HC Deb 08 May 1969 vol 783 cc634-5
5 and 6. Mr. Hall-Davis

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (1) if he will give the estimated cost in a full year of special assistance recommended by the Hunt Committee to regions which do not at present have development area status;

(2) what estimate he has made of the cost of implementing the proposals contained in the Report of the Hunt Committee.

Mr. Shore

The Committee did not give a figure of the total cost of its recommendations. It found it impossible to cost its proposal for growth zones and said that even where estimation is feasible the element of uncertainty is so great that the estimates must be subject to very wide margins of error.

Mr. Hall-Davis

As the Hunt Committee recommended that a fundamental study should be made of the whole development area structure of aid, would it not be helpful to such a serious study if the right hon. Gentleman were to carry out a costing and make it available? In relation to special areas, if the right hon. Gentleman did not make his decision to reject the Hunt Committee's recommendation to view the North-West structure as a whole on a cost basis, on what did he base his decision?

Mr. Shore

In my statement of 24th April I made clear the criteria which had led us to our selection of particular intermediate areas. If the hon. Gentleman will study those criteria, I think he will find the answer to his supplementary question.

Mr. Mapp

To deal with the regrettably modified and rather half-muted policy of my right hon. Friend in regard to the Hunt Committee, what is the total cost he has in mind to be drawn from the rest of the development areas?

Mr. Shore

In my statement I said that our estimate was for an additional expenditure in the intermediate areas of £20 million a year and that this sum would have to be made available from other areas.

Sir Frank Pearson

When is the £20 million likely to become available?

Mr. Shore

I ask the hon. Gentleman to wait until I make a statement on the matter.

Dr. Winstanley

Since it took the Government only hours to reject the Hunt Report, which took upwards of a year to compile, how does the right hon. Gentleman justify occupying all these important and distinguished persons with so fruitless a task?

Mr. Shore

The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that we received the Hunt Report some eight weeks before it was published, and publication took time because of the admirable maps which the Report contains. I reject the suggestion that the Report was not properly studied by the Government. It was intensively studied, and as a result I was able to announce the conclusions I did.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, contrary to what has been said in certain quarters, North-East Lancashire comes better out of the Government's proposals than it would have done had the Government accepted the Hunt Report in tote? Will he press ahead with his consultations with the North-West Economic Planning Council so that areas within North-East Lancashire which are to be helped can be defined as soon as possible?

Mr. Shore

I am pressing ahead with this very urgently indeed. As I told the House on 24th April, I have in mind a timetable which will enable me to make a further statement shortly after the Whitsun Recess.