HC Deb 07 February 1972 vol 830 cc965-7
19. Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will now review the system of granting industrial development certificates.

Mr. John Davies

The I.D.C. control is kept constantly under review.

Mrs. Oppenheim

Will not my right hon. Friend accept that in order to create jobs and encourage industrial investment it is urgently necessary to review I.D.C. policy; and that it is highly probable that this will be recommended by the C.B.I., especially in relation to small firms which, once an I.D.C. has lapsed, do not go to development areas but abandon any projects they may have, with the result that jobs are lost altogether? Will my right hon. Friend con- firm that although the last Government were particularly inflexible in this respect the present Government intend to be more sensible?

Mr. Davies

I have some recommendations from the C.B.I. which I am carefully considering. On the second point of the supplementary question, it is perhaps worth saying that in the West Midlands generally in the three years up to the end of last year less than 10 per cent. of all I.D.C. applications were refused. It is easy to get the matter out of proportion. This Government certainly operate the I.D.C. control system —which they realise involves great problems for many industries—with the utmost flexibility.

Mrs. Renée Short

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that since his Government came to power the whole country has become a development area? I do not know about the issue of I.D.C.s in the West Midlands but I know that unemployment there is rising towards 10 per cent., whereas until the present Government came to office the figure was about 2 per cent. What does the Secretary of State intend to do to see that this amazing situation in one of the richest industrial areas in the country is remedied and the area made able to stand where it was before?

Mr. Davies

I feel confident that the West Midlands will re-expand with the expansion of the economy. Meanwhile I am operating the I.D.C. control, to which the Question refers, with flexibility.

Mr. Redmond

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that all these questions suggesting various measures for development areas, and so on, result from the inflexible attitude of the last Government, and particularly their failure to adopt the recommendation in the Hunt Report? Would not a negative I.D.C. policy be of great help to the grey areas?

Mr. Davies

Certainly the recommendations of the Hunt Report are also very much under consideration in my review of regional policy.

Mr. Benn

I am sure the House would agree with the Secretary of State that I.D.C. controls ought to be exercised carefully. Would the right hon. Gentleman also recognise that, to be effective. there has to be some sense of Government commitment to the idea of I.D.C.s? The right hon. Gentleman said that the whole policy was constantly under review. Would he at any rate reassure the House that he is not contemplating the ending of I.D.C. control, which has played a part in stimulating employment in the development areas?

Mr. Davies

I have made the Government's position on this very clear recently in emphasising that the I.D.C. control represents an essential and continuing part of regional policy.