HC Deb 01 May 1973 vol 855 cc987-8
Q4. Mr. Ellis

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the co-ordination between the Welsh Office, the Scottish Office and the Department of the Environment on regional development proposals.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Ellis

In view of the paramount need to eliminate regional economic disparities across Europe and in view of the failure of all Governments so far to reverse the centripetal pull to the central golden triangle, will the Prime Minister ask the three Secretaries of State to assess the effect of the Channel Tunnel upon the Welsh and Scottish economies, not in absolute terms but relative to its effect on the South-East, and to couple that with an assessment of proposals to improve direct sea and air communications between the peripheral regions of Europe?

The Prime Minister

Both the hon. Gentleman's points are of great importance for regional policies. Obviously a study has been made of the impact of the Channel Tunnel on the South East, and from time to time the airlines themselves as well as Government Departments have made studies of ways to improve air communications from the different parts of the country. Those who come from the North East will know that specific action has been taken there as well as in the South West and the North West. But certainly I shall see whether it is possible to provide information to help the hon. Gentleman on his two specific points.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

Does the Prime Minister recognise that in Scotland the immense investment represented by Maplin, the Channel Tunnel and various other developments in the South East are considered to be the complete opposite of regional development policies in the United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister

I cannot agree about that. The fact that we are developing rapidly for example in Scotland and the North East does not mean that we should not also develop communications in the South East to enable them to be more economic if the expenditure is shown to do so. It is not contradictory. In any case, on many occasions when I have had discussions with the Scottish Council and other bodies they have emphasised the need for better direct communications not only with the South East but direct to Scandinavia and Northern Germany. That is the right approach to produce better communications for Scotland.