HC Deb 08 May 1969 vol 783 cc646-8
25. Mr. Scott-Hopkins

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs if he will give details of the proposed cuts in Government aid to development areas amounting to £20 million arising out of Her Majesty's Government's decisions following the Report of the Hunt Committee.

31. Mr. R. W. Elliott

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs if he will ensure that the decisions of Her Majesty's Government, following the report of the Hunt Committee, to give £20 million in aid to certain areas will lead to cuts in aid only to those development areas where the unemployment level has fallen.

Mr. Shore

A statement will be made shortly about the form of the savings to offset the cost of assisting intermediate areas.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Surely the Secretary of State should be in a position to tell the House how this will be paid for and what part of the existing money paid to development areas will be cut? It is impossible to formulate any arguments or to have a reasonable discussion unless we know exactly how this will be done.

Mr. Shore

A statement will shortly be made on this matter.

Mr. Elliott

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate the continuing high level of unemployment in the North-East of England? There is grave concern there lest there should be cuts in the aid being given to the region. Would he accept that many of us believe that available aid should be given where it is most needed as between and within development areas?

Mr. Shore

I am aware of that. I am most concerned that the necessary savings in development area expenditure should take a form which entails the minimum loss and damage to the development areas.

Mr. Bagier

While appreciating the Government's long-term planning objectives, particularly in the grey areas, and the fact that had they been carried out in the development districts 10 years ago the problem would not have been so bad today, may I ask my right hon. Friend to examine very carefully how he will achieve the £20 million saving in the development districts and bear in mind, in particular, the serious unemployment in the North-East?

Mr. Shore

I am considering the matter very carefully. My hon. Friend made a very important point. One of our motives in declaring new intermediate areas is to make sure that problem areas of today are not allowed, through neglect, to become development areas of tomorrow.

Mr. Higgins

Is not the right hon. Gentleman's initial answer another example of the Government announcing benefits without saying where the money will come from? Will he not follow the precedent created by the Chancellor in his Budget Statement lest this tendency should grow from an unfortunate lapse into a nasty habit?

Mr. Shore

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the statement I made was a preliminary statement, and I am consulting the economic planning councils about the frontiers of the intermediate areas. I have already made clear to the House that I will make a statement on where the finance is to be found certainly not later than the time when I announce the conclusions of our consultation with the regional economic planning councils.