HC Deb 24 October 1972 vol 843 cc972-3
9. Mr. Hicks

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is satisfied with the effectiveness of both the general scheme and special scheme for giving preference for Government contracts to companies located in development areas; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Yes. Despite the limits on what such schemes can achieve they contributed to the £174 million of orders from Government Departments which went to the development areas in 1971–72.

Mr. Hicks

Is my hon. Friend aware that the total of contracts given under these schemes by Government Departments to firms located in development areas represents less than 10 per cent. of all contracts? Is he further aware of the disappointment of firms located in development areas with the statistics? Would he not agree that the scheme needs to be reviewed if it is to he made more meaningful?

Mr. Jenkin

I think that the 10 per cent figure may be a little out of date. For 1971–72, contracts made in development areas were 12.5 per cent. My hon. Friend must recognise the limits of the scheme in that many of the goods that the Government and the nationalised industries require simply are not made in the development areas. I am sure that my hon. Friend does not suggest that the Government and the nationalised industries should buy products that they do not need.

Mr. James Hamilton

Is the Chief Secretary aware that Honeywell, a computer organisation in my constituency, is often not allowed to tender for computer contracts with Government agencies and that ICL, without negotiating and without submitting tenders, is getting contracts? Is he further aware that 5,500 people from Honeywell in my constituency are out of work? Will Honeywell be given an equal opportunity with IBM to tender for contracts, especially as mine is a special development area?

Mr. Jenkin

As the hon. Gentleman will recognise, questions concerning particular products should be addressed to the Ministers concerned, and in this case it will be my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

Mr. Shore

Will the Chief Secretary confirm that these schemes will still be possible after 1st January, 1973, and that they will not be outwith our obligations to the Common Market?

Mr. Jenkin

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the Common Market regulations are not in force and do not apply to us at present. It is only in respect of contracts as opposed to supplies that the directives have been made effective. As far as I am aware, there is nothing in the schemes that would conflict with that.