HC Deb 27 March 1969 vol 780 cc1765-7
1. Mr. Gordon Campbell

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

9. Mr. Stodart

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs why a period of eight to 10 weeks is to elapse between the Hunt Report being received by him and its being made available to hon. Members.

42. Mr. Barnett

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what is the actual date of publication of the report of the Hunt Committee.

48. Mr. Wallace

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs on what date he now proposes to publish the report of the Hunt Committee.

The Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Mr. Peter Shore)

There has been no avoidable delay, and the Hunt Committee Report is expected to be published before the end of April.

Mr. Campbell

As Government policy in Scotland has created an extraordinary anomaly in the small area in and around Edinburgh, will the Government take the urgent action which is necessary before even more distortion is caused?

Mr. Shore

The question of the Edinburgh area has been submitted to the Hunt Committee. We shall soon have for publication the views of the Hunt Committee, which can then be considered.

Mr. Barnett

In view of the lengthy delay in setting up the Hunt Committee and now in the publication of its Report which has delayed action being taken in the grey areas, like Lancashire, and my part of Lancashire in particular, may we have an assurance that any necessary legislation on its recommendations will be implemented at the earliest possible moment, if not this Session, then early next Session?

Mr. Shore

I promise my hon. Friend that there will be no avoidable delay in coming to conclusions on the Hunt Committee's report and taking what action may be necessary on it. But I must resist the suggestion that there has been delay either in setting up the Committee or in the Committee coming to conclusions. I also reject the suggestion that this has prevented us from carrying out many measures of great benefit to the North-West Region.

Earl of Dalkeith

Would the right hon. Gentleman note that since the Hunt Committee made its investigation in Edinburgh there has been a very serious deterioration in the job situation there which could possibly even justify its going back and having a second look?

Mr. Shore

I do not accept that there has been such a radical change since the evidence was submitted to the Hunt Committee. It will have taken account of this possibility.

Mr. George Jeger

Does my right hon. Friend recall that he said some time ago that delay in publishing the Hunt Committee's report would not deter him in taking emergency action in any area where the unemployment position warranted it? Has his attention been drawn to the Thorne area in my constituency, where unemployment remains persistently at 11 per cent.?

Mr. Shore

I remember very well giving that assurance and, in particular, expressing our concern about the unemployment position in the winter of 1967–68. As things turned out, the unemployment situation generally in that winter was less serious than many people had predicted, particularly those on the Opposition Front Bench. I am glad to say that there has been no general deterioration in the intermediate areas since.

Mr. Richard Wainwright

In view of the great importance of having the utmost public discussion of the Hunt Committee's recommendations and the danger of its recommendations being overwhelmed by national interest in the Budget, would the right hon. Gentleman press for a more expeditious method of printing and follow the example of many municipal authorities which produce documents more quickly, if less elegantly, than the Government?

Mr. Shore

I will look at any reasonable suggestions for accelerating the printing process. But I am sure that there is nothing unusual in this length of time for a substantial report.