HC Deb 09 July 1973 vol 859 cc1010-1
15. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps are being undertaken to deal with the problem of industry leaving the West Middlesex and London area; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Anthony Grant

Where manufacturing capacity has closed, alternative employment is readily available and the rate of unemployment is one of the lowest in the country.

Mr. Molloy

The hon. Gentleman must know that that is not a particularly satisfactory answer. He must be aware that literally thousands of skilled craftsmen who cannot be employed in the skills they have learnt are now employed in unskilled labour. That is why the unemployment figures are kept down. Before long the West Middlesex area, with the advent of more and more warehouses, will be a depository for depositories. Will the hon. Gentleman take a little peep into the future and try to stop this appalling drift?

Mr. Grant

It is unrealistic to try to present the West Middlesex area as being in some way depressed. The fact is that London is still the largest manufacturing area in Britain. In West Middlesex alone, the number of notified vacancies is 10,600 and in the Middlesex County Times last week there were 14½ pages of advertisements for vacancies.

Mr. Jessel

Is my hon. Friend aware that in the part of West Middlesex which I have the honour to represent there is a serious shortage of labour? The position is that essential services such as buses have to be curtailed. Will he take no notice of the foolish policies of the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy), which if carried out would very much worsen the housing shortage in the area?

Mr. Grant

I take note of what my hon. Friend says and I am sure that the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) will do so as well.

Mr. Molloy

I shall debate the matter publicly with the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) at any time.

Mr. Bidwell

Surely the hon. Gentleman must know better than that. Does he know that the substance of the disquiet is the misuse of skilled labour? Is he aware that many of the workers concerned came to the area during times of depression in the North and in South Wales and that they are exceedingly apprehensive? The concern, unlike that which seems to be exhibited today, is widespread. That is evidenced by the representations being made by both Labour and Conservative members of the Greater London Council.

Mr. Grant

I can understand the anxiety of anyone who has to change his job. It is one thing to have to change one's job when there are ample employment opportunities but quite different when in other parts of the country there may not be a job at all. I should have thought that what the hon. Member for Ealing, North and the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Bidwell) want to do is contrary to regional policies which both sides of the House wish to see pursued.