§ 20. Mr. William Hamilton
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the results of his regional policies in the last eight months, expressing it in terms of firm inquiries about industrial expansion in the development areas, with particular reference to Scotland.
§ Mr. John Davies
Inquiries about the development areas generally received 21 during the eight months ending 28th February numbered 2,573. I cannot say how many of these were firm, but during the same period 314 visits to possible locations in these areas were made, mainly by firms at present established elsewhere; 85 of these were to locations in Scotland.
The hon. Member may also like to have figures for industrial development certificates approved and the estimated additional employment which these projects will provide when fully manned. In the period in question, 16,825,000 sq. ft. was approved with an estimated employment of 26,460. Scotland accounted for 7,369,000 sq. ft. and 9,610 jobs out of this total.
§ Mr. Hamilton
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Scotland will note his indication that he does not know how many of these inquiries are firm inquiries? That being so, how does he arrive at the figure of 9,610 estimated jobs for Scotland? If that figure is not based on firm inquiries, is it not relatively meaningless? May we have an assurance that the Scottish unemployment figures will be reduced from the record rate at which they now stand, being the highest since 1963?
§ Mr. Davies
Inquiries arise in extraordinarily diverse ways, including by telephone. Largely they are concerned at that early stage with the provision of literature. At that point it is impossible to say how the recipient of the literature will react. We then arrive at the stage when inquiries change to projects of the kind I have mentioned, and I gave the number nationally and for Scotland independently. It is at that stage that one can refer to the inquiries as firm, and these are the figures I used in arriving at the estimated employment effect of these inquiries.
§ Mr. Varley
In giving the comparable figures for the months prior to those concerned with the figures he has just given, will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he is aware of the criticism of the Government's regional policy not only from this side of the House but recently from the Secretary-General of the 22 C.B.I., and from Viscount Ridley, Tory Chairman of the Northumberland County Council? Would it not be better to institute a proper review now, with a White Paper issued at the end of it, so that at least some hope might be given to those living in the development areas?
§ Mr. Davies
I do not think that there is occasion at present for a "proper review", as the hon. Gentleman calls it. I think that the thing to do is to continue to work steadily with our arrangements, which I am sure will have a profound effect. It is perhaps worth mentioning that I have one comparative figure which indicates that in the period prior to that for which I gave the figure of 7,369,000 sq. ft., the area was 5,310,000 sq. ft.