HC Deb 14 May 1973 vol 856 cc1016-8
24. Mr. Sutcliffe

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is the result of his review of regional policy to secure greater office dispersal; and if he will offer specific and substantial inducements to firms in the service sector to locate themselves in development areas.

Mr. Anthony Grant

Our consideration of possible improvements to incentives to encourage office development to move to the assisted areas is not yet complete.

Mr. Sutcliffe

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that, between 1964 and 1969, 81 per cent, of offices that were moved went to areas subject to office development control since 1966, and only 1 per cent, moved out into the development areas? This is a sector in which the Industry Act has had no impact, and the Northern Region remains the worst served region for office employment.

Mr. Grant

The question of office development permits is not for me but for my right hon and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. I very much hope that we shall be able to bring forward these proposals fairly soon. But in any event the Industry Act is more liberal towards office development than were the old Local Employment Acts.

Mr. Maclennan

Is not the Government's laissez-faire policy utterly deplorable? Are not the delays in tackling this problem completely inexplicable in view of the needs? Will the Minister consider, in the context of the second half of the Question, the possibility of extending the regional employment premium to the service sector when he has discussions about the future of regional employment premium with the TUC and the CBI?

Mr. Grant

I have already explained what is happening about REP. I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman said about excessive delay. We are particularly looking into this matter. The Industry Act reached the statute book last March, and the incentives available for location in the regions are now far better than any that were available during the whole period of office of the previous Government.

Mr. Wilkinson

Will my hon. Friend consider giving the intermediate areas opportunity for office expansion? The Yorkshire and Humberside Regional Economic Planning Council has always emphasised the importance of the service sector in the regional economy, and there foreign Power. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that region.

Mr. Grant

We are looking at this problem in the light of the particular problems of all areas, of whatever status.

Mr. Kaufman

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that any review of regional policy in Whitehall will be totally pointless if the European Commission has its way and excludes all intermediate areas, plus Devon and Cornwall, from the peripheral area of the Community? Will he give the House a categoric assurance that the Government will in no circumstances accept the exclusion of the intermediate areas from the peripheral area—an exclusion which would have a disastrous effect upon them as it would have a catastrophic effect upon Manchester?

Mr. Grant

I shall certainly not deal with an entirely hypothetical situation. I have made clear to the House the view that we shall express in the discussions which are taking place—that is, the need to get a proper regional policy. Indeed, it is the wish of Europe to get a proper regional policy.