HC Deb 11 May 1972 vol 836 cc1543-5
Q1. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Prime Minister whether he will seek to raise the question of regional development plans at the forthcoming European summit.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

I expect that regional policy will be one of the major items to be discussed at the summit meeting in October.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that while under the Community Treaty member States have complete freedom to pursue their own national and regional plans, it would be helpful to have a Community supplementary regional plan so that a higher proportion of the Community budget would go to industry rather than to agriculture?

The Prime Minister

The Community is in process of evolving regional policies and obviously we want to play our full part in that. I think the best way of launching this is at a summit conference, which I hope will then lay down guidelines for regional policy in future. It is true to say that so far the regional policies of the Community have concentrated on agriculture, but there is now a much wider realisation that industrial areas need to be taken into the context of regional development.

Mr. Shore

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us anything about the definition of "central areas ", a matter which was advanced in the Communities last September or October? How does this definition fit into industrial aid and will it apply to existing British intermediate and development areas?

The Prime Minister

The definition of "central areas" has not yet been worked out in the Community and obviously we want to be present and play a major part in working out that definition because it is of immense importance to us.

Dame Irene Ward

While thanking my right hon. Friend very warmly for all he does for regional development in this country—[Interruption]—as he certainly does, may I urge him to let our voice speak loud and clear in Europe because in my part of the world, which was so badly neglected by hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were in office, we look forward to great progress being made and we will be very grateful indeed when it occurs?

The Prime Minister

I certainly assure my hon. Friend that our voice on regional policy will be loudly and clearly heard. I should have thought that the whole House would agree that following the announcement in the Budget by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the regional inducements which will be available under the Finance Bill and the new Industry Bill published today, the inducements will be comparable with any available in the Community, and better than most.

Mr. Ashton

Will the right hon. Gentleman not come clean and admit that our regional policies in the last few years have been better than anything there is likely to be in Europe? Will he explain how there can be the free movement of capital combined with a system of industrial development certificates?

The Prime Minister

To answer the last part of that supplementary question first, I do not see that the two are incompatible in any way. [Interruption] One can have the free movement of capital and at the same time have IDCs, which do not allow development in areas where one does not wish it to take place.

The answer to the first part of the question is that we must remember that the Community is moving very closely towards monetary unity, so that regional policies must be sufficient to ensure that industrial areas do not suffer as a result of that closer monetary integration.

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