HC Deb 04 July 1972 vol 840 cc228-9
14. Mr. James Lamond

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will pay an official visit to the North-West Region.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

I have no such plans at present.

Mr. Lamond

Does the Secretary of State know that 7,000 engineering workers were recently locked out by Ferranti for a considerable period and that engineering firms in the North-West which met the legitimate wage claims of engineering workers have been expelled from the Engineering Employers Association? Does he not think that he should assist the Prime Minister in his belated wooing of the trade unions by going to the North-West and having a word with these employers about their inflammatory conduct towards industrial relations?

Mr. Macmillan

I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman says about the inflammatory conduct of the employers. I am aware of the disputes in the North-West. The hon. Gentleman appears to be criticising the employers for showing the same solidarity in these matters for which he would no doubt praise the unions.

Mr. Redmond

If my right hon. Friend comes to the North-West, will he try to find time to visit Bolton to meet the industrial development officer who, poor man, has had to cancel his holidays this fortnight because he was busy dealing with industrial inquiries following the new regional industrial policies of the Government?

Mr. Macmillan

I am glad to hear from my hon. Friend that the new assisted area grants are providing efficacious.

Mr. Simon Mahon

If the right hon. Gentleman goes to the North-West, will he try to see the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board? If he is serious about the docks dispute, will he ask how many registered dock labourers are members of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board? Would not this be an ideal initiation on his part as we have never had a worker who has been chairman of the board?

Mr. Macmillan

I am well aware of the difficulties on Merseyside and the troubles there have been. I prefer to leave the entire docks issue to the Aldington-Jones Committee, which is doing some very serious work. I do not think it would help if I were to make any particular comments on it.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Would my right hon. Friend care to give the House the greatly improved employment figures for the North-West region in the last few months?

Mr. Macmillan

Total unemployment in the North-West fell by about 5,000 from 141,000-odd to 136,000. The number of those wholly unemployed fell by nearly 8,250 in the same period. What is hopeful in this situation is that the fall in the wholly unemployed was nearly twice that of the total unemployed.

Mr. Dell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in my constituency, according to the figures just issued by his Department, the number of men actually unemployed for more than eight weeks has increased over the last two years by three times and the number of women by four times? In view of these appalling figures, will he visit my constituency and subsequently recommend to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry that a special development area should be created on Merseyside?

Mr. Macmillan

I will certainly see that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is made fully aware of the right hon. Gentleman's representation.