HC Deb 05 August 1971 vol 822 cc1843-7
Q5. Mr. Kaufman

asked the Prime Minister whether he has now completed his consideration of the memorandum sent to him by the North-West Industrial Development Association; and if he will make a statement.

Q8. Mr. Marks

asked the Prime Minister when he will reply to the memorandum he has received from the North-West Industrial Development Association.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the hon. Gentlemen to the answer I gave last Tuesday to Questions from the hon. Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mr. Parry).—[Vol. 822, c. 288.]

Mr. Kaufman

Would the Prime Minister give a firm date for his meeting with the North-West Industrial Development Association? Is he aware that with one breadwinner out of 18 in the North-West unemployed, with 42,000 redundancies declared in the past year in the North-West, with a further batch in my own constituency only last week, with what yesterday's Manchester Evening News described as a "crisis in youth employment", with the Government ban on new industry coming into greater Manchester—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."]—these are very serious matters—and with a seven-week wait before the Minister of Trade and Industry comes to look for himself, urgent action is needed if a deep and worsening problem is not to be turned into a major plight?

The Prime Minister

A date is now being considered and I will let the association know as soon as it is firm.

Sir R. Cary

While we welcome the announcement made recently by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which will help to improve employment generally throughout the country, is my right hon. Friend aware that the proposed closing of the Irlam steel works will mean an additional 5,000 unemployed in the Manchester area and that this remains a desperately serious problem?

The Prime Minister

Yes. This is, of course, a matter for the British Steel Corporation, and it is important to recognise——

Mr. William Hamilton

Stand on your own feet.

The Prime Minister

It was the hon. Member's party which set up the Steel Corporation, and hon. Members opposite have constantly demanded that it be left to make its own decisions. They cannot have it both ways. When they set it up, they did so with the objective of achieving rationalisation of the steel industry. So far as the actual plans are concerned, there are in two stages, the second one of which will not begin to take effect until 1973.

Mr. Marks

When eventually the Prime Minister sails up the Mersey and possibly the Manchester Ship Canal, will he take note of the problems of pollution and dereliction in that area, for it is greater there than in the part of the country which he knows better, and that a vast amount of public expenditure is needed and that this competitive society of which he is so proud does not help?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is well aware of this, but I think anybody who has experience of that area knows exactly how great the problem is because of the industrial complex which surrounds Manchester. This is a matter to which attention ought to be given and to which the local authorities are giving attention.

Mr. Tilney

Will my right hon. Friend bear in the mind that the decision to go ahead with the River Dee barrage and help the expansion of Shotton steel works would be a great boost for people on Merseyside?

The Prime Minister

I am afraid that I cannot make any statement about this matter today.

Mr. Heffer

Will the Prime Minister bring this meeting forward to the earliest possible opportunity? Is he aware that in the town of Kirby, on Merseyside, there are 20 per cent. unemployed and that those leaving school have no opportunity whatsoever of getting employment? Is it not clear that this is a crisis situation for these youngsters and other people in the area? Is he also aware that the Roman Catholic authorities have written to all Merseyside Members of Parliament drawing attention to this plight, and that this is a pretty clear indication of the deep feelings which there are in the area about this matter?

The Prime Minister

Merseyside is bound to be affected by the measures which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has taken and which were so warmly welcomed at the meeting of N.E.D.C. yesterday, both by the T.U.C. and by the C.B.I. So far as Merseyside is concerned, I am well acquainted with its problems and also its potentialities. If the hon. Member will do everything he can to improve industrial relations on Merseyside he will do the best service he can for his own area.

Mr. Bray

When my right hon. Friend does reply to this memorandum, will he remind the North-West Industrial Development Association that Government support for the North-West is the highest on record and that a great deal of the dereliction is being rapidly moved at a higher rate than ever before, and that self-help is worth a great deal more than self-pity?

The Prime Minister

Yes. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment announced details of the new slum clearance subsidy very recently in the House, and that will help Merseyside.

Mr. Harold Wilson rose


Mr. Speaker

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not mind if I call one other hon. Member from the back benches first.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

Will the Prime Minister look at the unemployment figures in North-East Lancashire and if he does, will he realise that we on this side are not exaggerating when we say that they are absolutely deplorable? Is he aware that between January and this month the Government have set up something of a record in this area in that unemployment has doubled—which is unique? Will he not be so complacent in his answers?

The Prime Minister

I have already expressed understanding of the position on Merseyside, but Merseyside must also recognise how much is being done, with help, to produce the answer.

Mr. Harold Wilson

I was not clear from the right hon. Gentleman's answers whether he was intending to meet the association in London or in Lancashire. If he has not made up his mind on that, will he recognise the virtues of seeing this problem for himself on the ground in the different parts of the North-East, Manchester, Irlam and the Merseyside development areas? While I should always be very glad to welcome the right hon. Gentleman to my constituency, in which Kirby is situated, is he aware that he cannot ride out of the Kirby problem by talking about industrial relations? Is he aware that almost every time I have been in this area this year I have heard of further notices of redundancy, factory closures and transfer of work from Kirby to Spain—and I am awaiting a reply from the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry into the circumstances of that. Is he further aware that Kirby, which has kept the most meticulous record of juvenile employment possibilities since the four comprehensive schools were established several years ago, this year finds the situation far worse than it has ever been since that township was formed? In addition, job opportunities for the large number of children who stayed on at school are now worse than they have been in this generation?

The Prime Minister

My proposal was to meet the association in Lancashire, which will give me the opportunity of talking to the association on the spot about exactly these problems.