HC Deb 20 February 1969 vol 778 cc743-5
4. Mr. Blaker

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what is the result of his discussions with the North-West Economic Planning Council about the level of public investment in the North-West Region.

5. Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he has now had discussions with the North-West Economic Planning Council about the Council's Report entitled "Strategy II"; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Shore

With other Ministers concerned, I had a full discussion of the major issues arising from the Council's report, including public investment, with the Chairman and other members of the Council on 23rd January. We are now considering the terms of the Government's reply which will be sent to the Council Chairman shortly.

Mr. Blaker

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, according to the Government's own figures, the value of orders placed by the public sector with the private sector for new construction per head of population in 1966 and 1967 in the North-West area was 20 per cent. and 17 per cent., respectively, below the national average? Did he discuss this matter with the Regional Planning Council and, if so, with what result?

Mr. Shore

I discussed the matter of relative public expenditure in the region with the chairman and his colleagues, and our comments will be in the document which we hope to publish before long as the normal reply to the Council's submission. There is, of course, a tremendous difficulty in dealing with figures which cover only part of total public expenditure, and there are other problems.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

In view of the timetable of this matter, is not the procedure immensely dilatory? Does it not give rise to the question that is never far below the surface of our thoughts—just what does the D.E.A. actually do?

Mr. Shore

Among its other functions, it carries on the work of regional planning which was never embarked upon until 1964, when the Department was established.

Mr. Ogden

Is my right hon. Friend aware that all good Lancastrians—particularly those involved in the Lancashire and Merseyside Industrial Development Association—know that the D.E.A. is doing excellent work and are grateful for the help it has and is giving.

Mr. Shore

I am grateful to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that his recent visit to the North-West to meet the Economic Planning Council was much appreciated? Is he aware that there is growing concern in the North-West about differences in public expenditure per thousand of population there as compared with places like Scotland?

Mr. Shore

I am aware of that. As I have said, the difficulty here is to find a proper basis for making meaningful comparisons between public expenditure in the different regions.