HC Deb 20 February 1969 vol 778 cc742-3
3. Mr. Blaker

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs to what extent the Government's policies have reduced unemployment in the development areas since October 1964; and what has been the cost of the Government's preferential assistance to development areas since that date.

31. Mr. Higgins

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what estimates he has made of the effect of Government policies in reducing the relative level of unemployment in development areas in 1965, 1966, 1967 and 1968.

Mr. Shore

Five years ago unemployment in the development areas was more than double the national rate. Despite a major rundown in employment in mining and other traditional industries, the development area level has been lowered in relation to the national rate. The total cost of special assistance to development districts and areas from October 1964 up to the end of the last financial year was in the region of £325 million. The estimate for the current financial year is nearly £260 million.

Mr. Blaker

Since the figures show that, for each of the development areas, the level of unemployment is now higher than in 1964, are the Government satisfied that the expenditure of £260 million a year represents value for the taxpayers money?

Mr. Shore

Yes, Sir. There is no doubt of the strong evidence of the success of the Government's policy in getting a greater inflow of new industry into the development areas. Last year, I.D.C. approvals represented a total of 72,000 additional jobs for the development areas. The comparable figures for 1961, 1962 and 1963 were respectively, 37,000, 24,000 and 36,000.

Mr. Higgins

In discussion at Question Time with Ministers of the Board of Trade, some confusion has arisen over the definitions of new as against additional jobs. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what these definitions are or whether the two terms are the same?

Mr. Shore

That is a different question and difficult to answer. Presumably the hon. Gentleman wishes to establish the cost, as it were, of providing a particular job. We have a means of costing new jobs provided from facilities under the Local Employment Act, but what we have not got is a means of adequately measuring the contributions of such measures as investment grants and the regional employment premium towards job creation.

Mr. Tinn

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the answer to whether this expenditure is justified lies in the fact that the tremendous rundown in coal mining, in the North-East in particular, would have resulted in a very much higher figure of unemployment otherwise, and that without this expenditure he would not have been able to report that the ratio between the North and the national average had been reduced as it has?

Mr. Shore

My hon. Friend is quite right. Given the accelerated rundown of the older industries in the development areas, only the most energetic regional policy, such as we have pursued, would have been adequate to meet the situation. By it, we have doubled the number of new jobs going to development areas through I.D.Cs. in the last four years, and this is an indication of our success.

Earl of Dalkeith

In view of that unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.