 in Scotland and in Wales, and at the other end of the scale there is London and the South-East with 1.8 per cent. unemployed and the East Midlands with 2 per cent. unemployed. They compare very favourably indeed with our part of the United Kingdom, and the news yesterday that Furness Withy's yard on Tees-side is to close, and the pending closures within the coal mining industry, make the situation as seen at the moment very gloomy indeed.

I am quite sure that every Member of the House is aware of this imbalance. It is true to say that successive Governments have made valiant efforts to redress the balance, but it seems to me that the problem still appears to be as insurmountable as ever.

I do not intend to be critical of the Regional Planning Council because, in spite of the views of some hon. Members opposite, I consider that it is doing a reasonable job within its limited powers. Again, some hon. Members opposite and possibly some of my hon. Friends may not agree that the present Chairman is the best man for the job. However, I consider Mr. Dan Smith to be the best man to run the Regional Planning Council. He is a man of ideas, though we may not necessarily accept them, which make people like or dislike him. He and the other members of the panel, who are not all of his political colour, are doing a first-class job.

Equally, I agree that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in the short period during which he has been responsible for the North-East, has acquired a good deal of knowledge and is fully aware of some of the basic problems. I have known him for many years, and I know him to be a sincere man. I consider that he is making a genuine attempt to resolve the awful economic problems besetting the region.

The time has come when the Government must make a further full-blooded attempt to give wider powers to the Minister and certainly to the regional economic planning bodies. If more is not done in that direction, imaginative men of the calibre of Mr. Smith will be disillusioned and the region will be divested of the ideas and originality which are essential to a rapid rate of growth.

What I say must frighten some of the faceless people who control our destinies from Whitehall, because they are determined to retain control of regional policy at all costs. It will take a strong and determined Minister to overcome the inhibitions of Whitehall about regional decentralisation.

To be fair, the regional officers from the various Ministries who have their headquarters in Newcastle in the main have been co-operative, and I have detected a speed-up of decisions emanating from the Board of Trade's regional officers. This applies in particular to applications for industrial development grants, and if anyone knows of delays in relation to these grants, I suggest that they are usually attributable to the prospective employers not supplying the Department with all the necessary information. I would like to think that other Departments in the region were as successful as the Board of Trade. If that Department can achieve the success that it has, other Departments can do likewise.

If the Minister knows of any Department which wishes to extend its activities to the region, it should not have difficulty in obtaining office space, which is often one of the excuses put forward, because my information tells me that a huge block of buildings in Newcastle will become available shortly, and in Wellbar House there is one complete floor empty which could be put to use as early as possible. There is no lack of space stopping the Government for decentralising.

Another factor disturbing most of us is the continued contraction of the coal mining industry and, to a lesser extent, some of the other traditional industries. If additional effort is not made to obtain new jobs, undoubtedly the position will worsen. It has been calculated that the region must have at least 15,000 new jobs a year to counteract the decline in the industries to which I have made reference. It is pleasing to note that the newer and progressive industries in the region will provide a considerable number of these, but it is equally correct to assert that there will still have to be a large number of new jobs created from outside.

I think that more could be done by existing industrialists in the region. There is still a fair amount of conservatism amongst them. This is particularly applicable on the Wear, where the shipbuilders cannot yet agree on a grouping system. On the other hand, I am pleased to report that the Tyne shipbuilders have grouped together, and they appear to have got off to a fairly successful start.

A fair amount of criticism can be levelled against the trade unions. Before becoming a Member of this House, I had some experience of the Luddite approach of many trade unionists in the region. This was quite terrible in the case of new industries about five years ago, and we lost two industries because of the refusal of trade unionists to accept changes in working conditions. Many trade unionists today are prepared to resist any change in working environment or production methods. However, the signs are that younger trade unionists see much more the need to participate in forward thinking decisions which will result ultimately in better wages and conditions for their fellow members.

In general, the region has a first-class record for good industrial relations, and I am sure that the relationship between management and employee is equal to that in any part of the country. Prospective industrialists need have no fears about the quality and skill of the labour available in the region and can be assured that they will get employees steeped in the tradition of honouring trade union agreements freely negotiated.

I am greatly worried about the situation in relation to public investment, although no doubt newcomers to the region will be greatly impressed by the vast changes in towns and cities as a result of replanning and rebuilding. Most of all, they will be impressed by the tremendous capital investment on roads and bridges, because it is here that the changes are most startling. Yet those changes do not disguise the fact that, although the region has 6.2 per cent. of the population, the highest investment that it has ever received was in 1965–66, when £78.5 million was invested. However, that is only 5.1 per cent. of the national figure for investment and a good deal short of the 7 per cent. promised under the Hailsham Plan to bring the region to a degree of parity with the rest of the country. Furthermore, if the region had received its share according to population, the figure for 1965–66 should nave been £93 million, or 6 per cent. of the total national figure of £1.540 million.

It is recognised that more Government money is being spent in the region, but what causes us great concern is that the region is losing the battle for parity with other parts of the country and other development areas.

I know that a great deal of criticism of the Government has been made by the Scots. I do not see any Scottish hon. Members present this morning, so I am fairly safe in making that statement. However, their region, with 10 per cent. of the national population, had 13.6 per cent. of the national public service investment in 1962–63. In 1965–66, with a fall in the population to 9.8 per cent., Scotland's share of the investment referred to had jumped to £217.1 million, or 14.1 per cent. In the light of those figures, I feel that there is a good deal of justification for arguing the case of equality with other regions. It follows, therefore, that Government money spent in the development regions will enable further expansion there and, at the same time, prevent further congestion in London and the South-East.

Frequently, various Ministers make reference to Government investment in industry, and I regret to state that my analysis of one Department, the Ministry of Technology, is a very poor guide to the assertion often made by Ministers. I have seen pleas made by different bodies and organisations from the Northern Region for State assistance. It seems to me that this Department has just ignored them or that the pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

The following figures illustrate the validity of my point. During 1962–63 the Department spent £ 1 million in the Northern Region, whereas it spent £240 million in the rest of the United Kingdom. The best year was 1964–65 when £2.2 million was spent in the Northern region compared with £234 million for the rest of the United Kingdom. However, in the following year, the figure dropped to £1.8 million out of a total of £253 million. Even more startling is the Ministry's figures for research and development from April to September, 1967. Those figures show that £25.5 million was spent in London and the South-East whilst during the same period the Northern region received the miserly sum of £66,000.

How can one accept the statements of various Ministers who, when they visit the region, talk about additional financial incentives when some of the major Ministries pursue their own policies regardless of the need to co-ordinate on equal investment policy for the regions? Here is an area of activity in which the Minister could usefully deploy his undoubted talents, and if his colleagues are not prepared to be fair in their allocation of capital investment, they are merely worsening a situation which can offer no hope for the future of the Northern Region.

A great responsibility for the future of the region lies within the region itself. There is no doubt that there remains a lot of good will which should be capitalised. I suggest that the people in the region, particularly the local authorities, should take a harsh look at themselves. More effort should be made to break down the insularity of the region by individual efforts to sell the finer aspects of its history, tradition, culture and geographical attributes. I suggest that local authorities, instead of waiting for Government action, should set about tidying their districts by building better designed houses and other public buildings and, above all, by displaying initiative on matters falling within their jurisdiction.

The revitalisation of this important region is a team job: the Government, industry, trade unions, local authorities and, above all, the people. Given Government priorities, the other sectors will co-operate.

The region not only needs more material resources; it needs long-range thinking on where it is going and how it is to get there. Therefore, it is most important and urgent that, beginning at national level, there should be a clear statement on the industrial and technological philosophy of the region. If this thinking is not done, the conclusion must be that future opportunities lie not in the promised land of the Northern Region, but in the grey areas of the South.

The region is desperately keen to play a fuller part in the national battle for economic survival. Therefore, I hope that when the Minister replies to this important debate he will pledge the Government to be the pace-setter in the vital task of revitalising this important part of the United Kingdom.

11.34 a.m.

Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)

First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett) on his good luck in the Ballot and on the first-class way in which he presented the case for the Northern Region. The hon. Gentleman is my Member of Parliament in spirit, if not always in philosophy. Part of the attraction of Parliamentary and political life, if I may put it this way, is that from time to time we are able to combine on issues on which we all feel very strongly. The Northern Region will be delighted that the hon. Gentleman should have selected this Motion, because it enables us to put forward the views, desires and needs of the great area which we represent in our own particular and special ways. I am delighted to have the opportunity of following the very interesting lead that the hon. Gentleman has given on the problems of the North.

Mr. Speaker, I note what you said about other Members wanting to speak, so I will try to be brief. Wallsend used to be my constituency and I have a very real affection for its workers, industrialists, trade unionists and everyone who serves in that area.

Before developing my argument, I want to pay tribute to the North-East Development Council, which has done magnificent work over a very long period. I am sure the House would like to place on record its appreciation of the work done by Mr. George Chetwynd when he was the Secretary of North-East Development Council. He will be interested in the debate and also in the statements and, I hope, the pledges which will be made by the Minister.

In a recent speech to trade unionists in the North, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said that in the next four years there would be 45,000 new jobs accruing to the region. This is very satisfactory so far as it goes, but I do not understand why he specified four years. However, 45,000 new jobs sounds a pretty powerful addition for the region. Of course, it falls far short of the assessment that has been made of the need for 15,000 new male jobs in the region, referred to by the hon. Member for Wallsend. It is not only 15,000 new jobs; it is 15,000 new male jobs which are required to keep us progressing in the modern world. If one considers the number of new jobs required by women, this adds considerably to the amount of jobs which we ought to have in the pipeline if we are to do the work which is required in the region. Much as I was pleased to hear about the 45,000 new jobs, they are not nearly enough to deal with the situation facing us in the area.

The hon. Member for Wallsend has taken an excellent line in comparing what has been done in our region with Scotland and Wales. He did not mention Wales, but I do. Like the hon. Gentleman, there being no Welshmen here, I feel free to speak. It is fair to say that we want a sound economy in all regions of the country, but we on the North-East Coast, as was pointed out, feel that we are not getting our fair share. Therefore, it is a good thing that we have this opportunity not only of pressing the Minister who will speak as our Minister in the North, but of trying to reinforce his power in the Cabinet.

I think that we in the North-East are at a disadvantage—and it must be remembered that we have the highest rate of unemployment in the United Kingdom—in that there is a Secretary of State for Scotland and, with a complete Department, and a Secretary of State for Wales, with a complete Department, and I imagine that, under present Cabinet arrangements, when the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster tries to do his best for the North of England, as I am sure he does, he has two pretty powerful people sitting there, and he has to get up early even to keep abreast of them, much as I would like him to be ahead of them.

I want to expand on what the hon. Member for Wallsend said about public investment. The other day the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Rhodes) put a Question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and was given some interesting figures. He was luckier than I was, because whenever I want to find out about public investment in education, in housing and in health, the only answer that I get after some subtle co-ordination between the Departments concerned is that no figures are available. This is very disturbing because I suspect that as public investment in general is better in Scotland and in Wales than in our region, the same applies to investment in housing, education and health. It would be a good thing if Ministers could do a little more homework so that we could know a little more about the truth of the situation.

In 1964–65 the North's share of public investment per head of the population was £22, the Welsh share was £33, and the Scottish share was £38. In 1965–66 the North's share went up by £2 to £24, the Welsh share went up from £33 to £36, and the Scottish share went up from £38 to £42. Taking it over the years, the employment position in the North has deteriorated, with the result that we have the highest unemployment in the country, and I would like the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to assure us that public investment in our region will be on the same scale as in other regions, and, bearing in mind the fact that we have some leeway to make up, that we will get a fair share compared with the other regions.

The hon. Member for Wallsend made a good case for action by the Ministry of Technology. With the deterioration in the mining industry, it is extremely important for the North-East Coast to be a pace setter in technological progress. It is intolerable that we have had so little success, that we have had so little money spent by the Ministry of Technology in our part of the world, with the position as it is at the moment. I am looking to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to ensure that in future we have no firm reason for complaint. The North-East Development Council rightly asked for further progress to be made with regard to university provision on Tees-side. From the figures which have been put forward, I see no reason why we should not proceed with that project.

As I have not been able to get real details about the Health Service, I want to make some observations about this. When I consider the number of beds available for certain diseases, I find that even here we are behind other regions. We are below the national average in the provision of maternity beds, beds for mental diseases, and beds for the chronic sick and geriatric cases. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will assure me that he will investigate all the figures of expenditure on health, education, and housing, and ensure that the North gets its fair share.

I am sure that the Prime Minister takes a great interest in the regions. I do not agree with his methods—I want to make that plain—but I am certain that everybody wants to make this country's economy as buoyant, progressive, and as satisfactory as possible. When the Prime Minister visits our region, I naturally take a great interest in what he does when he arrives there. This applies particularly to the mining industry with which we are all very much concerned.

I am delighted to know that Mr. Dan Smith has written to the Prime Minister. I shall not read the whole letter, because it is a fairly long one, but on 5th January he wrote: Dear Prime Minister, When you visited this region last October you invited my Council to give fresh consideration to th e problems of clearance of derelict land, and to submit to you proposals for an accelerated programme of reclamation. He went on to outline what had been done, and I am sure that everybody concerned has provided the appropriate Department with information on the problem and set out what is required to solve it. The Prime Minister asked for this information last October. It is now March. Several hon. Gentlemen opposite, and myself, have recently tabled Questions asking when the Prime Minister's concern will be translated into action, and the only answer that we have received from the appropriate Minister is that the matter is under consideration. I am sick and tired of things being under consideration. We consider things for days, weeks, months, and sometimes years.

When the Prime Minister arrives in a region, and is told of the problems which exist there, and he expresses interest in what is happening, everybody thinks that it is a wonderful opportunity to be able to put their problems before the head of the Government. I say this about any Government, because we have always had to battle for our region, irrespective of the political persuasion of the Government. Everyone thinks that when the Prime Minister visits a region they have a marvellous opportunity to get something done, but then everything goes stale.

I think that the time has come for us to receive a direct answer—because this would be of enormous help to our region—that matters will be put in train immediately, and that we shall get what is required, following the interest shown by the Prime Minister, the representations made by Mr. Smith and the Economic Planning Council, and the expressed wishes of all members of the Northern Region and of the House today. Perhaps the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will be able to tell us what will happen in that respect.

Again, the other day the Prime Minister came into our region and talked about the computer industry, or some other matter of Government concern, and said that he hoped that our region would benefit. I should like to know what will happen in that respect, also.

I have had a very good say. I am delighted to see so many people here from the North-East Coast. If, as a result of the initiative and good luck of the hon. Member for Wallsend, we can make some progress in our region, this day will go down in history as one of the great days for the North-East Coast.

11.50 a.m.

Mr. Arthur Bottomley (Middlesbrough, East)

We all join the hon. Lady in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett) on raising this matter. I also congratulate my hon. Friend for the manner in which he opened the debate. We all endorse what has been said about the Regional Board and the North-East Development Board and the good work that they are doing, but the objective of regional policy is to give equal opportunities for all, so that all parts of the country will have a comparable standard of living.

The Government have done a good job in this respect. Since January, 1966, they have given financial grants which have enabled industry to come into the area. They have given grants not only for factories but for plant and machinery and, as a result, we are now seeing new industry developing in the North-East. Considering the economic difficulties confronting the country the Government's record is not unimpressive.

Having said that, I must go on to say that there are causes for many disappointments. The North-East has the highest number of unemployed of any region in the country. It has a rate of 4.7 per cent., which is nearly double the national average. It is about 9 per cent. of all the unemployed in the country, and is 0.6 per cent. higher than the rate for Scotland and 0.6 per cent. higher than the rate for Wales. Official news was yesterday conveyed to hon. Members by the Minister of Technology about the closing of the Furness Shipyard. At the same time news was given about the closing of the Ayrsome Steelworks in my constituency.

The private owners of the shipyard might have taken Members of Parliament into their confidence earlier. My hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Joseph Slater)—the Member concerned—received a letter from the employers only simultaneously with the Press announcement.

The River Tees is possibly the best port for shipbuilding on the North-Sea coast. It is a national asset, and such resources ought not to be wasted. I therefore trust that in the 12 months when the rundown takes place my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology will find it possible to attract other shipbuilding interests to the area, because in a relatively short time, owing to devaluation, our shipbuilding industry will be more competitive. There will be more orders, and we want to keep one of the best yards in being. We do not want it to decay and go out of use.

The Ayrsome Steelworks will close down, but here I must contrast what has happened with that publicly owned organisation, as compared with the privately owned shipyard. In the case of the publicly owned organisation the Member of Parliament concerned was informed and, further, told that the staff made redundant would be absorbed in other employment.

Reference has been made to public investment. It is lower in the North-East, even though we were promised a much higher rate. I could develop this point, but because time is limited and it has already been mentioned I will merely reinforce it and hope that my right hon. Friend will have something to say about it.

Tees-side is a very friendly area with an adaptable labour force and good labour relations. There is an abundance of labour and an abundance of land, and an enormous concentration of investment. It is mainly steel and chemicals but we hope that there will be diversification aid, as a result, more opportunities for employment.

To give encouragement to industry I ask the Government to place more contracts in the North-East. They should be able to do that. The decision about the P.A.Y.E. computer is long overdue and further consideration should be given to its siting in the North-East. Tees-side expected a savings centre but it did not come; it expected the Royal Mint, but it did not come. Then there was a private firm which was going to fulfil contracts for the Post Office. Again, that did not come about. I therefore make a plea that the P.A.Y.E. computer centre should come to Tees-side.

There is an urgent need on Tees-side for the employment of clerical workers. Middlesbrough alone—and that is half Tees-side—at the moment could fill about 1,800 clerical jobs. Long-term recruitment prospects are very good. Tees-side has a higher under-15 percentage of population than almost any other town. There are 8,500 school leavers a year, of whom 1,700 have five or more O levels. This would be ample to meet the requirements of the Inland Revenue of 300 recruits a year, 200 of whom must be up to "O" level standard.

In some areas industry has difficulty in obtaining computer staff. There is no such problem on Tees-side. The staff is available. Tees-side is a progressive and expanding industrial centre, standing on one of the best waterways in Britain. The large cargo ships of the world go from the port, and the new harbour authority is doing everything it can to develop the waterway. A dredging scheme has been put into operation which will enable larger vessels, including 80,000 ton tankers, to come into the port. We hope that eventually it will be able to take vessels of up to 200,000 tons deadweight.

If one of the proposed aluminium smelters or iron ore terminals could be sited on the river it would provide a double benefit. It would allow bulk carriers to come in and, the potential rich deposits of potash in the area to be taken away as exports. The harbour authority has asked aluminium companies to consider the question, but some have not replied. I hope that the Minister will encourage them to do so.

Finally, I turn to the basic question of education. The industrial expansion on Tees-side which has arisen from Government policy must be matched by further and higher educational facilities. For higher and further education the basic problems have not altered in the last year or two, except that Constantine has been nominated to form the base for a new polytechnic. Polytechnics are to be primarily teaching institutions and not research institutions, yet some of the most advanced technological industry is concentrated on Tees-side, and this requires high powered research alongside it.

The case for a university working closely with industry is strengthened by the limitations being placed on the development of research polytechnics. Tees-side will be the only town with a population of population of 400,000—serving an area of 700,000 or more—without a university or permanent residential college as well as a day college of education. The Department of Education and Science does not appear to be regionally-minded. It tends to think of the North-East as a traditional 19th-century industrial area. My hon. Friends the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Technology, the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray), and the Under-Secretary of State, Foreign Office, pioneered the university project before they were in the Government, and I gave them all the support I could. In the interests of Teesside and the whole country, there is a need for the establishment of a university, and I hope that the Minister will press my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science as strongly as possible.

There is also the need in Teesside for a permanent college of education. It is at present housed in temporary buildings able to admit only 130 students from a total of 180 suitable students available to go to the college next September. Tees-side is an area where teachers are in short supply, and this makes it all the more necessary that the college should come fully into use before long. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science has had a request from the Tees-side Education Authority for a meeting to talk over these matters. I hope that it will be possible to do so.

The people of Tees-side are doing all they can to help themselves. They accept the challenge. The matters I have raised this morning are those that they are not competent to handle. The Government can give assistance, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will see that they do.

12.1 p.m.

Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland)

Like other hon. Members, I congratulate the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett) on choosing this subject for debate. He has done a public service.

I suppose that most of us could make many different speeches about the North-East of England. Certainly I could, having lived in North Yorkshire all my life and been to university in Newcastle. However, I must remind the House that the Northern Economic Planning Region covers Cumberland and Westmorland. It is about that area that I want to speak, and I am glad to do so as I do not believe that any other hon. Members from it are present. There are good reasons for their absence. There is a broad question of whether it is best for the area to be in the Northern Economic Planning Region or in the North-West Economic Planning Region. There are arguments both ways, but I do not find any great compulsion to suggest that there should be a change. I think that generally we should not be very much better off in the North-West and included with Lancashire and Cheshire.

We have the disadvantage of a degree of remoteness from Newcastle which makes the Planning Council and the Planning Board rather open to the same sort of criticism as Whitehall. Our relations with the Planning Council have gone reasonably well over the past three years. There was an early criticism that Mr. Dan Smith tended to come into the North-West and tell us his ideas without any prior consultation with the authorities in the area. Some of us made him aware of our objections to that practice and I am very glad that within the past two years he seems to have stopped doing that. That has been a great improvement in our relations with the Planning Council.

I suppose that to most people my constituency and a great deal of Cumberland is best known for its tourism, and as communications improve in the next few years and the M6 motorway comes nearer to the Lake District, we shall have to deal with the threat of traffic thrombosis, which is likely to bring everything to a grinding halt on summer afternoons.

It is important to broaden the tourist area in the Lake District if we can. I have had the honour of presenting to the House a petition, and I also presented to the Ministry of Transport yesterday another petition bearing 5,572 names. It refers to the attempt to persuade the Ministry, when building the M6 extension, to make navigable culverts over the old Lancaster canal so that boats can pass. The Lancaster Canal Trust is an extremely dynamic organisation intent on restoring the canal to being one of the most beautiful stretches of waterway in the country. I believe that it can raise the finance and that most of the plans it has put up, which have been authenticated by Mr. David Hutchings, probably the best-known canal restorer in the country, can be put into effect.

Three years ago the Ministry told us that it would cost £210,000 more to build those navigable culverts, but with new standards of lower headroom and smaller depths in the canal I believe that it can be done for less than £30,000. I hope that the Minister with responsibility for the Northern Region will tell the Ministry of Transport of this and do his best to try to widen the tourist area in this way.

I now come to what I think should be the principal part of what I have to say today. For some weeks I have been trying to have an Adjournment debate on the problems of North-East Westmorland and the need to create more employment there. Many of us have been long concerned about the very serious depopulation which has been going on over the years in the upper reaches of the Eden Valley, particularly between Appleby and Kirk by Stephen, an area well known to many hon. Members.

In the whole of the Westmorland area, including Appleby, the population has dropped from 25,000 to 17,000 over the past hundred years. While the population in Appleby has remained fairly static, between 1951 and 1966, the North Westmorland Rural Council area lost 2,250 people, which constitutes about 13½ per cent. of its 1951 population. This includes the area around Penrith, where there is a very strong and dynamic expansion, so that the depopulation in the Appleby-Kirkby Stephen area must have been considerably more than 13½ per cent., although it is difficult to put an exact figure on it.

The worst thing is that it is the young people who are leaving. Between 1951 and 1961 the staggering number of 29 per cent. of all the males between 20 and 29 left the North Westmorland Rural Council area. That is not good for a rural area, and one must ask how long this sort of situation can go on. My argument is very different from that of other hon. Members today, because in this area we do not have a high degree of unemployment. It is very obvious why. The reason is that people can move out of the area and go to other places where jobs are easier to find in the North-West. At present a great number of people leave this part of Westmorland every day to travel long distances to work. For example, quite a number travel from Kirkby Stephen to Kendal, a distance of 24 miles, every day. It has been estimated that roughly one in six of the actively employed population leave the area of the North Westmorland Rural Council every day to work.

Fewer people are being employed on the farms, and the National Plan gives us no indication that the flight from the land is likely to stop. Quarrying, a most important industry in that part of the world, is also running down. Although the problem is different, and I am talking about relatively fewer people, I am talking about a vast area and hon. Members will know the dangers of rural stagnation which happens with serious depopulation of this sort.

What is to be done? Over the past few years there have been some very welcome developments on the fringe of the area about which I am most concerned. We have had the vast expansion of the plasterboard works at Kirkby Thore by British Gypsum. Within the next few years we shall have the creation of a service area on the M6 at Tebay which will give a great many jobs to people in the area. We are in the process of having set up within the area a rural development board for the North Pennines. There is a strong case for having the centre of it put at Kirkby Stephen. I hope that the Minister at the Board of Trade will press this on the Ministry of Agriculture. Kirkby Stephen is in the centre of the area to be served by the rural development board, and it is administrative work of this type that we are short of in the area.

We must also establish a greater degree of tourism there in the future. Most people think of Westmorland in the tourist idiom as being the Lake District, the lakes and the mountains. But anybody who knows the Eden Valley, the area around Shap and Tebay, knows that this is one of the most beautiful areas in the North of England. We have proposals before us now for an ambitious sports centre at Appleby. It is hard to oppose it. I do not believe that one should be choosy about what type of employment one gets in the area. A public inquiry into this is to be held in Appleby next month. All I would say about it is that I wish the centre were further up the valley nearer the area where more jobs are needed. Nevertheless, I find it almost impossible to oppose it. We must also encourage forestry in the countryside. This provides a greater degree of work than agriculture. If we can increase the proportion of forestry and get it better integrated with agriculture, I think we can induce more people to stay in the area.

But all these things will only contribute to what we are trying to do. It amounts to the fact that we must try to get more manufacturing industry into the area of North Westmorland. This is my main plea. We have some excellent sites available which the county council has said it is prepared to purchase and make available to developers. We have helpful authorities which are anxious to get industry into the area. Housing has been promised by these local authorities at relatively short notice. We have wonderful schools in Appleby and Kirkby Stephen. They are comprehensive schools, and no worse for that; indeed, they are a type of school right and relevant to the area.

In Kirkby Stephen and Appleby we have a central position for the United Kingdom which should be attractive to many industrialists. We have good communications with the M6 which is coming within a few miles of the area. We also have a cross-country route to the A1 over Stainmoor on the A66. There are enormous leisure opportunities for anybody who wants to come and develop in North-East Westmorland. It is essential to make use of the unused resources in the area. This is the same argument as is being used by hon. Members representing the North-East Coast. We are at one on this.

Westmorland County Council has applied to the Treasury for an advance factory. It has agreed to acquire land at Appleby and Kirkby Stephen to develop it. I suggest that a factory of around 10,000 sq. ft. floor space at Kirkby Stephen would be the best thing for the area. I urge the Minister to press this and commend it to the Treasury.

Rural decline is tragic. Anyone who has seen it will agree with me. We recognise the demands of the North-East, where unemployment is, I admit, a more serious human problem than rural depopulation, but I think it is essential that everything should be done by the Government through advance factories to inject new vistas and a sense of dynamism into this area of North Westmorland, too.

12.15 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Wiley (Sunderland, North)

May I say by way of preface that we ought all to recognise the massive support that has been given by the Government in their development area policy over the past few years. I am sure that this will have a growing effect.

While we recognise the present position as unacceptable, it is not as bad as last time. Last month's unemployment figure was 61,000, but in February 1963 it was 92,000. Having said this, I emphasise that we have no grounds for complacency. I believe that a great deal more has to be done.

First of all, I believe that my right hon. Friend should have more specific responsibility. I believe that this very much affects decision-making. I acknowledge what has been done. I have criticised B.O.T.A.C., and I am now well satisfied with what has been done. I have raised the subject of industrial training, and I believe that we have made marked progress in that sphere. But too many decisions still remain to be taken. There is, for example, the question of Seaton Carew. There is the question of the computer centre. There is no excuse for no decision having been made. The matter was before Ministers last summer. We must have a decision quickly. Dereliction is important, but we have the question of the delegation of decisions on dereliction to the region, and we are still awaiting a decision.

Far more important, as my hon. Friends have said, is the question of our share of public service investment. Reference has been made to the Hailsham Report and the undertaking that we should have 7 per cent. of an expanding national total. I emphasise that this was for the North-East alone. We are entitled to expect more for the region. So far we have nowhere near attained that figure.

I give some figures to supplement those already given. The Northern Region expenditure in public investment on new construction was £78½ million, but in the South-East the figure was no less than £479 million. In view of this disparity, the regional premium is chicken feed. If we take the breakdown figures—for example, the expenditure on environmental services, which must concern us—the expenditure in the Norther Region was £6;700,000 but in the South-East it was £39.400,000. I believe that it is the main job of the Chancellor of the Duchy to ensure that we get a fair share of this field of public expenditure.

I turn to Sunderland and Wearside. Here, unfortunately, unemployment is still increasing, and I believe that it is likely to continue to increase. The last count showed 7 per cent. unemployment. Again, I emphasise that this is not as bad as last time. Our last figure was 6,823 but, in February, 1963 we had no fewer than 12,166 unemployed. Again, I acknowledge that a good deal is being done. We have had an advance factory built. Unfortunately, it remains empty. I would emphasise to the Board of Trade that in view of our position the filling of this factory must have high priority. All in Sunderland are greatly obliged to the Board of Trade for taking over the Pennywell Estate. But it is only 43 acres and will not provide the employment that we require.

I should like to say a few words about our major anxieties. The first relates to shipbuilding. We are still without the Wear merger, and I am convinced that while we are still without it we shall be prejudiced in getting orders on the market. We must make use of every pressure that we can to ensure that we get the merger as soon as possible. We were shocked yesterday at the announcement of the closure of the Furness yard. It affects us in Sunderland; it affects several hundreds of my constituents. We cannot tolerate the industry being handled in this way. This was done without consultation, and it has a very serious effect on the North-East.

Second, I am very anxious about the general position of the whole Wearside industrial complex centred on Sunderland. We were concerned when the Hailsham Report came forward with the argument for a growth zone. True, it was a large area running from Tyne-Tees and covering part of the county of Durham, but we felt that it would mean a pull to Tyne-Tees to the prejudice of Wearside. We still have our fears and believe that this has in fact happened. I still feel that we have given insufficient thought not only to the question of Sunderland but generally to the question of Wearside. We have to consider not only Sunderland but Peterlee, Silksworth and Washington. But as the Hailsham Report said, Washington is really an extension of the Tyneside conurbation. We have to think of an area providing employment of which Sunderland is the industrial and commercial hub.

For this reason, I have been arguing that we should have in this area a large industrial estate. I raised this by Parliamentary Question recently and got a rather dusty answer from the Board of Trade. I have suggested that the Planning Council should be invited to prepare proposals, so I broaden my attack and add that we are disappointed that we have not had an initiative from the Council on this.

The Board of Trade refered me to the Pennywell Estate, but, as I have said, this consists only of 43 acres, and also to the 13 acre etate at Houghton-le-Spring. The Board really does not show an appreciation of our problems. In any case, I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Urwin) would be concerned if the estate there were regarded as being the relief for our unemployment difficulties. The same applies to Rainton Bridge. The Board of Trade said that it was not considering buying further land at this time.

However, we have now made more progress. I have followed this up with Ministers and I believe that the Board of Trade would now be willing to consider further sites in Sunderland and has more sympathy towards the problems of Sunderland and the surrounding area than appeared from its Parliamentary Answer. But even this approach is inadequate. I do not think that we can just look upon the possibility of providing land in Sunderland itself. Sunderland is desperately short of land—and this is the gravest of our problems—suitable for industrial building. Indeed, this is a problem of the whole Wearside area. To meet it, we need the attraction of a large industrial estate probably to the northwest of the town.

This would have to be part of a comprehensive planning operation. Other factors have to be considered, such as the Green Belt and strategic considerations. But all this re-emphasises my belief that Wearside should be regarded as a special area, that we should think in terms of special assistance and that we should be thinking of integrated industrial units being put up in it and, if necessary, back this up by making provision through public enterprise.

What the North needs probably more desperately than anything else is, I agree, a new university—a technological university. It is quite useless to talk about modernising the Northern Region unless we are prepared to establish there a technological university. All experience, particularly American, shows this to be true. The best example perhaps is that of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Throughout America, where an older industrial area has been rehabilitated, it has been done by attracting to the region high-powered technological expertise. I am certain that this is the main way in which we could get the rehabilitation of the Northern Region.

Unfortunately, of course, at the moment this is held up and because of this I believe that we ought to consider the claims of Sunderland. The town has a very good claim to such a university. It has a fine technical college, with new buildings and residential provision. It also has a college of education and a college of art. All this provides the basis for a new university. There would be particular significance in a new university going to Wearside now. However, although I see the need for such a university in Sunderland and the opportunities for it, I should not quarrel with my right hon. Friend about the exact siting. The main priority is to have a new university in the region.

Certainly in the long term, perhaps the greatest significance of the present recession may well turn out to be the fact that, for the first time since the war, it is not as bad as the last recession. Up to now every crisis in the North-East has been deeper than the previous one. But, as far as we can see, the present recession does not look like following that pattern. That, as I say, may well turn out to be the most significant feature of our present difficulties. However, my present concern is for the short-term anxieties and short-term measures to deal with them—with the special difficulties of special areas which demand special attention and special assistance. It is to deal with these that we are looking to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

12.26 p.m.

Mr. R. W. Elliott (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North)

In the 10 years I have been a Member of this House, we have had successive debates on the future of the North-East. I remember the last time I followed the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey). We had an all-night sitting in a debate on the North-East and he led for the then Opposition. I was the first to be called from the Government benches. My first comment is that I agree with him wholeheartedly that, since that debate, there has been massive aid for the North-East.

The trouble is that we are still out of balance with other regions, including those which have had similar aid. We also need to fine down our thinking to see exactly what it is we require now. Block aid—blunt aid, as it were—has been given to us in the past. We have certain specific needs and specific dangers. We should recognise both.

The right hon. Gentleman said, with a note of optimism—thank goodness for it—that this recession might not be as bad as the previous ones. He said that it was not quite as bad as the Selwyn Lloyd crisis, as he called it. I accept that the figure of 12,000 unemployed in Sunderland in 1963 was higher than the 10,000 unemployed now but there is one big difference.

Mr. Willey

For the sake of accuracy, I should point out to the hon. Gentleman that the unemployment is 6,800 at the moment.

Mr. Elliott

I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I was making a guess. But there is one big difference. The North-East Development Council has estimated that it would take 15,000 jobs a year to make up for our wastage—the jobs which are becoming redundant in the region. The only year in which we have achieved that figure was 1964–65. This was because then we were on the the right track and on the right national economic policy. The trouble has come since 1964 and 1965 because our national economic policy has failed and continues to fail.

Again I congratulate the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett) on having initiated the debate. As my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) said, he has probably done a great service to the Northern Region by doing so. He must feel pleased that he has so much support in the House. Every Northern. Member who sits on this side of the House is present, together with a very large proportion of those who sit on the opposite benches.

It is almost a year since we had a similar debate. Then—it was on 24th April, 1967—the subject was regional development generally as against the North East specifically. In the past year, of course, our national economic position has worsened considerably.

We have known the tragedy of devaluation and, whatever we now do or say about the North-East and what aid should be given to it and so on, it is obvious that it will be more difficult for the Government to give the sort of aid which previous Governments have given to the region in the face of our economic plight. We are also holding the debate in the shadow of a Budget which even the more optimistic of us fear will be extremely severe. We are therefore considering regional unemployment against a critical economic situation. Approximately 60,000 people are unemployed in the region at present.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Mr. Alan Williams)

I am interested in this figure of 60,000 unemployed. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that while hon. Members opposite were in office, as a result of expansions in world trade, the country's total working population increased by 11 per cent., but that the total working population of the North—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Interventions must be brief.

Mr. Williams

I am only trying to demonstrate—

Mr. Speaker

But interventions ought to be brief.

Mr. Williams

I am trying to get to this figure of 60,000. During that period, if the increase of employment in the North had been the same as that over Britain as a whole, there would have been 60,000 more jobs. We are still trying to make up for the neglect of that period.

Mr. Elliott

I must not be diverted too much from the main theme of my speech, because many hon. Members wish to speak. However, I can answer that quickly by recalling that when I came here 10 years ago we had full employment in the North-East. There were danger signs in 1957 and 1958, and by 1959–60 they were becoming very apparent, but we had full employment. The danger was largely met by the Local Employment Act, that massive piece of legislation which I still believe to be basic to such recovery as we have known in the region and such answer as we have been able to provide in the region to the problem of our declining native industries. Ten years ago we had nothing like the percentage unemployment which we have today. Another disturbing factor is that 5.4 per cent. of men were unemployed in August last year, a figure which has now risen to 6.2 per cent.

Our major basic problems continue. The coal industry continues to contract. Two hon. Members this morning have rightly mentioned the shipbuilding industry, which has been a great employer in the past and which continues to be so today. I listened with interest to what the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North had to say about shipbuilding in his area. I add my appreciation of what the hon. Member for Wallsend said about the amalgamation on the Tyne and the achievements of the shipbuilders on the Tyne. We are always heartened when we read of new orders which have been obtained for our northern shipbuilding firms, but we should also take warning and not depend too much on the shipbuilding industry continuing to be a major employer.

This week's issue of the Economist says that three years from now the world will have between 4 million and 10 million tons more shipbuilding capacity than it needs. More disturbing even than that is the other statistic that out of 28 million tons existing capacity, just 16 million tons of shipping were launched last year.

We need to think very much in terms of the right sort of financial incentives which we can give to our northern shipbuilding areas. They have done a great job in the past and, above all other industries, have done much to help themselves, particularly on the Tyne. We ought to look to the financial incentives which have worked best in the industry in the past few years.

My main plea is that the Government should take certain, sure and speedy steps to make devaluation work. Devaluation is a tragedy, but we have it. I noticed in the Press this week that the International Monetary Fund vetting team has been here having a look at our economy.

Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)

I do not want to knock the hon. Gentleman off his perch, but he began by rightly saying that in future we did not want to give blunt aid—that was the expression which he used—but that we wanted aid to be refined. Will he help the debate by telling us what he means by refined aid?

Mr. Elliott

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will have the patience to listen to me; I am hoping to come to that. I am making what I believe to be an essential point.

I wonder what the International Monetary Fund scrutiny committee thought about our economic policy. I will not go into detail about what I think it might have thought, but one cannot help wondering what it thought about the Transport Bill and what it was told about wages policy.

Mr. Speaker

We are not debating the Transport Bill.

Mr. Elliott

But the Transport Bill has a considerable bearing on our economy. It is essential that we should not mistime post-devaluation measures. To say the least of it, the preparatory devaluation measures were highly suspect and our post-devaluation steps must be right.

This may be an appropriate moment to say that development policy has attracted a certain amount of criticism, particularly from what are called the grey areas. The argument that a full industrial development certificate policy can be applied only when we have economic expansion has considerable strength. A company which is not allowed to develop in the South-East of England does not automatically go to the North-East. Many people, economic commentators among them, fear that firms which are not allowed to expand outside a development area will not expand at all, and that cannot be good for the national economy.

We hope that, as well as recognising this danger, we can express in this, as in so many previous debates on development areas, the economic case for regional development. It is positive and it is compatible with a free enterprise economy, if the current economic policy is correct. The strongest case for regional development is and will always remain, so long as we have unemployment, underdeveloped labour forces. Through the use of our underdeveloped labour forces, we can make a substantial contribution to national growth and to a solution to our major problem in the North-East, which—and here I come to what the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) asked—is lack of skill.

Our high unemployment figure masks our lack of skill. All of us who have visited industrial concerns on the Tyne, the Wear and the Tees have been told over and over again by management that it cannot get the skills it requires, even though there is high unemployment. My hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) spoke of migration from his area. We all know that there has been migration from the region as a whole, but, unfortunately, the skilled and the young and the enterprising have gone first.

Our retraining programme is not yet right. I cannot think how many times this subject has been raised in debates on the North-East in the past. I raised the issue of retraining as a major and urgent requirement when I followed the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North in that all-night debate some years ago. We have come a long way since we had a small number of places in three Government training centres. The position has been improved a great deal. The trade union movement moved a long way from the firm stand against retraining of middle-aged workers which it used to take, but it still has a considerable way to go.

The right hon. Gentleman must look hard at the skill requirements in the North-East, and examine the Dip. Tech. type of course. We need, as an urgent necessity for our future development, a new university of technology on Tees-side. The second major argument for development in the region is still as good as it was ten years ago.

In overcrowded areas, the denser the population the greater the demand for services and more expensive is the cost to the taxpayer. In the South-East and Birmingham, there are expensive site subsidies and uneconomic commuter services. It is estimated that the cost of providing a school place in Greater London is 8 per cent. higher than in the rest of the country. There can be many other justifications for a continuation of regional policy—the greater spread of consumer demand being among the most important.

What are we doing to help ourselves? I agree with all that has been said about what can be described as public investment. Certainly we want Government Departments in the North-East of England, but basically we have always wanted to help ourselves. We need to emphasise our advantages and prepare for our opportunities. We have to get rid of the old terminology. I am fed up with the phrase "development area" and "depressed area". It gives the opposite impression to that which we want to create. All that has happened to the North-East in the last ten years has made it a place of enormous opportunity—an exciting place. We have welcomed, and continue to welcome, new firms to our area. Practically without exception they prosper there.

Let us ehave a study made of them. I know that we all a bit weary of studies of this and that, and extra committees on all sorts of things, but a study on firms who have come to the North-East bringing new employment would be useful and encouraging to those who still hesitate to come to us. Let us do more about regional co-operation. We have come a long way since the days when we had debates on the region in the House and hon. Members opposite would stand up and demand the new industrial pattern based on the geographical layout of the old. In those days they wanted new factories where the pit-head used to be. Now we all accept the principle of the growth area, and that there are certain parts in our region to which new industry will come, and that we should do more to improve the infrastructure of the region around these areas.

Hailsham's main recommedation was that growth areas in the regions could be developed. The most harmful aspect of present Government policy towards the further development of the North-East is their taxation policy. Selective Employment Tax must be, by now, the most discredited tax in history. It discriminates against industry and is harming the progress of the essential reconstruction of our transport communications and our general services system. It should be abolished. As for the regional employment premium, I remember the right hon. Member the present First Secretary of State telling me in a Parliamentary Answer that he believed that it would give quick results, and that this was the thing which would commend it. We have yet to see these quick results.

I pay tribute to the work that the North-East Development Council has done under our former colleague George Chetwynd. It was a very good job, and he has a most energetic and able successor in Mr. Dawson, whom we wish well. Much remains to be done in general planning co-operation and this will probably be affected when we get bigger local government units. No one envies the task of the Royal Commission in saying how these should be allocated, which town should go in with another, forming a bigger unit. It is a very difficult task, but when we have our bigger units we shall then get more sensible intelligent planning co-operation. Any suggestion—and it has often been made—of a regional council with teeth is still meaningless. If we have our bigger units we will have natural co-operation. I have never believed in this empty phrase about a regional council with teeth.

I very much doubt whether we need the continuance, once we have the bigger local government units, of regional planning councils and boards. I doubt whether the Department of Economic Affairs, from which they derive, should continue a day longer than the life of this Government. The Department must have superimposed itself in many ways upon the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and we see it as being an unnatural, unwieldy and unnecessary body. Appointed councils, such as the Economic Planning Council, will become quite superfluous. I would like to pay a tribute to those well meaning members who serve on them.

We were informed by the hon. Member for Wallsend that we had been extremely critical of the Chairman of the North-East Economic Planning Council. I want to put this right. Our criticism was directed at the appointment of a particular gentleman as the chairman of an appointed council simply because he happened to be, or appeared to be, the principal Socialist of the region. As a newspaper said during the last election, it was a doubtful action indeed, to appoint as the chairman a person who had been responsible for the Labour Party's propaganda in the Northern Region. We never objected to his membership of the Council.

In the name of co-operation, which is essential, we believe that appointed councils if appointed at all should be politically balanced. One wonders what the Economic Planning Council has done. It has produced a report, the "Challenge of the Changing North", with which I have no quarrel. The report was a recast of the Hailsham Report and its recommendations have not been implemented because the Government's economic policy has failed. We were led to expect so much from the economic planning councils, but I am afraid that they have been an awful failure.

It was a sad commentary when the Chairman of the Economic Planning Council in the Northern Region had to state publicly, and rather pathetically, that he had not been told about pit closures. When he produced a four-point plan which he said, would enable the North-East to lead this country's industrial recovery, point one was a suggestion that we could have component parts manufactured in the North-East and conveyed to the South-East of England.

That suggestion was made in the very week that the Minister of Transport's Bill was read in this House, increasing as it does the cost of transport from our region to anywhere else. If one of our great difficulties could be summed up in a few words, it can be described as "The Long Haul". I bow to your previous Ruling, Mr. Speaker, not to bring in the Transport Bill, but I would say that it certainly will not help the recovery of our region.

To sum up, we want speedy action to support devaluation, without fear or favour. We want full recognition in our region of the problems of retraining, with more attention paid to it and immediate action. We want an acceptance that our infrastructure, particularly our communications, needs urgent action. We want a realistic approach made to taxation and a recognition that investment allowances and free depreciation worked extremely well and helped much of our industry, particularly our shipbuilding industry, in equipping it so that it could fact, as the best of it is facing, international competition of the strongest sort. We want a recognition that aid given to the northern part of our country, particularly the North-East, should be designed to give the region an economic takeoff. If the taxation system gives our business and industrial people the right incentive, there is a great deal that they can do without Government intervention to ensure the future prosperity of the region.

12.50 p.m.

Mr. David Watkins (Consett)

Speaking from this unaccustomed position above the Gangway, I would first like to add my congratulations to those already expressed to my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett) on his luck in the Ballot and on his choice of subject which has enabled us to debate a matter of great importance to many people in the North of England.

I wish to concentrate my remarks on the situation in the West and North-West area of County Durham where a serious unemployment position is arising from the total run-down of the coal industry upon which the area has been almost completely dependent for generations. I then want to say something about the importance of the steel industry. I am sure that, in view of my constituency interest, hon. Members on both sides would consider it remiss of me if I did not say something about the steel industry, which is important not only to Consett, where the steel works is situated, but to a very wide area of the North-East.

Before dealing with the steel industry, however, I wish to touch on the rundown of the coal industry. May I quote my own constituency as an example of what is happening in a wide area of West and North-West Durham. The whole of my constituency is designated as one of the special development areas introduced by the Government where additional incentives are given for the establishment of new industry after the complete fade-out of coal mining.

I suppose that in my constituency 20 years ago there were as many as 30 pits working. Today, there are five. In rather less than three years from now, there will be none at all. The mid-February unemployment figures, the most recent figures published, indicated that unemployment in the country as a whole was down. Seasonally adjusted, it was substantially down on previous figures. But in my constituency unemployment increased because of the closure of local collieries, such as the Hamsterley Colliery and the nearby Byermoor Colliery which, although in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Mr. Woof), whom I see in his place, provided employment for a fairly substantial number of my constituents.

This is the measure of the problem in this part of the Northern Economic Planning Region. At a time when the national unemployment figures declined appreciably, they increased in this area. This is by no means common to my constituency. This is the situation in a number of areas within the Northern Region.

The Motion rightly draws attention to the efforts which the Government have made to grapple with the social and economic problems of the Northern Region. Perhaps I may again quote my constituency as an example of the working of their policies. Within my constituency there are two major industrial developments currently employing approximately 600 people. Both of them are expanding, and they anticipate a considerable expansion over the next five years. These factories are a direct result of the proposals introduced by the Government.

There are encouraging signs in the West Durham area that at long last tenants are being found for the advance and other factories which have stood depressingly empty for so long. This is the evidence of the extent to which the Government's efforts are beginning to show results in these areas. But we still require new and additional initiatives in this direction. The five pits which I mentioned employ 3,038 people. Therefore, with the closure of these pits, the jobs of over 3,000 men will disappear within slightly less than three years.

I have made some calculations from the figures available as to how many employment opportunities are likely to be provided by the existing developments and the expansion of those developments and by the introduction of new industries which seem likely to go into the factories which have been standing empty. The figures indicate that in that area these developments will provide about 2,100 jobs over the next three years. Therefore, allowing for the present unemployment and for the influx of school-leavers over the next three years, we need at least 1,500 jobs in my constituency over and above the employment which is being currently provided and which we know with certainty will develop within that period.

That is a situation in only one constituency in the Northern Region. The same picture and the same figures can be repeated in numbers of others throughout the region. This surely measures the need for the further initiatives to which my hon. Friend the Member for Wall-send refers in his Motion.

It is very important that further initiative should be taken to establish in the region what are usually called "science based industries"—those industries which have prospects of long-term expansion and, in a way, self-generation until the end of the present century and even beyond that. I do not believe that the economy of the Northern Region will ever be put on a firm and permanently sound basis until this sort of industry is introduced on a large scale.

For instance, we need a motor car factory in the North-East. This would not only provide thousands of jobs but would bring to the area numerous ancillary industries which are associated with the motor car industry upon which the economy of this nation is becoming increasingly dependent. Furthermore, the introduction of a large steel-consuming industry of that sort would ensure the expansion of the steel works at Consett which in turn would safeguard the future of the River Tyne as a major port. It would not only safeguard the import of iron ore, but would turn the Tyne into a major port for the export of motor vehicles to foreign markets. It is imperative that this type of industry should be established within the region.

The very introduction of that type of industry would require a considerable training and retraining programme, not only an immediate programme for the retraining of the miners whose jobs are holding up under them, but also a long-term training programme, to which the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. R. W. Elliott) referred, to produce a larger number of skilled people in these industries. Among other things, this requires more apprenticeships than have hitherto existed in the area as a whole.

Another vital requirement for the Northern Region is that more young people should be educated full-time to the age of 16 and beyond within the boundaries of the region. One of the region's major problems is the comparatively low percentage of young people who remain at school beyond the statutory leaving age of 15. The figure for the whole of the region is 36.1 per cent. In many areas in the South of England, however, the percentage who remain at school beyond the age of 15 is twice as high.

As long as that situation exists, it puts the Northern Region at a grave disadvantage. It means that only half as many of our future skilled technicians, only half as many future scientists and technologists and only half as many future leaders of teaching, of industry, of commerce and of public life are likely to come from the Northern Region as from any comparable region in the South. By the very nature of its problems, however, the Northern Region's need is twice as great as that of any comparable region in the South. I would certainly like to see some initiative from the Government to increase the numbers remaining at school in the Northern Region to the age of 16 and beyond.

I should, perhaps, add the proviso that I do not simply advocate that young people should remain at school an extra year for the sake of being in a classroom for another year. I appreciate that this involves considerable public investment and considerable measures to ensure that the extra year is spent usefully at school. This is, however, an important and vital matter for the whole future of the region.

Having said that, I should like to say something about the steel industry located in my constituency of Consett but affecting the social and economic life and development of a considerable area of the North-East. Some 7,000 people are employed in the steel industry at Consett in what is the most technologically advanced steelworks in the country, and, indeed, one of the most technologically advanced in the world, a plant with a current capacity to produce 1.4 million ingot tons of steel per annum. Powerful reasons have been deployed in this House and elsewhere why that capacity should be expanded, but I do not intend today to go into the details of those powerful reasons. What we require is an early statement from the Northern and Tubes Group of the British Steel Corporation of its proposals for the future of steel manufacture in North-West Durham.

When seeking information from the Northern and Tubes Group, one is not by any means up against a blank wall in obtaining it. Rather it could be said that one is up against a bland wall. One receives assurances from the Chairman of the Northern and Tubes Group of the Steel Corporation that all the factors which one has mentioned to him are factors of which he and his associates are fully aware and that they will take them into consideration in drawing up their plans for the future organisation of the region. I sincerely hope that this is not a case, to quote Professor J. K. Galbraith, of the bland leading the bland.

The expansion of the steelworks at Consett is vitally important for the future of the River Tyne, where the iron ore for the works is imported. There is a plant at Tyne Dock in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop), whom I see in his place, which has a capacity to handle 2 million tons of iron ore a year. It has never been used above 68 per cent. of its capacity, however, and that figure was reached only in 1956, when it handled that amount of iron ore. This under-utilisation indicates that Consett's steel production could be expanded without any undue capital expenditure at Tyne Dock. It goes without saying that without the import of iron ore, which is the major material handled on Tyneside, the Tyne would be finished as a port.

I wish to quote briefly from a letter which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade recently sent to Councillor W. Walton, B.E.M., Chairman of the North-West Durham Joint Industrial Committee. The letter follows a recent visit by my hon. Friend to the North when she met members of the Committee. I quote. The Railways Board have not yet asked for the Minister's agreement to the disposal of the Lanchester Valley branch line. The Railways Board are holding on to this formation in case it may yet be needed to serve Consett steelworks. Those two sentences in that letter are very satisfactory from the point of view that they appear to indicate that the Railways Board is in possession of information which leads it to assume the future development and expansion of steel manufacture at Consett.

Those two sentences are, however, profoundly disturbing, and even sinister, in that they also seem to indicate that the Railways Board is in the possession of information which might lead it to assume the possibility that, in future, the iron ore for Consett may well be imported from Tees-side instead of from Tyneside. All the issues which this raises are of considerable importance for the future of the River Tyne as a major port.

I must state unequivocally here today that if there are any proposals to import Consett's ores from Tees-side instead of Tyneside, I would be compelled to fight those proposals and I am certain that I would have the support of hon. Members, on both sides of the House, in doing so, I hope that when my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster replies to the debate, he can indicate, even if he cannot give a definite assurance today, that we can be given an early assurance regarding the future of the Tyne, particularly in relation to the importation of iron ore.

I must be coming to the end of my remarks—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—as my hon. Friends behind me so readily indicate. I just want in concluding to say that interest in the social and economic development of the Northern Region stretches far beyond the boundaries of the region, and as an indication of that I would mention that last year, a party of sixth form students from Brockenhurst Grammar School, which is in Hampshire and in the constituency of the hon. and gallant Member for the New Forest (Sir O. Crosthwaite-Eyre), a very long way from the Northern Region, visited the North-East and spent some time in studying some of the very problems which this House is debating today. I would never dream of transgressing the rules of the House by seeking to draw your attention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the presence of strangers, but I can assure you that some of these young people will be paying very close attention to the proceedings of the House today.

I would quote just one sentence from a report which they published and I want to make it clear that if the reference should appear facetious it in no way detracts from that valuable and interesting report which they provided. With reference to the North-East they said: The inhabitants were all well dressed, however, and owned cars. Those young people from the South also found the natives friendly, and those natives of the North-East whose homes and whose livelihood are within the Northern Region are, partially at least, aware of the efforts which have been made, and to which my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend has drawn attention in his Motion, efforts which have been made towards solving the problems of the region, but they would certainly welcome further initiatives in that direction.

1.12 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Rippon (Hexham)

I think the whole House is grateful to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett) for having chosen this subject for debate and for the way in which he has done so.

We all know that grave anxieties are being expressed both inside this House and outside about the future of the North and about the damage which, I am afraid, is being inflicted by many of the policies of the present Government. Not only, as the hon. Gentleman reminded us, has the North-East the highest regional total rate of unemployment in Great Britain but within the region there are wide divergencies and many areas have a much higher rate at the present time. In my own constituency Prudhoe is an area where the rate of unemployment is appreciably higher than the average and where I am fortunate in having the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wallsend as one of my constituents.

Then again, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Consett (Mr. David Watkins) has dealt with the particular difficulties of North and North-West Durham and illustrated the point which my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) made, and that is that such is the result of pit closures that it is the position of the unemployed men that is one of the most difficult matters with which we have to deal. We entirely agree with what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Consett has had to say about the very strong economic case which can be made for the expansion of the steel industry's facilities in this part of the country.

Earlier this week the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newton (Mr. Frederick Lee) said there are prospects for about 45,000 new jobs in the region over the next four years. That is a very encouraging statement, but I hope he will give us more details about that this afternoon because I think it is an observation which needs considerably more substantiating than we have had so far.

What we do know is that the North-East Development Council has estimated that over 4,700 employment opportunities were lost over the last six months in mining alone, and with this is coupled other serious unemployment in shipbuilding and ship repairing and in construction, and those aspects may be getting worse. It was only yesterday that we heard of another shipyard closing down and the consequent loss of perhaps another 3,000 jobs, and there was another reference in the newspapers today to the possible closure of another factory. Moreover, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North (Mr. R. W. Elliott) has said, we can hardly calculate at this moment the difficulties and dangers which lie ahead as a result of devaluation or the consequences which can flow from the Budget in a few days' time.

What is certain, I think, is that already an 8 per cent. Bank Rate maintained at a higher level and for a longer period than for the last fifty years of our history, coupled with increased Corporation Tax, have already cancelled out to a large extent any financial inducements there may be to industries in other parts of the country to move.

What we have to consider today is, what are we going to do in this deteriorating situation? There is no dispute on either side of the House about the need for regional policies. These have been developing over a considerable period of time, even from the 1930s, but certainly as my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North has said, from the Local Employment Act 1960, from which, I think, great benefits have stemmed, from the Hailsham Report, and also from the initiatives which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition took as Secretary of State for Trade, Industry and Regional Development. All these have provided a stimulus which the present Government have certainly endeavoured to carry forward. No one disputes in this matter the good intentions of the Government, and in so far as they are failing that is part and parcel of the general economic malaise which they have created and the consequent difficulty of securing the future, much less the expansion, of industry.

In his now notorious television broadcast after devaluation the Prime Minister said: We intend to be ruthless about diverting new enterprise to these development areas. No doubt we all know well enough now that little credence can be attached to assurances from that particular quarter. However, we hope we may get some useful indications of Government action on those lines from the right hon. Gentleman very shortly.

But in any event "ruthless diversion" of industry to the North is neither a satisfactory nor, I would have thought, a practical approach. What we have to create is a situation in which industry will be persuaded to go willingly, and for the right reasons, notably because it makes economic sense to go to the North—to an area where there are available skilled labour, a good market, excellent communications, and a life worth living. And that is why I agree very much with what my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North had to say about the danger of emphasising too much that the North is a development area—much less, a depressed area. There are great advantages which we already have to offer and we should be emphasising these as much as we can.

I think we would all agree also with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Consett that the financial inducements which are now provided by the Government are not inadequate in total, but I think it is highly questionable whether they are giving us the best value for money. My own view is that tax reliefs are in general preferable to grants or loans, and I certainly agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North had to say in relation to the present investment grants administered from the Board of Trade which, I think, are dreadfully cumbersome and wholly uncertain compared with the straightforward Conservative investment allowances and free depreciation administered through the tax system. Above all my hon. Friend was right in saying that the present discrimination against the service industries, particularly through the Selective Employment Tax, is positively as harmful in the North as elsewhere. Even those industrialists who think that they may benefit from Selective Employment Tax or the regional employment premiums would be better served if the money was concentrated on the improvement of roads, services, schools, houses and amenities generally. That brings me back to what I think must be the main theme of our policy for the North, and that is positive action, administrative as well as financial, to speed up development throughout the region.

The first need is to speed up the taking of the necessary decisions by the Government, and that has been emphasised again and again by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Nothing can justify the quite extraordinary delay by the Government in making up their minds about the aluminium smelters. These have now been under consideration in one way or another for three years. They had the same problem in Australia, where the question arose at about the same time. However, by now, the aluminium smelter in Australia has been established, the roads have been built, a new port has been developed, and exports have commenced. Similar considerations apply to the P.A.Y.E. computer service, as the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) and the right hon Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley) pointed out.

Equally inexcusable on the part of the Government are the long delays experienced between applications for loans and grants and the actual payments. We can all understand how small and expanding firms and, nowadays perhaps, very much larger ones as well, do not have the available cash resources to tide them over waiting periods of up to twelve months.

One of the major obstacles to progress in the North and elsewhere is that we have too many Government Departments involved and too much overlapping at every level. Certainly I share the view that the Department of Economic Affairs should disappear from the scene as soon as possible. It is merely a shaky spoke in the wheel. It would be better, though we may have some doubts about the matter, to take the advice of the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North and give more specific responsibilities to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

The second need is to secure a far greater devolution of power from Whitehall to the regions. There is no doubt that to the North, as elsewhere, Whitehall seems remote, slow, disinterested, and unaware of local circumstances. Undoubtedly many more decisions could be left to regional officials on the spot, and the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North referred specifically to dereliction. Above all, more decisions should be left to democratically elected representatives on local authorities. For example, why do not the Government accept the Maud Committee's recommendation that, while the Government should control total capital investment, detailed allocation and expenditure should be left to local authorities?

The hon. Member for Wallsend referred to the Regional Economic Planning Council. I may say that we on this side do not regard that Council as being in any way an adequate substitute for effective devolution of power and responsibility in the regions. Certainly I am not as impressed as the hon. Gentleman by the activities of the Northern Economic Planning Council. It is the creature of the Minister and Whitehall. Its functions are advisory, its deliberations are secret, and certainly its chairman does not speak for the region as a whole. It is nothing like as effective or valuable as the North-East Development Council.

I share the views which have been expressed about the admirable work done by that body, particularly by our former colleague George Chetwynd. He has done a splendid job, and I am sorry that he has gone to temporary employment as Deputy Chairman of the Land Commission, until that body is disbanded. Meanwhile, he has a worthy successor in Mr. Dawson, and I think that we should support the work of that Council as much as we can. The value of it is that it is based firmly on the local authorities and supported by industry, trade unions and local Members of Parliament.

Other regions are beginning to establish regional organisations based on direct local authority representation. The West Midlands Planning Authorities' Conference provides a notable recent example. This is much better machinery than the regional economic planning councils through which to express regional views and take regional action. Therefore, I take this opportunity to warn local authorities to be careful that their functions are not usurped by the regional economic planning councils, which are not subject to public accountability. The local authorities' line of communication is direct to the central Government. They ought not to be side-tracked through these economic planning councils, as some attempt is now being made to do.

Such action as needs to be taken by the Government in the North has already been pressed upon them repeatedly not only in the House today but by such bodies as the North-East Development Council, the Northumberland Rural Community Council and the Northumberland and Durham Travel Association.

There is a whole host of matters which the Government can and should tackle at once. First, we must accept that there ought to be a rolling programme of ad- vance factories. Experience has shown that the availability of suitable premises frequently is the crucial factor in determining a firm's decision to move, and its choice of area. We all agree readily that the Government's performance in this sphere of activity has been relatively good. Certainly we are grateful in my constituency for the advance factory at Haltwhistle, where the Barden Mill Pit closure will create difficulties in the foreseeable future. There again, I would tell any industrialists who are thinking of moving North that they could not do better than come to Haltwhistle, which would be ideal for light engineering and where communications are good, where the countryside is beautiful and where the quality of life is high.

I am relatively satisfied, but I would support the plea of my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) for another advance factory in North-East Westmorland. It is not just a case of meeting unemployment following mine closures. We have also the serious problem of rural depopulation, about which I shall say a word or two in a moment. We need an even higher priority than that given at present to retraining in a wide range of activities. I was much impressed by what the hon. Member for Consett had to say about this whole subject and about the need for more apprenticeships. Here particular responsibility rests upon the trade unions to sponsor these moves and welcome them. Much of what the hon. Gentleman had to say about education adds to the regret that many of us feel about the Government's decision to postpone the raising of the school leaving age.

We all agree about the need in the North to attract new scientific and technological industries if we are to establish real growth points. The right hon. Member for Sunderland, North spoke about this, and I think that the hon. Member for Consett was right to say that, unless we have these new industries, we shall not have the breeder points for growth which they ought to represent. In addition, everyone agrees that we want whole firms to move to the North and not merely establish subsidiary branches there.

I support all that has been said about the North's need for research establishments. The Government could have done more about this by putting their own establishments in the North as well as by placing more research and development contracts in the region. There is quite an extraordinary discrepancy between the value of such contracts placed in the North between April and September, 1967, compared with elsewhere. A beggarly £66,000 went to the North, compared with £25 million in London and the South-East, and about £20 million in the South-West, which also has its problems.

The Government can and should help, and they can help without adding to the total burden of public expenditure, by giving the North its proper share of national public service investment. Moreover, the 7 per cent. to which we were entitled under the Hailsham Report was for the North-East alone. As the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North pointed out, the highest that we have had in the North as a whole was 5.1 per cent. in 1965–66.

One might have thought that this matter would arouse controversy between us but in my view it is perfectly proper for the Government to use their power as consumer and client to place contracts in strategic areas. I did that when I was Minister of Public Building and Works, and I remember a long and fruitful discussion with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Middlesbrough, East about the necessity of building new offices with steel construction rather than concrete in the particular circumstances we were discussing.

It is good national investment to plan more Government office projects in the North. Rents in the North are about 17s. 6d. per square foot compared with £3 to £5 in London. The right hon. Gentleman might tell the Minister of Public Building and Works that he should do more in that regard. It is an equally good national investment to have a Teesside university.

The debate has tended inevitably to concentrate on industrial development. It is right to stress the need, particularly in the North, for an effective rural renewal policy. We have grave depopulation problems in rural Northumberland, just as in Westmorland. There is a steady decline in the numbers of agricultural workers and self-employed farmers. The figures and estimates show a serious situa- tion. The drift will not be helped by this year's Farm Price Review. All this is happening at a time when mining employment in rural areas such as Halt-whistle continues to decline. Moreover, it is generally known that recent reports on the area have brought out the fact that a high percentage of the population in the rural areas is over retirement age and that there is a steady migration of young workers. The Northumberland Rural Community Council, in its last annual report, said: In rural Northumberland the primary problem is one of providing enough well paid jobs to maintain, let alone, increase the rural population. There are four ways in which the Government can help.

First, there ought to be a concentration of more resources on selected villages. Expanded villages could make as much of a contribution to the welfare of the North as new and expanded towns.

Secondly, we want greater recognition concerning communications between not only, say, Newcastle and London, but within the surrounding areas. Otherwise, we are simply attracting people more and more away from the rural areas instead of developing the region as a whole. Local transport in Northumberland is as important to the people living there as air and sea links with Europe. Although I must not go into this in detail, it is certain that life will be made more difficult and costly as a result of the provisions of the Transport Bill.

Thirdly, as my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland said, we need the introduction of more new small industries in our market towns and large villages. The biggest group of rural industries comprises small builders and joiners, who have been badly hit by the Selective Employment Tax.

Fourthly, also needing help, and badly hit by the Selective Employment Tax, is the tourist industry. As my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland said, it is a great mistake to think of the tourist area in the North being confined to the Lake District. In Northumberland we have some of the most beautiful country in Britain, and with Hadrian's Wall, one of the great ancient monuments of Europe, we have a great deal to offer holiday makers and tourists from a wide area of the world.

The 1963 White Paper on the North East, Cmnd. No. 2206, agreed that this potential was far from sufficiently realised. The Conservative Government accepted that there should be increased improvement of amenities, construction and modernising of more hotels, and the development of other accommodation to meet a wide range of visitors' requirements. It is a tragedy that this has not been done on anything like a sufficient scale, particularly as tourism is the fastest growing contributor to our invisible trade.

Finally, looking at the progress and development of the region as a whole, it must be a matter for growing concern that the requirements of the local authorities should be cut back and the rate support grant limited by the Government. That is bound to have a serious effect on roads, schools and houses and the whole infrastructure programme which, in the end, is much more important to the area than any financial or tax inducement. It is the key to the whole of our regional policies. We want to get away from the concept of the North as a disused slag heap full of slums and lacking amenities. It is not an area to which, in the Prime Minister's words, industry must have to be directed.

Moving industry means moving people. People do not work just for money; they work to live. We have to convince not only the managing director to move, but his wife. We also have to assure the young executives and their wives that they will be moving to a good place. They want homes and schools, but they also want shopping, hotels, racing, parks, theatres, music and gaiety. We must see that we have cities in the North lust as swinging as any in the South. That is why it is a great tragedy if local authorities are induced to cut back on the improvement of amenities generally. We will only overcome unemployment and secure economic and social progress in the North when we give to the people already there, and those who may think of coming, a good and a full life in all its aspects.

Having made a number of criticisms of the Government's failures in many respects and emphasised the need to do more for the North, we should not, as a result of this debate, undervalue the present advantages that the North has to offer for both work and recreation. I speak as a comparative newcomer. Having been born in the West, started politics in the South, been thrown out of the East and ending up in the North, I can say that in a great many respects the quality of life in the North is already far better than in many other parts of the country. Do not let us let anybody forget it.

1.37 p.m.

Mr. T. W. Urwin (Houghton-le-Spring)

It is understandable and predictable at this time in a debate of this importance that hon. Members should begin to indulge in repetition. Whilst congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett) on having had this opportunity to establish this debate, I will endeavour to pay due deference to those of my hon. Friends who still wish to speak.

The present situation is similar to that which has existed in the Northern Region throughout the whole of my lifetime, because it has always had double the national average for unemployment. Whereas in the past few months national unemployment figures have shown a downturn, the North has experienced an increase.

A more ominous trend is that between August last year and January, 1968, the unemployment figures for men increased from 5.4 to 6.2 per cent. This was marginally reduced in February, but there are still more than 46,000 men unemployed in the Northern region.

With the continuing heavy decline in the basic industries of shipbuilding and coal mining, the region is extremely vulnerable to further unemployment. The estimated requirement of 15,000 jobs, mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend relates only to men. This is the estimated number required to meet the existing situation and one wonders whether this takes account of the numbers becoming redundant in the coal mining industry. Reference has been made to a wastage of some 4,700 jobs in coal mining in the short space of the last six months. It also means that we are continually suffering from the heavy migration of our younger people on whom the future of the region depends.

An example of our vulnerability is provided by the shock announcement yesterday of the pending closure of the Furness shipyard, which will result in the ultimate forefeiture of 2,500 to 3,000 jobs. I appreciate that intensive efforts are being made by all Government Departments to relieve the difficult situation—a matter in which the North East Development Council has played no small part—and that a great deal of success has been achieved, but the effects are immediately offset by the disappointment which we experience by the departure from the region of smaller firms, the ancillaries which come in, rather than the major and more basic industries.

It is this kind of infusion which the Northern Region particularly requires. As my hon. Friend the Members for Consett (Mr. David Watkins) said, we need a steel-using industry. As a result of the recent B.M.C.-Leyland Motors merger, we had high hopes that we might at last be in a position to attract the motor car industry, or at least some sections of it, to the Northern Region.

In this rapidly developing technological and scientific age, we are behind in attracting new science-based industries. Nevertheless, it is refreshing to note the attitude of my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General in connection with the telecommunications industry. I am sure that everybody on this side of the House wishes him success in his efforts to bring employment of this kind to the North, and indeed to other development areas. There is no doubt that benefits are accruing to us as a result of the policies pursued by the Postmaster-General. We are receiving an increasing amount of employment because of the larger number of telephones, and telecommunications equipment, being manufactured in the region. The announcement of the Plessey expansion will act as a further encouragement to workers in this industry, and indeed the beneficial effect of the recent decision of A.E.I.-G.E.C. following their merger to move from London to the North-East will be of undoubted benefit to the region.

We extend our deepest sympathy to those in Greenwich and Woolwich who are likely to be displaced as a result of this decision. It is an experience which is all too common to us in the Northern Region. Indeed, it is a continuing experi- ence, particularly in the mining industry. It is natural that a good deal of emotion has been aroused by this decision, but the recent demonstrations in London are indicative of an exaggeration of the situation which may develop. A comparison has been made with Jarrow in the 1930s. Many of us on this side of the House, and perhaps one hon. Gentleman opposite, have strong recollections of the Jarrow of the 1930s. Indeed, this was the kind of situation which existed almost throughout the region. Nobody need think that this is something of which we had no experience. I suggest that that kind of situation could not possibly develop in the South-East of London in 1968 to anything like the extent to which it did in the North in days gone by.

Reference has been made to the low rate of public investment in the Northern Region. It is not necessary for me to quote the figures which have been bandied around the Chamber this afternoon, but there is one figure which has not been quoted. It is the last on the list given in reply to a Question on 22nd February when we were told that unallocated public expenditure for 1965–66 amounted to £44½ million, equivalent to 2.8 per cent. of the whole. Had this sum been added to the 4.8 per cent. of the total which was calculated as going to the Northern Region, we would have received 7.6 per cent. of the total public investment for the year.

I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) has left the Chamber. He referred to the fact that we were still short of the target figure of 7 per cent. which the Hailsham Report said was our entitlement. It was said in Command 2206 that by 1964–65 public investment in the North was expected to reach 7 per cent, of the total. It is an indictment of the Opposition" who were then the Government, that the figure had not reached even 5 per cent. by the time they left office in 1964. Had they achieved the target figure, we would not have had to start from the ridiculously low norm which we inherited when we took office in 1964. It emphasises the fact that, as public investment determines the long-term future of a region—not just the Northern Region, but all the development areas—there must be an urgent and radical reappraisal of public investment if our region is not to be left even further behind as we enter the 1970s.

Without anticipating the Budget too much, one hopes that the present high level of Government financial assistance to the development areas will continue. Hon. Members representing Northern constituencies have advocated, quite vociferously, a departure from universality in the application of Government financial aid. We have claimed that there should be increasing emphasis on the distribution of aid to areas of high unemployment. This is in addition to the tremendous competition which exists between development areas themselves. Our appeal for a departure from universality was answered very favourably by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade on 14th November, when he made this announcement about special areas, and about allowing five years' rent-free factory space for prospective employers.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) claimed that the whole of Sunderland should be classified as a special area. As a result of local boundary changes, there are now two working collieries in Sunderland, in addition to the two which were there before, and one which was closed before it left the local government area of the Sunderland Rural District. I contend that this entitles the area to greater consideration for this kind of aid.

A great deal has been done, but clearly a good deal more needs to be done. Our attention is drawn particularly to the necessity for the Government to reach early decisions on some of the big projects about which we have talked from time to time. Port modernisation should be accelerated, and we need a firm policy for ship building. We must ensure that the kind of thing which happened yesterday, completely without notice and without consultation, will not, and cannot, happen again with too great frequency, with the impact that it has on the employment situation.

We have still to receive information about the efforts which were supposed to be made—I am sure they are being made—to set up factories for the manufacture of industrialised building com- ponents, to decentralise Government Departments, and to provide prestige projects, as I have frequently called them both in this Chamber and other places. Why should not we receive at least one P.A.Y.E. computer centre?

We need an early decision on the aluminium smelter plant. The Alcan proposal to site its plant at Invergordon—and here I become parochial, rather than regional, because this will have a beneficial effect in my constituency—should guarantee the jobs of about 1,000 miners, and use about 20 million tons of coal over the next 25 years. It has clearly indicated that its coal would be purchased from the mines on the North-East coast, in my constituency and that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). Alcan has stated a clear preference for coal as opposed to electricity provided by nuclear generation. This is a further indication of the necessity for an early decision on the Seaton Carew project, whether it is nuclear-fired or coal-fired.

A salient fact is that the construction industry is also heavily beset by unemployment, and if this project received the go-ahead more than 2,000 men could be absorbed from the unemployment register as construction workers. This would be a tremendous boost to morale in the mining and construction industries throughout the area.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. We have always pleaded for the Prime Minister to appoint a Minister with special responsibility for the Northern Region, and there are visible signs that in the short period of six or seven months my right hon. Friend has had an impact on the situation in the region. We wish him every success and encouragement.

There are still nine advance factories unoccupied and more than 2 million sq. ft. of unused factory space to be taken up in the region. There are all sorts of things that the Government can do to make use of this capacity but, above all, we need a manifestation of the major responsibility which has been entrusted to my right hon. Friend, namely, the bringing about of co-ordination to a far greater extent between all the Government Departments responsible for development in the development areas and in this region. I hope and trust that my right hon. Friend will have the full co-operation of all concerned in this major project.

1.51 p.m.

Viscount Lambton (Berwick-on-Tweed)

I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Urwin). I live just outside his constituency, and I am always pleased to see the expressions of good will towards him and the esteem in which he is held by his constituents. The way in which he spoke this morning showed how wholly his heart is in the interests of the North-East.

I hope that he will forgive me if I do not follow him on many of the points that he raised. Today is one of those occasions when most of us wish to concentrate upon the problems facing our own divisions. I want to mention the position of Berwick-on-Tweed and the agricultural area surrounding it. The problems of an area such as this have already been discussed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon). He spoke of the drift in population from the rural areas of Northumberland.

The drift is more acute than many of us realise. In the 15 years that I have been in my division the electorate has fallen from over 42,000 to just over 38,000—a drift away of 4,000 in 15 years. This is common to all rural areas on and about the Border. There is a great temptation—which I am afraid the Government have given way to—to concentrate not upon rural areas and the problems facing them but upon areas of large population, where many Government interests seem to lie. There has been considerable neglect of the rural areas in Northumberland.

Berwick is to the North-East as the North-East is to England—a place which has been neglected while other places have been better served. There is no doubt that it is officially recognised how important it is to build up the prosperity of Berwick and the surrounding area. In Cmnd. 2764 it was plainly stated that Berwick-on Tweed is the natural centre for development in the eastern Borders. In Cmnd. 2864, dealing with the Border areas, paragraph 174 says: If present trends continue the Eastern Area will lose between 5,000 and 6,000 people through migration over the next ten years. Of this loss about 1,000 is likely to come form Berwick-on-Tweed where continued depopulation could soon begin to undermine the position of the town as an important service centre for a very wide area. That is no exaggeration. Berwick, lying between Edinburgh and Newcastle, is one of the great historic entrances to Scotland, and for many years was the market centre for a large part of England and Scotland.

As a town itself it has tremendous assets. It has perhaps the finest walls in the whole of England. It has a magnificent town hall, built by Vanbrugh, and it could and should be the nucleus of an expanding and prosperous community. Yet, although the seriousness of the situation has been expressed and explained in the Government White Papers, what happens in Berwick-on-Tweed itself? The hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett), in his admirable speech opening this interesting debate, said that it was important that each area should do something considerable for itself. We all agree with that. Certainly over the years I have explained this to leading citizens of Berwick-on-Tweed, and I can say without hesitation that in the last 10 years they have done precisely this. They have gone out for business and they have got business. They have done exerything possible to see that their town became a thriving and prosperous centre.

As a result of the encouragement given by Government White Papers they built a factory of 15,000 sq. ft. Having built it, the question arose who the tenant should be. I want to go into some detail on this matter because my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham put forward a rather general case, and it is important to go into details on occasion. First, the factory was going to be occupied by manufacturers of double glazing units, employing male workers. This was turned down, and the factory went to Hawick. Then came an electrical components manufacturer, mainly female employing. What happened was told to me by Mr. Reid the Development Officer of the Eastern Border Development Association. He said: Assertions were made by the Regional Officers of the Ministry of Labour, from their own rather suspect statistics, that it would not be possible to obtain an initial labour force of 80 women rising to 250 in 18 months. This assertion contradicts the opinions of the local employment exchange managers, expressed both to me and to the Company before the meeting. Here is an actual example of no help being given.

Yet a third case has come up recently, concerning a furniture manufacturer—male employing. No encouragement was given to him to go to Berwick-on-Tweed and as a result he has set up in another factory in High Wycombe. We have withdrawal after withdrawal, with no positive help given by the Government to this area.

Much the same happens in the surrounding rural areas. There is a lot of talk but no action. All sorts of promises are made, but somehow or other, they are never kept. It seems to me extremely unwise to concentrate purely on bringing factories to industrial areas, because by doing so we increase the problems in those areas. All over Northumberland houses are falling empty because no one is there to live in them, at the same time as there are acute housing shortages in the great industrial areas. It would be a far more balancing and sensible move to see, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham said, that village industries were set up. The result would be that people would not concentrate into towns, and the agricultural units would be more economic all round such areas.

I did not want to take up so much of the time of the House on this one portion of the country. But it seems to me that it is a very special area which has been neglected and the problems of which have not been understood. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will do what he can to see that prosperity is helped in the area, that factories are brought there which give the population somewhere to work and prevent the young people from drifting away. If he does so, he will help to make Berwick a national asset instead of letting it decline into a wasting asset, as it is at the moment.

2.1 p.m.

Mr. Harry Randall (Gateshead, West)

I do not think that the people of the North could complain of the debate we have had today. On both sides of the House there has been a very clear presentation of their needs. But I do not want necessarily to deal with the desperate needs of the North-East. They exist, and are the result of 40 years of industrial imbalance, but if the House stressed too much the needs of the North-East it would put into the wrong perspective all the massive help and the massive results achieved. I agree with the statements made by hon. Members opposite about this. I have here a long and impressive list of what has been done in the North and North-East but there is not time to go through it.

They call my constituency "progressive Gateshead" because it has tackled the problem of modernisation. I had the opportunity of going to one of those buildings that leap up into the sky, a building for the employment of clerical workers, much needed in the North. When I reached the top I saw the best and the worst of Gateshead. What has happened in Gateshead is typical of what has happened in the North. There is the best and there is the worst. The worst surely is our failure so far to deal drastically with the unemployment problem. That does not mean that a good deal has not been done. It has, but the problem still concerns people and the need for work; it is the problem of environment and the need to attract industry to the North.

The employment situation in the Northern Region has eased during the past month and unemployment has dropped. We congratulate ourselves on that. The employment situation is not so bad as it was in 1963, and the fall in unemployment in February is a good sign. It is the right tendency at a time of the year when unemployment normally rises. But we still have heavy unemployment which should receive attention, particularly as a tough Budget is on its way which could have repercussions on us. We want not only to make up the ground we have lost in 12 months but to have an improvement in the general situation.

We have a shortage of female labour in the North. Firms that employ female labour are coming to the North, but unfortunately when our educational authorities make demands for day nurseries they are told that they are not a matter of priority and cannot be made available. In a development area struggling to rehabilitate itself, and with industries requiring female labour coming in, there is a case for giving special consideration to letting us have day nurseries.

The question of industrial health also concerns us. We have a rather high industrial accident rate, and we have the North of England Industrial Health Service financed by industry, the trade unions and Newcastle University. Its main job is research into industrial health hazards. There is a desperate need for an industrial health centre in the North. In Gateshead, for example, we have probably the largest trading estate in Europe. There is a case for the Government giving consideration to providing a building for this research. The trade unions and industry are already making their contribution, and a contribution from the Government would be particularly useful.

What is the Government's explanation for our being so low on the list of Government assistance for research and development? I am told that reports a few years ago showed that there is an immediate inverse relationship between research and development expenditure in an area and its employment situation. Those areas with the highest unemployment have the lowest research and development, it was said. That is certainly true of the North. I hope that my right hon. Friend will do what is possible to avoid starving the North of research and development facilities, because this is a very serious matter.

Whilst we should rightly be much concerned with the urgent short-term problem of unemployment, we should not lose sight of the importance of making our part of the country truly viable and a living organism. Too many of our factories are satellites of larger units. They are controlled and managed by remote control from London and sometimes even overseas. The result is that there is less and less need for top management to live in the North, and our bright young executives are inevitably drawn away. I have discussed the problem with some of the businessmen in the North, who are very anxious that the North shall succeed. They urged that there is a strong case for a technical high school—not a university—that there is a need for research and for technical education. This is very important in our part of the country. It would create a cultural and sophisticated background and an atmosphere in which young people would be content to stay. I hope that my right hon. Friend will comment on this. It is very important to solve the short-term problem, but let us look at the long-term in order that our area can become viable and a fit place to live in.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that we do not have too many organisations trying to do things in the North-East? Are they not treading on each other's toes? There is a duplication of organisation, finance and energy. I wonder whether there is not a case for seeing whether it is possible to streamline some of those who are interested in selling the wares of the North East. Too many cooks spoil the broth; it may be that having too many organisations interested in this problem does not help us in the North East.

The debate has been about the people of the North, their needs and their desire to enjoy opportunities no less than those enjoyed by others elsewhere in the country. This means attacking the fundamental weakness in the region's industrial structure and making possible continual expansion of its industry and commerce. We have, of course, had impressive growth over the years, but it has been offset by the contraction of some of our older industries and the economic blasts that have come along from time to time. We have a long way yet to go on the road, and that sets the seal against any relexation in the efforts on behalf of our people.

The North looks for more, better and higher qualities of opportunity of employment, better living conditions and better opportunities for personal fulfilment. The people want, above all, an accelerated rate of advance and a better and more prosperous place in which to live.

Mr. Rippon

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster indicate when, in accordance with the customary practice on a Friday, he intends to intervene in the debate having induced me to intervene at an earlier stage? Is he afraid of answering the debate?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)

The right hon. and learned Gentleman must be aware that that is not a point of order.

2.12 p.m.

Mr. Timothy Kitson (Richmond, Yorks)

Many of us are a little disappointed that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has decided not to intervene at this stage having given an indication to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) that he would follow him. My right hon. and learned Friend would certainly have waited until 3 o'clock to wind up the debate from this side of the House if he had realised that the right hon. Gentleman was not going to speak after him.

I am sure that all of us welcome the opportunity to speak on the Motion moved by the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett). The debate comes the day after the announcement that the Furness Shipyard is to close and that nearly 3,000 men on Tees-side may become redundant. We already have a high unemployment figure there.

I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman who has special responsibilities for the North to explain the remarks that he made in the North only this week, that it was not the Government who were responsible for closing down any of the coal mines, and why he has tried to shift all the blame on to the Chairman of the National Coal Board for pit closures. I heard his remarks on television last night. I am a little mystified why he tried to dodge the Government's responsibilities in this field. Do not the Government decide the fuel policy, do they not estimate the coal requirements for the future, and does not the National Coal Board try to produce the quantity of coal at the most economical price to meet the estimates that the Government produce? Why does the right hon. Gentleman say that it is not the Government who are responsible for pit closures? I am amazed that he is trying to dodge his responsibility in these policy decisions.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Frederick Lee)

I shall repeat what I said now.

Mr. Kitson

The right hon. Gentleman says that he will repeat that now. I think that we shall be surprised when we hear it from him in this House.

When shall we get some Government Department to move its administration block into the North-East? Can we have a decision immediately on the P.A.Y.E. department?

What we are all worried about is what sort of Budget we shall get the week after next. Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that nothing is done to slow down the development of growth in the development areas? All of us who have close connections with industry know that the taxation system is so complex that if the wheels of industry are to be encouraged to turn a good deal faster it is essential—indeed, it is long overdue—to simplify our taxation laws so that directors and management do not spend hour after hour seeing how best their company can operate under our complicated taxation system and more time is given to boards to concentrate on efficient operating methods and expansion programmes.

I believe that the Transport Bill will affect the North-East very seriously. The very high additional costs for transport have further shocked us in the North. It is an unpleasant piece of legislation for us because of the charges on large loads, many of which it is impossible to put on railways, and which in the North-East are produced by Head Wrightsons, Consett and Dorman Longs and many others. We feel that the guillotine procedure will not in any way be fair in that we shall not be able to put forward on the Transport Bill our arguments against the very high costs that it will give rise to and the difficult competitive position in which many firms in the North-East will be put.

Mr. Shinwell

This is irrelevant.

Mr. Kitson

It is relevant.

Mr. Shinwell

The hon. Gentleman has nothing else to say.

Mr. Kitson

It is not irrelevant.

I go on to a very important point that concerns my constituency. The Government have put into the North Eastern Development Area the town of Northallerton. Since 1964 only two industrial development certificates throughout the development areas have been turned down by the Board of Trade, and they were both for Northallerton. We have had a struggle to get the Board of Trade to grant any industrial development certificates, but we have got them for York Trailers and Kosset Carpets. I had to go to the Minister of State with a deputation before he allowed the development of Kosset Carpets in Northallerton. It would seem that Northallerton is used as a sort of carrot for the North-East. When a company applies to develop in Northallerton, it is immediately whisked off to another part of the development area and encouraged to go anywhere in the Non h-East but Northallerton.

Mr. Ted Fletcher (Darlington)

Will the hon. Gentleman tell us the percentage of unemployment in Northallerton at the moment?

Mr. Kitson

If the hon. Gentleman will wait a minute, I will deal with that. It is a highly relevant point. The local authorities have worked hard to bring industry into Northallerton. I would particularly point out to the House the unemployment position in the area. The hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Ted Fletcher) will know perfectly well that a great number of people commute from Northallerton to Darlington and Teesside daily. He will also know that the Tees-side employment exchange figures are taken to within six miles of Northallerton and that the employment exchange figures for Northallerton are taken right up to the dales of Yorkshire, up to Hawes 45 miles away. If we had a high unemployment figure in part of the Northallerton area, say the Hawes area 45 miles away, and put a factory in Northallerton, it would certainly not solve the problem. But we know perfectly well that people come daily from Tees-side to work in Northallerton.

The firm of P. C. Henderson Limited, which has recently been turned down, has a subsidiary in Holland and its headquarters in Essex. It went to the Board of Trade and applied for an industrial development certificate for development in Northallerton. The Board of Trade turned it down for one reason and one reason only—the availability of labour. The company suggested to the Board of Trade that it had no wish to build a factory in Northallerton if it was going to be a white elephant and labour would not be available, but that it would advertise to see what demand there was for the 45 jobs that would be made avail- able. I have a letter from the firm that I received yesterday: Further to my letter regarding replies received to our advertisement for labour in the Northallerton area. We have now received 108 applications, which is nearly three times our requirements, and further applications are coming in. This surely makes a mockery of the "non-availability of labour", the Board of Trade's sole reason for refusing to allow us to go ahead. We hope you will be able to hasten your meeting with the President of the Board of Trade to secure a reversal of his decision regarding our going ahead at Northallerton. The firm has replied as follows to all of the people who have answered its advertisement: Thank you for your application for vacancies at our proposed factory at Northallerton. We regret to inform you that the Board of Trade have, for the present, refused our application for an industrial development certificate to permit us to proceed with our factory at Northallerton, because of shortage of labour in the Northallerton area. This decision has been made despite the fact that we have received more applications than we have vacancies for the first stage of our development. We just cannot afford in the North-East to lose any of the opportunities offered to us. I do not want to see the character or attractions of Northallerton lost. It is a small, attractive market town, the capital of the North Riding. At the same time, I do not believe that, when a few small firms with light industry offer themselves to the area and have special reasons for going no further North, the Board of Trade must give sensible consideration and not refuse jobs for the area when so many people are unemployed.

The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) said that I had nothing else to say, but I am making a very fair point, for we have many small towns in the North which would attract light industry. It is important to remember that it only takes 20 minutes to get to Teesside from Northallerton and that, if we could establish a few small companies in Northallerton, we could take the pressure off jobs on Tees-side. I am sure that those hon. Members representing Tees-side constituencies and the hon. Member for Darlington would welcome that approach.

Henderson's does 30 per cent. of its business overseas and, as I have said, it has a subsidiary in Holland. I regret that, if the Board of Trade persists in turning down its application for an i.d.c., it will go to Holland for its expansion, and 45 jobs, which would have been developed to 180 jobs by the mid-70s, will be lost to the area.

My hon. Friend mentions the great attractions of the North-East. He talked about the countryside. I am sorry that he did not mention the Yorkshire dales, which are probably more attractive than Northumberland and certainly as attractive as the Lake District. There are so many attractions for people in the North-East. My hon. Friend mentioned football and racing, for example. I believe that we have more racing in the North-East than in many parts of the country and we certainly have first class football teams.

Travelling 30 or 40 miles to see a friend or have a meal is almost a day's excursion in the South of England, but it is no problem in the North. There are many advantages of living in the North and many more people would be well advised to look at the attractions and opportunities of the North.

I support the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley) in asking the Government to grant us our university on Tees-side. It would be a tremendous boost to the area and a great asset to industry, particularly in research. I know that the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. William Rodgers), who is present, did a great deal on this issue when he sat on this side of the House and supported this venture. I do not believe it sensible to delay it any longer, and I am sure that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster would be well advised to put the project among the top priorities. It would give us something we really need in the North-East.

2.24 p.m.

Mr. Ted Fletcher (Darlington)

In common with other right hon. and hon. Members, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett) for initiating the debate. I am particularly pleased that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who has special responsibility for the North, is on the Front Bench, because today he was to have toured Teesside. He had intended to tour my constituency this afternoon. We are, therefore, particularly pleased that he is here to listen to the observations we have to make.

The heart of the problem is the question of bringing more jobs to the Northern Region. I do not want to tread ground already trodden, but it is obvious that the policies pursued by the Government are not biting hard enough. As my hon. Friend said, unemployment in the region is now 4.7 per cent. But this is not the whole picture. For instance, in certain parts of the area—South-West Durham, Sunderland and the Hartlepools—unemployment amongst the male population is between 8 and 10 per cent. Even this does not fully take into account the economic situation in the Northern Region.

The barometer of the industrial health of the region is in the figures of unemployed, but they do not take into consideration the fact that, every year since the war, some 10,000 people have migrated from the North to the Midlands and the South. This is a tremendous total, equalling the population of Middlesbrough. Thus, this debate is not only about the problems of the North, but also about the problems of the SouthEast—about the congestion caused by tens of thousands of people moving from our area to the South, chasing after jobs.

The problems of the South-East, with its overcrowded environment, traffic congestion and the need to pour capital into housing, schools and other amenities, could be solved if we had a balanced economy, and we shall not have that until the figures of unemployment in our region equal those of the national average. So the problem is one really of regional planning.

I do not underestimate what the Government have done in trying to get industry to go to the North-East but I do not believe that their policies are biting hard enough. When we ask Questions in the House, we are flooded by a sea of statistics about the thousands of square feet of factory space being built and waiting for industries to occupy. We are told that firms are going to the region—firms such as Brentford Nylons, employing 1,700 people in Cramlington in 1970. We are told that the Post Office is to print the telephone directories at Team Valley, providing employment for 400 people. Of course, we welcome all these facilities but they have to be offset against the fact that we are losing jobs more rapidly than we are gaining them.

In the last six months we have lost 4,600 jobs in the mining industry. Yesterday it was announced that the Furness Shipbuilding Company is likely to close and 3,000 jobs are likely to be lost there before the end of the year. This is a tremendous body blow to Tees-side, and many of my constituents were at Furness's.

I appeal to my right hon. Friend—and I am sure that he would have heard this on Tees-side today—to get down immediately to the question of how we can save this yard. It is a modern yard, since £5 million of development has been put into it &ring recent years, and it provides employment for 3,000 people. I suggest that he should initiate discussions with the management to see whether it is possible, with Government assistance, to continue the yard in being. If that is not possible, would he consider adopting a "Fairfield exercise", whereby Government and other capital could be brought in to keep the yard going? I am sure that there is a tremendous future for it, because since devaluation, we are able to sell ships abroad at 15 per cent. below the pre-devaluation figure. I hope that my right hon. Friend will get down immediately to this question.

I have four propositions to put to my right hon. Friend. I cannot go into them at great length, because other hon. Members wish to speak. The first has already been mentioned and it concerns public expenditure in the region. We all know that, although we have 6.2 per cent. of the national population, we are getting only 5.1 per cent. of public expenditure. It is ridiculous that, out of a total of £253 million spent on research and development, the region gets only £1.8 million. We want someone in the Cabinet to battle for us so that we are no longer regarded as the Cinderella of the regions. We want to be treated like Scotland which, with 9.8 per cent. of the population, gets 14.1 per cent. of public expenditure.

The second proposition concerns the location of Government offices in the North. I know that a committee is considering this subject, but it does not seem to be doing much. We have a few offices on the periphery, but the problem is not been tackled as it should be tackled. For instance, in central London the cost of building a Crown building is £360 per employee, whereas in the provinces it is £120. Renting a building in central London costs between £562 and £675 per employee, whereas in the provinces it is between £120 and £150.

Much to my surprise and disgust, the Ministry of Public Building and Works has just purchased a site of only 4½ acres on the South Bank of the Thames for £1,750,000 for Government buildings when it could have obtained a site in the Northern region for perhaps one-tenth of that cost, thus helping to draw some unnecessary offices away from the Metropolis. I hope that my right hon. Friend will do something to speed up the investigation into whether it is necessary to have the number of office buildings which the Government now occupy in central London.

The third proposition concerns Government financed factories. My hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. David Watkins) mentioned science-based industries, a subject about which we campaigned in 1964 and 1966. Have the Government ever considered setting up a working party to investigate the possibility of setting up Government-financed factories in the North, a Commission to investigate the labour and capital required, the viability of such a project and what could be manufactured? I am convinced that to produce telecommunications and many other products which the Government consume we could run Government-financed factories in the North in competition with private enterprise.

Finally, we ought to be considering the long-term future of the North. One of the biggest contributions which the Government could make would be to site a new capital city in the North. North Yorkshire is the geographical centre of the British Isles. This suggestion is not original. It was expounded by a former Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West, now Lord Popplewell. We ought to set up a feasibility study, because if the seat of Government could be located away from the centre of London, that would ease the problems of congestion in the over crowded South-East and would certainly bring employment to the North.

This is a feasible proposition for a couple of decades hence and it should be considered seriously. The United States, India, Pakistan, Australia and others have Government offices situated outside the main cities, and we should seriously consider locating our Government centre in the country's geographical centre, which is in North Yorkshire.

I reinforce what has been said about the need to get firm and quick decisions. Many issues, such as the siting of the P.A.Y.E. centre, the aluminium smelter and the power station at West Hartle-pools, seem to drag on month after month. As soon as we get the smell of any Government jobs coming to the North, we send deputations to the Ministers concerned, trying to compete with Wales and Scotland. We are like a pack of hounds fighting over a bone to get this or that project sited in our areas. All that could be ended by prompt decisions about where industries are to be located.

I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend has initiated the debate, but I hope that there will be other opportunities to put our points of view, because in a few minutes one cannot advise Ministers on what needs to be done in the area. Certainly my right hon. Friend is finding it much cooler here today than he would have found it if he had made his projected visit to Teesside today, especially in view of the proposed closure of the Furness shipyard. I hope that he will consider what I have said and that we shall have some definite replies so that we can have some hope that this area will at last become viable and enjoy industrial expansion which can be equated with that in other areas.

2.37 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster for waiting until towards the end of the debate to deal with the different matters raised. It is a kindly and generous gesture which we welcome.

In stressing the problems of the old industrial areas like the North-East there is always a danger that we shall not mention the new developments. We rightly talk about the dangers of the run-down of the mining industry, obvious social dangers and the problems of unemployment. We must also make it clear that in the North-East we have some of the most modern mining in the whole of Europe and we should stress how proud we are of them and of their great achievements in this critical period.

We now have man-shift figures which would have been unbelievable only a few years ago. We are now getting more than three tons per manshift which, with my background in the mining industry of many years ago, I believe would have been regarded as utterly incredible in those days. Fantastic records are now being reached in modern pits. These pits can exploit that advantage, however, only if they can be assured of some reasonable continuity of work in order to maintain the kind of balanced labour force which is needed fully to exploit the wonderful new opportunities now developing. This is one of the problems which the Government must keep always in mind when dealing with the speed of the run-down of the industry and our anxieties about future outlets for mined coal.

We talk about shipbuilding as one of the older industries, and yet it, too, is also a new and developing industry. One of the tragedies has been that many shipyards have been left behind in developments, but now, largely because of Government intervention—and let us say that frankly—we are getting a new hope of development on a scale which only a few years ago would not have been regarded as possible.

The vital thing here, again, is to make use of the opportunity now that it is there. We are all anxious about the recent announcement of the closure of a shipyard, and I very much hope that negotiations will take place to save it, through Government action. I am also anxious to stress that we need to ensure that on both sides of industry, management and union, we use to the full the opportunities from the new level of scale now being developed on the Tyne and elsewhere. On the management side, many of us are still not satisfied that enough attention is being paid to the new research and development. There are developments coming from research establishments on the river Tyne which have not been fully used by shipbuilding firms, and we want to make sure that they are.

On the union side, we understand how important it is to reach agreements that will allow a new range of flexibility in the manning of the new shipbuilding industry—and we are moving into a wholly new kind of shipbuilding industry, which is an immense challenge to us all.

It is absolutely right that we should give a completely new emphasis, in an area like ours, to the possibilities of research and development. Far too many firms tend to say that, whatever they may wish, the major part of their research and development work has had to be concentrated in London or the London area, because of the complex of Government research institutions clustered in that area. That is why we stress the need to move more of the major Government research institutions further North. Until we do we have very little hope of being able to develop a reasonable level of industrial research. We have to link up with Government-financed research work.

In this regard I should mention that on Tyneside we have one of the largest private research establishments in the engineering industry, anywhere in Britain. Alas, it is not being fully used, and I want the assurance of my right hon. Friend that it will be fully used in future.

I know that my right hon. Friend was in the North-East in the last two days, and I know that while there, he was told about the lack of communications. I offer him the warning that his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport will shortly be receiving—if my own pressure is not sufficient—the then combined pressure of myself and the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) in order to keep open the vital ferry services which are in danger of being closed by the Tyne Improvement Commission.

We on this side of the House appreciate the work that has been done by the Government and the enormous benefit that their policies have been, particularly R.E.P. I stress this. I know of firms in my area which would not be there but for the R.E.P. I warn those who are running a campaign against it that this will arouse great anxieties in our area if there is any suggestion that this regional policy will not be pursued. We insist that it is maintained.

We understand the anxieties of those in the South and South-East who have had to face difficulties. We do not want anyone to share the kind of problems that we have had, but if our policy for a fairer distribution of industry is to succeed it will inevitably mean some movement of major industry from the South to the North, and I for one want to see that policy succeed.

2.44 p.m.

Mr. Edward Milne (Blyth)

The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) has rightly drawn attention to the Government's achievements in tackling the employment problems of the Northern Region, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey). What we are examining is the fact that while a number of battles have been won, and while we have been successful in a few skirmishes, in tackling the unemployment problem, the war on unemployment is still a long way from being decided. It is this major battle that the Northern Region has to win if the Government's policies of expansion and full employment are to make their full impact on the region.

I am certain that my right hon. Friend who has responsibility for the region, and who prides himself on his Lancashire bluntness, will not take it amiss if those of us concerned with this decide to be equally blunt in saying what we think of the prospects for the region. We do so, not because of any personal animosity, or even in criticism, but because we feel so acutely the impact of unemployment on our people.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North (Mr. R. W. Elliott) said that when he arrived in the House unemployment figures for the area were around the national average. This is perfectly true of the mid-fifties, but we have witnessed a deterioration since. It does not do us any good, as the Government, to look back on the deterioration that has taken place. We should confine our attentions solely to what will happen, particularly in the months ahead. Looking at the problem, we can see that in the early and mid 1970s the policies are likely to be successful, leading to an expansion of employment. In the period between now and the early 'seventies we will run into a number of difficulties.

I would like my right hon. Friend to have a look at the question of Government contracts for firms already there. It has been estimated that the region needs something like 15,000 male jobs per year to keep abreast of the employment demands, and that something like half of those jobs will come from existing firms. The only way in which this can be done on a short-term basis, because new industries and new advance factories will not begin to be effective until the late 'sixties and into the 'seventies is to look at this question of contracts for firms in the area. In talks that I have had with a number of firms there there are signs that there is a great reluctance on the part of Government Departments to depart from their traditional policies over Government contracts. There seems to be too much of the "old boy network" about this. It seems that in some cases it is thought to be easier for officials to deal with firms with whom they have already dealt, and who apply methods applied in the past.

This must be done away with and contracts made with firms in the development districts in the Northern Region. A firm in my area was recently affected. It was told that it was a small firm and unable to tender for a very large contract, Later, on the same day, it was told by the Board of Trade that it was the small and medium-sized firms which ought to be playing their part in providing Government Departments with their needs, and in fighting the battle for expanding employment.

In considering the newer types of industry needed in the region, we need only briefly refer to two major factors. My hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. David Watkins) mentioned the need for a major car plant in the North-East. There has been a campaign for this for a very long time, and the recent B.M.C.-Leyland merger, with the investment of money by the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation, provides the opportunity for ensuring that a car plant comes to the North-East at a very early date. The Government's policy on mergers can be justified only on the basis, not of the expenditure of money, but of the provision of new jobs and of the expan- sion of our basic industries. Ours is the only major development district in which there is not a large-scale car plant.

The question of the aluminium smelter has been under discussion for a considerable time—in my view, for too long a time. If it is to fulfil its double purpose—the provision of employment and import saving—it would have been in the Government's interests, despite all the ballyhoo about the type of fuel which should he used for it, to have made the decision on it at an early stage. There is an important factor about the smelter concerning the North-East in general and the Northern Region. When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made his speech at the Labour Party conference in Scarborough, he not only mentioned the value of aluminium smelters to the economy but pointed out that it might be possible for the Coal Board and its activities to be linked with the siting of the smelter.

That brings me to the question of Government-owned factories in the Northern Regon. A sound economic argument was advanced during the 1964 and 1966 General Elections that if private enterprise failed to provide the development districts with the jobs which they needed the Government would step in with Government-owned factories. Despite the tremendous inducements handed out to private enterprise since the development district policy was initiated, we are still tremendously short of the jobs we require. We need a drive on the part of the Government to move into the areas and to use the resources of the Coal Board and the nationalised industries to expand and give us the employment we need.

The region has made its case in relation to the rest of the country. We have the advantages and the amenities. Nothing is lacking in the North-East which any other part of the country can provide. The case and the need have been made out. It remains for the Government to will the means to provide the full employment we require and deserve.

2.55 p.m.

Mr. Will Owen (Morpeth)

The enterprise of my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett) has accorded the House an opportunity for a massive demonstration of "We back the Northern Region". I hope that my right hon. Friend will have gathered the urgency of the need for major Government intervention to translate some of the valid suggestions made today into immediate action and some of the terrifying anxieties of unemployment into assurances which will lead us into an era of prosperity as we move into the 1970s.

I hope that the House will have recognised that in a submission of this character there is bound to be not only a general examination of the Northern Region but an assessment of constituency problems within the region. The economic difficulties within the Northern Region are closely associated with the situation which we face in South-East Northumberland. In this respect we reflect very largely the economic and social challenge which has evolved over the past 20 years. Older industries are giving way to the rise of new industry, but the rise of new industry is not keeping pace with the needs following the decline of the coal and shipbuilding industries.

We have urged on the Government the vital importance of planning the changes which are inevitable and to ensure that factories are established which provide employment opportunities for those displaced by the decline of the mining industry. We have welcomed the Government's support in the establishment of advance factories in South-East Northumberland. We are a little disturbed about the amount of social capital tied up in some of those factories which have not yet found a successful applicant. This is a matter of urgency, because as we move into the later days of this month an increasing number of coal miners will take their place at the employment exchange.

The activities of the executive interest of the National Union of Mineworkers and the regional board of the National Coal Board need to be closely coordinated. There is a lack of understanding about what is to transpire at the end of this month concerning some of the anticipated colliery closures. If closures take place—and we hope that some effective interest will be able to postpone their taking place—we shall be faced with a twofold problem: first, the problem of those below 50 years of age; and, secondly, a recognition that the age of 55 and over projects a new social problem in South-East Northumberland and in the Northern Region. I ask the Government to recognise this.

There is need for the establishment of specialised industrial training. It is no use telling us that people can be trained at Felling. That is too far and is inadequate and is certainly not suitable to meet the requirements of these men between the ages of 55 and 70, who can still make a valuable contribution to the economy of the region. I suggest that the time is opportune for the Government to re-examine the training facilities inherent within the county technical college at Ashington and afford these people an opportunity of a form of training which could be geared to some of the requirements of existing Ministerial Departments.

The Ministry of Health, for example, is farming out to private enterprise much of its requirements in terms of invalid chairs. Why not utilise the facilities which exist in the unoccupied advance factories, plus the managerial "know-how" of the Remploy personnel, and find a place of productivity for these people between the ages of 55 and 65 within the Northern Region? I know that this is purely a localised submission, but it is important in so far as this is a growing sector of the population within our area whose need is of necessity not only to be advocated and understood, but to be accepted and recognised by the Government.

Furthermore, I share the view which has been expressed by my colleagues throughout the day of the vital importance of a technical university for the Northern Region. From this would stem a reservoir of research and an inducement to technical and sociological development throughout the whole region. This is a matter entirely of governmental decision plus the universal voice of people in the area. Linked with it is the urgent need at this stage to make provision for our teenagers throughout the Northern Region.

I face the problem in South-East Northumberland that our young people emerging from grammar schools and technical colleges have little opportunity of finding effective employment within the region. I am concerned about the possibility of these people being creamed off to the Midlands and the South. That would denude us of a reservoir of labour potential for the future development of the Northern Region.

I ask, therefore, that the Minister should consult the President of the Board of Trade, the Minister of Labour and the Secretary of State for Education and Science to see whether it is not possible, in a co-ordinated effort, to undertake to make provision for employment for our teenagers, for the development of employment for our aged citizens and for an opportunity whereby a widely-based plan of expansion for the Northern Region can be introduced and established as an encouragement as we march into the latter days of the 1960s and the opening of the 1970s.

3.2 p.m.

Mr. Bob Brown (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)

I wish to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett) for giving us the opportunity of ventilating this most important subject. The Motion refers in terms of appreciation to the efforts of the Government, and in this respect I pay particular tribute to my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General. There is no doubt that through the medium of his Department he has certainly given the Northern Region a tremendous boost in terms of jobs.

Time does not permit me to go into detail. Suffice it to say that the Post Office has succeeded in providing over 2,000 new jobs for the Northern Region. I commend this type of practical help to every other Departmental Minister in the Government, because I do not think that any of my colleagues would deny that a great measure of lip service to regional planning is still being paid in the corridors of Whitehall. One might well ask whether there are not Ministers in the Government who prefer to avoid the stagger of their civil servants which would result from the suggestion to move into the Northern Region away from the overcrowded conglomeration of the South-East.

Much has been said about unemployment figures and I do not propose to say more about them. One could, however, make the point that five years ago under a Tory Government we had 7.2 per cent. unemployment in the region, but that this is no consolation to any of the 60,000 who are now 100 per cent. unemployed. Nobody wants to harp on this theme. The Government will clearly be judged on their development area policy which can be summed up in two words: job opportunity.

I wish to turn to a document which I consider to have sinister undertones for the Northern Region if it is accepted by the Government. I refer to the Report of the South-East Economic Planning Council entitled "A Strategy for the South-East". I want to challenge most vigorously the assumption in that Report that population cannot be dispersed too far from London. This is an extension of the dangerous thinking which already exists—thinking which has allowed the development of policies which will build up further areas of employment at centres in South Hampshire, at Milton Keynes, Ipswich and so on. That will inevitably attract new industry to the detriment of the Northern Region and other development areas. The Government must at all costs reject this line of thought now, before it has gone too far. There is an undeniable need for the Northern Region to import population as well as industry from the congested areas like the South-East and Midlands. Will the Government look at the possibility of linking selected areas of the Northern Region with London in an effort to absorb overspill from London?

The Report goes on to acknowledge the fact that the G.L.C. spends £3 million a year on buying up premises and moving firms out of London, and that Report goes on to suggest that the Government should make a contribution to buying vacated premises. This I would welcome, provided that the Government made a clear stipulation that any Government aid would be conditional upon bought-out firms moving to the development areas and not merely 50, 60, 70 miles away from central London, which seems to be the line of thought which is being pursued, and a dangerous line of thought it is.

The Report of the South-East Planning Council makes a further suggestion that there should be a relaxation of i.d.c. policy. Far from any relaxation, I would suggest that there is a need to tighten up the i.d.c. control, for anyone looking round the area of the G.L.C. must clearly think that there are still far too many soft options for firms in this area.

I want in the last minute or two to say a few words about the A.E.I.-G.E.C. merger and the consequent movement of jobs from Woolwich. This, I think, everyone will agree is a clear indication that the Government's policies are now starting to bite. I want to refer to a Press statement issued by Mr. Hackett, Chairman of the South-East Planning Council, following a meeting he had with my hon. Friends the Members for Woolwich and other Members from this side of the House. In that Statement he said: The unemployment rate in the London area, 1.7 per cent., was low and the pressure of demand for labour was demonstrated by the existence of 22 million sq. ft, of empty factory space which was slow to move on the market because of the shortage of manpower. No I.D.C. control would inhibit the use of the factory in Woolwich for other manufacturing purposes. The existence of a labour force should be a powerful attraction. I am sure that this statement on i.d.c. control by the Chairman of the South-East Planning Council must give the Government cause to ponder.

This merger and the results have clearly demonstrated the difficulty of reversing job and population movement in a free society, Those who are now complaining must surely accept that it is completely wrong to allow lack of jobs to compel people to leave Wales, Scotland, and the North of England, which has been the situation now for generations. Yet no one suggests this is the case at Woolwich.

If I may refer briefly to the respective unemployment figures, in Tyneside we have one unfilled vacancy for every 13 out of work. The complete reverse of that situation exists in Woolwich, where there are 13 vacancies for every unemployed person. I tend to get extremely bored by the argument that, with the A.E.I.-G.E.C. merger, we are sharing out unemployment. We want a return to the lull employment that we knew before July, 1966.

I want to bear out what my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Urwin) said earlier. In the Northern Region, we have never known the meaning of full employment, and I do not want to see any return to what really was selective full employment before July, 1966.

3.10 p.m.

Mr. Robert Woof (Blaydon)

I wish to join with hon. Members on both sides of the House who represent Northern constituencies in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett) on his luck in the Ballot, and I am very grateful for an opportunity to take part in this very well worth while and constructive debate.

Basically, the Northern Region which we are discussing still has high potentialities in its population. Throughout its historic background, the men and women of the area have played a tremendous part in the industrial development of the nation, and what is of great relevance is the intense loyalty of those people for the place where they were born and have laboured for so long.

I endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) said a few moments ago. It is a place which is not terribly depressed. There are tracts of land which have never been touched by industrial spoilation in many areas. Most of the old industrial base has not left behind any physical squalor or human depression, simply because both local authorities and private agencies have taken on responsibility for planning and carrying through intelligent housing programmes. The process has been one of carefully controlled change in which pride is fully justified in being capable of coping with modern needs.

Nevertheless, there is a vast job of reconstruction still to be done, and what is essential is to see that the highest standards of planning are maintained. This arises from a combination of circumstances. But it soon becomes apparent that such planning is not an end in itself. It is only a means to practical change. As a consequence, the disproportion of the opportunity for employment can be seen against this background, which must be judged by the absence of development for the openings of new employment in certain areas.

I do not want to be didactic, but, from the simple point of reflection, for many years we have been profoundly concerned with the tremendous loss to the industrial and productive potential as a result of the speed of adverse economic change and, to some extent, it could be thrown in with the second industrial revolution, with all the problems inherent in such an event. But, as part of a modernisation process or because of contraction or recession in trade, the traditional industries of coal mining, iron and steel, marine, electrical and general engineering have all shed a considerable amount of labour.

The implications arising from the one power house of industrial prosperity cannot be dismissed from our minds, because the remedy to lessen the region's dependence on these traditional industries has been recognised for at least the last 10 years. That is not to say that nothing has been done in the region—it would be entirely wrong to think that everything is gloom and despondency with the signs of environmental deterioration.

We are very gratified indeed to the Government for having introduced or progressively strengthened a wide range of measures to make the region more commercially attractive to industrialists. We believe that the Board of Trade investment grants, the provision of factories on favourable terms, the Exchequer grants to local authorities for the reclamation of derelict land, where this will contribute towards the development of industry and, what is equally important, the removal of the hideous reality of man-made mountains of pit heaps which are evidence of the greed of past coal owners, they are all good measures to help to improve the position.

I also think, in fairness to the Government, while their policy is one of positive discrimination in favour of development areas like the Northern Region, it is noteworthy that 208 industrial development certificates were issued last year in the North-East. They were for projects covering 6.4 million sq. ft., and taking the number of jobs to be created as estimated by the firms in making their industrial development certificate applications the total is expected to be 18,230, including 11,800 for males. But the experience of the North-East Development Council suggests that that figure is unlikely to be reached for three years from the date when the projects actually get under way. This will not by any means take up the slack from the declining industries, much less absorb the present industrial reserve army of approximately 58,000—the unemployed.

I appreciate that the Redundancy Payments Act is designed to mitigate the initial effects of redundancy, and the scheme for supplementing unemployed benefit with payments related to earnings should do much to encourage and facilitate the necessary movement of workers from one job to another. This is of paramount interest. Our interests are always innumerable, inexpressibly great, and we sometimes find conciliation in the determination of what is right and reasonable.

I therefore think it reasonable to say that all those schemes, admirable and welcome as they are, are not a solution to all the worrying problems that we face in the contraction of the changing pattern of industry.

The problems of trying to attract new industry to development areas have exercised the minds of many able men, and I am glad to think that my right hon. Friend, the Minister responsible for the affairs of the North-East, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has been discussing with local union officials and planners many of the region's problems in Newcastle this week.

I do not know what greater detail emanated from the discussions, but what I do know—and I must here refer to my constituency; I make no apology for doing so—is that the range and choice of jobs is very limited indeed, and because of the failure to achieve a proper distribution of new industry we are still groping in the dark.

There is also a consciousness—explained by my hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr. Will Owen)—in the constituency of the increasing regiment of school leavers without prospects. This is a problem which is causing tremendous anxiety to everyone concerned, and among the many problems which confront us none proves more challenging than that of the position of the school leavers. In the transitional period from school to work we always wonder what they will make of their powers, and what constructive interests will occupy their time, since responsibility for their protection and finding work for them will always be with us, just like the poor.

That is one aspect of the economic and social trends of my constituency, and clearly I have need to stress that on 22nd November last I asked my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade not to assimilate the constituency with the little boy that Santa Claus forgot. I very much respected my right hon. Friend's reply to the effect that he was very well aware of the problems in the constituency, and he further emphasised the importance of the further special incentives to areas particularly hard hit by colliery closures.

It is in this respect that I very much regret that such a policy is not intended to be applied in my constituency, and, if I might add, it has had a shattering effect on my own confidence. The reason is clear. No one should think that pit closures are a new economic phenomenon. There appears to have been very little regard for the constant and substantial rundown of the mining industry in the constituency over the last seven to eight years. It may well be that the Board of Trade argues that the areas were designated, not by local authority areas, but in terms of employment exchanges. I accept the administrative setup of Blaydon and Ryton Urban District being covered by Blaydon and Consett employment exchanges, but I submit that they are seriously affected by colliery closures. Collieries are now practically non-existent. The areas have been deprived of a basic industry, and we are left to lick our wounds and count the unemployed.

On the west side of Blaydon, that is the California side, the last of seven collieries is due to close next month, and it needs no great exercise in imagination to see how it will bring new and mounting problems. Many times I have to bear the responsibility of criticism. One can hardly turn out at a weekend without being approached about the sad state of affairs, and no one can blame people when they are concerned about their future livelihood and that of their families. After all, my constituents sent me here to advocate and embrace their interests, and for years on this side of the House, and on the other, in speech after speech, and in question after question, I have been appealing for a revitalisation of the industrial structure of the constituency.

All this is symptomatic of our profound concern, but, to the credit of Blaydon, Ryton and Whickham local authorities, they are acting with a corporate sense of responsibility and loyalty to the whole effort to attract industry. They are taking the initiative to adapt the area to physical change by buying land without interfering with farming or residential areas.

Let me give an example. Ryton authority, which caters for 15,500 people, is negotiating with British Railways for the purchase of a large tract of land which comprises the marshalling yards of the old Addison Colliery. It has also purchased other large tracts of land situated in the Tyne Valley, where there are practically unlimited possibilities of development for heavy industry, with all the necessary services. Having regard to all the circumstances that I have outlined, I feel justified in pleading with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster seriously to consider pressing his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to consider this area as qualifying for special development status.

I end by dealing with broad general principles. It is quite evident that the older and decaying industries were established by private capital, but the outstanding characteristic is the development of townships and villages on that foundation. They have grown to a substantial size and, quite naturally, have been accompanied by a rapid growth of population, with numerous and varied requirements. It is equally clear that we still have to rely on private industrial developments to cure our economic ills with massive Government support. I have no illusions about the consequence of present events.

That being the case, if the Government cannot attract industry to such an area they must contemplate setting up their own factories and making good use of their Overseas Marketing Corporation which, I understand, has its own representatives in selected foreign countries, giving advice and spotting opportunities for markets. Time does not allow me to develop that theme. I therefore beg the Government to give fresh thought to correcting all the imbalance, and to shape the future of industry on a foundation which will enable people to have a chance to satisfy their impulses for work, compatible with their happiness.

3.27 p.m.

Mr. Ted Leadbitter (The Hartlepools)

In the three minutes that I have left, I want to inform the House that I have travelled about 300 miles this morning in order to come here to make some comments concerning my constituency. Instead, I have had the privilege of listening to some very long and interesting speeches. There is a unique situation in my constituency. On the one hand there is the possibility of a multi-million pound development for a power station and the possibility of a smelter plant being sited within a mile of it. Yet this week I calculate that we may have a further 600 or 700 unemployed in my constituency, which, four years ago, had the highest unemployment rate in the country—12½ per cent.

Since then we have had the benefit of a tremendous amount of Government assistance and local authority support, bringing in new industries. Nevertheless, in spite of the massive assistance that has been given in these respects, we still have this unique situation with, on the one hand, a further projection of new work opportunity countered by unemployment arising from the closure of the Furness shipyard.

The Government must decide where they are going to site the power station. If they decide to put it in any other part of the country, arising from a squabble between coal and nuclear power interests, their reputation will not stand very high. The siting of the nuclear power station at Hartlepool was determined on the assumption that it was in the national interest. Therefore, I give warning that the tactic of delay in announcing the power station, or the possibility of its being sent somewhere else, will be a matter for me to criticise very strongly.

On the closure of the Furness shipyard, I must point out that the ship-building industry has more Government financial aid in terms of loan, grant and subsidy than it has ever had. The massive Government aid is better than that in any other European country and com- pares much more favourably with that in Japan than it did a few years ago. Taxpayers' money is supporting the industry, so why is there some hesitancy about the future of that yard? It is modern, the men are skilled, it is well sited and its specialisation is world renowned. If the will to save the yard is there, it will be saved. Money is being pumped into the industry to re-group it and therefore we do not want any closures, particularly of yards with a degree of modernisation.

My theme is simply that the Government must make early decisions on the projects which will bring work into the area and on a new power complex, and they must counter the closure of the yard on the basis that taxpayers' money is supporting the ship-building industry. If this is done, the North-East will gain heart and Members of Parliament need not spend their time talking about its merits. The North-East speaks for itself. What is wanted is action on the matters to which I have referred, and which might have developed if given the opportunity. I want the Government to give it special attention.

3.32 p.m.

Mr. Bernard Conlan (Gateshead, East)

Quite clearly I cannot deliver the speech I had prepared. It was probably the best speech I have never delivered.

Many constructive suggestions have been made today and I hope that the Government will act upon them. I should like to take two minutes to make two additional points. My right hon. Friend is fully conversant with the difficulties I had with the closure of the C.W.S. factory at Pelaw in my constituency. The C.W.S. claimed that there were very good commercial reasons for closing it and concentrating in Manchester, where there is no similar unemployment problem. Although it may have appeared commercially right and sensible to the C.W.S., it seems to me economically and socially a nonsensical decision. With the regional employment premiums and the Selective Employment Tax rebates I am not even sure that it made commercial sense.

The closure of the Furness shipyard has been mentioned, and it has been claimed that no prior notice was given. I had a similar experience with the Pelaw factory. There is something wrong here. When we have early warning systems dealing with wages and salaries and increases in prices, I suggest that my right hon. Friend should, by legislation if necessary, take powers to ensure that in the development areas we get advance warning that a factory is to close before the irrevocable decision is made to close it.

It is understood that the 45 per cent. grant for machinery and equipment will revert to a 40 per cent. at the end of the year. That would be a severe blow to the region. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the 45 per cent. grant remains for the foreseeable future?

Unemployment has been a problem for a long time and the Government are doing their level best to reduce it. Today we are asking them to do more.

3.35 p.m.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Frederick Lee)

I join those who have congratulated my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett) on his good fortune in having the opportunity to raise this subject today. However, I should have liked it to be a little later because then probably what has been said about a number of decisions could have been answered.

As it is, I give an assurance that no delay is caused by the Government in respect of the matter about which my hon. Friend spoke. There has been reference to our dragging our feet. My hon. Friend can be no more eager than I am for the decisions on these very important matters. I give an assurance that they will be reached at the earliest possible moment.

It has been for me a fascinating debate. It has been about the whole of the Northern Region. A great many of my hon. Friends tend to think of the North-East as the Northern Region, whereas we have as well the problems of Cumberland and Westmorland. However, it has all been canvassed on a very wide scale. When I heard the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) speak in such glowing terms about Northumberland, I reflected that nobody is ever as enthusiastic as a convert. Those of us who were born in and have lived in the North all our lives are very pleased to know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has discovered how beautiful the area can be.

We are discussing a problem which has vexed the whole region for half a century. It is a problem which was bound to come in an area in which took place, when all is said and done, the first Industrial Revolution that the world ever saw. Some of the great industries which came from that revolution are now in decline. In the coal industry, for example, we see a rapid rundown of pits. This means that we must accelerate the speed with which we get new industry in the area if we are to keep pace with the rundown of that great industry.

There is also the problem of the shipbuilding industry. I believe that because of the Government's action in bringing consortia together and guaranteeing bank credits, we are already seeing a very marked change in the prospects of the industry. In the past few months we have seen three 240,000 ton tankers ordered on the Tyne. The industrialists in that part of the North-East are sanguine that in the next three or four months at least 1,000 more people will be back in employment.

There have been references to whether the region gets its full share of public investment. I confess that I am not yet satisfied. Nevertheless, I should like to report to the House a number of figures which show an upward tendency in this area. To take, for instance, public expenditure in new construction and works, excluding the nationalised industries, whereas in 1963–64 it was running at just over £66 million, in 1967–68 it had risen to £115 million. Expenditure committed on road works has increased this year, 1967–68, to £47 million. Houses under construction in December, 1967, were 25,700, a record for this time of the year in the Northern Region.

Again, the value of new orders received by contractors in the Northern Region was £47.3 million higher than in 1966, or 6.6 per cent. in value of the orders in Great Britain. Rightly emphasis has been laid on the problems of education. The school building programme currently under construction is 8.5 per cent. of that for Great Britain as a whole, which at least is holding our own in percentage terms. I do not want to go into the whole range of grants which the Government make available to industry to go to the regions. Hon. Members know how extensive this is.

I want to refer to the advance factory programme. There are now 49 advance factories in the region, 33 of which have been built since October, 1964. All are occupied except eight, and we are in discussion with industrialists about a number of these and believe that we shall shortly be able to get tenants for them.

Reference has been made to my statement this week in the North quoting a total of 45,000 jobs in the next four years. I make it clear that these are jobs in new and expanding firms. They are confined to manufacturing—they are not service jobs. The hon. Lady and others mentioned the great problems of getting male employment. Two-thirds of these jobs are for males, according to our estimate.

These facts and figures show a very distinct movement towards the Northern Region which, I believe, is coming about because of the incentives we are prepared to offer to firms to go there. I have already mentioned the tanker programme on the Tyne and I see that Austin and Pickersgill at Sunderland has orders for S.D.14s, which are Liberty ship replacements.

Reference has also been made to the new container ship terminal on the Tees, now doing a regular container service operating to Sweden, Holland and Finland. We also now have news of the £2 million oil and chemical terminal to be built on Teesside.

We assisted Reyrolles in its bid for a considerable order from Pakistan by granting up to 10 years' export credit terms. This helped the firm considerably.

If I had time I would like to go through a whole list of firms which have come along. These are all considerable enterprises. For example, Brentford Nylon Ltd. is moving into Cramlington with a £24 million factory providing 2,700 jobs, including 1,500 male jobs. Yesterday, we had the welcome announcement from Plessey that they are expanding at South Shields. They believe that before long they will be employing between 800 and 1,000 extra men and women. All these are concrete proofs of the fact that our policies are showing very substantial results.

A number of hon. Members mentioned the need for Government offices and factories to go into the region. This is right and proper and we shall do all we can. During the last two years, the region has secured the Board of Trade Investment Grants Office at Billingham, the Department of Education and Science's Teachers' Salaries and Pensions Office at Darlington, the Ministry of Social Security's Staff Training School at Billingham, the Land Commission at Newcastle, and most recently the printing of the telephone directories by the Post Office at Team Valley, where between 400 and 500 jobs have been created. We are not debating merely in vacuo. This is not merely a theoretical conception of what might happen. It is happening and it is happening now.

I should like to answer a few of the important questions which hon. Members from both sides of the House have put to me. The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham, among others, mentioned the vital need to get science-based industry to replace the declining older industries. I completely agree. This brings me to the need to have a new approach by employers and trade unions to training. We now have four training centres, taking about 1,500. people. Another will be opened this year and we are eager to assist in every way possible with training and retraining men who have been displaced, or skilled men who would like even higher skills.

We are now entering a period in our industrial development when undoubtedly the ratio of skilled to unskilled people must be increased enormously. In other words, we are reaching a stage when the employment of skilled men is the way in which to ensure that unemployment among unskilled men is kept down.

This week I have been talking to large-scale employers in the area and last night I had a meeting with a group of smaller employers. I have talked to the Northern T.U.C. and the full-time officials of individual unions, discussing how we can get a new approach to the whole problem of training. I am not now as pessimistic as I was before meeting them the other day.

I think that there is a realisation among trade unions that, although there may be unemployment, perhaps among their own members—and this makes it difficult for local full-time officials—if we are to attract new science-based industries, the people prepared to come to the region must have some guarantee that they will find the skilled personnel needed. I told the trade unions frankly that some of their own people in the South and in the Midlands were understandably worried when their jobs went to the North, but I believe that it is right and proper to expect the trade unions concerned, when those jobs are going to relieve much heavier and sustained unemployment, to assist by telling their members that, although they may temporarily lose a job in the South-East or in the Midlands, job opportunities in those areas are still far greater than anything we yet have in the North. I was very happy with the response I got to that.

The reduction in the number of unemployed among school leavers is encouraging. I believe that we now have an opportunity, with our training facilities and new attitudes in industry, to get rid of the stupid old approach to apprenticeship from which I suffered. I was saying to someone only last night that I could always claim to be the best brewer of tea in any audience which I addressed—I served two years doing nothing else. This concept of apprenticeship is disgusting and we have reached the point when, instead of having the time-serving mechanism, we ought to get to the core, of the training problem and stop believeing that a man cannot be skilled unless he has served precisely five years' apprenticeship. I have never heard greater nonsense in my life.

I am not pessimistic about the results of the discussions that I have had, and I appeal to those unions, especially my own, among whose membership there are large numbers of skilled men, to see this problem in terms of the 1970s. A moment ago I tried to say that we need a far higher ratio of skilled to unskilled men than ever before. Unless we can achieve this, we will end up with a larger problem of unemployment among unskilled people, and an equally large amount of non-existent technicians, craftsmen, scientists and so on. This would be a frightening way to finish.

We have to make a success of this period. If we fritter away the results which devaluation has given us the chance to obtain, then we will not deserve success anyway. My hon. Friend the Member for the Hartlepools (Mr. Leadbitter) and others mentioned this cruel blow, about which we heard the other day—the closure of the Furness shipyard. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology and I convened a meeting as soon as we heard about it, and we have tried hard to get the Tyneside Consortium to agree to this yard coming in.

Up to now we have failed. We have looked at the possibilities of using it for other things, such as heavy steel fabrication, but the very people who own the yard are about the biggest fabricators of steel in Britain. If there was any prospect there, they would be using it for that purpose. They have sunk many millions of £s into it but there is no prospect of using it for that purpose. Other suggestions have been made, on the lines of what happened on the Clyde. In the case of Fairfields, the problem was a shortage of capital and the rather original methods which the Government then used were directed to meet the point that it was a shortage of capital causing the shut-down.

There is no shortage of capital in this case. The name of Clore is not, generally speaking, associated with a shortage of capital. It is not the same kind of problem. I can give my hon. Friends the assurance that we will go on trying to find new ways of utilising what is a very modern yard. It seems that we are now reaching the stage in the shipbuilding industry where it will be quite impossible to achieve viability in only one yard. It begins to look as though in the main—there may be special cases—that there is not much future for a single yard. It has to be brought within a merger. We will try very hard indeed to find ways in which we can assist here.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) told us again of the great problems of Sunderland. The Wear is a terribly difficult river. I have said that on the Tyne it looks as though progress is being made, but I frankly confess that I am extremely worried about the situation of the Wear and the Sunderland area. The Board of Trade is proposing to acquire 43 acres on a site at Pennywell, inside the county borough of Sunderland. It is also completing the acquisition of 13 acres at Houghton-le-Spring, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Urwin) referred.

The Board is also proposing to acquire 47 acres at Rainton Bridge, at Houghton-le-Spring seven miles from Sunderland county borough. These are considerable purchases, and we very much hope that in consequence we will be able to develop factory sites in the area. Reverting to what I said about mergers in the shipbuilding industry, I would welcome a sign of some movement in this direction on the Wear. I am not able to report on the stage which has been reached, but I should like to feel that we are reaching a situation in which some movement can be made in the way of mergers on the Wear.

The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) referred to the problem in his constituency. I do not think that he got it quite right. The Development Commission produced an advanced factory there of 15,000 sq. ft. One firm which was willing to go there, Ward and Goldstone, wished to employ only female labour. This would not have met the problem in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. It was not a question of wanting to divert resources from Berwick. It was simply that Ward and Goldstone did not wish to employ male labour.

One hon. Member mentioned the Lancaster Canal. I know that the Ministry of Transport is considering this matter. However, it takes the view that it has to get ahead with the construction of the M6. I understand the bridging system which the hon. Member suggested would have added another £100,000 to the cost.

I have tried to adopt a cautiously optimistic attitude towards the Northern Region. We have to consider the rundown of the older industries. We have to run rapidly in order to stand still. During the winter a lot of pessimists talked about there being 800,000 or 900,000 people unemployed. They based their calculations on the high rate of unemployment last summer. The position in regions such as the North is nothing like as dull or dreary as they thought that it would be.

We have had four reports on unemployment in the five months since. Three of them showed that seasonally adjusted unemployment fell. The fourth showed that unemployment actually fell. We now have the opportunity of providing some of the things which have been requested by hon. Members on both sides of the House. I agree that technological education is vital. The prospects for teacher training in Middlesbrough are nothing like as bleak as my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley) seemed to imagine. There is a prospect of extension in one of the colleges in the area. I have not time to go into detail now. I will tell him about it later if he would like to speak to me.

We need a joint effort between employers, trade unions and Government to keep in motion the progress which is now under way. I give the assurance that I will do everything humanly possible to assist in this great project. Yesterday, I had the opportunity of seeing two of the new towns which are developing in the area. It would do people who do not know the area good to go and see the terrific job which has been done in those two new towns. Enthusiasm is simply bubbling over. It makes one feel very proud to be associated with local authorities, people on the planning council and the Government officials who are dedicating themselves to making a go of the Northern Region. I accept the Motion.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House, whilst appreciative of the efforts of the Government in relation to the social and economic developments within the Northern Economic Planning Region, will welcome further initiative to overcome the high rate of unemployment.