HC Deb 20 February 1969 vol 778 cc751-4
16. Mr. Ogden

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, when he now expects the Hunt Committee to report to him.

17. Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs when he now expects to receive the report of the Hunt Committee on the grey areas.

33. Mr. Henig

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs when he now expects a report from the Hunt Committee.

34. Mr. George Jeger

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he has now received the report of the Hunt Committee on grey areas; and if he will make a statement.

35. Mr. Henig

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs if he will now give a firm date for the publication of the Report of the Hunt Committee.

43. Dr. Gray

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs if he will now announce the date of publication of the Report of the Hunt Committee.

50. Mr. Roy Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs when he now expects to receive the report of the Hunt Committee.

Mr. Shore

I expect to receive it later today and I shall arrange for its publication at the earliest possible date. In the meantime, Ministers will be closely considering the report so that the necessary consultations may be carried through and decisions announced without undue delay.

Mr. Ogden

Would my right hon. Friend agree that uncertainty is the enemy of investment? Is it correct that there is a minority report inside the major report?

Mr. Shore

I would advise my hon. Friend to await the publication of the report. I understand his concern about uncertainty. That is why we are trying to arrange for the most rapid publication and discussion of the report possible.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

But would the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that if the report, as seems almost inevitable, criticises fundamentally the Government's regional policy he will observe the report rather than stick slavishly to his previous policy?

Mr. Shore

Should there be criticism of the kind which the hon. Gentleman suggests, clearly I would have to consider it. My mind is not closed, and I will consider whatever evidence is put to me.

Mr. Jeger

Could my right hon. Friend say why the report has been so long delayed, although we shall welcome its publication?

Mr. Shore

I understand the natural impatience of hon. Members to get the report as soon as we set up a committee to undertake a study. But I cannot accept that there has undue delay in this case. The Hunt Committee has had only 18 months to study a very substantial area of the country which no Government has previously examined. This is bound to take time.

Dr. Gray

In view of the low average wages prevailing in Norfolk, the greyest of grey areas, instead of replying airily about the publication of the Hunt Committee's Report, will my right hon. Friend consider the anxiety and urgency with which rescue from the Government is needed in Norfolk and other areas?

Mr. Shore

Those anxieties for the first time have had the opportunity of being heard and discussed in a serious way before the Hunt Committee. I have no doubt that the Committee has thoroughly examined the points put to it.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the Edinburgh Leith area, which has been a grey area, is now being bled white because more than 40 firms have closed down or moved, and has he looked at a map of Scotland, which the Government have now made into a modernistic sculpture with a hole in the middle?

Mr. Shore

The hon. Gentleman's description of the problems in Edinburgh is, to say the least, somewhat exaggerated, but evidence of Edinburgh's problems has been fully presented to the Hunt Committee.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that North-East Lancashire expects a very honourable mention in the Report, and that the announcement of the new town makes help for North-East Lancashire even more urgent? Will he act on any recommendation in the Hunt Report that increased help should be given to North-East Lancashire?

Mr. Shore

I know that the problems of North-East Lancashire have been thoroughly studied by the Hunt Committee. I point out to my hon. Friend the welcome change, compared with a year ago, in the unemployment position in the North-East Lancashire area. I cannot at the moment say what the conclusions of the Hunt Committee are, but my hon. Friend can be assured that the Hunt Committee has been considering very carefully the position of North-East Lancashire.

Mr. John Hall

Will the Minister heed the heartfelt plea by his hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Dr. Gray) that the people in this country be rescued from this Government?

Dr. Gray

On a point of order. I did not say that. I support the Government.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are moving too much in the grey areas.

Mr. Bagier

My right hon. Friend said that the Report of the Hunt Committee would be published as soon as possible, but, since the Report may have an effect on development policy, will he be more specific and say how soon?

Mr. Shore

I hope that the Report will be published in six to eight weeks' time. That is the earliest time in which we are able to get it printed.