HC Deb 20 February 1969 vol 778 cc748-9
10. Mr. Hall-Davis

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs if he will undertake a study of the means of identifying disparities in the rate of public expenditure per head of population between different economic regions.

The Minister of State, Department of Economic Affairs (Mr. T. W. Urwin)

No, Sir. Public expenditure per head of population is a misleading measure of the benefits of the totality of public expenditure to any region.

Mr. Hall-Davis

I accept that there must and will be variations between regions, but is not this a statistical field of real significance? If the hon. Gentleman's Department is to justify its continued existence, should it not undertake this study and not shy away from its complexity?

Mr. Urwin

The hon. Gentleman is in some difficulty about the allocation, bearing in mind that that expenditure per head is distinctly misleading, particularly as the available figures are limited to expenditure on new construction only. The expenditure per head is misleading for a number of reasons. It is not allocated on this basis and in many cases the benefits of the expenditure are not limited to any single region.

Dr. Ernest A. Davies

Would my hon. Friend agree that expenditure in neighbouring regions is also beneficial to the North-West—for example, the money being spent to extend the M62 from Stretford into Yorkshire?

Mr. Urwin

My hon. Friend is right. Expenditure incurred in the region on road construction produces benefits outside the region.

Mr. Clegg

Would the hon. Gentleman think again about this matter? It is time that we had some comparisons. We in Lancashire feel that we are being let down. If we are not, it would be to the Government's advantage to prove it.

Mr. Urwin

Public expenditure is not allocated to the regions. The money is spent on policy objectives and projects based on an assessment of priorities. For example, much of the expenditure on defence is administered on a national basis and has no specific regional element.