HC Deb 06 December 1971 vol 827 cc926-7
23. Mr. Willey

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he is taking to provide employment opportunities in Sunderland.

Sir J. Eden

I would refer the right hon. Member to the reply I gave him on 22nd November and to the speech by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the employment debate on 23rd November.—[Vol. 826, c. 258.]

Mr. Willey

That is totally unsatisfactory. Is the Minister aware that everyone in Sunderland is absolutely fed up with the Government's indifference to their special and particular problems? When will we receive replies to the representations which were made a considerable time ago?

Sir J. Eden

There is absolutely no indifference whatsoever—very much the reverse. Between January and 29th November, 1971, Sunderland was suggested or shown to 57 firms from outside the region inquiring about prospects in the Northern Region and it is hoped that a number of these inquiries will give rise to firm projects. We are persisting as hard as we can in encouraging industrialists to have regard to the advantages of Sunderland.

Mr. Bean

But is it not a fact that in cases like this and that referred to in an earlier Question about unused advance factories, the absence of investment grants and the phasing out of the R.E.P. makes a substantial difference to the judgment of firms which might otherwise wish to move their work and plant into the area?

Sir J. Eden

There are three empty Department of Trade and Industry advance factories and some small terrace units in the Sunderland area. The main factor militating against investment decisions is still a lack of confidence in bringing forward some of those decisions. This is rapidly being put right by a recognition that we have laid the foundation for sustained economic growth.

Mr. Bagier

Would not the Minister accept that there is a definite difference between the interests of companies because of the removal of investment grants? Would not he and the Government try something new? Would they, for example, carry out a survey among Sunderland industry to discover whether existing industry, if offered the same grants as are offered for incoming industry, would expand and help solve our own problems?

Sir J. Eden

No, Sir, I do not accept that that is a factor at all. There is a vast amount of competition among development and special development areas and a great deal of encouragement can also be given by the local authorities concerned. It is certainly being done in the case of Sunderland, to whose help and initiative in this regard I pay tribute.