HC Deb 20 November 1969 vol 791 cc1507-9
Q6. Dame Irene Ward

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his action following the presentation to him of the petition, asking him to save the Tyne River from decline, to preserve its ferries and to abolish selective employment tax, on 15th October by the Mayor and Councillors of Tyne-mouth on behalf of the county boroughs of Tynemouth and South Shields.

The Prime Minister

I arranged for a deputation consisting of the hon. Lady, my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) and local authority representatives, to be seen by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Local Government and Regional Planning later that day.

Dame Irene Ward

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for having made that arrangement. Is he aware, however, that the petition was sent over from No. 10 to his right hon. Friend and that therefore the responsibility still rests with the right hon. Gentleman? What we on this North-East coast want to know is the answer to the questions contained in the Question which I have addressed to him today. May we have an answer please, because we will be dying if they do not get on with it?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Lady will be aware that these matters are best dealt with by the Ministers who have departmental responsibility. She was, I think, pleased with the courteous way in which my right hon. Friend received the deputation. He is visiting the North-East tomorrow—Tees-side, I think—and will be on Tyneside next month. I think that it is better to let him deal with these matters, some of which are important. On some of them, I do not think the hon. Lady will find that a proper study by my right hon. Friend will show the same validity in the petition as she thinks.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we are very grateful for the great activity in our shipbuilding yards on the Tyne, but that, nevertheless, there is strong feeling on both sides of the Tyne about the danger of the disappearance of our major ferry and other activities in that area, and that people are very annoyed that nothing is being done to prevent that?

The Prime Minister

I am aware of the position of the Market Place Ferry, referred to in the petition. This must be a matter for discussion with the Minister of Transport. Of course, it is somewhat unusual for a ferry to be part of a port authority's operation. Nevertheless, if a case can be made, loans and grants can be made available for harbour developments and it is possible to give capital expenditure, for example, for a new boat for the ferry.

On the first part of my hon. Friend's qustion, in which he referred to shipbuilding, I would only say that both he and the hon. Lady the Member for Tyne-mouth (Dame Irene Ward) will be delighted to know, and will probably already know, that in 1968 net new orders for shipbuilding in the country as a whole were nearly three times as great as in 1964 and that new orders for export were 13 times as great as in 1964—and that the Tyne has had a very full share of these new orders.