HC Deb 25 January 1972 vol 829 cc1192-3
Q2. Mr. McGuire

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the specific issues about which he wrote to the North-West Industrial Development Association on 16th December.

The Prime Minister

I set out very fully the position on the matters I had agreed to look into. I told the Association that there was no evidence that a lack of skilled draughtsmen was delaying the take-up of the higher house improvement grants available in the assisted areas. My letter also described the progress being made on the Arnside Link Road and on improvements to the Calder Valley Road.

Mr. McGuire

Is the Prime Minister aware that at the meeting on 29th October the question of discrimination against the North-West in general and the Wigan area in particular was put to him very forcibly by the Town Clerk of Wigan, and that the right hon. Gentleman promised at the end of that meeting to reply to all the points that had been put? How can he justify a situation in which 85 travel-to-work areas in the country are receiving assistance with their unemployment problem, which also qualifies them for the urban renewal programme, when they have a lower rate of unemployment than Wigan? Is not that discrimination? Surely the right hon. Gentleman cannot justify it.

The Prime Minister

I explained at the time the general grounds on which determination of the intermediate and development areas was made. if the authorities in Wigan want a specific reply on that in writing, I will, of course send it to them, but it was not one of the detailed points affecting particular aspects of development in the North-West to which I was asked to reply at the time.

Mr. Tilney

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there is a surplus of office accommodation in many parts of the North West, particularly on Merseyside, and that there are first-class clerical workers out of work? If there is to be an increase in bureaucracy because of our joining the Common Market, could some of that bureaucracy come to the North West?

The Prime Minister

I think that what my hon. Friend is referring to is the second review of the use of manpower in Government, now being carried through. As I have explained to the House on previous occasions, that deals with those engaged in policy-making in Whitehall. We are completing it as quickly as we can, and then it will be necessary to discuss with the staff associations what work can be dispersed to other parts of the country.