HC Deb 26 March 1973 vol 853 cc910-2
20. Mr. Milne

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will indicate the number of jobs obtained by private development firms in the Blyth constituency and the Northern Region in 1972 and the number anticipated in 1973–74; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Anthony Grant

I regret that the information is not available.

Mr. Milne

Is the Minister aware that the search for this information is made more puzzling because his Department has no figures? In my constituency, at least one private development company is offering jobs and factories in return for the sale of land. Is the Minister aware that if these jobs are indeed available it would be better left to the local authority and his Department to provide the factories for the jobs that Drum Developments of Bedlington is supposed to be offering? The jobs are there, the land is there and the machinery is there. Will he start to get the information for which we have been asking for some time?

Mr. Grant

On the information the Question asks for, the hon. Gentleman will realise that in June 1972 industrial development certificates were not required for the special development areas. I hope that very shortly arrangements will be in operation in England and Wales for obtaining this information from applications to local authorities for planning permission. In Scotland, instructions have already been issued to local authorities. I know that the hon. Gentleman has written to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about the case he mentioned, and my right hon. Friend will shortly reply. I understand that negotiations for the disposal of land are continuing, but our policy is to leave the local authorities to decide the best way to dispose of their available land.

Dame Irene Ward

I thank my hon. Friend for that last answer, which is very helpful. When we get the information we in the north of England will be glad. Will my hon. Friend explain why he did not give the answer immediately without waiting for a supplementary question?

Mr. Grant

With the greatest respect to my hon. Friend, because it is my policy to answer questions as they are asked.

22. Mr. Horam

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is his estimate of the number of office jobs which have been created in the Northern Region under the Industry Act to date.

Mr. Anthony Grant

I regret that the information is not readily available.

Mr. Horam

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a great deal of new, cheap office space available in central Tyneside, much of which has been created to cater for jobs that have not so far appeared? What is the hon. Gentleman doing to create office jobs in the Northern Region?

Mr. Grant

There are two sides to this question. First, on Government offices the Hardman Report has been made available to the Government and, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, we hope to be able to make an announcement sometime in the summer. On other than Government office employment, the Industry Act is available to assist with mobile office employment, and we are considering ways to improve incentives to encourage private office employment away from the South-East into the assisted areas. Over the last year unemployment in the Northern Region has fallen by 18,000.

Mr. McGuire

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind the needs of the Ince constituency, which is in the Wigan travel-to-work area, and South-West Lancashire in general? May I make a special plea for the Skelmersdale New Town, because the Minister has special responsibilities? We need a boost from the Government, and I hope that he will con- firm that we are at the top of the list of priority areas.

Mr. Grant

The hon. Gentleman may rest assured that we shall give every consideration to the area, but it would be unfair to everyone else if I were to suggest that it is at the top of the list.

Mr. Armstrong

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that for far too long youngsters in the Northern Region when seeking office jobs have had to leave their homes and travel to other parts of the country and that, with the extension of education facilities, there is not only vacant office space but a pool of extremely good labour? Does he appreciate that we are waiting for the Government to take urgent action on this matter?

Mr. Grant

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. It is our desire to get as balanced a form of development in the Northern Region as possible.

Mr. Millan

Since the Government promised during the passage of the Industry Act that they would encourage office employment in the development areas, can the hon. Gentleman, if he is unable to give figures for the Northern Region, at least give figures for the development areas as a whole?

Mr. Grant

No, Sir; but we are working on ways in which we can improve incentives to encourage private office development into assisted areas generally.

Mr. Milne

In view of the failure of the Minister to provide the information for which I have asked, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.

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