HC Deb 28 July 1972 vol 841 cc2241-91

'(1) In the exercise of his powers under section 7 of this Act, the Secretary of State may provide financial assistance to the tourist industry in assisted areas by making a grant or loan to a Tourist Board, as established under the Development of Tourism Act 1969, to enable such a Board to prepare and finance approved schemes and projects as provided for in sections 3 and 4 of that Act. (2) Not less than £20 million shall be granted or loaned by the Secretary of State, in accordance with the provisions of this section, in each year up till 31st December, 1977'.—[Mr. Hicks.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

11.34 a.m.

Mr. Robert Hicks (Bodmin)

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Speaker

With this new Clause it would be appropriate to consider also new Clause 4 (Services and office employment), new Clause 6 (Machine tool industry), new Clause 7 (Shipping) and Amendment No. 14, in Clause 7, page 8, line 24, at end insert: '(g) to encourage the proper distribution of employment in the service industries and of office employment'.

Mr. Hicks

I do not think that hon. Members on either side of the House will dispute that the tourist industry makes an important contribution to the economy both nationally and in the regional context. Certainly this was recognised by both sides in the Committee on the Bill, but I think it may be helpful if I briefly summarise the industry's most significant contribution in statistical terms.

In 1971 there were an estimated 7 million visitors from overseas to the United Kingdom. This compared with 6.7 million in 1970 who contributed £433 million in earnings of foreign currency to this country. The final earnings figure for 1971 is not yet available but if one looks at the figures for the first three quarters of that year and compares them with the figures for the corresponding period in 1970 one sees that there is an increase, and it is fair to assume that the final figure will make it another record year for earnings.

In terms of domestic employment the tourist industry must not be under-estimated. Hon. Members will appreciate that it is difficult to represent the importance of the tourist industry in statistical terms since this industry is not classified as such in the employment statistics, but the annual count of persons employed in catering, hotels and associated services shows that in June, 1971, 559,000 persons were employed. I think hon. Members on both sides would agree that the tourist industry thus makes a very healthy contribution to the economic scene. More important in the context of the Bill is the implication that the importance of the industry will increase in the future.

The regional importance of this industry is equally impressive. If one examines the existing development areas one sees that tourism makes a contribution to most of those regional economies. For example, in the Northern area, which one tends to think of in terms of problems of shipbuilding, coal mining and so on, there is the Lake District, an important tourist area. Likewise in Scotland there are the Highlands and Islands, and in Wales its central and western parts.

However, it is the South-West from which I should like to draw my illustrations of the importance of this industry. It is estimated that some 3 million visitors come to Cornwall annually and the income to the county exceeds £50 million. Tourism is now the Duchy's largest single income earner, since its income has now surpassed the revenue derived from agriculture, horticulture and fisheries. In the South-West region, which includes the South-West development area, some 50,000 people are employed in tourism.

These few statistics provide ample evidence of the importance of tourism both to the national economy and to the regional economies, but there is one additional point to be made:that the Bill is a regional development Bill as well as an Industry Bill. The problems of the various regions which were classified as development areas or intermediate areas vary. Thus the techniques for solving them also will vary, and so a flexible approach should be used to solve these problems. No region has suffered more than the South-West from the inflexible approach of the past.

That is why I believe special provision should be made through the Bill to assist the tourist industry on which the South-West relies very heavily. To look at the immediate future, there are two main ways in which the tourist industry may require help. Hotels and restaurants may require assistance to undertake necessary extensions or modernisation; new hotels may require to be established in the area. Prior to the passing of the Development of Tourism Act, 1969, such premises could qualify for investment grants under the Local Employment Acts provided they satisfied the employment criteria. With the assistance of that Act the hotels were enabled to obtain financial assistance for capital expenditure schemes. The 1969 Act has worked well, I think, but it placed a definite time limit because the work had to commence before a certain date and has had to termiante this year. Because the Bill restricts the number of qualifying activities, the tourist industry, and particularly the hotel and catering trade, could suffer. It is very difficult to quantify in cash terms, but unless we make special provision now there will be a potential future loss.

The second area in which the tourist industry could need assistance is that represented by the approval of moneys for special or approved projects. The Government at present make £1 million available for this purpose under Section 3 of the Development of Tourism Act. Of this sum the English Tourist Board gets half and the other two boards share the remaining half. In his statement in the autumn of 1970, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that this aid was to be confined to development areas and not extended to other assisted areas. That means that projects in intermediate areas cannot at present qualify. I shall refer to the significance of this in a moment or two.

The basic situation is that the demand for money for approved projects far exceeds the amount available. The present £1 million is inadequate. From the 1971 report of the English Tourist Board, one sees that from all the development areas in England some 484 applications were made of which the board was able to assist only 76. From the South-West development area the board received 234 applications but only in respect of 23 could help be given. The helping ratio was 10 per cent.

When I took this matter up with the board I was told in no uncertain terms that it would have wished to help many more projects than the 10 per cent. I have mentioned. A large number of projects were supported by the regional tourist boards to the centre for assistance, but because the board had only £½ million to allocate to all the development areas it was not able to assist all those projects which it would otherwise have wished to help. That being so, I believe that more money should be made available. Since in other Clauses we are making money available to other important economic activities, I feel that because of the success and importance of the tourist industry both nationally and regionally we should name the sort of figure to be made available each year.

One must not under-estimate the importance of these approved tourist projects to the South-West. All sorts of schemes have been helped:conventional projects such as the building of swimming pools and also less conventional and orthodox schemes such as the reservicing and reopening of old mineral railways on Bodmin Moor as a tourist attraction. Attractions of that sort need help, so £½ million for the whole of England seems inadequate.

11.45 a.m.

The development areas and intermediate areas have boundaries drawn on the basis of industrial activity, unemployment statistics and so on, and the needs and requirements of the tourist industry are not specifically taken into consideration. Of my constituency, three-quarters is in a development area but the remaining quarter falls within the Plymouth intermediate area. That area is, in effect, the Tamar Valley, which historically relied on mining, quarrying and horticulture. The first two have virtually ceased and horticulture is declining. The best chance of securing the economic recovery of this part of my constituency is through development of the tourist industry yet, because it falls within the Plymouth intermediate area, approved tourist projects cannot qualify for financial assistance. This is a complete nonsense, and I ask my right hon. Friends to widen the assistance to include all assisted areas rather than only development areas.

There is ample evidence that the tourist industry will play an even more important rôle in the future both nationally and regionally. Money will be needed for the further development of the hotels and restaurants side as well as for approved projects, so I earnestly ask my right hon. Friends to give close consideration to the views I am putting forward. I think that for once we should be backing a winner, because if large sums of money are forthcoming from the centre we will see a very real step forward in the type and quality of projects which it is very necessary to establish, not only to attract visitors from overseas but, once they are in this country, to get them away from the London-Stratford-on-Avon-Cambridge triangle and out into the regions.

Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Sutton)

I support new Clause 1, particularly with its reference to the South-West. I also wish to make a passing reference to the new Clause 4 and Amendment No. 14 which draw attention to the importance of the service industries.

Many times in the House I have pleaded with my own Government, and now with the present Government, that they should look at regional policy with a far greater degree of flexibility than has been apparent in most legislation. In particular, in the South-West we face the very difficult problem that whereas so much regional aid is directed to industry one of our major industries is tourism, and the House has already had statistics to show that the South-West is still the country's largest tourist region.

It is also true to say that the South-West does not attract the percentage of overseas visitors that many of us would like to see. To a great extent this is due to the fact that the region's tourist facilities are grossly under-developed. The 1969 Act has undoubtedly made a major contribution to improving those facilities, but anyone looking at the position must accept that a very large part of that financial aid has been concentrated on London and many existing tourist centres while not nearly enough has been diverted to the outer regions, such as, in particular, the South-West.

When we talk of tourist aids we talk about aid to hotels, but it is very important that we should not look on aid for building hotels and improving hotel and restaurant facilities purely from the point of view of tourism. In Plymouth we have seen a marked improvement in the provision of hotels, but accommodation is still inadequate. There is no doubt that an industrial city is greatly helped by having adequate hotel facilities. It is a very important part of industrial aid to see that hotel facilities and requirements for visiting businessmen and industrialists are adequate.

I make the plea for extra aid for hotels. First, under the present Act, aid should go out from London to the outer regions and should be aimed first at tourism, as obviously that is the largest growth industry; but also we should take account of existing industrial areas. Here it becomes very important to extend this aid far wider than merely to development areas and to take in the intermediate areas. In cities such as Plymouth there has been an improvement, but there is need for greater improvement.

On the next aspect, at long last the Government are converts to the need for regional incentives and very substantial fiscal help. We have seen a quite remarkable conversion. The Bill is rather too closely aligned to industry. I should prefer to see it much more regional in context. It is regional aid we are discussing. Substantial sums of money are involved in the Bill. We are asking that this money should be used in a flexible regional policy.

The service industries are expanding all the time, but this expansion is taking place in the prosperous regions of the country, the congested regions of London and the big cities. There is an urgent need to get office development and service industries from these congested centres into some of our poorer regions. That is crucially important in the South-West. We are very unlikely to attract the sort of major industry we want. We want it and we will do everything we can to get it. We want car factories and petrochemical complexes, but this may not be possible. There are other areas of high unemployment with a traditional industrial background which may be the most attractive and, perhaps, worthy areas for this sort of industry.

We in the South-West have an attractive environment. It is the sort of place in which people want to live. It is a very attractive place for service industries and office facilities and for decanting major office complexes from the big cities. The Bill should place far greater emphasis on the lines of Amendment 14 to encourage service industries.

Plymouth is an industrial town mostly dependent on the dockyards. We need new industry. We are of intermediate area status. That was given by the Labour Government in 1969. In the first few years it had a dramatic impact. During the severe economic problems of the last 18 months, the initial impetus has to some extent slowed down. I hope that it will pick up again.

It is not just industry that we need. We need offices. The Government could do a great deal more than they have done to bring Government offices down into the regions. We also need to attract people who are setting up large office complexes, such as insurance companies and banks. We want them to move out from London. This has been done extremely effectively at Swindon. It needs encouragement and financial aid. It is a vital part of regional development.

The Government have been converted to the need for Government money for regional aid in a quite remarkable transformation. I understand the concern that this causes among some die-hards on the Government benches. But my plea is that the Government should go a step further and use that money flexibly for a regional policy which pays adequate attention to the importance of the tourist industry for some of these areas and, in particular, to the growth of the service industries and the need to take service industries and office developments out of the congested centres to the periphery, to areas such as the South-West. These areas are attractive and people want to live in them. Distance need not be a problem. The Government should give special fiscal incentives so that we can build up this sort of employment and ensure that we retain young people in our region.

One of the most depressing situations is the continuing depopulation among the young which is taking place in the South-West. There is a great influx of old people. We need the dynamic of retaining our young. We can do that only with a broad range of industrial and service industry development. At present we are markedly imbalanced. I urge the Government to show a greater degree of flexibility in the way they distribute and use the money provided by the Bill.

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

I appreciate the concern of hon. Members on the Government benches that two successive speakers have risen from the Opposition side of the House. I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for your co-operation in this matter. It seems a little awkward that we should be discussing a group of new Clauses and an Amendment all but one of which have been tabled by the Opposition and have not been spoken to. It might be for the convenience of the House and it might ease our discussion if I state as succinctly as possible the case on the new Clauses, although many of my hon. Friends will wish to speak.

I put down new Clause 7 with great personal regret because, as hon. Members who served on the Committee will recollect, the Amendment relating to shipping was moved by one of my hon. Friends.

Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)

On a point of order. Had I already been called to speak in the debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should have made this point as a point of order. The hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Alan Williams) is now raising new Clause 7. I think that the Chair's selection of Amendments is somewhat strange. I do not wish to cast any reflection on that selection, but we were beginning a debate on the service industries. I know that hon. Members on both sides of the House are extremely interested in this matter and feel that it should be considered by the House. While we must obviously discuss the important new Clause to which the hon. Gentleman is referring, it is a pity to disrupt the start of consideration of the tourist and service industries.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)

As always, the selection of these matters is for Mr. Speaker, and that selection has been made.

Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I happen to be interested in both subjects and I am looking forward to speaking to both. I do not understand why we have to get off tourism to get on to shipping. I have a great deal to say about both. It is very important to discuss tourism because the Treasury does not know much about it. Are we supposed to be discussing both, Mr. Deputy Speaker, or shall we not hear from anyone on the Government side of the House with regard to tourism before we get on to shipping?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am sure that the House was not surprised, though delighted, to hear that the hon. Lady had much to say on both these matters. The selection has been made.

Mr. John Biffen (Oswestry)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The fault may be merely my lack of grasp of procedures, but as these new Clauses and the Amendment have been grouped together may I ask whether any hon. Member who succeeds in catching your eye can speak only once, so that when my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) wishes to speak on tourism and on shipping she has to regale the House with a composite speech encompassing both subjects? May I respectfully suggest, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that this would be a most unsatisfactory way to proceed?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I hope it will prove that the hon. Member is incorrect concerning the unsatisfactory nature of the procedure. He has, however, correctly interpreted the procedure.

12 noon.

Mr. Alan Williams

I approach the Box tentatively once more. I am grateful for the obvious support I shall receive from the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) because, instead of two subjects. I must speak to three or four subjects.

Dame Irene Ward

Who will reply from the Government Front Bench? They are not competent to reply—

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Whom the Government wish to put forward to speak for them is not my affair.

Mr. Williams

Having sat through all the debates in Committee, I assure the hon. Lady that the level of competence will not vary, no matter who speaks from the Government Front Bench. Indeed, many of the new Clauses and Amendments have been tabled yet again because in Committee we despaired of discovering what the Government's thinking was.

On a personal level, I am sorry to be propounding the Clause relating to shipping, because my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth),who dealt with the matter in Committee and who had conducted a great deal of research into it, has unfortunately been taken seriously ill and is in hospital. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides will wish my hon. Friend well and hope that he will soon be back with us.

Hon. Members who served on the Standing Committee will recollect that my hon. Friend advanced a well-documented case in support of the shipping proposition and said that he recognised there was a time lag, from the very nature of the way that statistics are compiled, between the date of ordering and the time of reporting orders. Therefore, the statistics can be slightly misleading. For example, some of the orders which were listed for last year would have been placed much earlier. I shall not weary the House by regaling the full length of statistics. They are on the record for those who wish to see them.

What became clear in Committee was that the concern expressed by the Chamber of Shipping and by the Shipbuilders and Repairers National Association seemed to be legitimate. There is a worry here. It is not a party political point; it is not something which I imagine will divide the parties. There is a real difficulty which my hon. Friend summed up in Committee in this way: British shipping companies are no longer contracting for ships…In the first quarter of 1972 orders for 0.3 million tons were placed—1.4 per cent. of world orders". whereas In July, 1970, 15.5 per cent, of world shipping orders were for United Kingdom shipping companies."—[Official Report, Standing Committee H, 13th July, 1972; c. 739–40.] That was at the very time when Japanese shipping companies, far from contracting their ordering, in the last six months increased their orders from 19.6 million deadweight tons to 30.9 million deadweight tons.

The contrast is obviously singularly marked. It is also alarming in its future impact on employment in the shipbuilding industry and on our future invisible earnings, because the shipping industry is a major foreign currency earner, despite the fact that on the shipping account we are already in deficit.

The disturbing proposition advanced by the Chamber of Shipping is that by 1975 we could have a deficit on the shipping account alone of £200 million. I accept that this is a lobbying statistic which may contain a wide margin of error, but no Government can contemplate calmly the possibility of a deficit of £200 million at the end of the next three years, particularly as the amount of cargo transported by shipping has doubled in the last ten years. Obviously, the position quacontracting orders will affect the shipbuilding industry and, in the medium term, our foreign earning capacity.

As to the new Clause relating to machine tools, our concern arises in the light of the latest investment trend statistics. It is very disturbing to learn that in the last six months between the two reports there has been the biggest decline in business confidence and in expected investment that there has been for nine years. This is despite the Budget, despite the publication of the Bill and information on it being available to industry and even though industry now has the assurance that we are to enter the Common Market—or it appears that we are to enter the Common Market. We were told in the early stages of the Common Market debates that all that industry was waiting for was the green light to start investment. It seems that industry has suddenly become colour-blind.

Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)

Is it not possible that the very generous grants and subsidies of two or three years ago for the shipping industry resulted in the bringing forward of orders and over-ordering by ship-owners, who are now naturally having to cut back? Could not this be an argument against distorting the normal economics, because it will result in more bunching and thinning of orders in the way I suggest?

Mr. Williams

It is well known in the House where the hon. Gentleman wants to cut back in the shipping industry. I do not accept his proposition. It is not substantiated by the evidence of shipping orders being placed by shipping companies from other countries. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will have a chance to regale us with his unique points of view.

Therefore, it seems that there has not been the upturn which was to have been expected from a give-away Budget, from a Bill which proposes very large subsidies and from the open sesame of entry into the Common Market. None of these things has triggered off the investment we want, despite assurance that each one of them would do just that.

Against this background, we are concerned for the machine tool industry because its orders are closely related to the level of confidence prevailing in industry generally. For this reason, the Government should accept the Clause relating to machine tools.

The major portion of the debate will probably turn on the services, on tourism and on office development. For that reason I have left this portion to the end of my speech, because I shall deal with this at slightly greater length.

Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Bedford)

Under the terms of Clause 8 of the Bill the Minister is empowered to do almost anything. He would be able to bring forward a plan on machine tools if that were worthwhile.

Mr. Williams

One of the things the Minister can do when replying to the debate is to indicate what he has in mind. We may well feel after the assurances we receive from him that it is not necessary to divide the House. I have a strong suspicion that any proposition of the Minister which suggests to this side that it is not necessary to divide will convince many hon. Members opposite, particularly the hon. Member for Oswestry, that it will be necessary to divide the House. However, it will be useful for the House to hear just what proposition the Minister has in mind.

On Friday, 28th April, 1972, Mr. Campbell Adamson, Director-General of the CBI, said this at Manchester Town Hall: In our opinion, the number of mobile jobs in manufacturing industry in the 1970s will be limited, but the service industries will provide new opportunities for employment, and positive action is necessary to give the assisted areas a fair share of such industries. In Committee we urged that where service industries and office organisations were potentially mobile, the Government should give assistance to encourage that mobility and attract them to the development and assisted areas.

It is depressing that, after two years in office, the Government are still awaiting their internal report on the future distribution of Government offices. As yet, there has been no meaningful follow-up from the present Government to the dispersal of such units as the business statistics office to Newport or even the motor taxation department of the Ministry of Transport to my own city of Swansea.

As for the private sector, at a meeting with businessmen the other day at which other hon. Members were present we were given in confidence certain information about the future siting of a headquarters which is at present in the centre of London. I shall not name the firm because I was told in confidence. I was appalled to learn that the company in question, which could have gone anywhere and whose major competitor is sited in the North of England and is a very effective competitor despite that allegedly disadvantageous siting, has decided that the headquarters must be within the commuter belt. It is that sort of intransigence which the Government must somehow overcome.

In Committee, by some probing questions my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) obtained some staggering answers from the Minister. He established that between 1969 and 1972 the number of office development certificates in the South-East more than doubled and that in central London office development certificates, which accounted for 6.3 million sq. ft. in 1969, were issued for 12.2 million sq. ft.—virtually double—in 1971; and in the first quarter of this year the trend is still accelerating. Thus under the present Government, far from there being an attempt at least to sustain a policy of encouraging offices to go outside greater London, there is in fact an accerelation in the concentration of offices in this area.

It must not be forgotten that, whether it be general service industry or office development, while firms remain determined to build in the congested areas, that very congestion will be perpetuated and aggravated, attracting young people away from the unemployment areas and leaving behind in those areas an age-imbalance in the population pattern. In some of the Welsh valley communities, for example, there is an ageing population pattern.

The gravity of the problem must not be underestimated. I think that many hon. Members on both sides—though probably more on the Government side—feel that we are just carrying on with the sort of situation which has prevailed hitherto. In fact, the situation has deteriorated so markedly in the last two years that we need a greater intensity of attention to the service sector if there is to be the slightest hope of giving adequate employment assistance to the development areas.

The Department of Employment's quarterly estimates of employment in Great Britain show the shattering statistic that in one year, between December. 1970, and December, 1971, employment in three of the development areas, in the North, in Wales and in Scotland, fell by 107,000—far more than the nominal increase in unemployment in those areas—and of that total 97,000 were lost jobs for men. Thus, on the employment front, we see a partially concealed reduction in jobs available which seems to be selective in hitting jobs for men particularly hard.

Also, in the period since 1st January, 1970, over 450 manufacturing establishments have closed in Scotland, in Wales and in the North and industrial jobs in the pipeline have fallen by 50,000 in the development areas. At the same time, industrial development certificates for new industries lined up to come to the development areas were 60 per cent. higher in 1969 than they were last year.

12.15 p.m.

We face not simply a massive job loss situation but clear indications that the amount of footloose industry which is available to help in the future to mop up the unemployment is markedly diminishing, which suggests that the problem in the development areas will be far longer-lasting than the present Government, and certainly our Government, would have wished.

It will be a massive task to restore the damage done in these last two years. We shall not only have to provide more than 500 firms to replace the old firms in the development areas as a whole but we shall have to provide over 150,000 jobs simply to make up for job losses and jobs in the pipeline used up by the present Government and not replaced. The Government have created an unemployment crisis in the development areas unprecedented in the post-war period. It is more deep rooted than the unemployment problem has been in the post-war years hitherto, and the abandonment of the regional employment premium will make recovery from the situation even more difficult.

In such a context, my submission is that the magnitude of the problem is now so vast that we must not ignore the potential employment opportunities available to us in the service and office sectors. It is against that background of depressing deterioration in manufacturing industry in the development areas that we put our proposals to the House.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)

Dr. Dickson Mabon.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We all appreciate that the selection of hon. Members to speak and the order in which they are selected is entirely a matter for the Chair, but it will not have escaped your notice that there is by no means a balance of numbers between hon. Members on each side of the House seeking to catch your eye. In the circumstances, I respectfully ask whether it might expedite a more balanced conduct of our proceedings if there were an even selection of speakers, since the number on the Opposition side will be rapidly exhausted anyway.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right in the general considerations which he expresses, and I hope that he will find that things will even themselves out in due course.

Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)

I quite understand the point made by the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne). I only hope that, if trouble happens the other way, he will quickly stick up for us as well. As I have received a message asking me to telephone my wife at once, I suspect that this will be the shortest speech I have made in the House for some time, and I hope that the Minister will excuse me if he speaks soon after me and I do not hear his reply.

I very much agree with the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) in his plea for the tourist boards in new Clause 1. There would be no English Tourist Board at all if there had not been a rebellion among hon. Members on his side and certain of us on this side which carried the day against the Government Front Bench at the time and was instrumental in bringing the English Tourist Board into being. If it be possible to secure acceptance of new Clause 1 today by a rebellion, I shall certainly join in it. It is well worth having the extra £20 million to finance the three boards, the Wales Tourist Board, the English Tourist Board and the Scottish Tourist Board, all of which have done excellent work since they were established—far better than any of us expected.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman in what he said, especially in the light of the end of the hotel development incentive scheme. There is a passage in the foreword to the Report of the Scottish Tourist Board for 1971–72, written by Sir Hector MacLennan, which says: It would be the Board's wish to continue to help with refurbishing of small hotels when funds become available. We are aware that there will be a short-fall in medium priced accommodation, especially in the key tourist centres. But they are short of money for the promotion of the smaller style of hotel which is so important in rural areas. I hope that the Government will accept if not the Clause at least the principle of trying to help tourism more than they have done so far.

Secondly, I realise that the Government have substantially changed their regional policy and regret what has happened in the past. This is particularly so in the spread of office jobs. I know that the Government are engaged in an internal exercise to try to shove out more Government jobs to the assisted areas. I hope that effort will be successful, and the Opposition must monitor that attempt. However, just as distressing is the picture of office jobs in private industry and the relaxation, since the Government came to power of the strict attitude to office development certificates, which has meant a considerable slow down in the number of office jobs going to assisted areas.

Thirdly, the shipbuilding industry, grateful though it is for the Bill, and the shipping industry, which is grateful for the conversations it has had with Ministers, are waiting today for an announcement of the Government's future attitude towards British shipping. I need not advance further the case put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Alan Williams), which is supported by others of my hon. Friends, but we are anxious today to have some answer about the need to build up the orders flowing from British shipping companies to British shipbuilding yards.

Today's Lloyd's Listshows quite clearly that, whatever hon. Members opposite may think in criticising the view of British shipping, people are holding back on orders in anticipation of a Government statement. Whether or not it is a good thing to have a statement, whether it is a good thing to help shipping is irrelevant to the simple fact that people are holding back. That is a view expressed not only by Lloyds but also officially by the Association of Shipbuilders and Repairers in its communication this month. Nothing could be clearer.

If the Minister of State cannot speak today about that matter, and cannot make a definitive statement, I plead with him to give us a date before the recess when such a statement will be made. On that assurance, I should be willing not to vote for new Clause 7. However, it will have to be a definite assurance and I ask the Minister of State to respond accordingly.

Dame Irene Ward

Probably the House will be pleased to know that I want to discuss new Clause 7, which is concerned with shipbuilding and shipping. I thought that the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Alan Williams) made an interesting speech. Occasionally we get good ideas from the Opposition. The problem is that while they have so many ideas their economic policy does not provide the money to put all their good ideas into operation. I have confidence in my Government, although they do not always agree with me, that if one can persuade them to be reasonable then at least they are able to provide the money.

I agree with the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon). Those of us who are interested in shipbuilding and shipping know that orders are being held back. I hope that none of my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench will disagree with the view of the House. Those hon. Members who represent areas which are linked with shipbuilding and shipping know only too well from those concerned in earning their livelihood in the industry, both management and men. that shipbuilders and ship owners are being held up. It is on that issue that I shall make my contribution.

I believe, although I am probably not always right, that Secretaries of State are very nice indeed. I like to get hold of Secretaries of State and I always try to be fair to them. I should probably like them a little more if they could make up their minds a little more quickly and get on with the job. Instead of raising Questions in the House or making statements. I have been very busy in other directions. I am really not competent to make statements but I consider that I am a good advocate for things which I think are right. Following the controversial issue about what would happen following the joint communication from shipping and shipbuilding interests, I immediately wrote to the Secretary of State. I shall read his reply, because, no matter who answers this debate, I do not think that we shall get a better answer. All I can say is that it will probably be an unsatisfactory answer.

I wrote to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and received an answer yesterday—I think that was very nice of him. He must have known that I should let the House know the answer and he probably also knew that I should not be satisfied with it. The Secretary of State's letter of 27th July says: Thank you for your letter of 17th July with the enclosed letter"— it was no bother— from the Chamber of Shipping about the new investment incentives scheme for shipping which has been submitted to me jointly by the Chamber and the SRNA. I am afraid that I am still not in a position to announce a decision on the proposals put forward by the Chamber of Shipping and the SRNA. The position remains, as I said in the House in the course of Question Time on 17th July, that I hope to respond to the proposals shortly. It is very much like a Secretary of State's reply— But I can assure you that I am fully conscious of the need of all concerned to have an early decision"— He does not define what he means by "early"— and it is my firm intention that an announcement will not be unnecessarily delayed. It is a very political answer— I am writing both to the Chamber of Shipping and the SRNA to tell them this. As you can imagine, I am only too well aware of the fall-off in new orders for UK ownership in the last year, and this will certainly be one of the factors taken into account in reaching a decision. There is really nothing more I can say at present and I can only ask you to be patient for a little while longer. I think it was very nice of the Secretary of State to deliver himself into my hands. However, that reply does not suit me and it will not suit the Chamber of Shipping.

Mr. Frank McElhone (Glasgow, Gorbals)


Dame Irene Ward

It would not be any use the Government resigning because we would have to put up with you, and that would be jolly horrid.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)

Order. The hon. Lady must choose her words a little more carefully.

Dame Irene Ward

I do choose my words very carefully, but sometimes one must be human. That is what I try to be. That is a very disappointing reply and I hope therefore that whoever replies to the debate will give a more satisfactory answer.

12.30 p.m.

Can we have an undertaking that before the House rises for the recess we shall be given an answer? If it comes when the House is in recess the Secretary of State will be able, if it is an unsatisfactory reply, to avoid the expressions of opinion from myself and hon. Members who support me. I know it is a difficult matter but if the Government genuinely want to create employment and ensure that one of our biggest invisible earners of currency is supported up to the hilt, they should come to a favourable decision. It may be that the Treasury is the nigger in the woodpile. We do not know because as backbenchers we have to rely on the grapevine, on friendly relations and on heaven knows what, and it is difficult for us to discover what is happening. We need a favourable decision in the interests of the shipping and shipbuilding industries which are vitally important to this country. We are still the centre of world production in many instances.

I should hate to have to vote against my own Government today so I give the Minister fair warning. Nice though his letter to me was, if he thinks it will make me restrain myself he is living in a fool's paradise. The Secretary of State has already said that he is aware of the delays that exist because shipowners are waiting for his decision before placing orders. If he is aware of that perhaps he will get on with it and let us know what his conclusions are. The Chamber of Shipping have been very good in keeping us informed and I intend to fight in support of it. I hope, therefore, that someone will give us an answer this afternoon, or, at least, that we should be told if the decision will come before the recess. I shall not delay the House any longer but I could speak for 2½ hours.

Mr. Crouch

While I believe that the content of certain of the Amendments and of new Clause 6 and new Clause 7 is worthy of debate I do not think that they are appropriate to the Bill and therefore I do not support them. To suggest with a Bill as comprehensive as this that after it is enacted the Secretary of State should immediately prepare a scheme to help the machine tool industry, and a scheme of assistance for the shipbuilding industry seems improper. It is wide-ranging and it is generous as it stands and I should have thought it was putting slightly the wrong construction on the Bill to add new Clauses 7 and 8.

For a long time I have held that we have a duty not to stand aside and leave industry to struggle on its own against world competition, an inadequate cash flow, increasing costs of raw materials and wages, and other economic problems. Everyone is involved in a mixed economy. We are very much involved in our shipbuilding industry and I support the Government in the steps they have taken so far and in the further steps they are considering of help for the industry. But the machine tool industry is perhaps the very cornerstone of British industry. It must not be allowed to fail. It must be sustained and allowed to grow, to develop and to modernise so that it is in the forefront of world competition.

Mr. Skeet

Why should we have yet another inquiry into the machine tool industry? We have had four or five over the last 10 years. Is my hon. Friend recommending another inquiry by the Government, or by anyone else?

Mr. Crouch

I am not recommending another inquiry or a specific provision in the Bill. But the Government are involved in the changes which have to take place in both private and public sectors of industry. The Bill is concerned with the private sector. I am concerned that the Government should play their part in helping the private sector to overcome its difficulties and at the moment the machine tool industry, like the shipbuilding industry, is facing a difficult period of change.

I wish now to turn to new Clause 1 which was so ably moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks). I agree with everything he said about support being needed for the tourist industry. In North-East Kent we have a tourist industry which is in a state of decline. But it is not an assisted area in any sense. If the new Clause is accepted, as I hope it will be, these small tourist areas, small pockets in a state of distress, cannot be left out. The Government cannot give assistance for tourism in the assisted areas without considering these other distressed areas.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Does my hon. Friend deplore the fact that North-East Kent is not an assisted area?

Mr. Crouch

I have said before, in Standing Committee and in the Chamber, that North-East Kent should be regarded as an area requiring assistance. It has been so scheduled since the war, but it was removed from that category. Government policy is that North-East Kent should not be regarded as an assisted area to any degree, but they have shown some flexibility in assisting meeting the high unemployment rate which still exists there. After all, the unemployment rate in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) during the winter reaches 9 or 10 per cent., a proportion which would normally justify almost immediate consideration for classification as an assisted area. I am not demanding that, but merely suggesting that if we agreed to new Clause 1—and the arguments for it were put strongly and were well received by the House—I should have to ask the Secretary of State to agree to consider similar assistance, for the tourist industry at least, in non-assisted areas.

I do not disagree with new Clause 4. The Bill does not place a specific emphasis on the need for assistance to service industries in the asssisted areas and the phrase "service industries" has a wider meaning than just the tourist industry, for it includes office employment in all its forms. It is an important factor and the Bill does not make a specific reference to it. My criticism of new Clause 6 and new Clause 7, of being specific about certain industries, does not apply here, because the service industries in a growing industrial society are much more labour-intensive than manufacturing industries as they are developed today.

In an aside, the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) said that he did not think that he could expect to get a petro-chemical complex in the South-West. Even if he did get it, it would not employ many people. But if he got several office blocks housing several hundreds or thousands of people engaged on pensions or insurance administration, or even working in the administration centre of a direct mail order business, he would find that they were requiring labour on a large scale so that job opportunities would increase considerably.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

I intend to be brief, even though my wife has not seen fit to send me an urgent telegram—following the example of the wife of my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon). As did the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), I wish to deal with new Clause 7. The position is becoming serious, as reports emanating from the Shipbuilders and Repairers National Association indicate. I quote from Lloyds List: It is also known that some owners have refrained from placing contracts until there is a Government decision, expected soon… I am grateful, as the whole House is, to the hon. Lady for having read the Secretary of State's letter into the record, but my worry is that vital orders are being held up for want of a decision with every day that passes.

It is not enough to rehabilitate the shipbuilding yards on the Upper Clyde unless the Government are prepared, with the ship owners and the shipbuilders, to devise schemes to get a flow of orders from United Kingdom owners going into United Kingdom yards.

It is significant that the first order received by Govan shipbuilders came not from a United Kingdom owner, but from Kuwait, although it would be breaching the rules of order to go into the details of that. We have pressed the Government time and again to consider how to devise a scheme to persuade United Kingdom owners to put their orders in United Kingdom yards. Perhaps it could be done by forms of credit or grants.

I know that there are difficulties because of international agreements and so on, but even the report from the Expenditure Committee yesterday shows that, although there is some measure of disagreement, if other nations are continuing to tie their owners to buying in their yards, it is vital for the United Kingdom industry to have matching methods so that United Kingdom owners are tied to United Kingdom yards.

I hope that the Secretary of State will say that he has in mind some scheme agreed between the owners and the builders. It is appropriate for the Opposition to ask for such a scheme and I would wholeheartedly support new Clause 7. The sooner the Secretary of State can give a clear indication of what he has in mind, the better it will be for all employed in British shipbuilding and all who sail in British ships.

12.45 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Warren (Hastings)

New Clause I identifies many of the problems and heart searchings that have confronted back benchers on my side of the House in terms of the Bill as a whole. Differentials in favour of an industry or a part of the country are given automatically at the expense of other industries or other parts. The tourist industry identifies the problem completely.

My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) commented on that this morning. I have much sympathy with what my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) is trying to do, but I could not take that sympathy into the Lobby in support of what he is proposing, because I cannot accept that there should be a differential in favour of holiday resorts in Scotland, or the South-West as opposed to North-East Kent, or my own area, Hastings. All of us right round the perimeter of the country and particularly in the tourist areas face exactly the same problems of changes in types of demand, of changes in volume of demand and changes in distribution of demand, and the problems of Blackpool or Bodmin are exactly the same as those of Hastings and other South Coast towns. I admit that we cannot offer the rather dangerous tours of mines that are available in Bodmin, but we can offer a certain battle site.

It is unfair to give subsidies to those areas when that must automatically be at the expense of other areas in exactly the same difficulty but not enjoying the privileges of the secondary effects that the Bill will promote. Investment in assisted areas by the Government will go, often directly but nearly always indirectly, into the tourist industry and the spin off for the tourist and service industries in the assisted areas will simply not be available under the Bill for other parts of the country. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to tell us something about the already existing powers to help the tourist industry, because I believe them to be substantial and quite sufficient without new Clause 1.

I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury said about new Clause 6. Why select the two industries of machine tools and shipbuilding as opposed to other and even more vital industries which are in greater trouble, for instance, the ball bearing industry and certain other science-based industries? Discrimination does not assist in that respect.

Mr. John Pardoe (Cornwall, North)

I was delighted to see that the Opposition had put down new Clause 4 because that indicates that in an emergency situation there is general acceptance of the importance of the service industries. At the time of the introduction of SET, some of us greatly regretted the attempt by the then Labour Government to discriminate against service industries and to try to prove that somehow employment in service industries was not as important as employment in manufacturing industries. In the debates at the time many of us, in the Conservative Party and in the Liberal Party, said that this discrimination was a nonsense, and I welcome the Labour Party to our view.

The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) will probably agree that most of us from the South-West would prefer the area not to be over-dependent on tourism. We would prefer a much greater variety of employment. I do not like any area to be too dependent on tourism. In our climate it is inevitably a seasonal employment prospect in areas other than London.

We have the unfortunate situation in parts of Cornwall—almost the whole of the coastal areas—and in parts of North Devon, that for five months of the year we can offer employment, at ludicrously low wages, disgraceful wages in many cases, but that for the remaining seven months the only prospect available is the Supplementary Benefits Commission and, if people are lucky, unemployment pay for the first three years. For the foresee- able future we see the need for a much greater increase in the jobs in tourism, and for that reason the Clause is to be welcomed.

Tourism unfortunately seems to be destined under all Governments to be plagued by mice disguised as lions. For example, only last week or the week before, the Treasury announced loans for hotel fire precautions, but when we looked further into this massive new help for the tourist industry we discovered that it was very much a mouse, very much a poor thing. Today we are dealing with what has certainly turned out to be another mouse, Sections 3 and 4 of the Development of Tourism Act When a Section has only £1 million behind it we are bound to ask whether it was really worth the bother, because £1 million cannot be spread as thinly as the tourist board is trying to spread it. It is having little effect in increasing tourist facilities in the development areas or anywhere else.

Mr. Ridley

Income from tourism is increasing fairly rapidly. We are now major earners of revenue from tourism. Will the hon. Gentleman explain why it is necessary to subsidise an expanding industry with large inputs of foreign tourists' money? Why cannot the tourist facilities be provided out of the income from the tourists who come here? Where are they going if they are not going to the hon. Gentleman's area? Why is it that they do not seem to want to go where he is, if he is not getting the money in Cornwall that he would expect to get?

Mr. Pardoe

Not all tourism is tourism by foreigners, nor is all valuable tourism tourism by foreigners. The industry which ensures that English people do not go abroad for their holidays is contributing just as much of a service to the community as the industry which attracts tourists here. We have all been happily going along with figures which for years have looked very good because they have shown a handsome balance on the tourist account, but the situation is changing rapidly. It will not be in balance very soon. We shall find next year, if not this year, that we need to attract far more tourist money into this country and that we need to provide much better facilities.

It is true, as the hon. Member for Bodmin said, that the far South-West is not part of the foreign tourist beat. It is unfortunate from our point of view, though perhaps not from London's point of view, that the great majority of tourists spend most of their time in London. They go to Stratford, but that is about as far as they go. We do not get a big share of the foreign tourists, certainly not a big enough share.

But the hon. Gentleman raised a valid point when he asked why the tourist industry needs the money. First, it needs it where it is basically seasonal, because there it has too short a period of the year to show a proper return on capital. That is very largely the reason for supporting it with Government money in the development areas, because they are inevitably those areas which must rely on seasonal tourism. It is no good suggesting that we should attract a massive weekend tourist industry for our hotels in the middle of January. I enjoy the North Cornwall coast in the middle of January but I would find it difficult to sell it. It is a long way for anyone to travel there for a weekend, and there is not a great deal of sunshine in January and February.

We need to create the jobs in the area, and in the foreseeable future we have no alternative to ensuring that we create them in the hotel industry, in the tourism industry.

Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)

The hon. Gentleman referred to "the English people". May I ask him to amend that to "the British people"? I thought it was a slip of the tongue.

Mr. Pardoe

Of course. I am so used to drawing the distinction and putting the Redcoats on the Tamar, that perhaps it was a slip of the tongue, although it has certain nationalist associations behind it. Perhaps it was a Freudian slip. I apologise.

I regard new Clause 4 as being just as important to us in creating a complete economy in the development areas. In the dispersal and balance of the distribution of offices we have a pretty hopeless story to tell under all Governments in recent years. The report of the Location of Offices Bureau, published in June, does not show a very handsome return for all its valuable publicity and great attempts. It is primarily concerned to move offices out of central London to outer London and the rest of the South-East. Very few of its activities are designed to move offices and office jobs to the development area. The whole policy needs a new shot in the arm.

We must consider what effect the present appalling increase in office jobs and office space in central London is having on London, first, in architectural and town planning terms; secondly, on the quality of life in the capital; and thirdly, on the rest of the nation, because it is not getting a satisfactory share of the office jobs. We need the new jobs in the regions far more desperately than London needs them. The residential population of central London is declining yet the jobs, particularly the office jobs, are increasing. This puts a strain on commuter train services to a point where the Government now have to subsidise those services. It is a crazy way to run a country. We should be able to distribute jobs more evenly to ensure that we do not have that appalling burden on the train services that bring the commuters into central London. The situation is also an absolute architectural and town planning disaster.

The Financial Times recently suggested that the best thing the Secretary of State for the Environment could do at his early morning meeting with his assistants that morning was to declare a total stop to all further office development in central London. More and more magnificent buildings are being torn down in London, all for the sake of the voracious demands of cars and office jobs. For the sake of London as a major city and architectural centre, the policy needs an entirely new shot in the arm.

The Government must start with their own offices. I hope that the Clause will at least serve to bring to their attention the pathetic nature of their attempts to decentralise their own offices. The Economist has suggested that we shift this place, the centre of Government, lock stock and barrel out of London. That is a very attractive proposal, though I am not appealing for it to be brought down to Dartmoor. I do not want it there. It should be north of a line from, say, the Wash to the Humber.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

The hon. Gentleman, like the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Alan Williams), draws attention in connection with these Clauses and Amendments to the need for dispersal of Government offices. I was bemused as I listened to the hon. Member for Swansea, West, and I am bemused as I listen to the hon. Gentleman, because I cannot see what the new Clauses, which suggest various extensions of the utilisation of the selective assistance provisions of Clause 7 of the Bill, can have to do with Government offices.

1.0 p.m.

Mr. Pardoe

This new Clause is aimed at increasing the dispersal of offices generally. It is not specifically designed to deal with Government offices and it might not in itself encourage any dispersal of Government offices. I am saying that the policy of dispersal needs a good shot in the arm, and this is no bad occasion to draw that to the attention of the Government. I hope that this Clause will do so.

The arguments put forward why businesses or Government Departments cannot move their offices are always the same—for example "There are no facilities", "It would be most uncomfortable for civil servants without lots of subsidised music and arts", "The roads and the aeroplanes are appalling" and all the rest. That is begging the question. I ask the Minister to imagine what would happen to the distribution of the Arts Council subsidies, to the new roads and new railways if his Department were to be moved to Camborne or Plymouth. Very soon all of those facilities would follow.

If we can get an effective policy of distribution and spread out these office jobs, they would bring in their wake new jobs and immense benefits to the regions. We need to develop complete communities in the regions. We do not want to be dependent on any one industry, on small manufacturing or on tourism. We want the other service jobs, we want the jobs that officers can bring. That is why I support new Clauses 4 and 1.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

As we are now discussing a substantial group of new Clauses I want to devote my remarks particularly to new Clauses 1, 4 and 6. To deal first with new Clause 4, I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) having paid a very brief visit to the Chamber, is no longer with us, because I would have liked to hear him explaining his activities as a senior member of the previous Government and their treatment of the service industries in the development areas. I would have liked to know the reasons for the profound conversion that he has undergone, as demonstrated by new Clause 4.

I wonder whether the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Alan Williams) realises—listening to his opening remarks I can only assume that he does not—that the largest single job loss in Scotland under the Labour Government was in the service industries. We heard from the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) and others that the reason for the loss of 85,000 male jobs in Scotland during their period of office was due to the excessively fast rundown of declining industries, such as mining, heavy engineering, shipbuilding and agriculture. It is a striking fact that the biggest single job loss was not in any of the declining industries but in the service industries, which in every other advanced industrial country were growing fast. The reason for this was the Herculean efforts which the party opposite undertook at the behest and guidance of Professors Balogh and Kaldor to discriminate in every possible way against the service industries.

Alas, many of these discriminations remain. No doubt we shall be discussing them later today. There is, for instance, the discrimination with regional employment premium. What I find a little bit of brass nerve is for the party opposite to tell the Government in new Clause 4 that they must use the selective assistance provisions of Clause 7 to encourage the proper distribution of employment in the service industries! After their performance during six years of office we are entitled to a rather better explanation, with perhaps even the overtones of an apology from the hon. Member.

In many parts of the development areas—I think particularly of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland—the service industries are far and away the largest employers. The loss to the Highlands and Islands from the discriminatory application of SET to the service industries there was considerable. We are always grateful for the sinner who repents, but we might have had a little more acknowledgement of the extent of the sin and of the repentance.

New Clause 6 relates to the machine tool industry. My hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. Warren) doubted the wisdom of picking out special industries for particular mention under Clause 7. I confess that my anxieties about Clause 7 largely relate to the comprehensive nature of operations which my hon. and right hon. Friends can undertake under the aegis of the Clause. That too, is something that we shall be discussing later. What concerns me about the proposition in new Clause 6 is that we already have the example of a special scheme designed to assist the machine tool industry, and I am bound to say that it is not working very well.

We should pay some attention to what is happening with the present scheme which is taxpayer-financed to the extent of £16million and which is to provide machine tools for institutions coming within the scope of the central Government, whether they be universities, institutions of further education or Royal Ordnance factories. The remarkable thing is that with the universities and institutions of further education the average value of orders for machine tools placed under the scheme to date is running at substantially less than £3,000 per machine, according to a recent Parliamentary Answer.

As I have pointed out to my hon. Friends responsible for matters at the Scottish Office, machines at that sort of price are not much more than glorified "do-it-yourself" jigs. In so far as taxpayers' money is contributing to a scheme of this type, for the money to go on purchases of this kind must be largely a waste. In other words, if we are to have such a scheme the money made available by the Department of Trade and Industry on behalf of the taxpayer should be used for the purchase of more sophisticated machinery of genuine industrial application. To date we have seen precious little of that.

The operation of this scheme gives us little confidence that one such as that suggested in new Clause 6 could be expected to be put to good use. The £16 million scheme which ends in September has not proved a good precedent. I suggest that if we are to take full advantage of this scheme it may be necessary for the terminal date to be rolled forward. Many institutions of further education and Royal Ordnance factories are not being over-speedy in coming forward with proposals for orders under the scheme. The average cost of machines purchased under the scheme may increase substantially, so that we shall have to see that it is being used for the purchase of good machines.

I should perhaps declare a constituency interest. Machines of the most highly sophisticated and modern type for genuine industrial application are produced in my constituency. They are not the sort of "do-it-yourself" carpentry kits on which expenditure seems to be made under the scheme. The working of the scheme does not give me much confidence that the acceptance of new Clause 6 would produce helpful results in the machine tool industry.

I wish to say a few words about new Clause 1—the tourist board and hotel industry Clause. I confess to my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) that, alluring as I found his arguments, I do not entirely share his conclusions. I have forgotten the phrase that my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) used, but he indicated that depressed tourist areas in need of special assistance would not like assistance under the new Clause to go to parts of the country where the tourist industry competed with them. This is one of the grave problems that we face in all schemes of regional differentiation. I have a feeling that in due course the area surrounding Piccadilly Circus will be, if not a development area, at least a land clearance area, because in the end we shall not be able to leave out anything.

I draw attention to another argument that militates against the new Clause so persuasively moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin, namely, the activities of a body that is already operating and is spending substantial sums in giving financial assistance to the tourist industry—the Highlands and Islands Development Board. I was told recently that up to 8th June, 1972, the board had provided assistance to the tune of £3.1 million for supporting the hotel industry in the area that it covers. It is calculated that it produced a little over 1,000 jobs. I question the cost-effectiveness of this type of assistance.

An even more impressive figure was given recently. That is perhaps the sort of thing that one could expect to happen if we decided to give a Second Reading to new Clause 1.

Mr. Edward Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

Does my hon. Friend agree that in the reply to which he has just referred it was indicated that the assistance covered 102 hotel projects which, it was envisaged, would later provide substantial additional employment?

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

All that the reply said was that the board had nine projects under consideration which could involve assistance of about £70,000.

I did not propose to leave this matter without drawing attention to one of the latest projects of the board—the presentation of a cheque for £128,750 to Sir Charles Forte in respect of one hotel. Bully for Sir Charles, and bully for his shareholders; I hope that they get a good return from their £128,750. But how many jobs will there be in the hotel—15, 20, 25? Not more. Furthermore, I imagine that the likelihood was that Sir Charles would have built the hotel anyway. I wonder whether the taxpayer can be said to be gaining value for money from the expenditures of this worthy board.

I have not all that much more confidence in the ability of the various tourist boards to spend the taxpayers' money more wisely than the Highlands and Islands Development Board has been doing in giving assistance to the tourist industry. Therefore, I shall not find it possible to go into the Lobby in support of new Clause 1.

1.15 p.m.

Mr. Raymond Fletcher (Ilkeston)

I speak mainly to new Clauses 4 and 7.

It is fairly plain from new Clause 4 that there has been some kind of semantic conversion on this side of the House. I vividly remember voting for the selective employment tax. My defence—and I intend to defend nobody else—is simply the traditional one that it seemed a good idea at the time. There I rest my case.

But I am glad to see that there has been a change of attitude. We on this side recognise that a service industry is an industry. Hon. Members opposite must appreciate that among our constituents, many of whom are manual workers in heavy industry, there is still a psychological resistance to the idea of transfer ring from, say, coal mining, to a service industry because a service industry is regarded as being, in some strange way, an emasculating industry. Consequently there is psychological resistance in the regions and areas which the new Clause is intended to help, and that must be taken into account in the public pronouncements of the Secretary of State and all the other Ministers concerned with making pronouncements about the Bill when it becomes an Act.

My second point is very minor and it may give rise to the usual hilarity which occurs when I get on to one of my favourite subjects. I narrow my remarks to one word in new Clause 7—"ships" It is not unknown to the House that I have an interest to declare in an old form of transport which is being revived. [An Hon. Member:"Hot air."] I have no connection with hot air inside or outside the Chamber. Hot air is strictly for amusement. I am concerned with the infant airship industry which is again coming into existence in this country and is already in existence in other countries. It may interest the House to know that the firm of West Deutsche Luftwerbung, in West Germany, has already started on the first stage of creating a 30-ton helium-filled airship. I have been approached by the Mitsubishi concern, which is not led by idiots, about the prospects of constructing airships in British shipyards.

That brings me to the word "ships". I do not want to raise the question too hardly, as it were, in such a way that it must be answered this afternoon, because I prefer the Minister to brood upon it rather than come back with a snap answer, which almost inevitably would be "No". Snap answers in politics are almost inevitably "No".

I ask the Minister to brood on this proposition. If the Shell Natural Gas Corporation—here I declare an interest in one of the companies associated with it—goes ahead with its £350 million project to transport natural gas to this country by airships, there is only one place where those large ships can be constructed, and that, of course, is in British shipyards. I ask the Minister to bear in mind the possibility—I am choosing my words very carefully—that within the definition of "ships" he may have to include airships as well.

We are talking of the future, and no one can accurately foresee the future, though I do my best from time to time, but in so far as I can foresee the future it seems to me that there will not be very much difference between the construction of what I will call the Shell type airship and construction of the ship which will go to sea. I hope that this will be borne in mind when the Government accept new Clause 7, as I feel absolutely sure they will because it is such a sensible Clause.

Mr. Skeet

I would support the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher) about airships, but I think that probably it would assist the dispatch of business if I confined myself to new Clause 6, in which hon. Members on the other side advance the idea that the Government should prepare a scheme to provide under Clause 8 of the Bill assistance for the machine tool industry. If I can I shall try to persuade the Secretary of State from going ahead with any such plan.

This matter was looked at exhaustively by a number of committees, one under Sir Richard Way who said: If further progress is to be made to the extent which seems to us vitally necessary, it will be mainly by means of efforts made by the industry, not by actions of the Government—important though this can be in certain spheres. The House will know that there has been quite a number of committees looking into the machine tool industry—Mitchell, Layton, Way and Fielden—and they have all taken place in the last 10 to 15 years.

What the industry wants is buoyancy in the economy, available markets and increased export trade, where it is already making a substantial contribution. Less fragmentation of production, with more specialised machine tools could help.

I suggest that the late Government, through the IRC, did have a look at several companies to encourage them to buy machine tools. British Leyland Motor Corporation received some money for this purpose. Then there was investment in Herbert-Ingersoll which unfortunately was lost, and the reason for that way, and I quote the Financial Times: The volume of business available in the United Kingdom has been consistently disappointing and the total workload has not been sufficient to enable the company to trade at a profit. I think that this type of Government intervention I would certainly not recommend.

Several other cases have been looked at and Herbert-Ingersoll went into liquidation. Loans were also made to Marwin (Holdings), Plessey Numerical Controls and Kearney Trecker.

What I am arguing is that while the Minister may have great powers under Clause 8, largely because the criteria are so wide, in the public interests and the interest of the economy he should take heed of the advice which has been given by experience here and in other countries. For instance, in Sweden a company known as Statsföretag, a State holding company, in October, 1968, formed a State-owned machine tool company and took over one of the subsidiaries from Volvo and another two companies from the Wallenberg group. That was in 1968. The consequence of this according to the Economist of December, 1971, was that the nationalised tool industry was making enormous losses and it proceeded to sack 20 per cent. of the labour force.

In the light of what happened to Herbert-Ingersoll, a company which is packing up completely, because it found it had misjudged the market and was producing the wrong machines for the market to buy; and in the light of the other example in Sweden, where the State machine tool industry is struggling for its existence, I would ask whether we should accept the recommendation, of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, that the industry should be nationalised. That I believe to be quite irrational, and all that previous experience does not commend the recommendations in new Clause 6, that a further scheme should be prepared for the British machine tool industry to be analysed, diagnosed and modernised by the State.

If I may advise the House I would make this earnest recommendation. Those reports about the industry having been made, the industry having already been analysed and investigated, it be left to the industry to put its own house in order. I would not suggest that any large tranche of money should be made available to this industry over and above what the Government have already provided.

Mr. Michael Cocks (Bristol, South)

Briefly to make a few remarks, I would say, with respect, that I thought that the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) did not advance his arguments from those which he put forward in Committee. In the discussion in Committee two points came out particularly strongly. First of all, there was the question of seasonal unemployment, which is extremely serious. I do not see that the hon. Member has explained to the House today how his new Clause would specifically help solve this problem of seasonal unemployment.

Secondly, what guarantees have we that this money will not go to those people to whom we really would not like to see it go? I made this point in Committee, that development companies, which are already doing extremely well in this country, might be the beneficiaries of this sort of assistance. Indeed, in Bristol at the moment we have an unseemly squabble going on about who is to pay compensation in respect of the Avon Gorge Hotel project, and an unseemly scramble to get the work under way before a certain date expires.

I should like to feel that the assistance which goes to the South-West really goes to the provision of jobs and the provision of a stable basis of employment for the people who work in that area. I fully support the hon. Member's remarks about that, and if that point can be met this sort of assistance will be welcome.

However, I am surprised that those three apostles of private enterprise who have put their names to the new Clause have not put forward any justification for that minimum sum of £20 million a year to be specified for that work. I would think that the whole essence of such a scheme would be flexibility, and that there ought to be more flexibility in it.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards (Pembroke)

I intervene very briefly to take up points made by the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Michael Cocks) and by my hon. Friends the Members for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) and Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) criticising the new Clause. It seems to me that one of the most powerful reasons for the new Clause is precisely the seasonal nature of the tourist industry, because it is a fact that in areas where the tourist industry is seasonal it is exceedingly difficult to raise normal commercial finance for hotel projects and it is precisely in those areas that the main groups—on the whole, the main groups—donot come to develop hotels. Certainly the experience of the Welsh Tourist Board has shown that the stimulus for the right kind of investment comes locally and not from the major groups which have been referred to today, and that it is local investment which has helped to extend the tourist season and to reduce the high levels of unemployment in the winter months.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Angus referred to the fact that in the Highlands Government grants had produced a comparatively low return in terms of jobs. I quoted in Committee on 4th July some figures to show that in Wales the expenditure of a little over £3 million of Government money had stimulated investment of the order of £18 million and had created between 3,000 and 4,000new jobs. It has been the experience of the tourist board in Wales that the cost of creating these new jobs has not been the £3,000 to £3,500 per job indicated by my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus, but well under £1,000 a job. That is not a high cost for creating new jobs and reducing the level of seasonal unemployment.

1.30 p.m.

The hon. Member for Bristol, South referred to the level of expenditure suggested in new Clause 1. At the moment, with a figure of £1 million the Government have stimulated a large number of applications for thoroughly desirable projects. Eleven applications for such projects in my constituency alone have been put in:they are very desirable but cannot be proceeded with for lack of funds. The tourist board in Wales has applications which would involve Government expenditure of some £600,000 but which would produce investment of well over £4½ million is proceeded with.

We say that we must have an adequate sum and a continuing sum so that people can plan projects on a continuing scale, can asses them on merit and not have to rush forward with them to a deadline. There must be continuous planning for the future, so we want guarantees for substantial expenditure over a period of, say, five years.

The Government may say that this Bill is not the vehicle for our purpose, and we have heard certain reasons advanced in support of that view. We have had assurances from the Government, particularly on 11th July, that they are looking at the matter very carefully, and considering it with the tourist boards. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to assure us that if he can not accept the Clause he will in other ways open to him give the tourist industry the guarantees and incentives which I believe it requires.

The Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Anthony Grant)

This has been, through the selection list, about which I make no complaint, a very wide-ranging debate, and I shall do my best to answer all the various points that have been raised. But I first want to express my personal regret, and I am sure the regret of my hon. Friends, at the illness of the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth). We know what a valuable and active part he played in Committee, and we all wish him a very speedy return to good health.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Grant

I will deal first with new Clause 1, moved very thoughtfully by my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks). I know the great interest he has in and the great knowledge he has of tourism. I have a great deal of sympathy with the reasons which have led him to introduce the new Clause and which have led some of the speeches on tourism. There is absolutely no difference between us about the potential value of the holiday industries to many areas where other forms of employment cannot easily be introduced. I am well aware of the importance of hotels and of leisure facilities in making an area more attractive to incoming industrialists.

Nor is there any particular disagreement between us on the way in which any Government assistance should be administered. The wording of the Clause itself and the comments we have heard make it clear that my hon. Friend and other hon. Members regard the Development of Tourism Act, and the statutory bodies set up under it, as the right vehicle for dealing with the tourist industry. I assure the House, as I assured the Committee, that that Act contains adequate powers for the assistance of tourism, and that there is no reason to have recourse to further powers to be taken under the Bill.

But I realise that what really concerns my hon. Friends the Members for Bodmin and Pembroke (Mr. Nicholas Edwards) in particular is the amount of Government assistance to tourism in the assisted areas. I must remind the House that the total amount of assistance we are giving this year to tourism is likely to exceed the amount referred to in the Clause, and that next year's expenditure will probably be even higher. It is quite true that the lion's share will be in the form of grants to hotels under the incentive scheme, but the development areas will gain a substantial amount of benefit by way of hotel accommodation as a result. We estimate that under the hotels incentive scheme about £60 million will be spent on new hotels. It is therefore not right to suggest that the taxpayer is somehow being slack in his assistance for hotel building.

I know that my hon. Friends are looking beyond the time scale of the incentive scheme to developments which maybe needed in the future. It is too early yet to assess the full effect of this very considerable incentive scheme, although studies are now going on into future demands for and investment in hotels. A study is also being undertaken by the hotel and catering NEDC of the seasonal problem, and this may produce some very valuable and useful information.

I readily accept that there may be a continuing need for specific projects in specific areas both in the accommodation sector and in other sectors of tourism facilities to provide employment opportunities. That is why we have already provided some funds for assistance for selected tourist projects in development areas. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin and other hon. Members think that the £1 million available under Section 3 of the Development of Tourism Act is not adequate, though others may take a different view, but it is important to remember that for the development of an area's tourist potential it is not enough simply to create hotel or other facilities:more people have to be persuaded to visit the area.

In some areas the quickest way to get more tourist earnings is to encourage further use of existing under-used facilities. So we also give support under the Development of Tourism Act for the promotional and marketing work of the tourist boards, which is an extremely important part of the whole concept of tourism. The House should know that the grants given to the various tourist boards have been increasing each year. The boards had another increase this year. A great deal of the boards' marketing effort is designed to encourage people to visit the less known areas which, to some extent, include the development areas.

There must be scope for reconsideration of the assistance we give under the Development of Tourism Act for projects. As my right hon. Friend said in Committee, the Government are now considering with the tourist boards, which will be putting proposals to us, the scope for increases in the level of assistance to tourism. We have rightly delegated this problem to the tourist boards. When all the proposals are to hand we shall consider them in the light of all that has been said during our debates and having regard to the regional changes that have occurred as a result of the Bill and the boundary changes. I hope that on that basis my hon. Friend will feel that I am sympathetic to the theme behind the new Clause, though I would not wish to have it written into the Bill when there are already powers under the Development of Tourism Act.

Mr. Hicks

Will my hon. Friend say something about the time scale involved in these discussions between the Government and interested parties? Would he also comment briefly on the possibility of extending this to intermediate areas which have a tourist potential?

Mr. Grant

On the latter point, as I have indicated, this was one of the factors we took into consideration. But with the new assisted areas, we have a very considerable extension from the old development areas. However, that factor will be taken into consideration in the discussions we are having. As to the timing, the grant of £1 million per anum given to tourists projects under Section 4 of the Act is a matter which is reviewed annually in the normal way under the Estimates procedure. I imagine that it will be some time in the autumn that we come round to the Estimates. I hope that we shall be able to consider it before the end of the year. I cannot go beyond what I have already said, that we are discussing the matter at present.

On the question of offices and services generally, I had some sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne), who, perhaps more in sorrow than in anger, drew attention to the slightly belated conversion of the Opposition to the concept of the advantages of the service industries. I welcome the contribution of the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher), who began with a very powerful mea culpa in this respect. He was so frank and honest in his view that it is only right that I should say that I will most certainly consider carefully his specific points about shipping. Nevertheless, we now are happily, if somewhat belatedly, all agreed that the service industries are a vital sector of our economy and that it is important for the development areas and assisted areas to have a proper balance between the service industries and manufacturing industries.

Mr. Alan Williams

The reason for the "conversion"—if that is the term the hon. Gentleman wishes to use—is demonstrated very easily in the north of England. Since the present Government came to office we find in the north of England five times the number of redundancies, a 30 per cent, increase in unemployment, 40,000 lost jobs, half the IDCs since 1969,a doubling in the number of manufacturing industries which have closed, and that vacancies are down and jobs in the pipeline are down.

Mr. Grant

I was expressing delight that the Opposition had been converted, but after that intervention I am not so sure. I still give the Opposition the benefit of the doubt and say that I am pleased that we are all agreed that the service industries form a vital part of our economy.

We must recognise that by and large the service industries locate where there is the economic and industrial activity which will give rise to a demand for their services. So in the main they are essentially local and not susceptible to being moved, or mobile, in the same way as manufacturing industry. However, a large number of offices, for example, are located not only in London and the South-East but also in other urban complexes which have, from a work aspect, no particular strong ties with the area in which they are at present located. They could carry out their function quite as effectively in one of the assisted areas. Indeed, because there is an element of the service industries which is susceptible to mobility, we have made it clear time and again that the provisions of Clause 7 will be available for assistance where they can contribute to that end.

1.45 p.m.

As to offices, the firms concerned could probably achieve very substantial savings in the form of lower rents and rates by moving out to the assisted areas from areas in which there is particular congestion. But the fact that firms accept this financial penalty is some indication of the magnitude of the difficulties which they foresee in making such a move. Therefore, any financial incentive to encourage a move would have to take that into account.

The Government are engaged in a consideration in depth of the whole question of offices and their removal. The sort of possibilities we are exploring are removal and settling in expenses, and not only all those connected with the removal costs of the firms concerned but also those of the staff, and possibly any special capital cost in adapting new premises to suit the firm concerned. We are looking into the question of assistance with rent, possibly in the form of a rent-free period or, perhaps, a longer period of financial assistance towards rent. There are great difficulties with this. An incentive of this sort would have to be very considerable indeed, and even then there is some doubt whether it would necessarily be effective. What is more, a specific grant for rent could have the effect of forcing up rent levels in parts of the development areas. We shall have to look at this matter carefully in the light of general policy on this question; but it is a possibility.

The question of communications for some offices is of the utmost importance. There might be grounds for assistance towards the cost of maintaining these services. Whatever we finally decide, we shall need a very full publicity campaign to explain the advantages of our incentives and to encourage firms which can move to do so.

Having said that, I want to make it absolutely clear that we have the power to assist financially the relocation of offices from the congested areas to the development and assisted areas. Therefore, in that sense, the new Clause is unnecessary. To put in a new Clause specifically directed to one sector—the same considerations apply to machine tools and shipping—could cast doubts upon the generalities of the powers we intend to employ.

I turn to the machine tool industry. The Government recognise, as I am sure the whole House does, the difficulties that the machine tool industry has been in for a number of years. This is not confined solely to this country. The United States and the rest of Europe have suffered from the recession in the demand for their goods. This has been particularly difficult for our industry, which has suffered also from the general stagnation which started well before the present Government took office. The Government recognise however, the particular problems of the machine tool industry. In the long term what is needed most of all is an expansion of the economy generally and an increase in economic activity. The measures which have been taken by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer are directed specifically to this end.

We recognise that the machine tool industry is one of the last industries to pick up resulting from expansionary economic measures. Therefore, on the recommendation of the little "Neddy" for the machine tool industry, we have brought in accelerated orders from Government sources, universities and further education institutions.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Angus was a little critical of this. I am sorry that the machine tool firm in his constituency has not benefited. The purpose of the scheme was not to ensure that every machine tool had a full order book; it was to give the necessary boost and to bridge the gap until the measures announced in the Budget and in the White Paper on Industrial Development and also the provisions of the Bill took effect to stimulate orders from manufacturing industry generally. It was no more than a scheme which we were advised to introduce by the little "Neddy" for the machine tool industry to cover this period, and I believe that in this respect it has been helpful.

The Government having none the less recognised the problems of the machine tool industry, it is right of me to stress that we have the power under Clauses 7 and 8—

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Before my hon. Friend leaves the question of the scheme, may I put this to him? I am not sure that he has hoisted on board my precise point. I do not suggest that it follows automatically that every machine tool manufacturer should get a portion of this gravy boat. My point is that the evidence to date is that the average value of orders placed under this scheme has been absolutely minuscule—less than £3,000 a machine—and that the type of machine which can be purchased for that sum is little better than a do-it-yourself carpentry kit. I was hoping that my hon. Friend would be able to tell us that the Government would be using their influence to encourage this scheme to be used for the purchase of more sophisticated machines.

Mr. Grant

My hon. Friend was guilty of exaggeration in an effort to make his case. The Government are anxious that sophisticated machine tools should be taken up by the universities and agencies. It is an exaggeration to assert that the scheme is of no use. That is not what the industry has told the Government, nor is it what the little "Neddy" for the machine tool industry has said.

Following the recent exhibition, there is a great deal more confidence in the machine tool industry than sometimes appears from political speeches. I am pleased at the note of confidence which has been shown by those who are concerned with it, in particular by the General Manager of the Machine Tool Trade Association who on 3rd July said this: I am absolutely convinced…that it will not be long before order books start to look healthy once again. That shows the measure of confidence that there is in the industry, though we all recognise its long-term problems. It is to assist in overcoming these that we are taking the powers under the Bill. I advise the House that the new Clause is strictly unnecessary.

I come, finally, to new Clause No. 7, which relates to shipping, which is of great interest to many hon. Members on both sides. The Chamber of Shipping jointly with the Shipbuilders and Repairers National Association have made proposals for incentives to stimulate orders for new ships. The question of what form of assistance, if any, might be made available to the shipping industry is under consideration by the Ministers.

Dame Irene Ward

Ha, ha!

Mr. Grant

If my hon. Friend will be a little more patient, I may have something to cheer her somewhat. The question of assistance to the shipping industry was raised in Committee. Government spokesmen informed the Committee that Ministers greatly welcomed the fact that both the Chamber of Shipping and the SRNA had been able to act in concert in examining possible solutions to the problems facing the industry. We welcomed this. The suggestions of these bodies are receiving close and urgent consideration. This important matter has a wide range of implications for the Government and for the economy as a whole, and it is only right that it should receive close and careful scrutiny.

Mr. Brace Millan (Glasgow, Craigton)

When were these proposals first received by the Government?

Mr. Grant

I cannot say exactly when that was, except that it was a relatively short time ago in view of the major importance of the subject matter.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tyne-mouth (Dame Irene Ward) quite rightly wanted to know, following her letter to my right hon. Friend and the assurance that there would not be any undue delay, when my right hon. Friend would reach a decision. My right hon. Friend will give an answer before the House rises for the Summer Recess.

Generally on the question of shipping, the powers under Clauses 7 and 8 are, as in the case of those relating to other industries, adequate to provide any selective assistance which it may be decided should be available to the shipping industry.

Mr. Douglas

Is there any delay in giving this answer arising from the currency dislocation? Has the Minister discussed with other OECD countries the answer he is likely to give?

Mr. Grant

Nothing that I said should have indicated that there had been any unnecessary delay. I said that close and careful scrutiny was taking place. It would not be right in advance of any decision for me to pontificate on any of the points which are being raised in discussion.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

Can we have an assurance that, if the decision is made before the House rises for the recess, it will not be made in the form of an Answer to a Written Question but will be made in the form of a statement so that Members may question the Minister?

Mr. Grant

My right hon. Friend will undoubtedly note what the hon. Gentleman says.

The Government are very much in sympathy with the points which have been made in this debate, particularly the expressed desire to encourage tourism and to attract service industries to assisted areas and to help the machine-tool and shipping industries. However, as my hon. Friends the Members for Bedford (Mr. Skeet), Hastings (Mr. Warren) and Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) pointed out, it would not be suitable to spell out particular industries in a Bill of this nature, which essentially must be broad and flexible.

As it is essential in a Bill of this nature to consider the overall economic position and regional problems as a whole, although I am in sympathy with much of what has been said in the debate, I hope that it will not be thought necessary to press the Clause, otherwise I must advise the House to reject it.

2.0 p.m.

Mr. Millan

On all the new Clauses the Minister has been rather more forthcoming today than Ministers were in Committee, and for that we are grateful. On all these matters some apprehension was expressed in Committee. It has been useful to have these matters debated today. The Government have existing statutory powers in relation to tourism; therefore, in a sense the new Clause relating to tourism is not necessary. However, it was important to establish that the Government were taking a continuing, active and enthusiastic interest in helping tourism, particularly in assisted areas. The 1969 Act was not specifically directed to the assisted areas, and the powers under it apply everywhere.

I shall not go over what the Minister said today. We shall wish to consider it carefully. On both sides of the House there is a good deal of interest in seeing that the Government help the industry in a way that will provide additional employment in the assisted areas and additional amenities for our own holiday-makers and those who come from overseas. We shall watch carefully how the Government's policy develops in this respect, and no doubt there will be later opportunities to come back to it.

In connection with offices and service employment, we put down our new Clause 6 because the answer that we had in Committee on the selective assistance provisions of Clause 7 made some of us feel that the Government did not regard the problem with sufficient seriousness and were apparently not fully determined to tackle it.

One recognises that there are difficulties in having offices moved from areas which firms regard as attractive to them—for example, there is a certain magnetism in central London—but it is nevertheless true that even from the strict economic point of view of the office employers themselves it is an extremely expensive business to be in central London. I see no reason why we should not continue to operate a stringent office development control policy in central London. Such a policy has now largely been abandoned by the Government, but if it were maintained there would probably be quite a lot of office employment willing to move out of central London and the South-East generally, and in these circumstances the sort of incentives that we have pressed on the Government would do an effective job.

The Minister has elaborated a good deal on what the Government have in mind—removal and settling-in expenses, new help with capital expenditure on office buildings, perhaps assistance with rents, rent-free periods, assistance with communications, and so on. Without wishing to be churlish, I have to tell him that if he had elaborated in Committee in that way we might not have felt it necessary to put down our new Clause on Report, because those were some of the matters that we very much hoped he would tell us about then. We are glad that he has told us now, and we shall watch the development of Government policy in the light of what he has said. We welcome his words, but we shall continue to pursue him on these matters in order to ensure that the Government put a proper policy into operation. Clause 7 will not be adequate without additional powers along the lines which we have proposed.

On the subject of machine tools, too, we have heard something more today, but it has not been anything like adequate to match the seriousness of the present state of affairs in the industry. The hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) shows an enthusiasm for Government intervention in this sector that he does not show in others, I notice, but that is because he has a strong constituency interest. We welcome his interest none the less, and we hope to see similar enthusiasm expressed in support of problem industries in other parts of Scotland, though we have not seen it so far.

The Minister probably knows that there is a particularly serious situation in Johnstone, in Renfrewshire, with redundancies at Wickham Lang, a machine tool manufacturer there. My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan) would have been here today to emphasise the urgency of Government action, but being involved in that very problem in his constituency today he asked me to mention it. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the action that my hon. Friend has been taking will have the full support of his colleagues in the Scottish Parliamentary Labour Party.

We have made some progress on the subject of shipping, too. Hon. Members on both sides who have continued to press this matter on the Government will be grateful that we have been promised a decision before the House rises. We wait impatiently to know what that decision is. I shall not go over the various arguments which have been put—the Minister is well aware of them—save to say that there is a desperate need, for the shipbuilding industry's benefit to have the matter clarified and to provide incentives to British ship owners to put orders in British yards. I hope that when that statement comes it will match the urgency of the problem. I endorse what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon), that the announcement must be made as a statement to the House and not sucked away in a Written Answer. Even supposing that it were an acceptable answer, that would not be right.

Dame Irene Ward

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's support, but I think that I can probably arrange the matter myself with Ministers. I have access, and I have done quite a lot behind the scenes. The hon. Gentleman need not worry about hole-and-corner methods. I can register my own point of view and have the matter settled.

Mr. Millan

We are grateful to the hon. Lady, but she is not the only Member with an interest in this matter.

Dame Irene Ward

No, of course not.

Mr. Millan

If, with her special nacilities for access to Ministers, she can arrange that the announcement will be made in an Oral Answer we shall be delighted, but one must make the point that several important statements—the Minister said that this was a major matter of policy—have been made by means of Written Answer, without notice to hon. Members, and it would be wrong if that were done in this case.

In view of the Minister's reply, we shall not press our various new Clauses to a Division.

Mr. Hicks

I agree that we have made progress in relation to the aims and intentions behind new Clause 1. When we originally submitted this proposal in the form of an Amendment in Committee we did not get very far. Then, in the debate on Clause 7 as a whole, we made a measure of progress. Today, the Minister has made one or two quite firm statements, including the announcement that discussions are taking place between the Government and interested parties to examine the future requirements of the tourist industry as a whole, both in the context of hotel accommodation and in the context of assisting desirable projects.

If the outcome of those consultations points to the conclusion that more assistance is desirable for the tourist industry, I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will assist in the campaign with the appropriate Treasury Ministers.

In the circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the new Clause.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Forward to