HC Deb 03 February 1970 vol 795 cc202-4
21. Mr. Willey

asked the Secretary of State for Local Government and Regional Planning what action he is taking to promote the economic development of Sunderland.

32. Mr. Bagier

asked the Secretary of State for Local Government and Regional Planning what steps he is taking to stimulate further the economic development of Wearside.

The Minister of State (Mr. T. W. Urwin)

My hon. Friend will be aware of the substantial encouragement to industrial development in Sunderland which is already provided by the Government's measures of economic and financial assistance to the development areas and of the development of road communications and other environmental improvements in recent years on Wearside.

Mr. Willey

While I assure my hon. Friend that we recognise that the North-East Coast has received more by way of development aid under Labour than under the Tories, may I ask him to recognise that the problem at present is to direct aid specifically to areas of particular difficulty, such as Sunderland? In considering this, will he consider the provision of employment through public enterprise in factories which are publicly financed?

Mr. Urwin

I assure my right hon. Friend that I share his concern at the present situation in Sunderland. My hon. Friend the Minister of State at the Ministry of Technology is doing everything possible to draw to the attention of suitable firms the advantage of developing on Wearside. We are keeping close watch on the position and we have the prospects of the area very much in mind.

To answer my right hon. Friend's supplementary question about public enterprises, as my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) has a Question down to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on this subject for 19th February, I think that it would be wrong of me to anticipate what the Answer might be.

Mr. Bagier

Is my hon. Friend aware that one of the most serious problems confronting Sunderland is the number of males unemployed? Is he, therefore, aware of the type of industry that we need in the region to solve this problem? Is he further aware that many school leavers are unable to find employment for a very long time?

Mr. Urwin

I assure my hon. Friend that I am aware of all these factors, and that the procuring Ministry, the Ministry of Technology, is doing everything possible to ensure that the preponderance of jobs coming into the region is in respect of male employment.

Dame Irene Ward

I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is aware that Sunderland gives everybody in the North-East great cause for anxiety, but in answering the Question the Minister of State has gone backwards. What the questioner wanted answered is what is to be done in the very near future, because Sunderland has a higher rate of unemployment than many other parts of the country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Too long. Sit down."]

Dame Irene Ward

No, I will stand up.

Mr. Urwin

While I understand the concern of the hon. Lady, I suggest that it is a great pity that her hon. and right hon. Friends, some of whom have made public and frank admissions of failure to understand and act on the problems of the North-East, including Sunderland, did not take action. Then the situation would have been far better than it is at present. It is a pity that they did not take action in the late 'fifties and early 'sixties.