HC Deb 20 February 1969 vol 778 cc746-8
9. Mr. Ridley

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, in view of the fact that payments for regional development are now running at over £250 million per annum, if he will give an undertaking to take steps to prevent this expenditure from further increasing.

Mr. Shore

No, Sir, but, as we have made clear, the Government are determined to keep total public expenditure under strict control.

Mr. Ridley

Does the right hon. Gentleman now accept the figure of £250 million a year which the Under-Secretary of State vehemently denied last time he answered Questions?

Mr. Shore

I am not quite certain of the definition of the sum the hon. Gentleman is referring to. If he is talking about the size of the sum of the money going into development area policy, that is obviously very near the mark,

Dr. John Dunwoody

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that a great deal of good which results from this expenditure could be increased further if the money were applied more selectively within the development areas?

Mr. Shore

I am always very interested in proposals to increase the effectiveness of development area policy. If my hon. Friend has any suggestions to make for making it more selective and more effective, I should be glad to hear them.

Mrs. Ewing

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that, as the view in Scotland in this matter is that we can no longer afford the luxury of partnership with England, which is bankrupt, and as the view in England, which is becoming clear in this House, is that Scotland is getting a hand-out, the solution to economic growth would be to get rid of Scotland and let her paddle her own canoe?

Mr. Shore

I will not comment on the last part of the hon. Lady's remarks. I am surprised that apparently she is unable to recognise the very considerable improvement taking place in the Scottish economy, some part of which is certainly due to the Government's development area policy.

Miss Herbison

Will my right hon. Friend totally reject both the propositions made by the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) and by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing)? Is he aware that in Lanarkshire we are delighted indeed with the very great help that has been given by the Government through the development area policy?

Mr. Shore

I thank my right hon. Friend for her support of our policy. I can certainly give her the assurance she asks for. Inevitably public expenditure on development area policy is bound to increase up to a point in simply reflecting the success of that policy. In other words, if more firms invest in development areas there will be greater public expenditure on that account.