HC Deb 18 March 1968 vol 761 cc58-121

Motion made, and Question proposed,That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Ioan L. Evans.]

4.33 p.m.

Sir Keith Joseph (Leeds, North-East)

We have put down as the subject for today the grey areas, and I suppose that had better start by explaining what we understand by that term. They are those parts of the country where economic stagnation or decline is taking place, though the results are not necessarily shown in high unemployment figures. It is a subject which concerns a considerable part of the country, and there are large numbers of hon. Members who would wish to speak, had we more time.

Without any disrespect to the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, who I see sitting on the Government Front Bench, I must start by expressing our amazement that, on this important subject, the Government have not chosen a Cabinet Minister to reply to the Debate—[Interruption.] Do I see the Secretary of State for Education and Science laughing at that?

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Patrick Gordon Walker)

No. I was laughing at something else.

Sir K. Joseph

I see. The Government have not even arranged for the relevant Ministers concerned to attend. Where is the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs? Where is the President of the Board of Trade? Where is the Secretary of State for Scotland, part of whose area does not have development status?

Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

Perhaps they have resigned.

Sir K. Joseph

No one can tell from minute to minute with this Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) may be right.

We have chosen this subject because we feel that the grey areas deserve a fair deal, which they are not getting from the Labour Government, and because we want to state categorically that the grey areas will get a fair deal from a Conservative Government, but not at the expense of the development areas.

Prosperity in the regions, grey, development or neither, depends on national prosperity. The Government can only create the right conditions. The rest must be left to the enterprise and efforts of the people. Subsidies, controls, taxes, however strict or generous, cannot by themselves generate development, create jobs or canalise work to any chosen areas if the economy is stagnant and confidence is lacking. It is a stagnant uncertain economy now.

Last year, for instance, there was a fall of no less than 14 per cent. in real terms in manufacturing investments. So there is far less creation of new jobs going on, except in the Civil Service, than is needed in the regions. Not only is there too little employment, but, as I shall seek to show, an extravagant and ineffective set of development area policies is actively damaging the non-development areas. No wonder Regional Economic Council chairmen are nearly all complaining or resigning. No wonder the regions are squabbling with each other over development area and grey area policies.

The Government seem no longer even to be trying to encourage regional enterprise. Last week, the Government gave a negative, stonewalling, discouraging and inert reply to the proposals affecting the South-West from the South West Regional Economic Council. There was a "No" to the spine road and a "No" to a large number of other proposals—

Mr. W. A. Wilkins (Bristol, South)

That is not true.

Sir K. Joseph

Well, a long delay to the spine road, which is a virtual "No". If the hon. Gentleman wishes me to withdraw that and say that it was not a "No", and will accept that it was, "Not in the foreseeable future", I will alter what I said to that extent.

Mr. Wilkins

The right hon. Gentleman should remember what the Council said.

Sir K. Joseph

No doubt the Government will reply that the country must wait for the outcome of the Hunt Committee. We are glad that that Committee has been set up. We believe that it had to be set up largely because of the policies which the Government have been pursuing, which have exacerbated the problems of the grey areas. However, there is plenty of action which can take place, even before the Hunt Committee reports.

The objective is clear. Our aim should be—

Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)

Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite never did anything about it.

Sir K. Joseph

Oh, come. The figures show that the disparity between the grey and the development areas was a great deal less under us than it has become in the stagnant economy of this Government.

Mr. Mendelson

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir K. Joseph


Mr. Mendelson

Why not?

Sir K. Joseph

Because I hope that the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity of catching Mr. Speaker's eye later.

Mr. Mendelson

The right hon. Gentleman must not make false statements.

Sir K. Joseph

Our aim should be to reduce the gulf in employment between the development areas and the rest of the country, and to stimulate the grey areas, where, although there may not be development area levels of unemployment, there is either severe depopulation, a significant fall in the number of jobs, or a general drabness coupled with too low a level of prosperity to lead to spontaneous regeneration. Our aim should be to do all this while keeping the economy as a whole within balance. Those are our objectives and, within them, we shall lean towards the areas of high unemployment.

We need no reminding that, in some development areas, there are six unemployed for every vacancy. In the grey areas, overall, the proportion is nearer three to one. So we must keep proportion in our policies.

We must also recognise that no Government can guarantee to each community a precise continuance of its shape, size or pattern. Functions vanish and old needs are replaced by new methods. We cannot cast the economic map in a permanent mould and keep it there.

The Labour Government inherited a sensible working system of development area policy which did not in itself damage the non-development areas.

Mr. Mendelson

Eight years ago, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) was President of the Board of Trade, I moved an Amendment which included encouragement of new industry and diversification of industry in the grey areas. The President of the Board of Trade replied, "Sorry, but we cannot do anything for these areas. We must spend what little money we have on the development areas." There was a direct contradiction in the mouth of the right hon. Member for Barnet.

Sir K. Joseph

The evidence is not for me to give. The evidence was given by the people of this country just over eight years ago when the Conservative Party won a majority of 100, including a vast majority of the seats in the grey areas. That indicated satisfaction at that time with the performance of the Conservative Government in the grey areas. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) was quoting from eight years ago. I am giving him the evidence from eight and a half years ago.

Mr. Mendelson

They did nothing about it.

Sir K. Joseph

At that time the people, including those in the grey areas, were broadly satisfied.

The Labour Government, as I said, inherited a sensible working system of development area policy. It was largely the creation of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg). The strategy was to choose an area, generally based on a large town, and to concentrate resources on improving the infrastructure, housing, transport, amenities, schools, colleges and universities serving that area, thus making it so attractive that firms would want to go there and, once there, would spread their own growth over a wider area. This is the growth centre concept which we believe is the right one. Aid from the taxpayer to individual firms, under the Conservative Government, was in the form of an allowance against profits so that only viable enterprises were encouraged to open up in develpoment areas.

But our policies did not stop at growth centres. Through our Local Employment Acts, which the Government have kept, we were able to inject new industry into an area far removed from any growth centre where, because of a particular closure, new jobs were urgently needed and industry was willing to supply them. Conservative regional policy thus had both flexibility to deal with pockets of unemployment, as the need arose, and long-term measures to create conditions for self-generating growth in regions where it was needed and likely to succeed.

The Government have substituted cruder weapons. They scheduled whole regions for help. They put grants in the place of tax allowances, thus supporting activities whether viable or not. They developed the discredited monster, Selective Employment Tax, and, when they feared that the consequences of their own economic misjudgments would wreck their regional policy, they introduced the elaborate and extravagant Regional Employment Premium. Yet, despite all this, the stagnation and lack of confidence created by the present Government have led to no fewer than 36 empty advance factories now in England, Scotland and Wales.

This new policy of the Government's is costing the taxpayer immense sums. Quite apart from the cost of jobs under the Local Employment Act, where the cost per job under this Government is roughly about the same as the cost under the last Government and in some cases cheaper—I grant this Government that!—a most charitable calculation of the cost of the creation of jobs by R.E.P. and S.E.T. brings out the cost per new job as likely to be somewhere between £3,500, at the lower end of the bracket, to no less than £21,000 per new job created, at the top end of the bracket. The uncertainty of the cost per new job is explained by the fact that the Government have not committed themselves to the number of new jobs they expect to be created by R.E.P. and the S.E.T. premium in the development areas. We have had to interpret what they have said in working out how many new jobs will in fact be created. On the most charitable calculation, each new job will cost £3,500. At the other end of the possibilities, the creation of each new job may cost no less than £21,000, or even more if our assumptions are too optimistic.

All these different helps to the development areas, investment grants at specially high rates, selective employment tax premiums for manufacturing, R.E.P. for manufacturing employees—the last two go to existing employees; they are not reserved for new jobs—and training grants are all being poured out indiscriminately over vast areas regardless of commercial viability and regardless of job creation or growth generation.

R.E.P. and S.E.T. go to all existing manufacturing workers, regardless of whether they need it to be kept in business or not. If jobs are the criterion, what nonsense it is to penalise the employment of people in service industries by S.E.T. and what nonsense it is to penalise the very industries—agriculture, tourism and other services—which are so vital to Scotland, Wales, the South-West and parts of many other areas. What humbug it is to boast of a regional policy and allow the Transport Bill to wreck the job prospects in our remoter areas.

The point is that indiscriminate help spread all over vast sections of the map and unrelated either to new jobs or commercial viability, does no lasting good to the development areas. Such indiscriminate help does not make them inherently more attractive to industry. But that should be the objective. Subsidies, like those the Government are giving to many areas, make areas dependent for survival on more subsidies. We want to make these areas become prosperous in their own right, and our policy is to help them to do so.

While the vast sums spent may not make the development areas any more inherently attractive, they succeed, coupled with the rest of Government policies, in wreaking havoc in the grey areas. These are areas where, because of the decline of staple industries or the growing capital intensity of some industries or the gradual by-passing of their facilities, like some seaside holiday resorts, or growing productivity, as in agriculture, employment has fallen, or is falling, and Where often there is am outworn environment with decay, dereliction and obsolete housing.

The results of these cumulative conditions do not always show in employment statistics, because residents travel to work—and within limits this has to be accepted in some areas; because the number of women seeking jobs, and therefore registrable, falls, and because people move out of the area; firms close down, services dwindle, and the unemployment registers do not show the full decline.

The grey areas—Yorkshire and Humberside may be becoming one, parts of the South-West are to be called grey and perhaps parts of the South Coast, and North-East Lancashire is another—are suffering from the pull of the South-East and the Midlands, on the one hand, and the pull of excessive discrimination in favour of the development areas, on the other. This discrimination has reached a level which we think is far too high. With large investment grants and unemployment subsidies available in the whole of the Northern Region, almost the whole of Scotland and Wales, in a wide Merseyside area and in the South-West, the grey areas are up against severe, perhaps excessive, competition, and all, we claim, without any necessary lasting benefit to the inherent attractiveness or viability of the development areas themselves.

Industrial development certificate control is being applied toughly, say the Government. Yes, but sensibly, not always. An i.d.c. system is an indispensable part of any regional policy. But the Government say "No" to virtually any i.d.c. in a prosperous region, however much it may increase efficiency. Firms seeking i.d.c.s in grey areas are often shunted off on a tour of the bargains in the development areas, however much the work they might bring would benefit a grey area.

The effect of this rigid policy is becoming increasingly apparent. Seventy firms are said to have moved recently from Yorkshire. In Yorkshire and Humberside industrial building approvals and employment are falling off against the national trend. The Economic Planning Councils in the North-West and the South-West are complaining of frustrations, and chairmen of these councils have resigned, or talked of resigning. Today we see what L.A.M.I.D.A., that very effective promotional body in Lancashire and Merseyside, has to say about Government regional policy. Moreover, there is sharp unfairness between rival firms inside and outside development areas.

The present Government's sledgehammer policies are doing no lasting good to the development areas, are certainly hurting the grey areas, and are costing a very great deal of taxpayers' money without proportionate benefit to anyone.

There must be better ways of achieving our common regional purposes without so much damage to the grey areas. But we should try to avoid either too many varieties of help or too many distinct sorts of area.

There are development areas. There are special development areas, where coal mines have closed down. There are overspill areas. The larger the number of variants and the more the changes that are made the greater the uncertainty of business men and the less effective will the policy be. Already, business men make a decision on one set of criteria only to find their assumptions invalidated by a change made too late for them to alter course. This may, to some extent, be inevitable, but the fewer and the simpler we keep our distinctions and devices the more business men will regard and trust them.

That is one of the arguments that predisposes me against a graduated set of grants for grey areas at a lower level than in the development areas. There would be endless disputes over shades of grey, the cost to the taxpayer would be larger, and more distortion and more uncertainty would be introduced. And, if my argument is valid that the present indiscriminate development area largesse produces no inherent improvement in the areas themselves, by spreading the jam more widely we would simply spread a palliative and not a cure. Our strategy would, we believe, help the development areas far more effectively and permanently and with far less harm to the grey areas. Not every part of every development area or grey area can itself be helped, in fact, by any Government, but in development areas and grey areas alike we can aim to stimulate the creation of growth centres which will radiate prosperity and jobs.

A Conservative Government will retain a bias in favour of development areas, but a bias that is more effective in its real purposes of making the development areas more inherently attractive to industry and less sharp and costly and wasteful than now. We will reduce the sharpness of the difference in the treatments of development and grey areas respectively, helping both more effectively, though at less cost to the taxpayer. I will explain how.

First, we must be a shade more flexible with i.d.c.s When an i.d.c. is needed outside a development area for a genuine cost-reducing operation which will improve the competitive position of the firm concerned, with only marginal labour implications, we should surely consider it. We will still try to steer to the development areas or, when appropriate, steer to or allow in the grey areas, new projects that can economically go to them. Refusal of i.d.c.s in non-development areas often either kills sensible projects or causes new equipment to be packed inefficiently in unsuitable buildings.

We are now spending £125 million per annum in R.E.P. and S.E.T premium in the development areas. R.E.P. was presented as permitting without inflation an injection of buying power into the higher unemployment regions. Economists are split on the validity of this argument. Many people concerned with the C.B.I. and Scottish Development Council, for instance, have come out strongly against it. We argued against it, and we voted against it from this side of the House. Though we would have to consider transitional arrangements for those who had made their investment on the basis of R.E.P., we would want to use the money better or leave it in the taxpayer's. pocket.

We would set out to improve the infrastructure—housing, transport, education, amenities and other services—benefiting the growth centres of the development areas and strategic parts of the grey areas. We would aim by those means to make those centres inherently more attractive to investors. Every improvement in the transport network, for instance, benefits communities not just at the termini, but all along the route. Our air should be to make investors, entrepreneurs and managers want to go to such areas because of their own advantage and their labour supply.

We would, as I say, keep the bias in favour of the development areas by some tax benefit such as an investment allowance, which helps the profitable, viable firm. Local transport facilities round the growth centres should be improved so that work may flow out and workers flow in from nearby till jobs and investment have been spread. Unemployment must not be the sole yardstick. We must use powers also, as we did, to help isolated towns and areas outside of growth centres where, perhaps, depopulation is a threat to the very survival of a community. We cannot preserve the present pattern of employment, but we must be able to take special situations into account.

But when all is said and done, the prime, overwhelming need is for greater confidence and buoyancy in the economy, and these are commodities which this Government are unlikely to generate.

Our strategy will be to save on the extravagant and indiscriminate features of the present Government's policies, and to concentrate help on the infrastructure in both the development and the grey areas, with particular emphasis on growth centres from which we would expect prosperity and jobs to spread. We would act on special situations outside such growth centres when we could properly do so. We shall discriminate in favour of growth centres in development areas by way of tax allowances and training grants, and use the i.d.c. system toughly, but more shrewdly and sensitively than now. We shall retain a bias of a much more constructive, less costly and less damaging nature than now in favour of the areas of highest unemployment, while keeping our arrangements as simple as possible.

It is economic lunacy to rescue some areas at the expense of others that are less, but only marginally less, in need. The outcome of the Government's policies will only be to turn the present grey areas into development areas without curing the problem of the existing development areas themselves. By our methods, even with the present limited volume of expansion, we would do better for both development areas and grey areas.

I am sorry, I repeat, that the Government have seen fit not to select a Cabinet Minister—and I make no aspersion on the Joint Under-Secretary—to reply on such an important subject which, but for the time table today, would have commanded a far bigger attendance of hon. Members.

By our general policies we can expect that a Conservative Government will secure the rising level of investment which, more than anything else, will enable grey and development areas alike to prosper, but we hope that the Government will tell us today what steps they are taking, even before a Conservative Government are returned and before the Hunt Committee reports.

4.57 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

The account of the facts given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) both before the present Government and after is a complete caricature. He could have made a better case for some of the things he recommended if he had not so misrepresented the facts at the beginning. I will quote just one fact. Under the Conservative Government, and up to 1964, almost the whole of not merely Wales, but South Wales was descheduled from being a development area at all, with the result that the recovery in Wales has been delayed to a later date than in the other development areas.

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman and others that the problem of areas intermediate between the development areas and the congested areas is extremely important, but it is essential to understand what the problem is, otherwise—and this was shown in the right hon. Gentleman's speech—we shall be in danger of pursuing policies which will do more harm than good.

The main need at the moment is not to be misled by the temporarily high unemployment figures into action that would reverse the real progress we have lately made in the development areas. We should avoid hasty decisions until the Hunt Committee has reported, and until unemployment has fallen from the exceptionally high figures of the winter. The prospect is that unemployment will fall over the country as a whole, and with unemployment levels outside the development areas falling, I would expect, apart from some very special cases, the levels in the intermediate areas to become quite low once again.

We must continue to realise—I think that the right hon. Gentleman admitted this—that unemployment in most of the development areas is still much higher than it is outside in the areas which he called grey areas. The real local employment problem in the next two years or so will be in the really seriously hit pit closure areas which are, in almost every case, inside the development areas. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] With some exceptions.

Mr. Mendelson

This is not correct. South Yorkshire, certain parts of Lancashire, and certain other parts of the country are areas of pit closure or scheduled pit closure but are not development areas.

Mr. Jay

My hon. Friend misunderstands me. I did not say that there were no pit closure areas outside development areas. I said, and I think that my hon. Friend will agree, that the areas where pit closures seriously threaten local employment are largely, perhaps not exclusively, within the development areas.

Sir Frank Pearson (Clitheroe)

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, will not forget that East Lancashire faces not only pit closures but also a very substantial run-down in the textile industry.

Mr. Jay

I shall come to Lancashire and the North-West. I think I agree with the, right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East that it would be a serious mistake to start extending development area grants to even wider areas than the very wide development areas which were extended in 1966. Of course it is necessary to discriminate in policy between congested areas, on the one hand, and intermediate or neutral areas, on the other. The main way to do this—this is what I think the right hon. Gentleman ignored—is by pursuing an easy i.d.c. policy in the intermediate areas and a very much firmer i.d.c. policy in the congested areas. It then becomes possible, if that is done, as obviously it ought to be, to treat all three types of areas—development areas, intermediate areas, and really congested areas—in a different way.

Mr. Jasper More (Ludlow)

For the sake of clarity, will the right hon. Gentleman make clear what he means by "the congested areas"?

Mr. Jay

I mean mainly the South-East, London, the West Midlands and, to some extent, East Anglia. They are the main congested areas. The fallacy of supposing that more grants must be paid out, as some people have suggested, in the intermediate areas springs from not recognising that the i.d.c. policy is not merely much more effective but is also much more flexible than a policy with grants. It is also less visible, because people do not see the figures and are not aware of the differences between i.d.c. policy—

Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)

I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for giving way in mid-flight. At this point I want to assure him that I know from my local experience in Lancashire that it is very unlikely that with an i.d.c. policy industrial development applications would ever come from the grey areas which are outside development areas. When there is a discrimination between 25 per cent. grants outside the ring fence and 45 per cent. within, the applications simply will not come from any prudent investor who has a 45 per cent. grant available to him. We have debate this issue before, and I hope that we shall debate it again.

Mr. Jay

A study of the actual figures will show my hon. Friend that a very large number of i.d.c.s are being granted in almost all areas. I do not think that it is generally realised how easy an i.d.c. policy has been followed in these intermediate areas and, in particular, in the North-West Region outside the congested Manchester area. The figures now show that in many ways the policy followed has worked remarkably as intended.

I do not know whether the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East has studied the figures worked out by the National Institute, which were set out in The Times Business News of 29th February. Those figures showed that from 1965 to 1967 unemployment in the development area regions, as was intended, has fallen as a proportion of unemployment in the country as a whole. The fact that this was due to the deliberate policy followed is shown by the striking fact that in Wales the improvement only started a year or two years later, and this was because Wales was not schedule as a development area fully again until 1965 because of the policy of the Conservative Government.

Sir K. Joseph

I saw those figures in The Times and I saw the self-congratulatory letter from the right hon. Gentleman applauding The Times for publishing the figures. I think that it is very dangerous to base any conclusion on two years' figures. What The Times did not do about the N.I.E.S.R. figures was to compare those two years with the same two years of the cycle back in the 1950s and the earlier 1960s. Had that been done, I believe that it would have been shown that the same trend was visible in each of the cycles at that period of cycle. I do not think that the N.I.E.S.R. table copied by The Times proves anything: it was over too short a period.

Mr. Jay

I think that the right hon. Gentleman is wrong. The table compared the absolute levels of unemployment in 1963, in 1966, and at two dates in 1967. It showed that over that period unemployment was relatively improved in the development area regions. This is a very important fact, and we should all be glad that it has been achieved.

The other fact that the right hon. Gentleman may not have noticed and which is equally interesting is that the North-West Region has benefited very notably compared with the rest of the country, as well as the development area regions, in the last two years. This is certainly due to the easier i.d.c. policy followed in the North-West, together with the very wide development area of Merseyside, which has undoubtedly improved its position in the last two years.

To some extent the right hon. Gentleman's expression "grey areas" causes confusion. I think, too, that the expression "growth centres" causes confusion, but I will not pursue that point. What the grey areas really need is urban renewal and—I agree with the right hon. Gentleman—the renovation of what he called the infrastructure. That is what they pre-eminently need, rather than a very great influx of new employment, though some new industry is always necessary in almost all areas. This problem is just as much one for the local authorities and for the Departments concerned with the basic services as it is a matter of industrial development. We need the right treatment in the right area.

There is a case for saying—here I come, perhaps, a little nearer to the right hon. Gentleman—that, with the heavy investment grants now being paid and the Regional Employment Premium, the handing out of public money for this purpose has gone as far as it ought to go, if indeed it has not gone too far already. Quite a number of experienced people in the development areas take the view that it would be much better to spend the money that is available on capital development, particularly on building factories and extending industrial estates, than on giving subsidies to firms which are in the areas already. This is an arguable view, but it is one strongly held in development areas.

It is also very high grants in development areas which tend to provoke a feeling of unfairness in the other areas and a demand that the grants should be extended. I therefore hope that we shall not make any hasty decisions to hand out grants in still wider areas than we are doing at present. Indeed, if £100 million is paid out in development areas and £50 million, say, is paid out in other areas outside, very much the same result will be achieved, but at a very much higher cost, as if £50 million were paid out in development areas and nothing, or very little, were paid out outside. In any case, I think that the attempt to draw a hard and fast line for a further group of intermediate areas within which grants are paid would turn out to be geographically impossible, as almost anyone who has tried to draw such a line will agree.

Therefore, since on the evidence of the figures and facts present policies are broadly speaking producing results, the right course is on the following lines. For the development areas we need on the one hand capital development by the Government, particularly on factories and industrial estates, and on the other—for the time being, anyway—continuation of the present system of grants. For the genuine intermediate areas we should continue the present easy i.d.c. policy, which has the great merit over the system of grants of being flexible both from place to place and time to time, and secondly, urban renewal, renovation and reconstruction of the basic services. In the really congested regions, I hope the Government will continue their present firm i.d.c. policy, which is not nearly one of 100 per cent. refusal which the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East seemed to consider.

If the Government continue on these lines, I believe the results which are beginning to be achieved can be pushed further and consolidated, but, if we depart from them in mid-stream there is a real danger that we shall spend more and more money without achieving anything more. Above all, we shall fail to get the employment where it will be needed most in the next few years—in areas seriously affected by pit closures.

5.12 p.m.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd (Wirral)

I do not agree with much that the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) said, but, as I want to speak very shortly, I shall not argue with him in detail.

I wish to make a personal point at the beginning of my speech. Owing to the large number of Committees in this House, I may not be able to listen to criticisms of my speech because I am Chairman of one Committee and have to be there in a short time. I also want to speak shortly because I put my case in the debate on 13th December and I now want to bring it up to date. I am afraid that that constructive, temperate and well-reasoned debate achieved little, except that perhaps it was the reason why the Prime Minister went to North-East Lancashire in January. I was there for three days last week.

Before speaking on that matter, I wish to say something about the former Member for Nelson and Colne, Mr. Sydney Silverman. I knew him for 40 years. He was a young solicitor in Liverpool when I started at the Bar and he gave me many of my early briefs. We differed violently politically, but we had exciting times together professionally. I had a great admiration for him. I admired him for his courage, for his knowledge of procedure and his respect and feeling for the House of Commons and for his generosity of mind. I remember one case particularly when he showed this just after Mr. Profumo's resignation. In spite of political differences, we maintained friendly relations. The last time he came to the House I remember walking up the stairs with him to the Members' Lobby. Had he still been alive I think he would have been deeply interested in this debate. I felt that I should like to say those few words of personal tribute.

When I was in North-East Lancashire last week, I attended a meeting of the North-East Lancashire Development Council. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Dan Jones) was there and the Mayor of Burnley was in the chair. It was an all-party meeting. I was told the substance of what the Prime Minister said on his visit in January. He had said that the Government were prepared to act in advance of the Hunt Committee's Report, and that North-East Lancashire could not be allowed to suffer further migration. North-East Lancashire had had a tough time and had difficulties greater than the rest of the country. He looked forward to better times for the area at an early date.

He went on to say on 8th January that a turn round in the economy had already taken place and that there was clear evidence that the pace of pick-up was quickening, particularly with the advantages provided by devaluation. He left behind an atmosphere of modified hope, but at the meeting of the development council I heard how ill-founded those hopes have proved. I heard a very different story with reference to the actual facts of what is happening in the locality, rather than mere theorising. I was told that in the last two months there had been no improvement in the confidence of inhabitants of North-East Lancashire in their future.

Although there has been a reduction in the amount of short-time working, the number of wholly unemployed is still higher than it was a year ago. The number of unfilled vacancies is comparatively small. This clearly showed that no industrial expansion was taking place. I was given an example of Burnley Council's plan to rehouse people from London and Manchester and Liverpool at the rate of 250 houses a year. The jobs available have not matched the building which is taking place. In the last six months there have been 224 applications from the South-East for jobs in Burnley, but they could find jobs for only 41 people.

On the question of expansion by local firms, I did not get the feeling that a modification of the i.d.c. policy was expected to do much good. I was given six cases of firms, which otherwise would have expanded in North-East Lancashire, abandoning their plans or thinking of going to a development area. I was given a particular case, which seemed the height of absurdity, in which it was found that it was cheaper to build a factory to house a computer in Liverpool than to provide the computer in an existing building in Nelson.

Through migration from the area since mid-1967, the population has declined by 880 and in the Rossendale Valley I was given some very alarming figures of the trend. Perhaps one mistake of the 1960 Act was to make assistance depend on the local employment statistics. Frequently if there is migration the actual statistics are not the whole story, particularly in a textile constituency where there are women workers.

Mr. Mendelson

That was precisely my argument with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) at the time.

Mr. Lloyd

I have not tried to argue this things on merit in the past. I am glad that this is not to be the test now and that wider considerations will be taken into account. I was given figures which show how one has to look at the facts in each area bit by bit with relation to industrial building. In 1965 the average was 6.9 sq. ft. per insured person in Great Britain, in the North-West is was 6.7 sq. ft., and in North-East Lancashire it was 0.6 per sq. ft. In 1966 it was 8.5 sq. ft. in Great Britain, 7.5 sq. ft. in the North-West and 1.2 sq. ft. in North-East Lancashire. In 1967 I was told the figures would not be likely to be much better. Therefore, it seems quite impossible to say that an area such as this should be treated on a par with other more prosperous expanding and growing areas. Something should be done about it.

One worry there is the question over the Leyland Chorley new town. No doubt this is an excellent project, but an impact study is taking place and the result is expected soon. But that study will be only on the effect of the new town, not the effect on the wider area from South-East Lancashire to Preston. Professor Carter, the Chairman of the Planning Council who has resigned or is about to resign, said that it would be better if the Study were made of the whole area. He said that it was on a false basis. The basic assumption was wrong that the new town would have no advantage over neighbouring areas.

Mr. Ronald Atkins (Preston, North)

The original project was for Leyland Chorley, but it now includes Preston.

Mr. Lloyd

I was quoting Professor Carter. Perhaps the hon. Member would like to take the matter up with him, but leaving aside Preston, it would be better to have a study of the wider area. I was coming to the assumption that the new town would have no advantage over neighbouring areas. It cannot be so. The point made by people in Nelson and Colne and Burnley was that, if there is to be a new town with advantages similar to a development area, no industry will expand in the towns round about Chorley New Town. There must be equality of treatment for the new town and the existing surrounding area, in which case would there be a new town?

I said that I would speak briefly, but I wanted to show, from my personal discussions last week, that there is no feeling of improvement. A more generous i.d.c. policy is not the answer. The problem is urgent. The present situation is intolerable, not only in the area of which I have spoken but in other areas of which hon. Members know. Immediate steps must be taken to deal with these special areas, whatever they may be called.

The question is, what steps? I have already said that there should be an immediate adjustment of the Regional Employment Premium and the S.E.T. premium as between the development areas and the intermediate areas. There must also be an immediate adjustment of investment grants. The advantage of that solution as a short-term measure is that it could be announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer tomorrow. There need be no difficulty about it; it could happen at once.

As for the longer term, I rather agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Battersea, North that it is wiser to await the result of the Hunt Committee's consideration before getting involved too much in policy decisions. But there mast be much more selectivity both within development areas and outside them in the longer term. I do not see how matters can go on as at present. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman also—this is, perhaps, the only other point on which I agreed with him—that a great deal of the target at which public expenditure should be aimed is the improvement of the infrastructure of these areas. They have valuable assets, and it is nonsense to create completely new places for industrial development when there is already the infrastructure of schools, hospitals, roads and so on on which we could build. Many of these places are close to very beautiful countryside. They could be made places to which people would be glad to come and live, migrating from other parts of the country.

5.21 p.m.

Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)

It gives me a good deal of pleasure to follow the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) because I have to tell the House that, although we were both at the same meeting together, the right hon. and learned Gentleman was highly selective in his figures. This is not like the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who is usually very fair. My case is that the Conservative Government were guilty of 13 years of neglect in North-East Lancashire.

I shall speak exclusively of North-East Lancashire, the area comprising Burnley and Nelson and Colne. I saw some self-satisfied smiles on the faces of hon. Gentlemen opposite when I mentioned their 13 years of neglect. I invite the House to look at the figures with me. From 1951 to 1966, this area of the country failed to secure its fair share of the national economic growth. Those years, 1951 to 1966, covered the 13 years of Tory rule and one and a half years of the Labour Government.

In that period, the national growth in the insured labour force was 13.6 per cent. I could tell the House precisely where the changes came. The growth in the insured labour force on Merseyside was no less than 12.5 per cent. The decline in North-East Lancashire was no less than 11.6 per cent. Those figures come from the Ministry of Labour, and I defy any hon. Gentleman to question their authenticity. On the basis of facts, I have the right to accuse hon. Members opposite of calculated hypocrisy when they try to condemn this Labour Government for the industrial decline in North-East Lancashire. We know the truth.

In that same period, in the area of North-East Lancashire which I have mentioned we lost 23,000 jobs, and we lost 9,500 people through migration. If hon. Members opposite are trying to challenge the present Government, they can base their case only on false assumption and political argument.

Sir Frank Pearson

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that more cotton mills have closed during the past two years in Lancashire—a total of about 150 mills—than in any previous two-year period throughout the past 20 years?

Mr. Jones

I shall not dispute that. I am making my case upon the truth. Moreover, I challenge any hon. Member opposite to say that anyone tried to do more to remedy the situation than I have done. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Clitheroe (Sir Frank Pearson) knows the facts and knows what I have done.

The right hon. and learned Member for Wirral gave figures about industrial building in North-East Lancashire. I can give rather different figures, and they are true figures. They were quoted at the meeting in Burnley which he and I attended. In North-East Lancashire we had only one-eleventh of the national rate of industrial building during the period I have mentioned. That is another count in the indictment which I direct at hon. Members opposite. The position was better in 1966, when our share became one-eighth.

But that is not the end of the indictment. I was a Member from 1959 to 1964, and time and again from the Opposition benches I urged that something be done. So much so that I was called by hon. Members opposite and by some people in the constituency "Dismal Daniel". [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite can laugh. I do not give a damn for their laughter. I was representing the interests of my constituents and the people round about, and when the Conservative Government at that time had an opportunity to do something, they did damn-all about it. That is the truth.

Here is an example of the difference between this Government and the Conservative Government. The House will remember well Ellis Smith, the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South. Ellis Smith and I co-operated for months on end with a company in the Midlands over an expansion in Burnley which would have brought 1,000 additional jobs to Burnley. There was to be a minor expansion in Stoke as well. We had reached the stage when we had the chairmen of the development council in Burnley and the development council in Stoke joining forces with us. Everything was settled. But the then President of the Board of Trade, who now sits in the other place as Lord Erroll, refused to give an i.d.c. Those jobs were sent away from North-East Lancashire.

Hon. Members opposite may talk glibly about the relative value of industrial development certificates. Had a more generous i.d.c. policy been applied then, we should have been at least 1,000 jobs to the good at that time. Those are the facts. Time and again, when the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) was President of the Board of Trade, I begged him and other Ministers to come up and see the area for themselves. In the five years 1959–64, not one senior Minister from the Conservative Government came to the area. Only one junior Minister came up, and that was the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw)—now Opposition Chief Whip—when, as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, he paid a visit at my request when I wanted a training centre to be established in Burnley. He came up to analyse the situation, but, in the event, we did not get our training centre.

The indictment against hon. and right hon. Members opposite is heavy, and today's speech from their leading spokesman, the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), savoured very much of almost calculated political hypocrisy.

In the just over three years since the Labour Government came to power we have had in North East Lancashire my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, the President of the Board of Trade, the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Health and the Minister of State, Board of Trade. I do not think that so many people in authority have visited the area in all its history. I do not pretend that the total effect has been satisfactory—[Laughter.]—I am being perfectly honest. That is something that hon. Members opposite have not yet learned.

It is, of course not satisfactory, and I shall be advocating that satisfaction should not be long delayed. But at least we have the free use of i.d.c.s and the Bury by-pass and the Edenfield-Rawtenstall by-passes, which we failed to get from the party opposite. These transport facilities will make a great difference to the area, and more are scheduled. This is concrete work which the party opposite failed to do. But it would not be right to be satisfied, in view of the facts I have given.

I should like to put a plan to the D.E.A. What the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Wirral said about six firms wanting to expand in North-East Lancashire was perfectly fair. I know the firms concerned, and they not only want to expand but to export the production from the expansion, which is truly in the interests of the nation. We shall undoubtedly hear my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer say tomorrow that he wants to transfer about £500 million from national consumption into exports. He will undoubtedly be right, and in that case the expansion of the firms of which I am talking is wanted this year. I believe that if we are to save the £ and the economy we must see to it that devaluation works in 1968; 1969 might be too late.

If those six firms go into development areas, where I agree the financial attractions are very substantial, it will certainly be 1969 by the time they stabilise themselves, tool themselves and train their labour. I want that expansion now because I want the exports in 1968. Even if the gesture were made to the area now it would be belated justice, and there is no reason why the Government cannot decide to give at least 50 per cent. of the difference between 25 per cent. and 45 per cent. grants to these firms which can expand. In short, they and the area at least have the right to the expansion they have earned. That should be possible, and since my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said that we can act in advance of the Hunt Committee if circumstances warrant it, I humbly suggest that, notwithstanding what good work has been done, this seems to be vitally necessary, and there seems to be no reason why it cannot be done for these areas.

I sometimes become very annoyed with responsible people who talk about the area as though it were all cloth caps, satanic mills and cobbled streets. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was quite right when he said that adjacent to such areas there is very lovely countryside. He might have added that throughout the whole of North-East Lancashire there are new central developments, massive and commendable slum clearance works. It is possible to buy a home in North-East Lancashire of comparable value to one in the South for about 50 per cent. of the price. Therefore, people—especially responsible people—must cease to talk about the area in a denigratory manner. It is a commendable and highly civilised area to live in. I have a more than fair knowledge of music, poetry and the arts, and in this area one finds plenty of expression for all three. That is part of living, at least according to my civilised standards.

I find that people talk about Burnley and Nelson and Colne as though they were textile areas. Of course, they are nothing of the sort. The industry of Burnley at present is rather less than 15 per cent. textiles. It is not generally known that from Burnley came the first jet engine. Every jet engine from Sir Frank Whittle's first to the present Concorde engines bears the results of experimentation at a Burnley factory. In one company alone in Burnley we have over 300 research and development engineers, who have made a handsome contribution to aviation through their engines for quite a long period.

Another firm has produced a most ingenious dough-making process for bread. The United Nations should be vitally concerned about products of this kind, with about two-thirds of the world's population living in a sub-standard condition. [Interruption.] I do not know what the hon. Member for Clitheroe is laughing about. If he were living in sub-standard conditions that smile would quickly vanish from his face. I am trying to make a serious contribution. Whether he likes it or finds it amusing is a matter for him, but I shall not be diverted. I persist in saying that this is engineering of a very human character. and that I do not understand why the United Nations has not been more concerned about products of that kind, so that we can send such machines to the areas needing our assistance rather than money, which I am not powerfully convinced is altogether properly used.

Throughout the whole of the three regions there are companies of a comparable standard. It is only two years ago that Lord Brown, a colleague of ours at the Board of Trade, came to Burnley. He went through the industries and spoke to the commercial people and to the people of Burnley. Let us remember that Lord Brown is not really a politician. He is a very shrewd industrialist, able to assess a people very accurately. He said of the people of Burnley that they were ebullient people in an ebullient town.

I seriously ask the D.E.A. to give some regard to my observations and not to be chastened by the Opposition, for there is certainly no need for such a reaction, and I ask the D.E.A. to see that the Conservatives' failure over 13 years is not perpetuated. The area could make splendid use of any opportunity the D.E.A. chooses to give.

5.39 p.m.

Mr. Peter Mills (Torrington)

It is not true to suggest that it is only in the North that there are grey area problems. We certainly have them in the South-West. I speak with experience as a Member representing a constituency which is half and half; half is in a development area and half is not. I know the difference, and the people also know it, for we have seen a very real improvement in overcoming the economic problems in the half which has development area status.

Indeed, this was started by a Conservative Administration. It is true that the present Socialist Administration has extended it, and we are grateful that this has been done. It has certainly made all the difference to North Devon. Over the years we have had 12 or 15 new factories. This has brought hope, and it has helped many young people to find technical employment which they would not have had in the past. So I speak as one who knows the practical advantages of development area status.

But I also speak as one who knows the very real disadvantages of not being in a development area. The grey areas present a very real problem. In my constituency it is almost developing into the "haves" and the "have nots". It is as serious as that. The strange thing is that the development area creates a powerful suction effort. One finds that extensions of existing firms in grey areas do not take place, that the firms are prepared to uproot themselves and move into a development area, with all the advantages that are to be found there.

So the poor grey area suffers doubly. It does not get the factory extensions and, therefore, the employment. Indeed, it loses the small factory that it had. That is the sort of suction effect that occurs. There is no hope, of course, of having any new factories in the grey areas. It is true that the Board of Trade has promised industrial development certificates for certain towns that I have in mind, such as Okehampton, in the grey area. But this never becomes a reality because as soon as it realises that there is no grant the firm immediately looks around and goes to the development area, which may be 12 or 15 miles away. This may be right and the policy that the Government and the Board of Trade want, but it has the very real and serious effect on the small town that, in spite of promises of i.d.c.s, firms never go there because it is not worth their while. So this has a very real suction effect.

The small town of Okehampton has a very considerable problem. We have made many representations to various Ministries and they have always promised to be helpful and give i.d.c.s. But I regret to say that the problem is as bad as ever. Indeed, it is worse. In my constituency the grey area is deteriorating, and will go on doing so unless something is done.

We recently had the Report by Professor Tress on the South-West which went into all these problems in very great detail. Indeed, it spotlighted the problems of the grey areas. It said, in effect, that in such areas agriculture and tourism could not overcome all the problems and that it was necessary for an area like the Okehampton area and, indeed, the Plymouth area, to be included in a development area so that its problems might be overcome.

What has happened? We have had this Report, but the Government have failed to take any notice of it. Certainly they have promised an extension of the motorways in the future, but they have done nothing. It is as if one went into a restaurant and the waiter kept bringing the menu but one never got the food. This is what is happening all the time. We have report after report, but nothing is done. We are now being put off again. We are told that we must wait until the Hunt Committee reports. The menu is being presented again, but we are not getting the help that the area so desperately needs.

I hope that the Minister realises that he has destroyed the confidence of the Regional Developmnt Council. I believe that there will be resignations from it in the very near future because the Government have given nothing to the Council to hang its hat on. There is not one concrete fact to enable it to say, "The Government have taken notice and are going to act." It is very sad. I should have thought that the whole future of regional councils was in jeopardy because the Government have dismissed all that they have recommended.

I want to say something about the men in the grey areas, the people who would like to have these jobs. They are most adaptable men. This has been proved in North Devon, particularly where industry has been brought in. Rural people have been brought into the factories and trained, and they have proved to be very adaptable and willing. The output per man has been very high, and labour relations are very satisfactory. This illustrates what could be done if more light industry were brought into the grey areas. The labour is there and the men are willing and adaptable. With the excellent training schemes that exist, these men can be trained to do a useful job. The country desperately needs increased output per man. These men are willing and ready and need only the help and encouragement.

I cannot understand—I may be going against my own party on this, but I do not really mind—why when the Government have dealt with one problem by having development area status in one place they cannot move on to the next place. When we have had development area status for some time and new industry has been brought in and things have begun to work in the area, why cannot the Government then be more flexible and move on to the next area which needs help?

Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)

This is exactly what we did under our series of development or scheduled areas. We had the courage to de-schedule areas after the medicine had been received.

Mr. Mills

I am very glad to hear that. I hope that the Government will take note of it. I believe that that is the solution to the problem of the grey areas. Speaking for my constituency, I am certain that once the problem has been righted in a certain area it would be correct o move on to deal with other areas.

I speak from experience on a very minor scale compared with the very big problems in the North of England, but even though it may be on a minor scale, these are very real problems to the people in the grey areas. I should have thought that there should have been a little more flexibility on the part of the Government and that the Government should take note of reports of regional councils and certainly act upon something. They should have the guts and courage to say, if necessary, "We cannot do it all at once but we will at least do something." If that could be done, I am sure that in time these problems could be overcome.

5.49 p.m.

Mr. Derek Page (King's Lynn)

I listened with great interest to the speech by the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph). I should have found it a little more compelling if I had not seen some of the rather desultory results of that planning in my part of East Anglia.

When I was elected in 1964 I found that a large estate to accommodate overspill from London under an agreement with the Greater London Council was just being completed, but virtually no factories were coming to offer employment. We ended up shortly after that with 400 empty houses—in a country with a desperate housing shortage—and we had to start right from the bottom buildings up the flow of i.d.c.s. I know that we quadrupled this over the following two years compared with the previous two years only by the good-hearted support and sympathy of the Board of Trade, which has been extremely helpful under the legislation as it stands.

I have been perturbed and depressed to hear one hon. Member after another speak of "intermediate areas". We have also seen this phrase many times in the Press. Time and again we are given the impression that the really bad problem which dominates everything is unemployment and that all our help must go towards solving it. Of course it is a very bad problem for those areas which have it, but there are other problems which, although different in nature, can be much worse and, indeed, in some parts of the country are worse.

In East Anglia and other areas there are parts where average incomes are just about at the level of social security benefits. Yet taxation from such areas goes to helping areas with unemployment problems—where perhaps 5 per cent. are unemployed—and this aids not only the unemployed but also the 95 per cent. who are employed. Every man in such an area is getting more than my people get after a week's work, yet my people have to contribute towards help for development areas.

No wonder that people get angry and that I get complaints that "So-and-so up the street will not take a job because he gets more from the unemployment benefit than when he is at work". I can understand that feeling, but the answer is not to cut the benefit but to raise the standard of earnings in those areas. We have to understand that the problems of these areas are at least as important as unemployment. The great emphasis on unemployment has been due to the hard work put in by hon. Members for such constituencies. I do not blame them, but it is time that more noise was made about the pressing problems of low-wage areas such as East Anglia.

It is a pleasure to be able to congratulate the Government at this time, and I do so on the work of the Hunt Committee. This is a considerable step forward in regional planning, and I congratulate the members of the Committee on the pace at which they have got on with their work. I understand that they will finish taking written evidence at the end of this month, which indicates that their report might be expected towards the end of the year. That is only a guess, but I expect to see that kind of time scale. The Committee has got a move on, and my sincere thanks go to it.

I also pay tribute to the various committees and other public-spirited bodies in Norfolk which have put in a tremendous amount of time drawing up evidence of the problems of their own areas. One report, by the "Growth In Norfolk Campaign Committee", sets out in great detail the pressing problems of Norfolk. I recommend my right hon. Friends responsible to read it. It is first-rate material. Several other bodies are putting in a lot of time collecting evidence to submit.

The questions put by the Hunt Committee make good sense. The first is, what should be the criteria for the definition of these intermediate areas? One must criticise the narrowness of the previous basis. I have already mentioned, with some heat, how I feel about the unfairness of the concentration on areas of unemployment. The previous system has had a strongly deleterious effect on the development of overspill towns. It is true that, since the Government came to office, there has been a greater move towards regional planning, but this needs strengthening much more.

There is a strong tendency for development areas to draw away firms which would otherwise have gone to the overspill areas, and that makes consistent planning extremely difficult. Time and again, I am told that the Government are not refusing industrial development certificates for the overspill towns, and I am sure that that is largely true. But we know what happens. It is not that these certificates are refused but that, as soon as a firm inquires where it would be suitable for it to go, it is shunted to a development area and it never reaches the stage of putting in an application for an i.d.c. I ask my right hon. Friends in the Departments dealing with this problem, particularly the Board of Trade, to ensure that pressure is not put on these firms, behind the scenes, before they reach the stage of applying for an i.d.c. Many of us are convinced that that is where the damage is done rather than in the refusal of i.d.c.s for which applications have been made.

One difficulty which the Hunt Committee will meet is in establishing the proper boundaries of the grey areas, because the boundaries of the regions of Britain are based on antiquated administrative criteria which do not conform in most cases to economic reality. When I lived in the Lancashire areas we had constant trouble in the local authorities in trying to achieve proper planning because, although the Mersey Basin is one economic geographic area, the hostility between one side of the river and the other and the difference in treatment between the two produced great friction.

In East Anglia, the only official statistics which we are able to get refer to East Anglia as a whole. That includes Essex, with Dagenham, Romford and other places with a lot of industry and high levels of employment and earnings. It is economic nonsense to take East Anglia as including such areas. An economic area must be considered as an area of a common economic life, and in East Anglia it is clear that there is a great part, which seems to stretch from Wisbech through King's Lynn and Fakenham to the Suffolk coast, where the economic features differ tremendously even from parts of South Norfolk and certainly from Suffolk. That is an area which suffers badly from low earnings.

I ask that the boundaries for areas for which statistics are provided should be realistically drawn. I realise the problems which must be incurred in doing so, but the Hunt Committee has a competent staff and the effort should be made. What should the new criteria be? First, I press most strongly that low earnings should be a prime criterion for consideration of help in any future Government policy changes. It is utterly beyond bearing, as I have mentioned, that a man can put in a full week's work for just about the social security level.

There are large stretches of East Anglia where earnings of £14 a week are not only common but average. I have here tax tables which show income as distinct from earnings. They certainly show that incomes in the area call for attention. I will give the figures on the 1964–65 basis. These show that 50 per cent. of the families had incomes below £825 a year. In the United Kingdom as a whole, 50 per cent. of wage earners earned up to slightly more than £900 a year.

Mr. Peter Mills

I remind the hon. Gentleman that it is even worse in some parts of the South-West, where the figure is only £12 a week.

Mr. Page

One of the difficulties is that statistics for employment and earnings are not drawn up by counties. A map was published in the Observer about 12 months ago showing income per head county by county, and Norfolk and Cornwall were the lowest in the country. But there are major differences between different parts of Norfolk.

Migration should also be considered. Our unemployment is a little above the national average, but it has been kept down by migration. Graphs which the Growth in Norfolk Committee has carefully prepared show this tendency. The 1961 sample census showed that the population structure in Norfolk was about the same as in Great Britain as a whole up to the age of 30, but considerably lower during the working life from 30 to 60 compared with the rest of the country, while there was an excess of old folk in Norfolk. As many of the services for old folk are paid for out of local income, that burden falls on the backs of local workers. The 1966 census showed the position to be even worse, because the proportion of youngsters had markedly dropped and the proportion of workers appeared to be a little worse, while the proportion of old folk was slightly higher. This deterioration must be due to the migration pattern, which also masks unemployment.

We also have areas of seasonal unemployment. Although the average for the county is only a little above the national level, some areas on the coast, such as Hunstanton, do not have too bad a position in the summer, but get into a catastrophic state in the winter. The problem of seasonal unemployment requires separate consideration and separate remedies.

As others have rightly said, the infrastructure needs attention. It is impossible to build a sensible social structure by building factories alone. The infrastructure must be built as well, but in Norfolk, although some local authorities want to attract firms from London, the firms are sometimes reluctant to come because of the lack of facilities, such as entertainment centres. This creates a vicious circle, because the local authorities do not have the money to get on with such schemes until the factories have arrived and are contributing to the rates. Special help to build the infrastructure should be considered.

Another factor is that of economic credibility. Large public funds go into areas where it is difficult to see any sense in building up industry. Some parts of the present development areas have persistent low levels of unemployment, but are still entitled to the grants. I wonder what sense it makes to encourage industry to go to Kendal or Keswick. They may have a good argument, but it is nonsense to encourage industry to go to those areas rather than to Norfolk.

By "economic credibility" I mean whether it will make sense in the return on the public money invested. Some parts of East Anglia have large resources of manpower resulting from the rundown of manpower in agriculture and they have other facilities which would show a good return from a build-up of industry. For instance, a tremendous source of power is available, just off the coast, from natural gas. These potential economic factors are present and we ought to take account of the likely return on public money invested in one area as against the other, and I hope that the Hunt Committee will note that consideration.

Incomes in my area are scandalously low. It is sometimes said that the cost of living in rural areas is extremely low and that in the countryside people live on next to nothing. But that is absolute nonsense, as the figures in the Family Expenditure Survey of 1966 show. It is true that rents are about 10s. a week below the national average, but some telling points emerge from the rest of the figures. The cost of fuel and light is the same as the national average, as is the cost of food, which some people assume to be cheaper in the country. Expenditure on clothing is the same, while transport is appreciably more expensive because of the greater distances which people have to travel. There is less expenditure on alcoholic drinks compared with the towns. Expenditure on tobacco is only 19s. compared with 23s. 9d. in the rest of the country, and expenditure on domestic durables such as vacuum cleaners and television sets is only 20s. 3d. compared with 26s. 11d., but that is because the people in these areas do not have the money left to spend on those things. That is the picture of Norfolk and other areas which emerges from the figures of expenditure and income.

The remedy for these economic difficulties is, first, realistic boundaries. The present boundaries of areas for which statistics are available are economic nonsense, and realistic boundaries must be drawn in the consideration of remedies for the problems of the grey areas. Secondly, as I have said, it is not just the refusals of i.d.c.s which cause trouble, but the fact that firms are often shunted away before they get to the point of applying for an i.d.c.

Thirdly, capital investment is needed. If earnings are to be increased, it is imperative to have capital-intensive industry. Decent earnings cannot be obtained from labour-intensive industries. If earnings in the grey areas are to be raised, the 45 per cent. investment allowance must be applied at least to certain specified centres—and I agree with the use by the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East of the phrase "development centres".

Grants for infrastructure are also imperative if balance is to be obtained, especially in areas such as Hunstanton and Heacham where the building of industry might not make particular sense. The Government should consider the advisability of having Government establishments in these areas. There was considerable local unemployment, distressing half-a-dozen villages in the Bircham area of Norfolk, but the Construction Industry Training Board has done a wonderful job by mopping up unemployment in the villages around. Government Departments on the coastal area of Norfolk could do much to boost employment, particularly during the off-season.

The strengthening of regional government is essential to effective regional policies. There has been some move in this direction by the Government, but it is time that we considered having Select Committees for these areas so that hon. Members could bring much more effective pressure to bear in their investigations and in their representations to Ministers. It is often difficult to get details about regional proposals. Select Committees which could bring forward and examine witnesses on regional developments are long overdue and should be urgently considered. One last point—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—I have waited a long time to make it. I have great fears about some of the effects of the Transport Bill on rural areas—[An HON. MEMBER: "What about Beeching?"] Yes, we had a rotten deal from Beeching and I hope that the Transport Bill will not have a similar effect on road transport in remote rural areas.

I appreciate the need to build up the railways, but large areas of Norfolk do not have railways at all and are much more dependent on road transport than those in the towns realise. A limit of 100 miles may be small in a large conurbation, but North Norfolk, which is just over 100 miles from London, almost the only conurbation within reach, will feel a disproportionate effect from this arbitrary limit—

Mr. Bert Hazell (Norfolk, North)

Would my hon. Friend not agree that such remaining railway lines as there are in rural Norfolk are now threatened with almost immediate closure?

Mr. Page

We are negotiating about that, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his help in putting on this pressure, for which I, too, have had some responsibility. Does the 100-mile limit make sense in these areas? Firms might tend to stay within 100 miles of London rather than risk a refusal of licences.

One hon. Member after another has spoken about the employment problems of North-East Lancashire, but until now, no one has spoken about Norfolk. Through the Hunt Committee, the Government are offering us a chance of action. When we get these firms, as I am sure we shall, the trade unions will have to play their part to see that some of the extra income goes to the workers, which has not always happened. All the wings of the Labour movement have a part to play, and I hope that the political wing will now do its part.

6.13 p.m.

Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)

I have one short, sharp suggestion for the Hunt Committee and the Government Front Bench. If the Government are determined upon this violent discrimination between those who get the "lolly" and those who do not, they must realise that there will be a blight at least 50 miles from, and parallel to, the frontiers of the development areas, as was so well explained by my hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills), through whose constituency runs such a frontier.

I am against this violent contrast. It would be far better to concentrate not on direct industrial aid but on the infrastructure, the housing and those things which make for the quality of life. I fear that the Government are too far committed to their present policy to hope for a reversal, but, instead of drawing the frontier around those areas which are particularly badly done by, it should be drawn the other way around—around those which it is particularly desired to hit.

By drawing a frontier around Wales, Scotland and the North, we would primarily hit not Birmingham or London but the areas between Birmingham and the North, Birmingham and Liverpool and Birmingham and the Welsh border. They will experience the suction effect, and they are not the areas which this Government or anyone else want to damage, or at least not to expand. Those areas are the Midlands, the West Midlands and the South-East.

Would it not be better to recognise that, difficult though it may be politically, and to draw the boundaries around such areas as it is desired not to expand and to allow the remainder, while having less benefit than development areas at present get, to have at least some benefit? That is a suggestion for the Hunt Committee and is in line with the general proposal that unemployment should no longer be the criterion. That is the message from the C.B.I. and from the Lancashire and Merseyside Development Association. All recent reports have been unanimous that other criteria should be considered, in which case I think that the boundaries which I suggest will be found to be right.

Then the areas disadvantaged will be those which it is desired to disadvantage, which already have a high rate of growth and production and are in danger of boiling over. Therefore, if this contrast is to continue, if these rebates are to continue, if this policy of all-or-nothing on each side of the frontier is to continue, the frontier must be redrawn on that basis.

After all, I do not believe that the Government wish to hit the grey areas. Neither the Government, the Hunt Committee nor anyone else believes that the desired effect in the intermediate or grey areas is achieved by means of i.d.c.s. First, those who might apply are shunted off into development areas or shunt themselves off, because they get such enormous benefits thereby. I am sure that North-East Lancashire, Norfolk and half of my hon. Friend's constituency would be much better off if the frontier could be drawn negatively rather than positively, with an eye to the areas which we wish to damp down rather than to those which we wish to pump up. I promised to be brief, and I think that I have observed that promise.

6.18 p.m.

Mr. Edward Lyons (Bradford, East)

I hope to be even briefer in the hope that one or two other hon. Members may be called—and I hope that that will be remembered in my favour in future.

I am the first speaker so far from the West Riding of Yorkshire, although I am aware that others, including the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Haseldine) whose constituency adjoins mine, have been waiting patiently, listening and learning and hoping to speak. Perhaps, to some extent, I can speak for them.

I am concerned about the Government's policy over areas such as mine in Bradford. The more help which is given to development areas the worse becomes the situation of towns in the West Riding. For example, in Bradford we have been losing 2,000 jobs a year for the last five years, and this year we have lost nearly 4,000. The population has been leaving at the rate of 8,000 a year since 1961.

These results are due to an over-dependence on one industry and a lack of amenity which is comparable to larger towns in Britain. When an industrialist situated in Bradford thinks of expanding his business, he is likely to do it elsewhere in a development area. If he thinks of coming to a place like Bradford, he says, "How does it compare in amenity with certain larger towns?" If amenity is what he wants, and if he decides that Bradford cannot provide it, he goes to a larger town. Or he may say, "What about the financial inducements?", and then decides to go to a development area. While the Government are seeking to prevent a few hundred people from leaving development areas, 8,000 people a year are leaving Bradford. I am sure that that situation is repeated in many towns in the West Riding.

I know that it is a long-settled policy of the Board of Trade not to assist grey areas. The right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) carefully did not say what the Conservatives had done for the grey areas during their period of office. They did nothing at all. We are reaping the cumulative fruits of that long period of neglect.

I hope that the Government will consider how much they can get for the investment of each £ in a grey area compared with what they can get from the investment of each £ in a development area. While they are creating a few hundred jobs in development areas by the expenditure of a fixed sum, they might find that the expenditure of the same sum would prevent thousands of people from leaving the grey areas in the West Riding.

It is essential to attract people to industrial estates. It is interesting to note that in Bradford an average of only 13 industrial development certificates a year were issued between 1961 and 1966. That is not the sort of number which will produce a revolution in towns of that kind. Over half the working population is employed, directly or indirectly, in the textile industy. That industry is fighting hard to keep abreast of modern developments and to keep its markets. But mills are closing and the labour force is contracting, partially due to the introduction of modern methods.

There are real problems. Unless the Government appreciate that the harm done to some other areas may be greater than the good which their assistance does to development areas, the present trend will continue. I beseech them to pay heed to what is happening in areas such as the West Riding. I feel that when the Hunt Committee reports the picture will be shown in its stark reality, and that does not suggest a great future for areas such as mine.

6.23 p.m.

Sir Frank Pearson (Clitheroe)

I shall be very brief. The number of interventions made in this short debate indicates how important is the subject of the grey areas. It is clear that there is great dissatisfaction and unease, not only in North-East Lancashire, which is particularly badly hit, but in many other parts of the country, because the development district policies which have been applied since 1966 are totally misconceived. They are unbalancing industrial development and distorting the normal industrial development, and in the existing situation of stagnation it is very doubtful whether they are doing any good at all to the so-called development districts.

The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Dan Jones) referred to North-East Lancashire. I was sorry that he dwelt so much on the past and so little on the present. The people of North-East Lancashire want to know what will happen to them and what action the Government propose to take. I particularly regret that there is not a Cabinet Minister on the Government Front Bench to tell us what the people of North-East Lancashire can expect. They will be particularly grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir Keith Joseph) for stating where the Conservative Party stand and for saying that help will be given to areas such as North-East Lancashire even if their demands take assistance from the development districts. We shall not begin to deal with this very difficult problem until an entirely new look is taken at development district policy.

Is it right that a great industry like Fords on Merseyside, which is profitable and well-established, should draw about £1 million per annum in subsidies for their employees when places like East Lancashire receive no assistance at all? Surely there is a case for the grey areas, which were in the forefront of the first industrial revolution but which are lagging behind in the second. I do not think that anyone in North-East Lancashire would ask for full development status to be given to the area, but we ask for special consideration and some assistance for investment in machinery and priority in the development of communications. Nothing more useful could be done for North-East Lancashire than to sanction as a matter of the highest priority a new motorway linked with the motorway at Preston.

As the hon. Member for Burnley said, many Ministers have visited the area in the last two or three years. The other day we had the President of the Board of Trade. We have had the Prime Minister. But after every visit all we get is another inquiry and another committee. That is no good. I hope that when the Parliamentary Secretary replies he will be able to give the people of North-East Lancashire a solid promise of assistance. If he does not, an amount of disillusionment will be created in North-East Lancashire from which his Party will never recover. Let the hon. Gentleman tell us what the Government propose to do for North-East Lancashire. The time for promises and inquiries is past. We want action.

6.28 p.m.

Mr. E. S. Bishop (Newark)

I wish to be very brief because a few more Members wish to take part in the debate, which is of great importance to many areas, and the grey areas need far more publicity than they have had. While we welcome the great support in the way of finance and facilities given by the Government to the development areas, the grey areas need far more of the industrial and financial spotlight than they have been getting.

I wish to make two main points. First, there should be a reassessment of the grey areas based not purely on geographical considerations, but on various other factors. One is the population loss from dying industries. We should have regard to the contraction of industries such as mining and textiles. We should have regard to the unattractive industrial environment in some places. I refer to slag heaps, disused factories and other factors which do not make the areas very attractive industrially or socially. We should have regard to the over-concentration on one or two areas. Speaking on behalf of my colleagues in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, in particular, I refer to the coal mining industry, in which the contraction will be very considerable between now and 1980, and to those areas in which the textile industry is contracting.

We should have regard to the poor communications in many areas, to the lack of good routes and roads and to areas in which travelling distances for workers are very great. We should certainly have regard to the low earnings of the workers of many regions. This aspect has been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Derek Page) and others. In the East Midlands area, the average earnings are below the national average. This represents a real problem. We should also have regard to the poor industrial facilities.

The Hunt Committee should be approaching its task on the basis of these considerations as well as the others which have been raised in the debate. On those grounds, I suggest that there should be a new assessment of the basic needs of these areas. There should be a review to channel some of the help—which is now likely to go to the development areas—to the grey areas, which, unless positive action is taken very soon, will become the black areas and the development areas of the very near future. I believe strongly that i.d.c.s should be given to far more applicants who want to settle in the grey areas after consultation with the local authorities concerned.

My second point is the need for greater public accountability. Firms receiving Government aid in the form of money and facilities should be pressed far more strongly to go to the grey areas and to the development areas if they are to get that assistance. Secondly, where Government aid is given, there should be proper and early consultation concerning possible closures and redundancies. Far too many firms are putting off workers without adequate consultation, with no consultation with economic development boards and councils or with local authorities and no consultation with Government Departments. This is important. Consultation must take place at the earliest opportunity so that all agencies concerned can help to draft more work into these areas and give them the help which they need.

My third point is the important aspect of social and human relations in industry. The workers concerned, who have given their lives to the industry, have a right to know what is going on and should be consulted at the earliest opportunity. The Government should draft small study teams from the Ministry, management and trade unions into some of these areas to ascertain the potential of the firms where industry is dying, so that the potential of the workers and the facilities can be known and, if possible, work can be drafted in as soon as possible. The Government have a job to do in drafting more publicly-owned industries into these areas. I should like to see far more publicly-owned industries taking their part in these areas alongside private enterprise.

These are important points. Those of us who represent the grey areas are concerned about the way things are going, although we recognise the priority which must be given to the development areas. I hope, however, that the points which I and other hon. Members have raised in this debate will be studied very closely, and before the Hunt Committee reports. We hope that that Committee's report will be produced very soon.

6.32 p.m.

Mr. Jasper More (Ludlow)

My constituency is what the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), in reply to a Question from myself, described as a congested area. That is to say, our average of population is about the thinnest and smallest in the country and we live with simply a collection of small country towns. As a result of being in what is called a technically congested area, we get no i.d.c.s for new industries. Our employment rate does not increase appreciably, simply for the reason that our population goes away. It has been declining for a hundred years and is still declining.

We have three problems. One is the proper implementation of i.d.c. policies. This has become so ridiculous in an area like ours that it should be looked at as a matter of urgency, particularly when we are threatened, as we are in part of my constituency, with closure of a coal mine which employs 750 miners.

My second point, to which many hon. Members from rural areas have already referred, is not only the declining population but also their low earnings. Obviously, if the level of earnings is to be brought up to the level of the West Midlands industrial area, more industry must be brought in.

My third point—and these points have been raised both by the Salop County Council and by the West Midlands Economic Planning Council—is the question of overspill areas. I wish in particular to refer briefly to the problem which an hon. Member who spoke earlier probably has in his constituency: that is, the location of a new town.

In my constituency, we have Dawley New Town. Its development is entirely dependent upon the movement of industry into it. Under the i.d.c. system as now administered, industry is not allowed to move into it unless it comes from the very small area of the Birmingham conurbation. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) will remember with pride and only too well the establishment of Dawley New Town. He will know that it has recently been doubled in size by the present Government. It is not much use doubling the size of a new town, however, if no provision is made to bring industry into it.

I urge as a matter of the utmost importance that this problem, which has been brought to the Government's attention both by the county council and by the West Midlands Economic Planning Council, should be given first priority in any reassessment of the existing policies for development areas, grey areas or even, as we are still called in our part of the world, congested areas.

6.35 p.m.

Mr. Raymond Fletcher (Ilkeston)

I can add only a short footnote to what has already been said. I should, however, have liked rather to change the character of the debate, because I object to the terminology which is used. I do not like planning terminology in any event. The terms "grey area" and "intermediate area" give a totally false impression to the industrialists whom we wish to attract to these areas.

They are not grey areas in any sense of that term. That is planners' jargon, which I do not like. They are areas filled with people who have contributed much to the past prosperity of the country and who can contribute even more to our future prosperity. They are areas, and I speak of my own constituency, which contain miners—ex-miners now, unfortunately—who have demonstrated in factory after factory throughout the East Midlands that they can be trained in a very short time to do the most highly-skilled jobs.

It is a matter of great satisfaction to me that the firm which I consider to be the best in the United Kingdom, and I will savage any hon. Member who challenges this—I refer to Rolls Royce—has had remarkable success in taking people literally from the coalface and transforming them into highly-skilled workers in a very short time. Let us, therefore, get away from the image of hunger marchers and grey people with a grey outlook, grey faces and in grey cloth caps. That is not an adequate presentation of the situation as I see it in my constituency and in other constituencies.

These are areas with the labour. They are areas with the skill. They are areas with the adaptability. Let us say to all industrialists who want to expand—and let us hope that even after tomorrow's events there will still be some industrialists who want to expand—that these are the areas in which they should expand, not because we need help, not because we need charity and not because we have 10,000 committees telling them to expand, but because there are very good profits to be made. That is the carrot which will attract those people to these adeas. I proclaim to the entire House, in the fervent hope that it goes outside the House, that there are big profits to be made in my constituency. So come along, boys.

Just as much as I resent some of the terminology, however, and much as I resent at times the constant proliferation of all types of committees, amateur as well as profession, which try to do my job for me as a Member of this House, I resent even more that people in the grey areas are silently suffering. I speak from experience of my constituency.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Board of Trade, with whom I have been practically living in the last two years in an effort to deal with this problem, knows very well that there are many area—mine is a conspicuous example—which have done a lot to help themselves. They have cleared the sites, shifted the slag-heaps, negotiated the loans, bought the land, laid on the sewerage and water. I could give more detail, but I have no time. I had prepared a speech which would have lasted 90 minutes, and I am in difficulty.

These areas, which have helped themselves, have made themselves attractive and have prepared the sites for industry, face one difficulty. I do not quarrel with Board of Trade policy on i.d.c.s, but the difficulty is to bring these areas into effective contact with potential customers for the sites.

I want to make one practical suggestion, and I hope that my hon. Friends from the Department of Economic Affairs will support me in a little campaign which I intend to mount against the Board of Trade on this matter. Would it not be possible for them to establish location of industries bureaux in these areas to act as public relations outfits for the grey areas and the local authorities in the grey areas, and as a means of maintaining effective and fruitful contact between them and industrialists who want to expand?

I repeat, we do not want charity, we want industry, and in my area we can offer industrialists a very good profit.

6.40 p.m.

Mr. Paul Hawkins (Norfolk, South-West)

I am very pleased to follow the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher). I agree with practically everything he said, although my area is not the same as his: on a map, mine would be coloured green: it is a rural area. However, it is suffering from the same sort of problem that we cannot get i.d.c.s. I fought for about 12 months to help bring in a factory which would employ 15 men. The firm had had all sorts of suitable offers in other parts of the country. In the end the firm came, and it has been a great success and has fitted in the sort of people we want employed in that town.

The trouble in my area is the low wages which result from a lack of assistance to agriculture. The agricultural worker in my area sets the tone for wages for everyone else. The average earnings, as I have said on innumerable occasions in this House, of the agricultural worker are £5 a week less, for working five hours a week longer, than the averge of every other manual worker in the country. That is the extent of the problem we have in East Anglia. In my opinion, the first priority ought to be to make agriculture prosperous enough to pay the right wages for skilled men remaining in that industry.

Nevertheless we still want to have suitable industries for our small market towns. One small market town, East Dereham, is famous for the firm of Crane-Fruehauf, and yet we still, nevertheless, have a large number of unemployed for a town of such a size. We do not want charity, but we do need light industries, and I would ask the Board of Trade to be a bit easier about issuing i.d.c.s. We have highly-skilled men who can maintain very expensive machinery on the farms, but many, especially of the younger men, are looking for jobs off the farms and in light industry and we badly need light industries in my part of the world.

Mr. Hazell

Would the hon. Member not agree that when an industry goes into a purely agricultural area somehow or another the agricultural industry is able to pay higher wages—because of the competition for labour?

Mr. Hawkins

I do not think that is correct. Otherwise earnings would be higher. I do not believe that that is in fact the case. I am sorry to disagree with the hon. Member. I know the interest he has in farm workers and in the agricultural industry in his part of the world, but I still do not agree.

The costs of living of the sort of people I am talking about are far heavier than many townpeople believe. This has got to be borne in mind. The majority of farm workers today in my constituency have to have a car to travel to work, and that is a costly thing, and I am very much afraid that we may find it even more costly after tomorrow. In addition, though it sounds strange, food costs in many small market towns are higher—because we have not got supermarkets. A very large number of retired people have come into my constituency and they all complain because they cannot go shopping around supermarkets, and their weekly housekeeping costs are several shillings a week more.

In short, in East Anglia, even in the prosperous agricultural areas, we need more i.d.c.s, and we need more help for agriculture to enable it to pay a proper wage for the job.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Davidson (Accrington)

I shall make one of my usual "mini-quickie" speeches and shall make just two points which perhaps will be dealt with in the Government's reply.

I speak for North-East Lancashire, and I want first to suggest that the Minister should suggest to the Hunt Committee that it brings in an interim report, a skeleton report dealing with North-East Lancashire, because in North-East Lancashire we firmly and passionately believe that for remedial measures we should have a short list.

On i. d. cs, I do not want to dwell upon what has already been said except to say that I should like the Minister to consider whether he will not only actively encourage i.d.cs in North-East Lancashire and similar areas but will actively discourage i.d.cs being granted to firms from such areas to develop in development areas. In other words, I want not only the encouragement of i.d.c.s for firms to develop in these development areas, but I want positive disencouragement to them to develop outside them. I believe that the whole purpose of regional policy should be, not to lure industry away from areas like North-East Lancashire, but to lure it from what are described as the over-heated areas.

6.46 p.m.

Mr. A. G. F. Hall-Davis (Morecambe and Lonsdale)

I think all of us will pay tribute to the brevity of the remarks of the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Arthur Davidson). The whole tone of the debate has been one of moderation, but I should not like the Government to be under any illusion, because of that, about the fact that there exists very considerable bitterness and dismay in the grey areas at the apparent lack of urgency with which the Government are addressing themselves to this problem.

My hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) was one of many who put their finger on the difficulties. Like my hon. Friend's, my constituency is half in and half out of a development area. He spoke of the suction effect being strongest on the nearest localities. I think that that has been the theme which has run through many of the speeches in the debate. He also said that in his view the grey area half of his constituency was deteriorating. This brings us to another point which is perhaps one of the crucial issues of the debate.

I believe that there is a general feeling in the grey areas that their position is deteriorating, that they are not enjoying as good prospects at the moment as they were some years ago. We have had, by chance, a considerable emphasis on North-East Lancashire. There was the speech of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Dan Jones) and the speech by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), who has paid a great deal of attention to that area, and now there is myself, by chance replying for the Opposition. As the hon. Member for Burnley knows, I worked in that area for the whole of the 13 years about which he was talking. The whole of my business interests at that time lay in that area. I always endeavoured to subordinate my political views to promoting the general welfare of the interests of the district.

I would offer a view which must be partial but which I am trying to make as impartial as possible—that there was more confidence in the North-East Lancashire area in 1964 before the previous Government left office than there is now. I think it was the hon. Member for Accrington who interjected, "What did the Tories do for North-East Lancashire?"

Mr. Arthur Davidson

No, I did not.

Mr. Hall-Davis

If the hon. Gentleman says i: was not he, then I withdraw that comment. Certainly I heard that in terjection from someone on the benches opposite.

It was designated as a development area for seven years. During that period I was happy to witness a number of major and national firms establishing factories in North-East Lancashire. If one looks at the figures issued by the Lancashire and Merseyside Industrial Development Association as an appendix to its evidence to the Hunt Committee, it appears that North-East Lancashire had a very high approval of industrial building per employee in 1960. The figure was 14.5 sq. ft. per employee. That compares with 1.2 sq. ft. per employee in 1966. I feel that it is not necessary for me to say more than that in order to show that there are at least two sides to the question.

Mr. Dan Jones

While there was a 13.6 per cent. increase in the insured population, there was a decrease in North-East Lancashire of 11.2 per cent. in that same period. Those facts are beyond dispute. When it is remembered that these areas made a tremendous contribution for fifty years to the industrial well-being of the nation, those figures show how they were let down.

Mr. Hall-Davis

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. Having lived there for the whole of my life, I am as well aware as he is of the long-term background, and, in a moment, I shall say a few words about the age structure of the grey areas. He will find that some of the reduction in the employed population in East Lancashire in the 1950s was completely unavoidable due to the deterioration in the age structure which took place in the 'thirties and 'forties, which were grim periods for Lancashire.

I hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will deal with one matter which is of considerable significance to the area, and it is the criticism made by Professor Carter of the fact that the impact study for North-East Lancashire is being based on the assumption that no special development incentives will be available to the Preston New Town. I see great advantages in the Preston New Town concept. It is a development on the scale which one needs to bring life to the area.

That the judgment must be right about the impact on these North-East Lancashire towns is vital to the future of the area. If the decision were taken on the basis that no investment incentive would be given to Preston and then, when the decision to proceed had been taken, the basis of investment attraction in Preston was changed, a grave disservice might be done to North-East Lancashire. This is a point of great substance, and I hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will deal with it.

Throughout the debate, great sympathy has been shown to the development areas, as it has been in the evidence submitted to the Hunt Committee. I believe that we can get the basis of any discussion on the grey areas right only if we are clear that areas with unemployment running at rates of 4 and 6 per cent. should have priority. I am sure that that is something which we all accept.

What I want to do at the outset is to sound a word of caution. The fact that they must have priority does not mean that no help should be given to grey areas until all the problems of every development area are solved. The right course to follow, if the problems of some high unemployment areas proved intractable, would not be to delay action towards solving the problems of the grey areas. It would be to re-examine the efficacy of the present policies pursued in respect of those areas.

I believe fervently, as I have said in this type of debate before, that the grey areas embrace not only some of the major industrial areas in this country and in Europe but areas of fundamental economic strength which are ripe for growth a second time round. We are not trying to rescue a drowning man but are helping someone who has got into a strong current for a particular historical reason. It would be the height of folly to allow the problems of the grey areas to become as grave as, and perhaps even more intractable than, those of many districts now designated as development areas.

I want to turn to the Government's present attitude towards the grey areas, and this ties up with and in some way refutes what the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) said in his speech. I do not know whether they do it deliberately or unwittingly, but the Government try to give the impression that they adopt a position of benevolent neutrality towards the grey areas. In fact, they split their attitude into three. The first is one of positive financial encouragement to investment in the development areas. The second is one of firm restrictions, through the control of industrial development certificates, on expansion in what one might call the fully prosperous or congested areas. The third is an intermediate attitude to the grey areas, with no financial incentives to investment but the freer granting of industrial development certificates. Incidentally, when I say that no investment incentive is given to the grey areas, I mean that it is no different from that available in prosperous areas.

When one analyses what is happening, one realises that the Government's neutrality is a fiction. To maintain a neutral attitude to the grey areas would mean deciding the correct differential to establish between the financial incentives available for investment in development areas and those in the grey areas and then maintaining the differential unchanged. That would be neutrality. It would mean increasing grey area investment incentives step by step with development area investment incentives, while taking no action about the truly prosperous regions. That has not been done. Each time that the Government have increased aid to the development areas, they have committed a hostile act to the economy of the grey areas. That was particularly evident when the Regional Employment Premium was introduced, and it has happened again with the withdrawal of the Selective Employment Premium from manufacturing industry in the grey areas and its retention in the development areas.

There are other reasons why the Government's intermediate attitude of neutrality is a fiction, and this hinges upon the problem of control through industrial development certificates. That control operates only on new buildings. Firms can stuff as much new plant and machinery into existing buildings as they can get in them—and it is a fact of life that, in the prosperous regions, factories tend to be newer than those in the grey areas. As modern machinery is very compact, in the prosperous regions obsolete machinery can be replaced and new projects can be launched in existing buildings having a reasonable expectation of life and an acceptably high degree of suitability.

In the grey areas, much industrial building is very much older. The construction of buildings is often such that they are unsuitable for new machinery. Even when it is a case of normal renewal as a result of obsolescence, the argument for housing the replacement machinery in a new building is very much stronger. So the management begins to look around. The knowledge that there will be an industrial development certificate available at the other end of the town is a poor makeweight for the availability in a development area of a 25 or 35 per cent. building grant, a 45 instead of a 25 per cent. investment grant, and a wage-cost advantage of almost £100 a year per man.

I am not saying that these things are necessarily wrong for the development areas, although they seem to involve a heavy expenditure for each new job provided. But it is not possible for the Government to pretend that they are maintaining an attitude of benevolent neutrality towards the grey areas when they have progressively widened over the last two years the investment differential between the grey and the development areas.

There is one last reason which has been brought out by a number of hon. Members, but particularly by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) as to why it is nonsense to say that there is no discrimination against the grey areas of the North compared with the more prosperous Midlands and South-East. It is that the grey areas of Lancashire and Yorkshire are much closer geographically to the development areas. It is much easier to move a factory from Central Lancashire to Merseyside or from the West Riding of Yorkshire to the Northern Development Area than from London either to Merseyside or the North. Not only is it easier to move, but it is much easier for the senior staff to reorient their own personal lives to their new surroundings and, therefore, there is less inhibition about moving. It is also much easier to supervise an additional factory or a subsidiary factory in a development area if the main base is comparatively near. These are all reasons which militate against the grey areas.

I accept that the investment incentive bait is intended for industry in the Midlands and the South-East, but I believe that it is all too often increasingly swallowed by firms from the grey areas. This is why I suggest that there is taking place an erosion of the industrial base of the grey areas and that people there are right in sensing it.

The Government are in a position to test that statistically. It is shown in the Third Report of the Estimates Committee. The Board of Trade's estimates for investment grants were first prepared on the basis that the qualifying expenditure would be in the same proportion as the number of people employed inside and outside development areas, 20 per cent. to 80 per cent. We have not had a full year's figures, as the Minister knows, but the evidence to the Estimates Committee suggests that claims are being received in the ratio of 33⅓ per cent. to 66⅔ per cent. a ratio not of one to four but of one to two.

This is welcome for the development areas, of course, but I should like to know whether any action is being taken by the Government to find out who is getting less than average investment under this new scheme. That should be determined. Can the Joint Parliamentary Secretary tell us whether it has been done, whether an investigation has been set in train, and, if not, can he give an undertaking to do so, because this is evidence which should be available to the Hunt Committee?

I turn to the question of urgency. One might think that because this is a long-term cycle and the industrial structure is weakening comparatively slowly, perhaps the need for urgent action is not very great. It is not only that the industrial structure of the grey areas is being weakened the age structure is being distorted. There is a grave danger that the young, active elements of the community are leaving and, if they do, they are hard to attract back.

Another point of perhaps even greater importance is that the skill structure of these grey areas is being weakened. Week by week and month by month we see advertisements appealing for skilled people to take their craft and work to the congested areas of the country. This cannot be reversed quickly.

What can the Government do? Briefly, for the holiday areas—and some of these are remote and have particular problems—the Government could and should act on the Hotel and Catering Economic Development Committee's recommendations that tax assistance should be given to hotel establishments on the same basis as it is given to industrial establishments. I must declare an interest here, which is well known, at any rate to some people.

There is the question of severe rural depopulation. I am glad that this was brought out in the debate, because it is a real problem. This should be met by the Government creating mini-growth centres in the more remote areas. That may require the largest inducements of all to make it work, but in this modern era our farming communities cannot be restricted to one-job communities or one-industry communities. It is not fair on the young people who are growing up in farming families.

What should be done in the industrial grey areas? May I put in one specific plea: that the Government should separate the anti-dereliction provisions of the Industrial Development Act from the general investment incentive provisions. It would not be a highly controversial step to have a geographical basis for the anti-dereliction provisions different from that for the investment provisions of the Act. But the first priority, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) said, is to create confidence. That lies at the base of the question, because the need is for the renewal of social and industrial capital investment.

Investment requires a high cash flow from the Government for the infrastructure, and particularly for road communications. It also requires a high cash flow from trade and industry covering commercial as well as industrial investment. It requires a high' cash flow from individuals, because much housing renewal must come in the private sector financed by the owner-occupier and his building society. The people in these areas are among the thriftiest in the country and they have a strong sense of local pride. They will save and invest, given the confidence to do so.

Concerning the grey areas, I suggest that the Government are in the position of underwriters. In resolving the problems of the grey areas—and we literally cannot afford not to solve them—the higher the degree of confidence in the undertaking the more capital will be forthcoming from other sources and the less the Government themselves will have to find in the long run. This is why, to restore confidence, the Government must declare their attitude now, even if they are not able to outline in full a detailed policy.

7.8 p.m.

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

May I start by congratulating the hon. Gentleman the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. Hall-Davis) on what I believe is his first appearance on the Opposition Front Bench? I hope this first appearance will be followed by many more.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) objected that there was no Cabinet Minister present. Quite frankly, having listened to most of the speeches from the Opposition, I do not think that a Cabinet Minister was necessary. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] In fact, I think that my back-bench colleagues have appropriately dealt with most of the points that were made.

Sir K. Joseph

I think that the Joint Under-Secretary is making a bad start to his speech. The complaint from this side is that the subject deserves a Cabinet Minister.

Mr. Williams

I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that there have been Ministers from the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and my own Department present during the debate. It is interesting to ask how many Opposition Front Bench Members have been present during the debate.

Sir Frank Pearson rose—

Mr. Williams

I am sorry, but I have, in all fairness, confined myself to one speech. I have co-operated as fully as I can with hon. Members opposite to give back-benchers an opportunity to contribute to the debate. I think I am entitled, not having interjected very often, at least to make my points.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, North-East raised a great many points. One concerned the South-West. He referred to the spine road and said that the Government had said no to it. This is a misrepresentation of the fact, because the approvals for roads in the South-West that were given, in response to the Tress Report, amount to £70 million over and above previously known schemes.

The hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) referred to Plymouth and its case as a development area.

Mr. Peter Mills

And Okehampton.

Mr. Williams

And Okehampton. One must not forget the hon. Gentleman's constituency interest. It is perfectly legitimate.

I would ask only one question: how can one justify a locality with 3 per cent. unemployment being given development area status when we consider the unemployment level in the development areas overall? The hon. Member for Torrington agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Sir Frank Pearson), who said that he wanted to deschedule some of the development areas. I cannot help wondering whether the hon. Gentleman would include those districts in his own constituency which have a far lower unemployment level than the areas he would deschedule as development areas.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East, spoke of 36 advance factories being empty. I do not understand why he got so indignant about this position. During the 13 years when the Conservatives were the Government they built 49 advance factories—that is all. We have built 53 advance factories in 3 years, and 37 of them are already allocated. I think that any hon. Member who has an advance factory in his constituency, even if it is at present standing empty, would rather have it there than have to wait, after a possible customer has been found, for planning permission and the period necessary for construction.

The interesting feature of the debate is that the subject was chosen by the Opposition, but had the Conservatives had a regional policy when they were the Gov ernment, the debate would not have been needed. Much of it has revolved around the preference given to development areas, but this preference is given now to make up for the lack of fair treatment of the development areas during the Conservatives' period of office.

During the Tory period of office, the number of insured working population increased by 11 per cent. In the development areas it increased by only 6 per cent., but in other areas by as much as 15 per cent. The average, as I say, was 11 per cent. Had the Conservative Government had a regional policy, and if they had spread that 11 per cent. evenly throughout the country—though I recognise that it is not always possible in these matters to get absolute uniformity—it would have ment that Wales would have had another 30,000 jobs over and above those in 1964, Scotland would have had 190,000 more jobs, the North of England would have had 65,000 more, and we would not have needed to worry about R.E.P. and all the other incentives which incense hon. Members opposite. Interestingly enough, even the grey or intermediate areas would have benefited if only the Conservative Government had achieved a more even distribution of employment.

I take as an example the North-West, to which many hon. Members opposite have referred. During the period in which the average rate of growth was 11 per cent., the rate in the North-West was 1.7 per cent. Had there been the same growth there as in the country as a whole, the North-West would have had a quarter of a million more job opportunities available. That is one of the facts that has to be faced. With the same distribution in the East Riding and the West Riding, there would have been 110,000 more jobs. Therefore, the development areas might not now have been development areas, and the grey areas, as hon. Members opposite call them, perhaps would not be grey. The consequence was that when we came to office it was inevitable that our first responsibility had to be the high unemployment level in the development areas. We are now working on policy for the intermediate areas.

As numerous references have been made to the work of the Hunt Committee, let us first establish the form that its work takes. The Committee has two major functions: first, it must deal with the diagnosis and definition of areas, and then it has to prescribe an appropriate solution. Diagnosis and definition are not easy. We have all heard the wide range of criteria that hon. Members have thought would be appropriate.

By contrast, the development areas are easy to define, because while they have probably all the characteristics that have been put forward by hon. Members as qualifying their constituencies, or parts of them, for grey area or intermediate area status, they have, above all, this high level of unemployment. This is the common element among them which makes definition much easier—

Mr. Hawkins


Mr. Williams

No. As I explained earlier, I did not interject in anyone else's speech. I have tried to avoid interrupting any hon. Member, and I should now like to get on with the debate.

I want to demonstrate, not that we should not have a classification of areas—that is why the Hunt Committee was set up—but some of the difficulties that confront us and which make it impossible to have simple criteria.

Emigration has been quoted as a suitable criterion for intermediate status. No one would deny that, for some areas, migration is a problem, that it leads to loss of skill, to break-up of family units and to waste of social capital, but, in itself, that is not enough, because there are other areas in which migration is of benefit because it relieves pressure on inadequate social capital. We must be careful not just to substitute the population argument for the employment argument, because population is not static: it is a dynamic, mobile element, and there should not be anything sacrosanct about population distribution if people are willing to move from an area. Otherwise, we are in danger of allowing the unplanned pattern of the 1870s to dictate the planned pattern of industry and society that we want to create for the 1970s.

Poor communications was another factor mentioned. Many of us could quote examples of poor communications in our areas, but those are areas that we all agree to be intermediate areas, while there are other areas that none of us would seek to propose as intermediate areas. Poor communications alone are not an adequate criterion.

My hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Derek Page) spoke very eloquently about low earnings, and said that, to some extent, the earnings level has to be related to costs. In the case he quoted the disparity was very wide, but in other localities the margin is much narrower. It is therefore difficult to decide whether that factor, in itself, would merit the treatment of a locality as an intermediate area.

I agree with those hon. Members who have said that unemployment, in itself, is not adequate for this objective, otherwise we could have a situation in which the Fylde towns would be in and North-East Lancashire—which all of us will agree must receive some form of treatment—would be out because its unemployment is below the average. We also have to decide whether we want a blanket policy or a finer point policy whether we want to deal with localities or subregions. I am not trying to dodge the issue, but seeking to show its sheer complexity, and the sheer diversity of the criteria that have made it necessary for us to establish the Hunt Committee to do the background research and give us the guidance we require before we eventually decide on the policy for the areas.

Many hon. Members have said that these areas are distinctive in that they have hidden unemployment. That point was made in relation to North-East Lancashire. Nobody would deny that hidden unemployment can exist in a place such as that, yet it can exist equally within development areas. In North-East Lancashire there is a high activity rate and, therefore, people put out of work but, in other areas, there is a low activity rate, which means that people have not been able to get work. The difference therefore exists inside and outside the development areas.

The Hunt Committee started its work in October last. I spoke to Sir Joseph Hunt on Friday, and he is fairly confident that he can produce his report in time for Parliament to have it in the autumn. I therefore join my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn—and, I am sure, all hon. Members will agree—in saying that the Hunt Committee should be congratulated on the expedition with which it is dealing with so complex a problem. The early stages of its work inevitably involve a mass of data collection. There has to be a time-lag while every interested body—local authority, the C.B.I., the trade unions, individual firms—can put in their evidence. In this early stage, it is the input from these bodies which dictates the speed of the Committee's work. This stage of the work is nearly completed. We hope that the Committee will soon be able to start on the analysis and its solutions, and recommendations based on its analysis.

A livery contribution was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Dan Jones). He and my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. Arthur Davidson) asked for some form of interim action. The Government have said that they do not preclude this, but we have to hear in mind that most of the problems are not of the type that will be seriously impaired during the six months involved—what has been called "Waiting for Hunt". Dereliction, migration and growth rate are not problems which will suffer very severely or which could be transformed remarkably in this period.

Mr. Hall-Davis

There is the exceptional case, with which I was confronted in my constituency, where a major basic industrial unit might move out with harm to the whole economy of the area.

Mr. Williams

I shall deal with that. One point which has to be borne in mind is that many of the measures which hon. Members would like to see introduced as interim measures would require legislation. If we wanted to give an interim level of R.E.P., which has not been suggested in this debate but it has been suggested elsewhere, that would inevitably mean some form of legislation. Local Employment Act assistance would need some form of legislation. To refuse i.d.c.s for firms leaving certain localities would need certain legislative backing.

If we entered into legislation when we have only a six months' gap before the Committee reports, that legislation would be eating up most of the time in which it would be hoped that the measures would be achieving benefits. I think we would all agree that as the Hunt Committee is so near to reporting we should not prejudge or prejudice the the application of its findings at this stage by designating areas or undertaking policies which might not conform to its recommendations.

Mr. Mendelson

Would not my hon. Friend have to tell the House that six months is not the period because publication of the report will not coincide with the day of action? The report will have to be gone through and considered and discussed with the interests involved, including local authorities. Eighteen months would more likely be the period than six months. So the case for interim action remains.

Mr. Williams

I can assure my hon. Friend that expedition shown by the Committee can be matched by expedition by the Government in an emergency. I shall however deal with one form of interim action which has been referred to by many hon. Members. That is the i.d.c. policy. This is exercised with considerable discrimination in favour of grey areas. We take into account the needs and resources of these areas. The Board of Trade readily grants local expansions and modest new developments within a locality. I can assure the hon. Member who asked about pressure being applied to firms to leave grey areas that the Board of Trade applies no pressure whatever on firms that leave them.

We have had many arguments about the North-West. Hon. Members opposite are in a rather difficult position because when they were in Government they descheduled many of the areas of the North-West and so deprived them of development aid. In the old North-East Lancashire Development Area, Nelson and Colne, and in the D.A.T.A.C. areas Accrington, Middleton, and Oldham, were descheduled. Hon. Members opposite have not a particularly good record in relation to the needs of those areas. Looking at the facts of the situation, I hope to be able to demonstrate that those areas are not unable to compete with development areas for new industry.

Take the North-West about which there has been most discussion. In the last three full years when hon. Members opposite formed the Government, 17 million square feet of i.d.c. approval was given. In our first full three years there were 25 million square feet, 50 per cent. more than under the type of policy exercised by hon. Members opposite.

As for the idea that development areas inevitably draw their growth from grey areas, we can demonstrate—again within the context of the North-West—that 90 per cent. of jobs on Merseyside have come from the South-East and the West Midlands. Of 35 firms within the Merseyside development area which have initiated factory development since early 1966 with 9,000 possible jobs, 21 with 7,000 jobs have come from outside the North-West, 11 from Manchester and the Altrincham area. Only three very small firms with only a little over 100 workers have come from elsewhere within the region. So it cannot be alleged that Merseyside has been drawing industry away from the North-West.

And to the increase of 50 per cent. in i.d.c.s approved for the North-West, L.A.M.I.D.A. has estimated that there has been an extra 8 million square feet in 1965 and 6 million in 1966 in existing vacant premises within the area—that is, new firms which have moved into the locality and gone into existing premises. Eleven new firms have moved into empty premises in the cotton belt since the same time in 1966 and they are expected altogether to create about 1,700 jobs. I could give a similar analysis with relation to York and Humberside but time does not permit of that.

There has been a reference to the need to improve infrastructure. The right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East explained that he had to leave at 7.15 p.m. His absence now entails no discourtesy. If dereliction is so important, when he was the Minister of Housing and Local Government, why did he do little or nothing about it? The only assistance that was given by the Conservative Government was that within development districts. Nothing whatever was available outside those districts. Astonishingly, it was not until September, 1964—one month before the General Election—that the first comprehensive annual survey of derelict land was available. Yet these are the hon. Gentlemen who are telling us about the problems of dereliction and what should have been done in the last three years.

There are 126,000 acres of derelict land in the country. We have to have proper priorities. They are, first, safety; secondly, utility; and thirdly, amenity. For this reason we have instituted a 50 per cent. grant to encourage local authorities to clear up derelict land. In addition, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, in consultation with planning councils, is now encouraging local authorities to develop a rolling programme on a systematic basis. I am sure hon. Members on both sides of the House will be interested in this because we all want to see this dereliction cleared. We are now trying the technique of rolling programmes based on three-year units to clear dereliction.

One criticism which has been made in the past has been related to delay. To speed up the granting of approvals within areas, recently the Ministry of Housing has delegated power to give approval to its regional offices, so approval should now be much quicker.

A question was asked about the new town. I can assure the House that every element will be taken into account by the Government when we have to make our eventual decision on the report we have received. We will not overlook the factors referred to by the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Michael Shaw).

Mr. More

Will the hon. Gentleman also refer to Dawley New Town?

Mr. Williams

That is a different issue. I do not know the answer offhand. I would advise the hon. Gentleman to put that question to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government.

As has been said on both sides of the House on numerous occasions, the prosperity of the grey or intermediate areas, whatever we care to call them, depends ultimately on the general level of activity in the economy. It is for this reason that I think that the pattern which has been apparent in the underlying employment trends since September encourages us to hope that there can be an improvement during the next 1–2 years. This will be added to by the boost which has been given to certain exporting industries, such as shipbuilding, and so on, by devaluation.

I think that we would all agree that anything which helps the nation to recover also helps the intermediate areas. We would all equally agree that anything which hinders the nation's recovery hinders the intermediate or grey areas. For that reason, I cannot but wonder at some of the Opposition's utterances. On Saturday the right hon. Member for Barnet attacked General de Gaulle for his mischievous activities in relation to the economy. I shall not discuss the question whether the right hon. Gentleman was right or wrong. I suggest that he might do well to turn his attentions and criticisms somewhat nearer home—to some of his Front Bench colleagues, because no one can deny the damage that has been done to our economy and to the standing of the £ by the irresponsible statements that were made by the Leader of the Opposition on such subjects as the Vote on Account. Unfortunately, it is not realised abroad that no one in this country takes much notice of the right hon. Gentleman.

I was equally astonished at the statement by the right hon. Member for Barnet—if, indeed, this is what he said; it was what I read in the Sunday Times—that he would co-operate in the right measures for this country if we would promise to have an early election. What an amazing thing for the Opposition to be saying about national recovery, that they will not co-operate if they do not get an early election. I hope that this will be noted in the development areas and the intermediate areas.

Finally, by contrast, on Saturday the Leader of the Opposition said that he would do absolutely nothing to help the Government. That was the best news of last week.

Mr. Alan Fitch (Lord Commissioner of the Treasury)

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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