HC Deb 07 May 1973 vol 856 cc30-2
26. Mr. Ewing

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will consider appointing a local authority official as his Department's representative in local authority areas where Government advance factories are at present standing empty.

Mr. Anthony Grant

No, Sir.

Mr. Ewing

Does not the Minister agree that it is most unsatisfactory for a prospective industrialist who approaches a local authority to be told that the local authority knows nothing about the empty factory standing inside its boundaries, and for him to have to travel to a distant place to obtain information to enable him to make up his mind whether he wants to come into the area?

Mr. Grant

I agree that such a case would be unsatisfactory. If the hon. Gentleman will let me know the details I will look into it. In the main, we find that local authorities are a great help to our office, but I think that the responsibility must rest with the Government.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Does my hon. Friend recall that in days gone by we on these benches used to argue that advance factories had proved remarkably wasteful of taxpayers' resources and, on the whole, counter-productive? Does not our experience in the intervening years amply bear out that we were correct in that view?

Mr. Grant

I do not entirely share the full recollection of my hon. Friend. We consider that the programme of advance factories which my right hon. Friend announced early this year will play an important part in regional policy.

Mr. Kaufman

Will the hon. Gentleman tell those of my constituents who are facing redundancy with the impending closure of the steel mill at Irlam when we shall have the advance factory that has been promised and what are the prospects of filling it?

Mr. Grant

I can tell the hon. Gentleman's constituents that there is better job opportunity in an expanding economy now than there has been for many years.

Mr. Pavitt

Will the hon. Gentleman reconsider his reply about local autho- rity representation in respect of all empty factories, not only advance factories? Is he aware that there are 6,000 redundancies in my constituency, which is not an assisted area, and that the local authority of Brent has made representations because of changing social circumstances? If there were an expert department within the Minister's office with local authority representation, that would be a great help to us all.

Mr. Grant

With respect, there is an expert department. We have regional offices throughout the country. To import representatives of local authorities specifically would be a duplication of effort and would not necessarily achieve the result which the hon. Gentleman wishes.

Mr. Benn

Is it not the advance factories plus the regional employment premium that have made developments in factory work in the regions effective? Is not the one without the other likely to worsen the problem?

Mr. Grant

The regional employment premium is an entirely different question. In the period after the introduction of the regional employment premium, unemployment went up steadily year by year.