HC Deb 07 May 1973 vol 856 cc21-2
20. Dr. John A. Cunningham

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is the total amount of financial aid made available to firms in the Northern Region under the Industry Act at the latest available date; and how many new jobs have been created as a result.

22. Mr. Horam

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is the total amount of assistance which has gone to the Northern Region under the Industry Act 1972 so far, and how many investment projects that represents.

Mr. Anthony Grant

Up to 31st March, regional selective assistance loans of £1,583,000 and grants of £412,000 for 46 projects involving over 3,000 new jobs had been offered. Substantial assistance is also being given to industry in the Northern Region by way of regional development grants and shipbuilding construction grants.

Dr. Cunningham

Is it not a fact that, in spite of the Government's much-heralded Industry Act, serious pockets of unemployment remain in the Northern Region? Is it not true that nowhere is this problem more in evidence than in West Cumberland, where we are shortly to lose about 1,000 male jobs? Has not the Industry Act failed to make an impact on the industrial situation in West Cumberland? Should not the Minister publish his task force report on the area? In failing to do so, is he not disguising the failure of the Government's policy?

Mr. Grant

I do not accept any of those propositions. I believe that overall in the Northern Region, to which the Questions relate, the Industry Act is working well. The fact that unemployment in the past year has gone down by 19,000 in that region is evidence of that. I accept that there are problems in the specific area to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. These can be helped by the Industry Act. It has never been the practice to publish an internal report. It is therefore better that the task force report should remain unpublished.

Mr. R. W. Elliott

Will my hon. Friend be assured that a fall of 20,000 in the unemployment figure for the Northern Region in one year is substantial evidence that the Government's policy is working? Will he take note of the fact that there are still many unfilled vacancies in the Northern Region, particularly at present 2,000 for skilled building workers? Will he consult his colleagues in the Employment and Education Departments about this?

Mr. Grant

I agree with my hon. Friend. I will certainly consult the other Departments on the question he has raised.

Mr. Horam

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, despite the general fall in unemployment, the level of unemployment in the Northern Region is still 5.4 per cent., way above the national average? Does he really think that the Industry Act is working as well as was hoped?

Mr. Grant

The short answer is "Yes". The important factor is that unemployment is now falling in all the regions whereas under the Labour Government it was continuously rising.