HC Deb 25 January 1972 vol 829 cc1175-7
4. Mr. Tilney

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his policy now is as regard stimulating public works in development areas.

27. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has for stimulating public works in development areas.

Mr. Barber

Expenditure programmes totalling over £600 million, mainly designed to promote employment in assisted areas, have been announced over the last few months. Details were set out in the answer given by my Hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) on 17th December.—[Vol. 828, c. 212–13.]

Mr. Tilney

Is it not an economic waste for there to be substantial unemployment among the building trades in certain development areas while there is the possibility of public works such as the reclamation of the Dee or the rebuilding in Liverpool of out-of-date schools built as temporary wooden structures in the 1920s?

Mr. Barber

My hon. Friend will, I know, accept that a great deal has been done. What are needed are schemes which are not only worth while in themselves but also offer a prospect of an early increase in employment. My hon. Friend has written to me about a particular matter in his constituency, and I hope to reply to him in detail very soon.

Mr. Dalyell

On the point of an early increase in employment, has the Chancellor reflected on the merits of an urban conservation scheme, arising out of the conference of the Scottish Civic Trust and the National Trust for Scotland, which I outlined in detail on 16th December during the Consolidated Fund debate, a proposition which, if implemented, would give quick employment?

Mr. Barber

From what I know of that scheme and the observations made by the hon. Gentleman, I am not at all sure that it could produce many more jobs quickly. The environmental schemes in Glasgow and the West of Scotland, for which the Government have promised, I think I am right in saying, £10 million over the next five years are now beginning to help.

Mr. Lane

Is not the position that the Government have offered financial help on an unprecedented scale to local authorities for purposes such as the clearing of dereliction, and is it not vital that local authorities should take the maximum advantage of this during the next three or four months?

Mr. Barber

We have increased public expenditure very considerably over the past year or so, certainly in recent months, with the primary objective of helping the assisted areas. I hope that all local authorities will make maximum use of the offers which we have made.

Mr. McGuire

Is the Chancellor aware that there is still considerable discrimination against the North-West generally, particularly the Wigan area, in that, because those areas do not receive assistance for their unemployment problem, they are denied the higher urban aid renewal grant? Would not the ending of that discrimination be one way to speed the re-employment of building workers in the North-West?

Mr. Barber

I do not agree for one moment that there is discrimination against the North-West. If the hon. Gentleman has any particular aspect in mind and will write to me about it, I will deal with it.

Dame Irene Ward

Would my right hon. Friend accept that we are very glad of the efforts which he has made to provide additional money, since under his direction we have the money which we can offer? Could he explain why there seems to be such a muddle about the building industry, with some areas having too few skilled men and other areas too many? Would it not be a good idea if he were to have an analysis of the situation in the building industry so that people like me could know whether that industry was in a good or bad position?

Mr. Barber

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has a considerable amount of information about labour employed in the various trades in particular areas. It is true, as my hon. Friend says, that in some areas there is a shortage of certain skills whereas in others what is required is work for those skills to be exercised.