HC Deb 08 April 1971 vol 815 cc768-86

4.7 p.m.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)

I am most grateful for the opportunity to raise a matter of specific constituency interest, namely, the economic prospects for the Bradford area. I welcome very much the presence of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, with whom I shared a dialogue on Friday 12th February about the future of the Leeds/Bradford airport, another relevant matter for the region's economic prospect. I also welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Spence), who is the Secretary of the Conservative Party's Yorkshire Group, and my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Fox), who brings his experience in industry and in the region to bear in the debate.

Although both the debate on the Yeadon airport and today's debate have arisen at an inauspicious parliamentary hour from the point of view of getting a good audience, both subjects are very important to the constituents whom I have the honour to represent. By the end of the afternoon my hon. Friend the Minister should be coming to feel almost as much at home in the industrial West Riding of Yorkshire as in his native Harrow. I am sure that he will welcome any opportunity to visit our region.

I cannot claim, as did a previous Bradford Member, Mr. Titterington, to be born and bred in my city. Like so many Bradfordians, I am a Bradfordian by adoption. Nor am I, unlike Mr. Tittering-ton, a former Lord Mayor, of the warp and weft of my City. I cannot claim any particular expertise in the wool trade, which is our principal industry, employing some 23 per cent. of the people. My personal experience is in the aircraft industry and in engineering, but that sector is growing in Bradford and it is one in which our long-term prosperity probably resides. Without greater diversification and without a broader base for our regional economy, I do not think that Bradford can stay in the big league where it belongs.

It is customary to speak of the wool trade at this moment with a long face and to be full of alarmist prognostications. I refute any such ideas. All the authoritative statements one has heard from wool textile firms is that this is a cyclical recession—something which has occurred before. It is a phenomenon with which they are familiar and its gravity should not be exaggerated.

The N.E.D.C. Report—the Atkins Report—on the wool textile trade in 1969 bears out much of what is happening today. I want to quote from a recent speech by Mr. Clough, Chairman of the Wool Textile Delegation, about the current state of the trade because I am sure that my hon. Friend the Secretary of State would like to make some comments about that. His message was that, as Atkins foretold, the rationalisation that is taking place certainly means contraction in employment. No one will deny that. But it does not mean any contraction in performance and cer- tainly not any diminution in the importance of the wool textile industry to the economy of this country. It is still one of the pillars upon which our economic prosperity is based. It is No. 6 in the export league. The statistics in recent years show that the performance of the industry has been most encouraging if one considers that it has been achieved in a period of recession, of recession not only nationally but world wide.

Mr. Clough went on to say that in the last three months of 1970 … wool consumption in most of the wool producing countries"— that is, the Common Market, the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom— was down by 12 per cent. compared with the similar quarter in 1969. The United Kingdom figure was 14 per cent. so there is a margin of only 2 per cent. in the decline. This is not to be exaggerated. The production of cloth—particularly important to Bradford —fell by an average of 10 per cent. This was exactly the same as in the United Kingdom. Worsted yarns production was down by 3 per cent. but in the United Kingdom by 7 per cent. The average figure for woollen yarn was down by 5 per cent. whereas the United Kingdom output dropped by only 2 per cent. As a wool-textile producing nation, we were more than holding our own. That is an achievement in which this country and Bradford, as the metropolis of the wool textile trade, can justly take pride.

The biggest difference, however, was in the production of tops, and there the United Kingdom share was down by 21 per cent., or nearly twice the average. This is a sector in which there is still the greatest room for rationalisation. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley will agree that we are to see still further rationalisation and concentration of resources in the top-making and combing sections of the trade. I would like my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to say something about that.

Over all, our performance is one in which we can take pride. The wool textile industry's contribution to our balance of payments in terms of export earnings and import savings last year amounted to no less than £230 million. Despite the recessions to which I have alluded, our exports earned £140 million last year which was only £9 million down on the figure for 1969. Mr. Clough concluded his speech on 23rd March by claiming that British wool textiles were still "top of the pops", as I am sure anyone will agree when surveying the sartorial scene in swinging London, or any of the other major cities of the Western world.

However, if we are to maintain a consistent performance, we must be able to keep our prices competitive and we must also suffer the very minimum of adverse treatment from the Government. Everybody was most heartened and pleased by the Budget Statement on 30th March when the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced Measures which did a great deal of good to the wool textile industry. What the wool textile industry demands, apart from correct fiscal policies, is that fair trading should be maintained.

On the first point of fiscal policies, I ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to draw to the attention of the Chancellor for future Budgets—I know that 12 months ahead is a long time to be planning future Budgets—to purchase tax on knitting wools, rug wools, student dress lengths and household textiles, including blankets. I referred to the damage which the wool textile trade could suffer at the hands of exceedingly unhelpful Governments, and no Government were more unhelpful to the wool textile trade than the previous Administration, and it was the 1969 Budget which put this extra imposition of 13¾ per cent. on these items. I know that the Wool Textile Delegation is especially keen to have this tax rescinded if that is fiscally possible. It would be an incentive for home knitting, rug making and dressmaking and employment and activity in all these sections of the industry if we could have the tax reform which I have outlined.

As I said, there have been one or two criticisms about allegedly unfair trading practices. The wool textile trade does not want either Maundy money or tariff walls and protectionism. What we demand is fair trading, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will address himself to the criticisms which occasionally have been levelled about unfair practices and dumping from such countries as Portugal, Japan and so on. I am sure that he is able to inquire into these matters. There may well be little justification in the criticisms which have been levelled, but I should be grateful if we could have an assurance that these matters are constantly under examination and that there is no question of trading malpractice in this regard.

I turn to the broader perspective. Bradford is not entirely a wool textile city. Its industry is much more diverse, and increasingly so. We are moving increasingly into engineering and the service industries, but, none the less, our problems cannot be looked at in any way other than the broad perspective of national regional policies. In doing so, I cannot turn to any better bible at this stage than the Report of the Committee under Sir John Hunt on the intermediate areas, a Report published in 1968. Our own problems in Bradford, although it is not part of an intermediate area, are relevant to regional policy.

I draw attention to a quotation in the Hunt Report from the White Paper on Regional Employment Programme, Cmmnd. 3310: Some have unemployment well above the national average, but not all the other economic difficulties of the Development Areas. Others, without showing up to consistent high unemployment, tend to suffer from net emigration and a slow rate of economic growth, due to over-dependence on traditional forms of industry… Some areas fear that because of their proximity to the Development Areas, they will be particularly vulnerable to the increased competitive power of industry in the Development Areas. This is particularly relevant to the City of Bradford because we are sandwiched between a development area 40 miles to the north and an intermediate area which comes up to Wakefield to the south-east of our City.

It has always been felt in industrial circles in Bradford that the arbitrary and unjust regional differentiations in fiscal incentives put us at a special disadvantage. I am particularly glad that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is undertaking a thorough review of regional policy on a national scale. As I say, we do not want Maundy money. It would be inappropriate for the City of Bradford to become part of an intermediate area. We saw during the period of the last Administration how more and more public money went into development and intermediate areas without any corresponding improvement, Either in economic growth or employment.

In other words, it was generally felt that more and more money was going into a bottomless pit which was not helping the area as it was alleged to be. It was also creating disincentives for adjoining regions. For that reason, the new approach which we await should end, or certainly alleviate, this regional disparity.

While I am dealing with regional policy, there is the matter of growth points. We have already had a few special development areas designated. One of the great advantages of the proposed form of local government which the Secretary of State for the Environment advanced in his White Paper was that the City of Bradford should become a metropolitan district, that it should encompass its natural catchment areas. No one in our area would say that the problems of Bradford can be divorced from the situation in Shipley, Keighley or further up Airedale or even Skipton. For that reason my hon. Friend might like to ponder whether Bradford should not become a growth point. It is ideally suited, with a good range of communications, a large and well-trained work force and a comparatively high surplus capacity of manpower. With all these factors it is ideally placed for a period of expansion and growth.

Dealing with communications, we are dependent on a good motorway system which has been created in recent months. The finishing touches have yet to be put to the completion of the motorway link between the M62, trans-Pennine motorway, and the City of Bradford. Here I would ask my hon. Friend to urge his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment to reach a speedy decision on the interchange at Staithgate Lane on this motorway link. It is vital to the creation of a new modern industrial estate which it is hoped in Bradford will be an example to the whole of the North of England.

There was a piece about it in the Business Post section of the Yorkshire Post on 6th April. It is a £7 million industrial development which is proposed, providing up to 5,000 jobs for people in the Bradford area. The sponsors, the Mount St. Bernard group of Preston, claim to be bringing about a totally new concept of industrial development. It is to be the forerunner of at least half a dozen such developments in the North of England, one of which will probably be in South Yorkshire which is an area with acute economic problems and severe unemployment. The estate will be self-contained. Parts will accommodate manufacturing plants based on scientific and technological industries and providing up to 3,500 jobs. Another section will be devoted to warehousing capacity. A third section will contain administration facilities, shops and hotel. A further 1,500 jobs would be provided. Another aspect of the development is ornamental parks and precincts for shoppers. It is on the fringes of the city close to the good communications which the motorway system will provide and it is vital for the future prosperity of our city.

We should not forget the continuation of the M62 to the Merseyside ports and Hull. It is progressing eastward at a good rate, but until the final connection with Hull is made I do not think industrialists in Bradford will be entirely pleased.

I turn to the question of air communications in which my hon. Friend has a particular departmental interest. I have not an obsession about it, but I certainly have a great interest in it, because the West Riding is, to my mind, the only industrial area without an airport fully developed to modern international standards. By "international standards" I mean standards capable of operating contemporary jet aircraft for domestic services and services to Europe. We ask no more than that.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has been most helpful. He understands the problem exceedingly well. In the debate on 12th February he said that it would be possible for the Leeds/ Bradford joint airport committee to make another planning application at some time in the future for the proposed runway extension, but he warned that before doing so the committee would be well advised to consider carefully whether the circumstances in which their recent application was turned down have altered to any appreciable extent."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 12th February, 1971; Vol. 811, c. 1168.] We have taken careful heed of my hon. Friend's warning, and yesterday the joint airport committee met and heard the future plans of the local operator, North-East Airlines, which provides most of the services from the Leeds/Bradford Airport. It was decided that we should do what the Minister suggested. We would try to evaluate whether the situation had changed. The airport joint committee has called for a full study asking for full statistical data, operating information and all relevant facts. On the basis of the facts established it will decide whether to make a future application.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State was right when he said in the debate that he was not pessimistic about the prospects. It was announced yesterday at the meeting that North-East Airline would continue to operate its equipment for another five years, which pleases everybody. The Viscount is one of the sturdiest and best British civil aircraft designed since the Second World War. I am glad that it will be soldiering on well into the 1970s from the Leeds/Bradford Airport. But air communications are vital for an area. We need to be able to make connections straight with Europe, particularly when, assuming that the negotiations go well, we join the European Economic Community, because the wool trade will want to take advantage of the increased export opportunities.

Although my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley has a special interest which I admire in it, one should not he too beguiled by Thorne Waste unless it is taken note of in the light of national airport policy. I hope that before an announcement is made about the site of another international airport, supposedly for London, my hon. Friend will assure me that a full study will be made of a national airport policy. If we had an airport farther north it would not only serve Bradford and the economic prosperity of our region but would also tap a great source of potential passenger demand and would probably preclude the necessity for a new international airport in the London area.

Therefore, if my hon. Friend wants my own personal tip where a new international airport should be—I am sure he must have had counless tips—my own is Castle Donington, which lies astride the MI and is in good proximity to the East Midland region, to Nottingham, Derby, Leicester, and it is only about three-quarters of an hour's drive from Sheffield. It is not much farther from Shef- field than Thorne Waste and needs only a fairly small extension of its runway, and it is in a not-so-very populated area. It would provide not only from Bradford but for the North an inter-continental airport which would be a valuable addition to the regional airport at Yeadon, which should continue to be fully utilised.

There are many other aspects of Bradford's development which were further amplified in the Hunt Committee Report, and I shall draw the attention of the House to them because these are criteria which were described as being criteria by which intermediate status should be judged, and they are all very much evidenced in Bradford's own economy.

The first of these criteria was sluggish or falling employment. The process of rationalisation in the wool textile industry and certain difficulties in the engineering industry, and in particular the repercussions of the failure of Rolls-Royce, have meant that we experience a sluggish or falling employment and the major implications of slow growth. In our own City of Bradford, the percentage of the male work force unemployed is 5.4 per cent., I believe, and that is certainly above the national average and it does cause concern.

The second criterion in Hunt was the slow growth of personal incomes. Of necessity, incomes in our area are relatively lower than are incomes in other industrial parts of the country. The profit margins to which the wool textile industry has had to work have been low for a very long time, but, perhaps, with low profit margins has gone an understanding, both on the part of management and on the part of the work force, of the importance of good labour relations and of the minimum of disputes.

The latest settlement which was made for the wage structure of the wool textile industry for the next year is a sign of how good relations are in the City of Bradford, and this is a matter to which I would draw my hon. Friend's attention when we are talking in terms of bringing new industry to the City, for this is a very great asset. Mr. Jack Peel, famous for his leadership of his union in the textile trade, apart from the T.G.W.U., which has responsibility for the combing section, described himself, at the extraordinary congress which the Trades Union Congress held on 18th March, as a "militant moderate". We could do with a great many more of them around. I am glad that his example has permeated fairly wide through the trade union movement in the City of Bradford. It is an advantage when, as I have said, we do have this fact of relatively low personal incomes there.

There is another criterion, slow rate of additions to commercial and industrial premises. When we look at the number of industrial development certificates issued to Bradford over the past six years we see that there do not seem to have been any very major additions to capacity in the City. There is a low level of increase in industrial premises. It is, perhaps, understandable when we take into account the number of industrial properties which already exist. The only exception was when Bairds Television expanded a couple of years ago.

Another criterion was, low or declining proportions of women at work". It is a historic fact that over 40 per cent. of the work force in the wool textile trade in Bradford consists of women. They have always been invaluable and we have relied on them. With rationalisation, there has been a marked decline in the number of women at work which, according to Hunt, is a sign of low growth, although this could be disputed.

Another criterion was over-reliance on industries whose demand for labour is growing or falling". The wool textile trade is a classic example of that. The next criterion was "decayed or inadequate environment". Although a great deal has been done to improve the environment through the Yorkshire and Humberside clean-up campaign initiated in 1968, which is a great monument to "self-help"—which has always been Bradford's motto, as well as our party's motto—there is a great deal still to be done.

Lastly, "serious net outward migration". A large number of people are migrating from the city, especially highly trained managerial and professional personnel, which the city needs to attract. There are large immigrations which counter-balance this, so the net population changes very little. It is a matter of concern that it is difficult to attract high quality management personnel to the area.

In conclusion, I draw attention to a few of the good things which our Government have done for the city. After the Budget I received many laudatory messages. I will read out one which I received from the President of the Chamber of Commerce, who is a leading figure in the wool textile industry: This Budget is the most encouraging for years, and at long last there is some incentive and encouragement which is so badly needed, and I am sure that we can all look forward to the future with hope. This is in marked contrast to the experience of Bradford in the six years from 1964 to 1970. The difficulties which Bradford is facing are nothing new. Taking the number of redundancies and factory closures, the startling fact emerges that the great turnabout in our fortunes occurred in 1968 just after devaluation. The number of closures in the wool textile industry doubled in the three years from 1968 to 1970 as compared with the four years from 1964 to 1967. In engineering, the number of factory closures almost trebled on average compared with the corresponding period.

The same applied to the redundancy figures. There was a significant doubling in the number of redundancies in 1968 in the wool textile trade. In engineering the redundancies went up virtually four times. This was the great watershed in the fortunes of the city of Bradford, and I am glad to say that this Administration has given the city new hope.

I will quote from another letter which I have received from Associated Engineering Ltd., a leading firm in Bradford, just after the Budget: Since dictating this letter … —the letter was written on the day of the Budget— … I have heard the Budget announcements and am delighted at the proposals relating to the abolition of S.E.T. Value-added tax will certainly add to our work load, but it is a much lesser evil than S.E.T. and, although we do not pay purchase tax, I know that other companies in the group will be pleased that their principal customers in the motor industry are likely to have somewhat less tax on their products when V.A.T. spreads the load more evenly. All in all an excellent Budget and, together with other sections of Government policy, it is likely to get Britain moving forward to higher investment than of late. That is just the thing that the City of Bradford, like other industrial areas, needs.

The trouble has been that our fiscal policies have not only been regionally unfair; they have been unfair in their discrimination against certain key sectors of industry. In the report of the Humberside Economic Planning Council, published at the end of last year, emphasis was laid on the increasing rôle which it was hoped science-based and service industries would play in our city. Science-based industries are arriving to an increasing degree. I refer in particular to Baird's television and the manufacture of colour television sets on a large scale in my constituency. We also have sectors of the aircraft components industry, such as Rotax.

Colour television is a classic example of an industry that has suffered from the discriminatory effects of purchase tax. Whenever the Chancellor wanted to apply the regulator—as he so regularly did under the Socialist Administration—people in my constituency who worked on colour television sets—especially the women—were made redundant. I specially welcome the reform that the Chancellor has announced for 1973—the abolition of S.E.T. and purchase tax in their present forms and their replacement by a value-added tax.

We rely on the service industries. The Post Office strike showed how great a proportion of the work force in Bradford was engaged in this work. We have the Empire Stores, and Gratton Warehouses—mail order businesses. We should like to see the service industries expand, and we believe that what the Chancellor announced in his Budget will greatly help them.

We are most encouraged by the actions of the Government to date. It has been difficult time, but the new fiscal measures and the new review of regional policy should help us. Above all, on this Maundy Thursday I can assure my hon. Friend that we want no Maundy money for Bradford.

4.43 p.m.

Mr. Edward Lyons (Bradford, East)

There are two minutes left for another Member representing Bradford. I am sorry for the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Fox) and the hon. Member for Keighley (Miss Joan Hall), who have been waiting anxiously to contribute to the debate.

The Bradford Area Development Association is doing sterling work for Bradford. Bradford rejoices in one of the most remarkable and successful crusading evening newspapers—the Telegraph and Argus—which is open to all views and is led by a remarkable and energetic editor. The area association and the Telegraph and Argus both know what is wrong with Bradford. They know that it is necessary to get more money into the town in order that the people there can buy more goods, that the shops can put on better displays, with goods of a higher standard, and that more can be purchased. They know that more houses need to be built and that people should be able to rent them, because wages there are very low. They know that people need more money to pay the higher dental and other health charges.

We have a low-wage economy. We have heard a lot about wage inflation, but it cannot be said that the Bradford workers have grabbed high wages. For years and years Bradford has has a good non-strike record, especially in the textile industry. They people have had very low wages. The effect upon Bradford has been catastrophic. Employers have done their best. They have gone on without much in the way of profit until finally we open the newspaper and find that another half dozen firms have gone into liquidation. That is not the way to run Britain.

I am delighted to see that the textile industry is modernising rapidly and is putting its house in order. I cannot disagree with the less politically contentious contributions of the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson). Bradford needs assistance. It is losing a lot of skilled people. It needs a shot in the arm. It needs help in that when it applies for permission to build new factory estates that application is looked on benignly. It needs all the help it can get to diversify.

If it can get that there will be higher wages and with higher wages the people will be able to afford the rents for new houses and those 40,000 unfit houses will begin to be replaced by decent housing. The shops will sell better goods, there will be more attractive displays, the town will be more worthy of its first-class theatre, first-class newspaper, first-class university and first-class people.

4.46 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Anthony Grant)

This has been a helpful debate and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) upon choosing this subject. I know of his concern and the remarkable vigour and vigilance with which he cares for the interests of Bradford in this House. He drew attention to the debate we had a little while ago on the question of the Yeadon airport. I do not want to go over that ground again. It is one of the interesting reflections of our times that the number of hon. Members who actually want a national airport in their constituency is almost matched by the number who do not want one in any circumstances. I have noted carefully what my hon. Friend said and shall follow the progress of this matter with great interest.

My hon. Friend spoke with a greater degree of optimism than did the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. Edward Lyons). It is a matter of degree, but for my part I look upon the future of Bradford with perhaps a greater degree of optimism than the hon. Gentleman. I will read the Telegraph and Argus article to which he referred. It seems that if Bradford has any cause for complaint, it is the complaint that everyone in the country has, that they want more money, which we all do. I hope that the people there will appreciate that the Government's economic policies are directed precisely to that end—to get the economy moving again in the interests of everyone in the country, not least the people of Bradford.

There are grounds for optimism rather than pessimism. I recognise that the rundown in the traditional woollen industry of Bradford has brought severe problems. Only last year I visited Bradford in the course of a regional tour of Yorkshire and I was extremely impressed with what I saw, particularly with the people I met and with whom I had discussions. While the area abounds in attractive open spaces and has good reasonably-priced housing, it is worth pointing out that 50 per cent. of Bradford's housing stock pre-dates the first world war.

It also has problems with derelict industrial buildings, mostly woollen mills and warehouses. This is another pressing problem. I am glad to note that Bradford Council has plans for general improvement areas under the 1969 Housing Act. The council is also attempting a programme of 500 council houses per year to meet the needs of its people. Under existing legislation the local authority is eligible for grant of 75 per cent. for clearance purposes and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment gives every encouragement to local authorities to make full use of the grants. His Department and mine are at present considering problems of reclamation of out-of-date or decaying industrial premises not covered by existing legislation.

Industrial pollution of the River Aire is being tackled under the city's major reconstruction schemes which include a programme of new sewerage works, and this will reduce flooding. I am also pleased to note that Bradford is an active clean air authority. As I noticed on my visit, the city has experienced a substantial improvement in general cleanliness.

The M62, when it is built, linking up with the M1, will add greatly to Bradford's attraction as an industrial area. I have noted what my hon. Friend said about the interchange, and I will draw this to the attention of my right lion. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment who, I am sure, will very carefully note it. The road structure is important and valuable to Bradford and its industry.

Generally speaking, we believe that the infrastructure prospects of Bradford are good. This is important, because for the wool textile industry, centred at Bradford, I recognise that 1970 was a difficult trading year, and I acknowledge that its difficulties are not yet over. Textiles are now in a transitional stage of development, with the older techniques and natural fibres being increasingly replaced by newer technology and manmade fibres. Whilst Bradford and the West Riding Occupy a dominant position in the older wool textile technology, the newer textile developments are taking place in many areas of the United Kingdom. The Bradford area has to some extent been losing out to the textile industries in other areas.

I should not like to give the House the impression that there is no future for the wool textile industry. I should like to pay tribute to its very real achievement, and to endorse what my hon. Friend has said in this connection. The industry satisfies 95 per cent. of the United Kingdom home market demand for its products, and last year, in spite of very difficult trading conditions in many of its better overseas markets, it achieved exports of £114 million. When I was in Japan, of all places, earlier this year, one of the most impressive pieces of information I had was about the success of Yorkshire textile exporters in this difficult country which is, nevertheless, a splendid market for them.

We are convinced that the industry has a healthy and profitable future. Undoubtedly, it will benefit greatly from the fiscal measures announced in the Budget Statement by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This will be of considerable assistance to all industry in Bradford. I note what my hon. Friend said about purchase tax. This, naturally, is not a matter for me nor one that I can deploy in this debate, but I am sure that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have noted the comments that have been made and will give them careful consideration.

I note also my hon. Friends observations on dumping. We in the Department operate anti-dumping legislation fairly and as far as possible speedily. Provided we can get the evidence which satisfies the criteria laid down by the Statutes, I think that my hon. Friend will find that we shall act swiftly in counteracting dumping if, as he suggests, it is damaging the industry.

To remain competitive, the industry must continue the process of rationalisation which has been going on for some time. The best elements in the industry are aiming for a highly paid, multi-shift labour force. This can come about only by sensible investment in new machinery and techniques. It would be a disservice to the industry as a whole and would damage the long-term interests of both employers and employees to try artificially to maintain unviable units. The industry, as a whole, accepts this and has, by its announced investment intentions, shown that it has faith in its own future.

Employment has been referred to by my hon. Friend. There has been a drop in the number of insured persons in employment during the period 1964 to 1969 of 7 per cent. This has been due primarily to the need for restructuring and modernisation of the wool textile industry. But this ultimately can bring only benefits to Bradford's oldest and most important industry.

The present unemployment position is by no means satisfactory. Undoubtedly it must give concern to Bradford, as it does in other parts of the country. Bradford's unemployment, according to the March figures, is 4.2 per cent., which is above the national average. Nevertheless, it is well below the average for development or intermediate areas. For example, in the Yorkshire coalfield intermediate area the figure is 4.7 per cent. and in North Humberside the figure is 4.8 per cent.

I am glad that my hon. Friend did not press for special development area status. He did not hold out the begging bowl, but recognised that we shall keep the position under review whilst at the same time giving a period of stability following our recent decisions for industry as a whole.

I.D.C. policy has been touched upon. My Department's policy has been liberally interpreted. Some 89 certificates were issued between 1968 and 1970 for projects estimated to provide additional jobs for 1,890 workers. No I.D.C. applications were refused in Bradford during 1969 and 1970. I propose to continue the present policy, subject only to the requirements of the development areas whose needs must remain paramount in view of the limited amount of mobile industry available.

The coming local government reforms, by making Bradford part of a metropolitan area in West Yorkshire, will be of substantial help to the future development of the area. This is one way in which the Government are assisting Bradford. By providing an improved infrastructure, the new authorities will be able to tackle the problems involved. This in turn should enable industries in the area to operate with confidence in future.

I believe that the outlook for Bradford can be optimistic. I was pleased that my hon. Friend indicated that the outlook of his constituents was one dedicated to self-help and to assisting themselves and not always crying out for financial assistance.

The Bradford area has its difficulties, but in the light of all the known facts I am firmly convinced that it can look forward to an essentially sound future. When the period of restructuring is over, Bradford's unique wool textile industry should emerge strongly adapted to hold its own in both home and world markets.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at one minute to Five o'clock till Monday, 19th April, pursuant to the Resolution of the House of 25th March.