HC Deb 23 November 1973 vol 864 cc1699-800
Mr. Speaker

Before I call the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) to move the motion, I must inform the House that I have not selected the amendments.

11.5 a.m.

Mr. Kenneth Lomas (Huddersfield, West)

I beg to move, That this House, while noting some temporary improvement in the Yorkshire and Humberside Region, and the limited success of the environmental drive to clean up the county, is still disturbed that many areas continue to suffer unemployment levels above the national average and earnings below the national average; is concerned about the manpower drift from the coalmining industry; notes the changing pattern of the textile industry, and the need to maintain investment in the steel industry; registers anxiety about the future of the fishing industry; is worried about the housing and associated environmental problems; deplores Hardman's disregard of our service needs; and therefore calls upon HM Government to undertake further action to stimulate growth among firms already established in the Region and to take steps to assist its Economic Development Council and the newly formed Development Association to attract some major new industrial developments to the Region's older industrial areas. I appreciate that this is a very widely drawn motion and that it covers a whole variety of subjects and topics. That is why I hope we shall have a debate on Yorkshire and Humberside without pressing the matter to a Division. Hon. Members on this side of the House, and probably on the other side too, will want to make their constituency points.

It is now 18 months or so since we last debated the affairs of Yorkshire and Humberside, its needs and problems. Times have changed, and I would accept entirely that since the region has been given its intermediate status, things have improved. That I do not deny. It would be wrong of us on this side of the House if we said otherwise. But there is still a lot to be done to correct not only the imbalance between the regions in the country as a whole but the imbalance inside the region itself. This is something which we must consider.

In Yorkshire and Humberside there are pockets of high unemployment, and their problems need looking at. The national average of unemployment in the country is 2.2 per cent. In Barnsley it is 3.4 per cent., Bridlington 5.3 per cent., Doncaster 3.7 per cent., Filey 5.4 per cent., Hemsworth as high as 6.1 per cent., Mablethorpe 7.3 per cent., Rotherham 3.4 per cent. and Skegness 6.5 per cent. There is obviously some imbalance inside the region which we must correct.

I am worried that the population of the region is not rising as fast as it is in the country as a whole. In the period between 1961 and 1971, while the population of England and Wales rose by 5.4 per cent., the population of the Yorkshire and Humberside region rose by only 3.4 per cent. If we take the West Riding conurbation in its entirely we find that the population between 1961 and 1971 rose by about 1.3 per cent. That is wrong. It means that there has been a movement away from the region which must be corrected.

The total number in employment in the region in mid-1968 was 2,002,000 but four years later, by mid-1972, that figure had fallen to 1,890,000. Employees in the manufacturing industries in the Yorkshire and Humberside region had fallen from 855,000 in mid-1968 to 754,000 in mid-1972. In the textile industry the number had fallen from 164,000 to 126,000, and we now know that that figure is going down steadily almost every month.

In a reply which I received from the Department of Employment on 20th November it was stated that the number in employment in the Yorkshire and Humberside region fell, between June 1971 and June 1972, by 8,200 in the iron and steel industry, by 3,700 in the coal mining industry and by 6,700 in textiles. We have to see what we can do about this. These are very revealing figures and they show how the manpower in the region is slowly being sucked away to other regions by the failure of the Government to attract new industries to the Yorkshire and Humberside area.

We hear a lot about the miners at the moment. The miners in the country as a whole including the Yorkshire coalfield, are leaving the industry at the rate of between 600 and 700 a week. No one can blame them when one considers the difficult, dangerous, hazardous and punishing work which they do. The average rates of pay to the coal miners, according to figures published in 1972, show that in Yorkshire the miners were receiving below the rate paid in the South-East, in Greater London, in the North-West, Wales and Scotland. Yet the Minister would be the first to appreciate that the Yorkshire coal field is the life blood of the whole of the British economy.

I will leave it to my colleagues to make the case for the miners from their own constituency points of view, but I beg the Minister to recognise that when we get the new seam established in Selby we shall depend on this for a main part of our fuel economy. No wonder miners as a whole are angry. They have every right to be. Already a coach and horses has been driven through the so-called counter-inflation policies of the Government. One has heard and read in the Sunday Telegraph last week of the Irish mining digging teams working on the new Underground Fleet Street line receiving a "pay for peril" payment of £150 a week.

Before we castigate the miners too hard, either in the region or in the country generally, we should think of Lofthouse, Markham, Hickleton Main and the other disasters which have occurred. We should remember also that in the last 18 months no fewer than 100 miners have been killed in the pits. We should pay them the rate for the job.

One reason why the people of Yorkshire are leaving the county is the way in which industrial development certificates have been issued in the past. In 1970, the Yorkshire and Humberside Region was granted 149 certificates, with an estimated additional employment of 7,807, but in the South-East 447 IDCs were issued, with an estimated additional employment of 21,061. In 1971, Yorkshire and Humberside was granted 122 certificates, but the South-East had no fewer than 367, with an estimated additional employment of 19,157. In 1972, when the IDC limit was raised, Yorkshire and Humberside still had only 185 certificates granted, and in the South-East the figure was 440.

I was glad to note from a reply I received from the Department of Trade and Industry recently that greater efforts are being made, that in the past 12 months no fewer than 297 certificates have been issued to the Yorkshire and Humberside Region, and that none has been refused. That is a heartening reply—we are very glad of it—but more needs to be done for the region as a whole.

Looking at the situation overall, one can only ask, "How daft can the Government get?". Why persist in taking more and more of our manpower away to the highly congested areas of the South-East instead of keeping it in the regions? It is this policy which shows increasingly how idiotic and irresponsible is such a project as Maplin.

Yorkshire is ideal for development. This brings me to the whole question of communications in the context of Yorkshire's position in the country. Yorkshire is the centre of the country. It is the place where we could get things done and set things moving. This is all the more reason why the Government should do all in their power to encourage industry, and with it people, of course, to come to the region.

Yorkshire is the heart of England. By the time the Humber bridge is opened in 1976—I very much hope that we shall have a firm assurance on that score—there should be a complete motorway network linking Yorkshire with the whole of the country. The Lancashire-Yorkshire motorway, the M62, will be open throughout its length, with a carriageway going from Liverpool through the heart of the West Riding and straight on to the great port of Hull. Traffic from South Yorkshire and the Midlands will be able to use the M18, the Rotherham-Goole motorway, with the link to the M1 and the M62 north of Goole; and, when the M42 Birmingham-Nottingham motorway is completed, this will provide the final motorway link between the West Midlands and Humberside.

The ports on both sides of the Humber have main line connections with the rest of the country, and large quantities of goods are carried on the Immingham line. For container traffic, there is a freightliner depot at Hull catering for international traffic.

Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)

It is doing well.

Mr. Lomas

Of course it is doing well, and it could do better if we had some encouragement from the Government.

Why not spend a little more time and thought, and perhaps a little more money, on cleaning our rivers and opening up our inland waterways, not only as a means of freight transport, which they could well be—I think that 3 per cent. of our freight is carried by inland waterways—but as a valuable amenity as well? If we opened up our inland waterways, they could be pleasure canals on which people could see the beauties of Yorkshire. Will the Minister think again about the Sheffield and South Yorkshire navigation scheme and give approval to the project to modernise that section?

I have already mentioned Maplin. In my view, we should be thinking of ways to modernise the regions in terms of air travel and transport. There should be great efforts to improve facilities at the Leeds—Bradford airport at Yeadon. This airport is the only civil airport in the region from which international scheduled services operate, to Amsterdam and to Dublin. I should like to see the runway there extended to cater for greater traffic.

The Government should set about improving and extending regional airports throughout the country. In so doing, they would achieve results not only in the interests of commerce but in the interests of tourism as well, which is a growing factor in the economy of the Yorkshire and Humberside Region. Why cannot we get away from the concept of a third London airport and think in terms of improving regional airports? It would do nothing but good for the people in Yorkshire and Humberside and the other regions, too.

I wish that people generally, and the Government in particular, would get away from their London-based mentality, which seems to imagine that anybody born north of the Thames is a thickhead, a blockhead or a peasant. Nothing could be further from the truth. The North, and Yorkshire in particular, has much to offer the country. We want the Government to encourage tourists to go north to see the real England, not the artificial England which they see when they come only to London. Let them go to see the beauties of Yorkshire—the dales, the wolds, including Wharfdale—places where people are warm hearted and welcoming. It would do nothing but good if more tourists were encouraged to go there.

The tourist trade is of vital importance to the economy of Yorkshire. In fact, it now ranks with the six major industries of Yorkshire and it is expected to have a turnover of about £150 million in 1973, which is not chicken feed by any standards.

I ask the Government, therefore, to look carefully at Section 4 of the Development of Tourism Act, which confines the assistance which can be given to development areas. The definition in that Act splits Yorkshire in two, and I urge that the Government look at the matter to see what can be done to help. Those parts of the Yorkshire coast north of Scarborough, for example, are able to receive assistance, but Filey, Bridlington and other well-known seaside resorts are not. Much more could be done by the Government if they would only extend the English Tourist Board's powers of reference to the designated assisted or intermediate areas.

The report of the English Tourist Board is worthy of a debate in itself, and I urge the Government and hon. Members generally to read it. At this stage, I do no more than comment that anyone who goes to Yorkshire will see the beauties of our countryside, he will be able to move about and have the space in which to do it. Although he may see the scarred remains of the Industrial Revolution, the slag heaps and the pit heaps, although he will see the relics of what happened in the past, he will see Yorkshire not only as a beautiful county but as a county which has something to offer to people both from abroad and from other parts of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Wilfred Proudfoot (Brighouse and Spenborough)

The hon. Gentleman should acknowledge that, next year, tourism may well be a bigger thing for Yorkshire than the coal mining industry.

Mr. Ben Ford (Bradford, North)

There are some good supermarkets as well.

Mr. Lomas

I have already pointed out that tourism ranks among the top six major industries of Yorkshire. That is why I say that far more attention should be given to the tourist industry than we are giving at present.

It is fair to say, on a more sombre note, however, that all is not well with Yorkshire. In my opinion, the Government's inability to attract new industries to take the place of dying and declining industries is to be severely criticised. Alongside the old industries, which are mainly labour intensive, there should be new factories developing and new industries growing up which could revitalise the region and encourage people to stay in the region instead of going somewhere else in the country to earn a living. We want to see new factories develop. We want to offer the people good and secure employment in the region.

I draw attention here to the work of the Yorkshire and Humberside Development Association, under its director Dr. W. Iain Skewis. Following the reorganisation of local government which is now taking place, there will, I am told, be 100 per cent. membership by local authorities of that association. Its long-term objectives are to ensure that a sufficient number and width of job opportunities are available for all types of manpower in all parts of the Yorkshire and Humberside region. I agree with its idea to project the region in the rest of the United Kingdom and abroad as part of the modern Britain and to do away with the notion of Yorkshire as an area of cloth caps, fish and chips and Coronation Streets. It is far from the truth. We are proud to live in Yorkshire and we are proud to take people to it to see it.

In the motion we deplore the Hardman Report, and rightly so. It was a total disgrace. It is clear that Yorkshire has had a very rough deal. I share the concern of the Yorkshire and Humberside planning council at the lack of any recommendations of centres in the region as suitable for dispersal of Civil Service jobs. Between 1963 and 1973 only 878 posts were created in the region compared with 8,634 in the South-East. Only 860 new posts are planned compared with 1,475 in the South-East and 4,077 in Wales. In the additions proposed in the Hardman "recommended solution"—what a lovely phrase—no posts will be created in Yorkshire and Humberside compared with over 12,000 in the South-East. That is why we should reject the Hardman Report and why the Government should take firm action on the matter.

We are compelled to ask at this stage what Yorkshire has done to deserve this. Dispersal, the report says, is relevant to regional policies because it is a potential source of new employment where there is chronic unemployment and an imbalance of job opportunities. And, so the argument runs, such a policy will relieve pressure on London resources, housing, office accommodation and staff.

When will the Government realise and act on the fact that Yorkshire should have its fair share of Government-dispersed Civil Service jobs, especially in areas where communications are good—better than almost anywhere in the country—where the cost of living is cheaper, where the standard is much higher, where the houses are cheaper, and where the countryside is unrivalled throughout the United Kingdom.

If I may paraphrase the famous poem by A. H. Clough "Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth"—I would say to the Government: And not by South-Eastern windows only, When daylight comes, comes in the light, In front, the sun climbs slow, how slowly. But, West Riding, look, the land is bright. It is not only bright but full of promise and of hope and we have a gread deal to offer. It would be to the advantage of the country if we were to attract more people to the area.

I draw the Government's attention to the comments of the West Yorkshire Metropolitan County Council on the Hardman Report. It points out, for example, that Leeds is a regional capital in a designated intermediate area and is ideally situated at the centre for north-south and west-east communication. By 1985, when the road programme has been completed, 2½ million people will be within 30-minute car journey of Leeds and 11 million people will be within 90 minutes' travel-time of the city. I share the council's disappointment and concern at the prospect of the region not gaining any benefit from a direct Government initiative to stimulate regional policy objectives in the hitherto least successful sector of office and service employment.

On page 56 the report shows that whereas in the country overall women employed in clerical office work averaged 27.3 per cent. and in London 37.7 per cent., the West Yorkshire conurbation figure was only 21.9 per cent.—the lowest of all the regions listed. The Government must take this on board and do something about it to ensure that jobs are sent to the regions where they are needed. I know, as the Minister will probably say in his wind-up speech, that certain promises have been given, but we want action not promises, action to create more jobs and work in the region, not just in West Yorkshire but in the region as a whole. Regional policy is about people, about their movement, their environment and the way in which they live, act and behave. It is time the Government showed they care.

I turn to the textile industry because a great number of my constituents are involved in it. The rate of pay in the West Riding of Yorkshire, with the exception of Scotland, Northern Ireland, East Anglia and the North-West is lower than anywhere else in the country. The industry is going through a boom—but will it last? That is the problem which confronts the operatives in the industry. What guarantees can be given to the textile workers that they will be assured of full, good and secure employment?

I believe, contrary to some of my colleagues, that the woollen textile industry needs a face-lift and I do not accept that the £15 million grant that was announced by the Government some time ago is enough. Between June 1971 and June 1972 the number employed in textiles in the region fell by about 6,700. I accept the need for some reorganisation in the industry. I point to the firm of John Crowthers in my constituency, which is now one of the most modern mills in the country and probably in Europe. It has gone through its process of reorganisation. Of course we have to move with the times, but will the Minister say whether we are in front of the Atkins Report, behind it or are we keeping level with it?

If we are to reorganise the woollen textile industry so that it can be competitive in the world, alongside that industry must be built new factories, new opportunities and new training facilities. The problem, which was spelt out by Mr. Fred Dyson of the National Union of Dyers, Bleachers and Textile Workers, is one of redundancies, and the Government must take careful note of the views of the industry on this matter. Already 115 firms have applied to take advantage of the scheme—and that is to recognise that the problem exists. The Government should be doing much more about it than they are.

In my constituency we are fortunate that we do not have an unemployment problem. We have a level of unemployment of 0.9 per cent., for which we are grateful. However, we are a labour-intensified town and it could be that we are over-employed in many industries, that the people could be doing more useful work elsewhere. One of the things that worries me is that many textile manufacturers in my constituency and around are still using out-dated machinery that goes back to the turn of the century instead of using modern machinery that can make the industry more competitive. A disturbing feature is that in Yorkshire new machinery has been imported from Switzerland, Canada, Germany and elsewhere, and the Government must realise that we should try to stimulate our own machine tool industry.

I turn finally to housing and the problems of the population created by the Government. This is not so much a regional matter as a national one. The figures given to me by the Minister show that from 1968 to 1970 starts for local authorities and new towns amounted to 489,265, with completions of 522,117. However, in 1971–73 only 310,461 were started and 320,379 completed. In my constituency 912 local authority houses were built between 1968 and 1970 when the Labour Government were in power, although the local council was Tory controlled. In 1971–72 and up to September 1973 the number completed was only 585. I am constantly being told that this is an effect of the cost yardstick. Of course that plays a tremendous part in the way local authorities go about their business but it cannot make sense when there is a housing problem in this country and in the regions.

Not one council house has been built by my local authority this year and that is a total disgrace, especially as the Medical Officer of Health for Huddersfield has estimated that there are 5,300 houses without an inside WC and 7,300 without a bathroom or fixed shower.

I am told by the Conservative council in Huddersfield that there is no housing problem there. That is nonsense. There is a big housing problem, although much of it is hidden, and we do not know about it until people visit us at our surgeries. The council claims that it is doing all it can, but in 1972 Huddersfield, with a population of about 130,000, built fewer houses than Birkenhead, Blackburn, Blackpool, Bolton, Oldham, St. Helens, Salford, Walsall, West Bromwich, Warley, Norwich, Luton and Southend. That is an indictment of the Huddersfield Tory-controlled council, which could not give a damn about the people.

The 1971 census showed that in Huddersfield 13.3 per cent. had no inside toilets and 14.6 per cent. had no fixed bath. Those figures are well above the national average. In the Yorkshire and Humberside Region as a whole, 14.8 per cent. have no inside toilet, compared with a national average of 9.1 per cent.

The cost yardstick has been a disaster. I appreciate that there has been some action with improvement grants, for which I am grateful, but I urge the Government to do all they can to build the houses, which are so badly needed. This is where the Government fall down, because they make promises all the time. Figures for the first half of 1973 for dwellings—on tenders approved, but not started—show that there was none in Doncaster, Halifax, Huddersfield, Rotherham, Wakefield, York, Brighouse, Goole, Keighley, Morley, Pudsey or Ripon, and that no houses were started in the first half of 1973 in Doncaster, Halifax, Huddersfield, Rotherham, Wakefield, Batley, Brighouse, Castleford, Goole, Keighley, Morley, Pontefract or Pudsey.

This is a terrible indictment of the Government's housing record. Something must be done about it. But the problem applies not only to housing. It also applies to schools and homes for the mentally handicapped and those in need. The people who need these buildings are paying the price for the folly of the Government's economic policy.

I realise that I have not covered all the points contained in the motion, including, for instance, Operation Eyesore. I agree with Dr. Eric Treacy, the Bishop of Wakefield, who called in the Yorkshire Post this week for the cleaning up of rivers before the cleaning up of buildings.

I have not mentioned the problems of the fishing industry, As an officer of the Anglo-Icelandic Group for the past nine years, I know something of the problems of the industry. I hope they will soon he resolved.

So much is good in Yorkshire, but we need from the Government a little more help and guidance, and a great deal more understanding of our problems.

I have tried to put the case for Yorkshire objectively. The area matters and is important. I urge the Government to take action on the points I have raised and on other matters which no doubt will be raised during the debate. Yorkshire has much to offer, and to give. With the right encouragement by the Government of the day it can play a full and vital rôle in the revitalisation of the country's economy.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)

Mr. Jeffrey Archer—

Hon. Members

Where are the Yorkshire Tories?

11.35 a.m.

Mr. Jeffrey Archer (Louth)

You see the problem with the whole debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Labour Members are shouting that this is a Yorkshire debate, yet the motion is headed "Yorkshire and Humberside".

Mr. Harold Walker (Doncaster)

My hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas), against my advice and request, insisted on making this a Yorkshire and Humberside debate, thus allowing the hon. Gentleman not only to make the point he has made but to have the opportunity to be called before my hon. Friends, in the almost complete absence of other Conservative Members. I hope that you will note, Mr. Deputy Speaker, when we seek to catch your eye, that so far three Conservative Members have been present, two of them from Yorkshire and one from Lincolnshire.

Mr. Archer

I accept the hon. Gentleman's point. What makes us in Lincolnshire very unhappy is that when we agreed to join the Humberside group, much against the will of many Conservatives, Yorkshire Members told us that we would be welcomed, that there would be friendship and that we would be taken care of, but when a Humberside man from Lincolnshire rises to take part in the debate he receives nothing but discourtesy, ill manners and prejudice. That is what we feared when we came in, and now we see it happening.

The hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) opened the debate with an outstanding speech, but will he please re-read his last 10 lines? He said that Yorkshire was a beautiful, wonderful place, that it was the best. That attitude is what we feared when we came into Humberside. I am sick and tired of always hearing that Yorkshire is the most wonderful county in Great Britain, that it is the heart of Great Britain, and to hell with my side of the river. We now have a Humberside, and I hope that when he refers to Yorkshire in future the hon. Gentleman will remember that, against our will, we are now with it. Will you kindly accept that and help us? The whole approach has been that the headquarters is Leeds—

Mr. James Johnson

As a Humberside man, may I ask the hon. Gentleman kindly to get on with his speech?

Mr. Archer

The hon. Gentleman and I normally agree on most issues concerning the Humberside area, but the point I am making needs to be put firmly on the record. I hope that hon. Members who take part in the debate after me will talk not just about Yorkshire. There is now a Humberside area, and we are part of it. If I have to fight every one of you, I will do it, because that is part of my constituency. If you go on talking about Yorkshire the whole time—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The extent to which the Chair can talk about Yorkshire is somewhat limited.

Mr. Archer

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

We are worried, because our tiny section below the Humber is not treated in the same way as those parts above the Humber. Many people think that "Humberside" still means north of the Humber. Now that the two groups have joined it is vital that our area be accepted and treated as a part.

We are worried because the Immingham area in particular has not grown as we had hoped it would. We have two large refineries and mainly warehouse facilities. We should like to have proper industry in the area to help development.

Whilst Immingham is growing in tonnage as a port—there is no denying that tonnage has increased considerably—nearly all of that tonnage is bulk cargo—coal, iron ore and so on. There is a very low labour content, as the ships are loaded by mechanical grab systems employing fewer than 10 men, where 50 to 60 used to be employed. The work has been transferred from inside the dock to berths on the river. One would expect that to leave an opportunity for development within the dock, but unfortunately it has not taken place. Certain shipowners have applied to go to Immingham and have been informed that there is no room available. The shipowners are beginning to develop general cargo of a roll-on-roll-off type which employs a lot of dockers on the south bank. For some reason the British Transport Docks Board has been dragging its heels with regard to the port of Immingham. Immingham feels that it can easily meet Hull's record of strikes and labour disputes. It has a good record. It is one of the best docks in the country. We were naturally disappointed to find that millions of pounds were being spent on the Queen Elizabeth Docks at Hull and that Immingham would be the poor relation.

This is the second debate during which I have had to speak to the Minister about that matter. Whenever he thinks of the area I ask him to remember that the record of Immingham is as good as the record of any port in Britain. I should like to see some of the millions which are being poured on to the north bank reach the south bank. The growth of Felixstowe is an example. It makes Immingham look a poor development. Leadership is not the only factor. There is much strength of opinion on the north bank. It is only necessary to ask the ship brokers, shipping agents and shipping men a few questions to discover that strength of opinion.

I congratulate the Government on the Humber Bridge. It will be important in linking together the two sides. I stress that the bridge and the road programme must tie in together. It would be useless to have the most magnificent bridge in the world and to have country lanes in Lincolnshire on which to put the lorries.

It is my constituents' fear that when Her Majesty opens the bridge in two or three years' time we shall find that everything which goes across will be snarled up in North Lincolnshire or what is now Humberside. I hope that the Minister will remind my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment that he has promised that the major road links between the bridge on the Lincolnshire side and the major motorways will be completed at exactly the same time as the bridge is completed.

The town of Immingham is not growing as a town. It has no cinema, no theatre and poor facilities for youth. There needs to be a general improvement. The town has a population of 13,000 and yet people have to go to Grimsby, which is 14 miles away, for out-patient facilities at hospital level. Both the last Labour Government and the present Conservative Government deserve criticism. Neither of them have given heart to the south bank. They have poured their resources into the area of those wonderful people of Yorkshire.

I have four questions to ask the Minister, and I realise that he will be unable to answer them when he replies to the debate. Before putting my questions. I must apologise profusely to Yorkshire hon. Members who are present. I hope that they will understand that I must return to my constituency. I am opening an extension to the working men's club. It is the third extension to the Conservative Working Men's Club since I became a Member of Parliament. I intend to open one every year. The membership of the working men's club has risen from 4,000 to 8,000. Far from buying us up, the brewery has kindly sold to us.

Will the Minister say specifically whether the north bank will be given priority over the south bank? Are there plans for the future extension of a major port at Immingham or is it just being left to tick over? Is the port to be developed for bulk and general cargo or is it to be developed principally as a bulk cargo handling port'? Will the Minister confirm that the roads on the Lincolnshire side of the bank will be ready when the bridge is completed?

I note that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) is present. I am sure that he will join me in congratulating the Government on their recent negotiations with the Icelandic Government. It has been a tricky time and both sides. Conservative and Labour, have worked together to try to get the best for our fishermen. We understand the compromise which has come about and we accept it. We shall work within its terms. However, will the Minister and his Department, along with the Foreign Office, remember that problems will arise from time to time and that naturally we are still worried? The part of the Icelanders' statement which most worried me is the claim that their whole way of life depends on the fishing industry. That is also true of the people of Grimsby and Hull.

I hope that the Minister will remember that, though we have had an interim negotiation and agreement, we must continue to support the fishing industries not just with a local protective attitude but on the basis that our history in the fishing industry is every bit as great as that of Iceland. We have yet again been seen by the world to have been fair.

I end where I began—namely, with my great quarrel with the men of Yorkshire. I hope the Minister will remember that my constituents also wish for development. The hon. Member for Huddersfield, West, referred to the past three years and what has happened in Huddersfield and Yorkshire. The area which I represent has been desperate to spring ahead, desperate to do things and desperate in looking for jobs. On the other side of the bank the record has not always been so good. Strikes and labour disputes are more frequent on the north bank. We must be given the opportunity to go forward. I ask the Minister to be dispassionate when he reads the words "Yorkshire and Humberside". I ask him to remember that the area includes North Lincolnshire.

11.48 a.m.

Mr. Ben Ford (Bradford, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would it be possible for you to arrange for the temperature to be elevated some four degrees, as many of us are feeling rather cold? I add, however, that we are not feeling out in the cold.

I notice that the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Jeffrey Archer) is wearing a purple shirt and that he had rather a purple patch at the beginning of his speech. With the great generosity of Yorkshire men, we will forgive him that. I am sure we will do our best to make him welcome, south bank and all.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) on choosing this motion and giving up his time to discuss the affairs of Yorkshire. I congratulate him upon the cogency of his speech. I readily acknowledge that the granting of intermediate status has been helpful in the situation in which we have found ourselves. I am a little concerned, on account of my knowledge of the workings of the Civil Service and the Civil Service mind, that sooner or later civil servants will begin to look at the percentages of unemployment and decide that the percentage has dropped sufficiently for intermediate status to be removed. I urge the Minister to resist any official blandishments of that nature.

The percentage of unemployment is only a crude and rough guide. Yorkshire still needs an enormous amount of infrastructure development. I hope that that aspect will be borne in mind and that crude oversimplifications such as the percentage of unemployment will not be the only factor considered.

The Yorkshire and Humberside Development Association has got off the ground to a good start with the appointment of an extremely conscientious and industrious man as its director, and he has a great deal of experience. I hope that the views of the association will be taken into account when the Government are considering the needs of the area.

Infrastructure includes communications, and I want to put two main points on this aspect. The first concerns the transit road networks. There is some controversy at the moment about a proposed motorway called the Pudsey—Dishforth spur from the end of the M1 where it finishes just inside Leeds to Dishforth on the A1, where it would connect both with the A1 and with another route going to the Tyne-Tees area in the North East.

There is considerable controversy about this and one has the utmost sympathy with those people who are likely to be concerned. But having looked at the situation as a whole over a number of years, and having been concerned with the economy of Yorkshire and Humberside, it is my firm view that the Pudsey—Dishforth spur is urgently needed in order that we can maintain communications to and from the North East, have access to the ports and industries of that area and take heavy traffic away from the Leeds city centre.

Together with the Pudsey—Dishforth spur, another road, the Aire Valley motorway running in a north-westerly direction, is under consideration. This is necessary to give us communications with the North West ports. Along with that, there will probably have to be a link road running between the Aire Valley motorway and the Pudsey—Dishforth spur.

The link road should be routed over comparatively open country over Balne Moor rather than taken through the north of Bradford, cutting many villages in half on such a route. This is essentially an environmental matter and we have decided that we would rather spend a few more pounds in rerouting the road over open country than upset and disturb urban areas.

I reiterate that those of us concerned with these matters understand and appreciate the concern which the people likely to be affected by these roads feel. Taking an overall view, however, we must look to the greatest good for the greatest number of people, and for the building up of the economy of Yorkshire the development of these communications is urgently necessary.

My second aspect of communications is airport policy. Earlier this year the Yorkshire group of Labour Members appointed a sub-committee of four to look into this matter, and it has issued a detailed report which is available to anybody on request. I was a member of the sub-committee. We travelled about the country not only in Yorkshire but in other regions. We held many meetings and received many documents and representations and came to some broad conclusions as a sub-committee.

The first of those conclusions is that there is probably little possibility of a regional airport as such—that is, an intercontinental regional airport—being built in Yorkshire or Humberside on the soil of those counties. We looked at sites which have been proposed, such as Thorne Waste. There are people in the Thorne area who still feel that this might be a suitable runner. We also looked at a proposal by an investigating consultant for Balne Moor, but discovered that this would be impracticable and not viable.

Two members of the sub-committee—my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. Cohen) and myself—came to a definite conclusion on this. We summarised our conclusion in the following terms: In the near future there seems to be no possibility at all of the establishment of such an airport"— that is, a regional inter-continental airport— and we were therefore of the opinion that in order to preserve scheduled services to the Yorkshire and Humberside area and to safeguard the requirements of commerce and the travelling public in the region, an application should be made by the appropriate authorities for an extension to the Leeds—Bradford airport to enable it to receive medium weight jet aircraft capable of flying an economic payload to continental and mediterranian destinations. My hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, West mentioned that that airport already serves destinations such as Amsterdam. It has also recently begun services to Paris and Brussels.

We also came to the conclusion that the Maplin airport development would attract resources of finance, labour and expertise away from the Yorkshire and Humberside Region without offering any counter-balancing advantages.

The House may well ask, if we are opposing Maplin, how we are to dispose of the increasing weight of traffic which will come on London. Of course we looked at that aspect, and we concluded that there was a possibility of building up the East Midlands airport at Castle Donington to be an inter-continental regional airport which would serve both the Midlands and the North and have an extremely good chance from an early stage of being viable in the terms in which inter-continental airports are viable.

We looked at some of the figures and found that the Roskill Report contains a survey, conducted in 1969, showing that British non-business passengers using Heathrow and Gatwick and living in the West Midlands, the East Midlands, Yorkshire, Humberside and the North accounted for 14.2 per cent. of all air journeys from these two airports. It is significant that 30.9 per cent. of the population of the country lives in those four areas and it is to be expected that the figure of 14.2 per cent. will have increased steadily since 1969.

Therefore, we seriously consider that Castle Donington has an extremely good claim to be the regional airport for the Midlands and the North. Already many hundreds of holidaymakers on charter tours journey down from Teesside and elsewhere to the East Midlands airport and we think that there has been a good start there.

We considered, of course, the noise question. We had a meeting with members of the airport committee and the airport director. The question of a noise nuisance is minimal, affecting only a small number of people and an extremely small number of properties. I personally urge consideration of this solution upon the Government.

In the last few years in Bradford successive administrations have followed each other in rebuilding not only the town centre—

Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)

My hon. Friend has mentioned the question of noise. Earlier in his speech he rather blessed the proposal to extend the Leeds-Bradford airport at Yeadon. He did not, however, mention the extension of the noise nuisance to the people in my constituency who live nearby. Has he a view about that?

Mr. Ford

I have a view on that. By lengthening the runway at Yeadon we would probably lower the impact of noise on those living near the end of the runway. At the moment certain jet aircraft take off at very high orders of boost, giving great noise incidence. With a longer runway extending to the north, I am convinced that this noise would be reduced.

We have rebuilt the town centre and improved the image of Bradford and it is now a brighter and greener city than ever. The picture would have been complete if the Conservative council had not stopped building houses for rent in 1968 and if the Conservative Government had spent more on housing and less on prestige projects.

Included in the new building in Bradford is 200,000 sq. ft. of new office accommodation and 100,000 sq. ft. of refurbished office accommodation. In November 1972 I wrote to five Ministers, including the Prime Minister as head of the Civil Service, drawing attention to these matters and explaining that this accommodation was available in Bradford. I urged the Bradford Corporation to give evidence to the Hardman Committee, which it did. But all that I and the Bradford Corporation have received as a result of that effort is a polite notice of acknowledgment.

It is a disgrace that the Hardman Committee and the Government acting upon that Committee's recommendations have not seen fit to move more Government office employment to the Yorkshire area, particularly to Bradford. We have formed the opinion that in Whitehall and in Government Departments there is a bias against the North, and Yorkshire in particular.

I ask the Minister specifically to indicate what progress is likely to be made in completing the Government training centre to be built in Bradford. We all know that there is today an absolute short- age of skilled labour. It is more urgent than ever that training places should be made available so that retraining can take place and so that the unemployment figures may be reduced even more.

I want to draw attention to the fact that grants for locally-determined schemes have been cut drastically in the current financial year and in future Estimates. This move is regarded as being almost sabotage by the councillors of Bradford, who have their city's welfare at heart, and who are struggling to build up the new image and give the people of Bradford a new social environment.

In conclusion, I make two general observations. The first I have made before but I continue with it. It is rather blasphemous, I fear, but it is that the environment in which we work and live for four or five days of the week, the Palace of Westminster, is physically and psychologically unsuited to the practice of modern government. I recommend the Government, if they want to think in terms of fairly large projects, to think of building a purpose-built complex of government elsewhere in the country where it could act as a growth point.

I would not claim necessarily that it should come to Yorkshire or Humberside, because it could be centred in the South-West, which is also urgently in need of a major growth point and has good transport facilities. But if the Government decide to go to Yorkshire, I suggest that such a complex could be set up on the moors adjacent to Harrogate, which has many cultural and accommodation facilities which would make it ideal—nor is it far from where I live.

My second comment is about facilities available to provincial Members of Parliament in discharging their duties. I ask the Minister to convey my plea to his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. We come down here from our homes—I speak for all provincial Members—leaving our families for four or five days and nights a week, to find that facilities are extremely limited, both physically in terms of space and in terms of help and assistance. I foresee the time coming shortly when an active Member of Parliament will find it essential that he should have allocated to him a personal research assistant and a full-time secretary to enable him to execute his duties on behalf of his constituents in this increasingly complex and rapidly changing society.

12.5 p.m.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)

I am surprised that the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) should have introduced the Motion. He had an opportunity to bring to the attention of the House a specific topic of social or economic interest. Instead, he introduced this pantechnicon of a motion. It is a pantechnicon, because it is long and lumbering and contains a jumble of odds and ends, most of which give the impression of having been thrown in as an afterthought.

The timing of the motion is wrong. The hon. Member said that we had not had a debate on Yorkshire and Humberside for 18 months. I think that he meant at least not since 19th June 1972. Had he been awake in the small watches of the night, as were many other hon. Members, he would have had an opportunity as recently as 31st January of this year to debate Yorkshire and Humberside during the Consolidated Fund debate.

I suspect also that the fact that the motion is being introduced in Private Members' time clearly shows that the Opposition dare not use time on a Supply Day to debate the economy of Yorkshire and Humberside, because they know perfectly well that the Government's record on Yorkshire and Humberside has been outstanding and that in three and a quarter years more has been done for that area by the present Government than was done in over six years of the Socialist administration.

We have gone a long way since those depressing days when some of us first came to the House soon after Labour left office. I well remember introducing a debate on 8th April 1971 on Bradford's economic prospects. I remember, too, the spokesman for Bradford, West introducing the industrial debate of the 1971 Conservative Party conference which called for more flexible regional development policies.

The background shows that the economy of Yorkshire and Humberside was in a state of decline from 1966. That decline was arrested only in 1972 with the introduction of the Industry Act 1972 by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Industrial Development. The unemployment situation in Yorkshire and Humberside deteriorated almost fourfold between 1966 and 1972, getting better only in 1970–71.

What one can reasonably deduce is that a deep-seated economic decline and decay had set into Yorkshire. They were reversed only after the policies of the present Government had had time to bite and take effect.

Mr. David Ginsburg (Dewsbury)

Would not the hon. Member agree that this was a long and deep-seated process, certainly between 1951 and 1964 when there was little by way of industry being introduced into Yorkshire? Going further back, the report of the Wool Textile Working Party referred to the complete neglect of the area in the pre-war years.

Mr. Wilkinson

I do not dispute any of that. All I am saying is that it was all the more incumbent on the last administraton, in view of the economic history of Yorkshire and Humberside, to do something about the situation. In spite of their advice in the 1969 Green Paper "The Task Ahead", which described that worsening situation, and said: Outside the development regions, the rate of decline in older industries is likely to have its greatest impact in Yorkshire and Humberside", the Labour Party did nothing about it. It also ignored the recommendations of the Hunt Committee on the intermediate areas, published in 1969, in so far as the whole of Yorkshire was concerned, except for the regions of the South Yorkshire coalfield and North Humberside.

Therefore the Labour administration were responsible in that they had seen signs for a long time. The decline continued and got worse under their administration, and they did very little about it. But we can take heart from the situation today. It is particularly apposite that we should have received the employment figures this very day. The bulletin that I have received from my own employment exchange in the Bradford and Shipley travel-to-work area states: The overall picture on an industrial level has been very good indeed, and the wide range of jobs available has made it possible to cater for the needs of most people with any skill or experience to offer. For the first time, the employment situation of Bradford and Shipley is better than the national average. The percentage of people out of work is only 2 per cent. and has dropped two points since last month. This again is better than the national achievement. Nationally the percentage stayed more or less the same.

Furthermore, the problem in West Yorkshire particularly has been male unemployment and I am glad that now—again for the first time—the unemployment rate for males in the Bradford area is the same as the national average, only some 3 per cent. This is particularly satisfactory taking into account the fact that the Yorkshire and Humberside percentage for unemployment is only two points above the national average—2.4 per cent. compared with 2.2 per cent. for the country.

I see this as very much a result of the present Government's policies specifically directed towards industry through the extension of intermediate area status to Yorkshire and Humberside as a whole. It is interesting that, thanks to this extension, some 65 per cent. of the country, where live 44 per cent. of the population, now constitutes areas receiving special Government assistance.

But we have advanced a long way in specific help to industry. One of the most notable features of the scheme is that we have a regional director and an industrial executive on a regional basis who can identify the needs and problems of the region and can work closely with industry. When the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West, complains that there are not enough Civil Service jobs in the region, I am particularly gratified that this Government, under the Industry Act, should have established a regional framework to provide selective assistance to industry. This is a flexible instrument and is already showing that it is working well.

A total of £34.5 million, of which 15 per cent. is Government assistance, has been channeled into industry under that scheme. This investment which industry, with Government assistance, is prepared to bring to bear is evidence that industry has confidence in Yorkshire's future. These schemes are expected to bring 5,700 new jobs to the region, most of which, I am glad to say, will go to Yorkshire. In the first six months of the operation of the Industry Act there have been more than 1,500 inquiries to the regional office, and by August 1973 67 projects had received selective assistance under the Act.

This reflects great credit on the Minister, who I know has taken the trouble to visit the region several times. Only last month he spoke to Bradford Chamber of Commerce, explaining how the scheme works and listening to the views of industrialists in the region.

I said that measures had been taken right across the spectrum. The hon. Member for Huddersfield, West mentioned the environment. One aspect which has always been particularly depressing in Yorkshire and Humberside is that environmentally it was not the sort of region to attract new industry; the housing standards had declined, the transport facilities were inadequate and it gave the impression of being a rundown region.

Thanks to the general improvement areas, we have not only stimulated the building industry but rejuvenated whole towns and city centres, particularly in the Pennine belt, where there is good stone-built housing which lends itself very well to improvement. I am glad to say that Bradford leads the country in general improvement areas.

Mr. David Clark (Colne Valley)

The hon. Member mentioned the Pennine belt and he is talking about housing. Has he recognised the problem that, when many of these old stone cottages are improved, they are relet not to working people but to people from outside the area and that, as a result, there is a great problem of housing for ordinary people in these areas? In my constituency, hardly a public corporation house is being built.

Mr. Wilkinson

I cannot answer for the problems of the hon. Member's constituency. That may be a local phenomenon. All I am saying is that, in my own industrial city of 300,000, the very good stock of stone-built accommodation has been radically improved for the benefit of owner-occupiers and tenants alike. This is something in which we all can take great pride, particularly since Operation Eyesore was extended by a further three months to September of this year and has greatly improved many of our major buildings, public and industrial alike.

Take, for example, the old "dark satanic mills" image that the region had. In my constituency, the Lister's of Manningham mill dominates the skyline and the city. It was black and dark and gloomy before, but now the stone shows up for miles and it looks like a wedding cake on the top of the hill. For this reason I am proud of our environmental achievements.

It has also been widely appreciated that transport is essential for the region particularly with our entry into the Common Market. The docks at Humberside have been improved, but we are still receiving complaints about poor service. I have a report from a leading exporting textile company in my constituency which draws attention to the fact that 1,200 yards of suitings which were due to be exported were cancelled by a customer because of delays in shipment. In the same letter he tells me that his agent informs him that 1,000 yards of crimplene could also be cancelled if there were further troubles in the port of Liverpool.

Therefore, transport is important. We have exceptional access to the ports now with the improvements of the M62 to the west and, coming along very nicely now, to the east towards Humberside. This is very welcome. But if the ports were to be disrupted much of that benefit would be lost. Another aspect of communications is that they do of themselves attract new industry. We have heard in the Bradford region of the development of new industries alongside the junction between the M606 and the M62 on the Euroway Estate, and this is bringing new employment to the region.

People understand that the motor car must not dominate our thinking, and in an environmentally conscious age in which people like to see the railways used to the full I welcome the fact that the representations of the late hon. and gallant Member for Ripon, Sir Malcolm Stoddart-Scott, my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Miss Joan Hall), my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Fox) and myself were successful in persuading British Rail to retain commuter services from Airedale and Wharfedale into Bradford Forster Square and Leeds. This is an area of traffic congestion in the region, and the assistance of Bradford Corporation to those services has been welcomed. More passenger traffic is being generated. If new stations can be opened, even more traffic can be brought in.

Mr. Ford

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the late Sir Malcolm Stoddart-Scott was also responsible for having a sleeping coach added to the 0015 train to Leeds?

Mr. Wilkinson

There are so many tributes that one could pay to Sir Malcolm. However, I do not think this is the most appropriate time to do it. But I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has brought that fact to the attention of the House.

Then I must mention air communications. The hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Ford) and I have both worked consistently and hard on the Yorkshire Airport Action Committee for the extension of the Leeds/Bradford main runway. We have worked for this ever since 1970. It is my view that we have to be realistic and to understand that there is no readily available alternative to Leeds/Bradford Airport for the West Riding of Yorkshire. It is well placed, it is available and it does not conflict with existing civil or military traffic patterns. It is unrealistic to hope for the development of any site in the Vale of York or in South Yorkshire because these areas are utilised to the full by the Royal Air Force for flying training, and the RAF will have a continuing and growing flying training commitment in those regions.

People have been apprehensive about the noise issue. But again they should understand that modern airliners are already significantly quieter. We have seen this with the Tri-Star, for example, and the new generation of airliners, such as the HS146 and the Europlane project, will be so quiet that the noise disturbance will not measurably obtrude beyond the perimeter of the airfield.

Those who argue against the development of the airport argue against providing modern transport facilities for one of the country's main exporting regions. That cannot be justified not only from the export and industrial point of view but also from the touristic point of view. Obviously people will want to go abroad for their holidays, but also people will want increasingly to come to Yorkshire to enjoy its scenery and amenities, and they will increasingly want to come direct.

In 1971 the income from tourism in Yorkshire was some £70 million. In 1972 it rose to £109 million. The Yorkshire Tourist Board itself has pointed out that there is great potential for tourism in the county. It would be of great help in attracting tourists if they could fly in from overseas direct to the gateway to Bronteland and the Dales, which they could do if they could get into Leeds/Bradford in a modern jet airliner.

In short, I am broadly encouraged by the industrial picture in the West Riding of Yorkshire and Yorkshire and Humberside generally. As for my own main industry of wool textiles, here again the position is broadly encouraging, especially in view of the £15 million of assistance that the Government have provided under the scheme announced in July.

One matter which must cause anxiety is the growing volume of imports of made-up clothing. These outer garment imports rose by some 38 per cent. in the past year. They are coming in from places like Hong Kong, Portugal and Finland. I know that the Government have the situation constantly in mind and that, with our EEC partners, they are working in the GATT to keep the situation under review and to prevent any flooding of the British domestic market by cheap imports.

Despite that, however, we must be positive and look to our achievements. Although wool prices rose by astronomical amounts over the past year—they are declining again now—the achievements of the industry over the past 18 months or two years have been really sensational. In the consumption of wool in 1972 there was an 8 per cent. increase. In the production of wool and hair tops there was a 13½ per cent. increase. In the production of man-made fibre tops there was a 25 per cent. increase. In the first half of 1973 there was a 14 per cent. increase in the consumption of fibres other than wool, a 20 per cent. increase in the production of man-made fibre tops and an 11 per cent. increase in the delivery of woven fabrics. As for exports, in 1972 the export of tops was up 10 per cent. The export of wool predominant fabrics was up 5 per cent. over the previous year. In the first half of this year in the export of tops there was an improvement of 21 per cent., and the export of wool predominant fabrics went up by some 14 per cent.

We may have passed the crest of the wave. The cycle may be turning slightly down. There is, for example, a slight downturn in the combing sector. But the achievements of the industry have been exceptional, and it is very laudable that the Government have shown themselves willing to invest in success by this £15 million scheme. I know that it has been welcomed in the industry, and now that we have a more broadly-based economy in the Bradford and Shipley district we should be able better to withstand any downturn in the cycle.

As for our local employment situation, we have reached a state of affairs where in Shipley, for example, there are more vacancies than there are people out of work. In the Bradford and Shipley district as a whole there are only 333 less vacancies than there are people out of work. As for vacancies for women, there are more vacancies by three to one than there are women looking for jobs.

That is the extent of the Government's achievement and the extent also of the Opposition's humiliation in moving this very silly motion.

12.28 p.m.

Mr. Harold Walker (Doncaster)

Out of regard for the very large number of my hon. Friends who wish to speak, I shall endeavour to take up considerably less of the time of the House than did the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson), in spite of his suggestion that it was irrelevant and unnecessary for the House to debate the motion.

I want also to avoid the party polemical approach which the hon. Gentleman adopted in the greater part of his speech, except to make the point that it is a little churlish that so far we have not had from the Government benches any word of welcome for my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield. West (Mr. Lomas) and the eloquent way in which he moved his admirable motion.

Mr. Jeffrey Archer

That is most unfair. I congratulated the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) and said how well he had made his speech.

Mr. Walker

If I do the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Jeffrey Archer) an injustice, I readily withdrew my charge. However, congratulations were conspicuously absent from the speech of the hon. Member for Bradford, West. I want to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, West not only on his choice of subject but also on the admirable way he worded his motion and the splendid speech he made in moving it.

We face a serious dilemma in approaching a subject such as this. Obviously we want to canvass the features of the region, and particularly of our constituencies, on which we want Government action. Inevitably this tends to highlight the very features of the region which are, perhaps, all too often deterrents to new industry, new services and people from elsewhere, which we are all agreed that we need coming to the region. I do not want to lay too great a stress on the warts and scars of the region in what I say.

In population terms at least, the Yorkshire and Humberside Region is substantially bigger than Wales, and Northern Ireland, and only marginally smaller than Scotland. I say that so that we may compare the attention received by Yorkshire and Humberside in the House from the Government with the attention that those other regions receive. I make no criticism of them. It is right that the Scots, the Welsh and the Northern Irish should bang the drum. The lesson for us is that we, too, must bang the drum. It might be a good idea if we had a Secretary of State—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear".] My hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy) would be an admirable Secretary of State.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Rother Valley)

I agree with all that my hon. Friend has been saying. The pity is that not one Conservative Member representing a Yorkshire constituency is in the Chamber at present waiting to speak and to express agreement with my hon. Friend's comments.

Mr. Walker

The only inhibition that I have about making the same point is that I am always conscious of my Lancastrian origins. But I believe that my constituency has taken me to its bosom for eternity now and that I am a Yorkshireman by adoption.

The region is one of the great wealth-creating areas of the country. Having referred to my native Lancashire, I must add that we ought, perhaps, instead of merely talking in terms of the Yorkshire and Humberside region, to talk far more frequently in terms of the great industrial block that stretches across the country, that band of Yorkshire and Lancashire, the North-West and Yorkshire. We ought to see them as complementary and to see the potential of treating the area as a whole and of complementary infrastructure development and so on.

But perhaps more important is the fact that, in spite of being one of the wealth-creating areas where industry is traditionally concentrated, where so much of our exports are generated and where internally-spent wealth is created, far too little of the wealth created there is spent in the region. Far too much of it is spent, for example, in London and the South East. I am talking about what the Government take out of the region. I am not talking in terms of company directors who own manufacturing capacity in Yorkshire but live in the South. In the Government's redistribution of that wealth, they spend it elsewhere.

I should only bore the House if I took up too much time on the statistics and details, but there is a far lower rate of spending on the arts, sport, social amenities and facilities of all kinds, the health service, the provision of hospital beds, and so on, in the Yorkshire and Humberside Region that in the South-East, the Midlands or London. In spite of the fact that it is we in the North who are creating wealth, one could give many examples of how, in its redistribution, we are the sufferers. One cannot go into details in a debate such as this, but I am sure that the Minister will have this matter very much in mind.

Over the last few years we have had a series of reports about the region from, for example, the Yorkshire and Humberside Economic Planning Council. The most recent of these was the regional strategy report published in 1970, which was a very useful analysis of the region's problems. It is the strategy that we ought to adopt. But all these reports seem to fall like drops of water for all the notice that seems to be taken of them. In anticipation of this debate. I looked through that report. It seems that the Government's current broad economic strategy appears completely to ignore what is suggested by, for example, bodies such as that council.

We have heard reference, for example—I make no apology for following it up—to Maplin. The Channel Tunnel has been mentioned. Here we have enormous amounts of capital going into the South East when over the years, from both sides of the House, we have said that one of the problems facing the country in terms of economic strategy and industrial development is the need to get industry away from the South East and into the regions. I understand that the possible ultimate cost of the Maplin development, which is not merely a third London airport but a new airport and a major industrial concentration, is likely to be about £3,000 million of fixed capital assets. That is a vast sum.

That money will not be available for spending elsewhere. It is capital that is not available for establishment elsewhere; it is not available for Yorkshire and Humberside or other regions of the North. Added to that will be the magnetic pull of the Channel Tunnel. These two developments will be sucking all the mobile, foot-loose industry towards the South East for years to come, to the detriment of Yorkshire and Humberside. There will be the added concentration of population, sucking people out, with its effect on land values, house prices and so on with consequent adverse effects on the regions such as ours.

My hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, West acknowledged that since we last debated the region and its problems there has been an improvement. We welcome that improvement. We hope that it will be permanent and that the trend will continue. But my hon. Friend rightly recognised that the spread of unemployment and lack of employment opportunities in the region is of great concern. I have avoided reference so far to my constituency. However, within the region the Doncaster travel-to-work area is surpassed in its unemployment levels only by the adjacent travel-to-work area of Mexborough, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Edwin Wainwright). I am glad to see that he is present with us. Those unemployment levels are due to our overdependence on heavy traditional industry. In the case of my constituency that is coal.

It has been rightly said that one of the continuing problems of the region is its very heavy dependence—its, precarious overdependence—on the old industries such as steel, coal, wool and textiles. There is an urgent need, therefore, for a very positive response by the Government for our needs. The Government must recognise this kind of problem. When trying to induce a growth of service jobs, the suggestion is made that civil servants, who tend to be Southern-Counties oriented and based, are repelled by the idea of moving to the harsh, hard North, where every Yorkshireman is thought of in terms of Charlie Williams. God bless him. He is a good friend of mine. But he is held by some Southerners to represent the archetypal Yorkshire-man. However, it has been the experience of those who moved with the National Coal Board, when it transferred parts of its headquarters to my constituency, that life in Yorkshire, contrary to prior assumptions, was very congenial indeed. We have splendid shopping facilities, relatively low-priced housing—compared with the South—low land prices and, on the whole, a beautiful environment.

We must stop selling Yorkshire short. Our concentration on problems of dereliction and the remains of the Industrial Revolution conveys the impression to these poor benighted, short-sighted Southerners that that is what the whole county is like, but it is not. I admit that we have problems, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) has the legacy of the old pits and the dereliction. I am not selling Barnsley short, because it is a very fine town, but the county as a whole is extremely attractive. It is not an area full of Coronation Streets; it is a very fine place to live. One of the best decisions I have ever taken was when I decided to live in Yorkshire. I am pleased that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition is another fine Yorkshireman, who, I have no doubt, looks nostalgically back to the days when he was able to live in his native county. We really must not sell Yorkshire short, because it is a very fine place in which to live and we must stress its positive features in encouraging people and industry to go to it.

I should like to make this point about job prospects in Yorkshire. We have talked of the need for service industries and for white-collar employment prospects in Yorkshire to offset the older traditional industries. But we also need new growth industry which will give opportunities for our skilled workers. For example, I think of the huge contemplated investment programme of the British Leyland Motor Corporation. I hope that the gesture of the Minister was not a discouraging one, because I want to tell him that Yorkshire has a very fine tradition of motor vehicles manufacture. For many years we had a Ford factory in my constituency, which was almost entirely free from industrial relations problems. We also had the Jowett factory in Bradford which produced very fine motor cars indeed. I am sure that if the British Leyland Motor Corporation decides to bring motor manufacturing back into Yorkshire, it will not only be welcome but will have a very fine potential work force waiting for it.

We have talked about the social and environmental characteristics of the region, and reference has been made to the effect of the Government's policy on housing in Yorkshire, where the cost ceiling is holding back the growth. But it is holding back not only housing but schools, old folk's homes and so on in my constituency and elsewhere. Much-needed developments are deliberately held back as a direct consequence of Government policy. I hope, therefore, that we will hear something about this from the Minister.

In conclusion I want to stress that we need encouragement in Yorkshire. I do not want to be churlish about the trend of employment, because it is very encouraging and we hope that it will con- tinue the way it is going. But if we are to have a safe and secure future we must have new industry and new job opportunities of a different kind from those on which we have been overdependent in the past. We must not allow the recruitment problems of the coal mining industry to deflect the Government from the need for new kinds of industries. Above all, we must cease projecting Yorkshire as an area of Coronation Streets and dereliction, which will be off-putting and depressing for the people from Hobart House, and we must complete the transfer of the National Coal Board headquarters to Doncaster.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop.

Hon. Members


12.44 p.m.

Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

I gladly accept—

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

On a point of order. Can you inform the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether the hon. Members for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), for Howden (Sir P. Bryan), for Skipton (Mr. Drayson) et al. have asked for permission to speak in this way?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is not, in fact, a point of order. There is not normally a list. It is a question of selection by Mr. Speaker, and the Chair has no control if a Member on the other side of the House rises to speak. Within reason he can be heard.

Mr. McNamara

We have yet to hear the reason.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I have called Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. To my knowledge no one needs permission to speak in the House of Commons if he is a Member. All he needs is to be called by the Chair. That is a right that cannot be challenged by any Member of the House, and I should have thought everyone was aware of that.

Mr. James Johnson

No one has made a false point of order. There is a convention in this House, which most of us observe when there is a Scottish debate, a Welsh debate or a Yorkshire-Humberside debate but which is not being observed in this Chamber at the moment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

There may be a convention, but, on the other hand, we are wasting time. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be brief in his remarks and enable right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who wish to speak on the subject to do so.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Since this point—

Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)

Further to that point of order. You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have been placed in an invidious position for which you are not to blame. We hoped that the good manners of the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) would have prevailed and that he would not have risen in his place. But in view of the fact that he has done so, and has already incurred the displeasure of most Members of the House, we hope that, having caught Mr. Deputy Speaker's eye, he will be very brief and will not incur too much displeasure.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

I would be much more convinced by the plea for brevity if hon. Gentlemen opposite had not already wasted some of the time of the House on points of order which they know very well are bogus. They have raised the question whether there is a convention that only Members coming from one area of the United Kingdom should take part in debates concerning that area. I would reply that if any of the hon. Gentlemen concerned had been present during debates in this Chamber on the South-West, they would know that Labour Members who come from nowhere near the South-West readily took part in those debates.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I think that this point has been fully made. May I suggest from the Chair that we proceed with the matter under discussion?

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Yes, indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker. But I did not think that such a spurious point would be made from the Front Bench opposite.

The first line of the motion before the House calls attention to the needs and problems of Yorkshire and the Humberside region. The hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Harold Walker) asked us—and I willingly comply with his request—not to represent Yorkshire as being in some way an area of decaying industries. The problems to which I wish to draw attention are those of Britain's largest industry, agriculture, which is represented in important measure in the county of Yorkshire, and which it is therefore entirely proper to raise in speaking about the first line of this motion. In doing so I shall endeavour to give the House closely authenticated facts rather than general opinions.

If hon. Gentlemen who speak afterwards believe these facts not to be representative of Yorkshire, I must tell them that within the last two hours I have spoken on the telephone at some considerable length to the County Secretary of the National Farmers' Union in the West Riding, to satisfy myself that the picture which has emerged of massive increased costs in part of the United Kingdom is representative of the same problems as are being met in Yorkshire. Indeed, the problems being encountered in many parts of Yorkshire are worse than the examples that I give, because the climate during winter entails feeding cattle for a greater proportion of the time, and they cannot be fed on grass for so long as they are in the South-West. This is of concern not only to more than 3,000 families who directly earn their livelihood from milk production in the area covered by this debate. It also affects many others who derive their livelihood, for instance, in creameries and from milk products. The trend over the last year has been so significant that its effects are bound to be felt in Yorkshire as elsewhere.

Mr. James Johnson


Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Since the hon. Gentleman has not yet heard what I intend to say, he is not in a position to express a view whether it is a disgrace If he means that the problems of agriculture should not be properly discussed in a debate on Yorkshire and the Humberside, he is, with other Labour Members, entitled to take the view that agriculture is of no interest—something which was very obvious when the Labour Party was in office. I take a different view.

Mr. McNamara


Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Interventions prolong speeches. So long as the hon. Gentleman is aware of that, I will give way.

Mr. McNamara

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I am aware of that fact. The hon. Gentleman should know that all the points which he is making have been made by our county agricultural committees and that we have forwarded their complaints to the Minister of Agriculture. We are still waiting for a reply, in my case for at least a month.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Since the hon. Gentleman does not know what points I am going to make, either he is claiming clairvoyance or he is assuming that no points have been made by his county NFU. It is not clear which of the two alternatives he is asserting.

In a sample taken by the agricultural departments of Bristol and Exeter Universities, in the area of largest milk production in the United Kingdom, the South-West—a sample of 33 dairy farms varying in size from 72 to 113 acres—it was found over the accounting year for 1972 that 83 per cent. of their income came from sales of milk and 12 per cent. from sales of cattle. That puts into perspective how reliant they are on income from milk sales and how vulnerable they are, therefore, to impairment of the profitability on it.

The average in this sample, being 100 acres, carries 47 cows. I should like the House and the Minister in particular to note the increases in costs which those farms have met in the last year, which affects so desperately the viability of the industry. In giving these figures, I repeat the point which I made that in Yorkshire the position is likely to be marginally worse than that which I am describing, because the season when the cattle cannot feed themselves on pasture is marginally longer because of less favourable climatic conditions.

Taking October 1973 to March 1974, the six-month period in which we now are, the representative herd of 47 cows on the average 100-acre farm will eat 40 tons of fodder at an extra cost of £22 per cow. That will cost an extra £880 in the course of the year. The 34 other cattle which will be in the representative herd, other than milk cows, will eat about 15 tons at an extra cost of about £30 a ton which comes to an additional £450.

Culling, selling off, cows from the milk herd in a year, one would expect about six to be sold in this period, and as the fall in price from what was expected at the time of the Annual Farm Price Review is about £30 per animal, that gives an additional deficit of £180 over the reasonable expectations on which the Price Review is based this year. If we assume that the heifer calves are retained and only the bull calves are sold off, there will be a shortfall on the 16 bull calves which one would expect to sell in the representative herd by an absolute minimum of £15 per bull calf, giving an additional deficit of £240—in other words, a total deficit compared with expectations of £1,750. This has to come out of a net farm income which the year before last—the last year for which we have reliable figures—was £3,893 for this representative farm, and, even if it had gone up last year to as much as £5,000, clearly it cannot take a reduction of the order of £1,750.

Any other industry in Yorkshire, the Humberside, or anywhere else which meets a massive and honestly and accurately-substantiated increase in costs, under phase 3, puts a case to the Price Commission which examines the alleged increase in costs, and if it finds them to be authentic and unavoidable it awards a price increase to the producer. In no way do I complain if the Government, for understandable reasons, wish the increase in cost to be met not by an increase in price to the consumer—this is a perfectly legitimate attitude for any Government to adopt—but by an increase in deficit on the milk which is made up out of general taxation revenue. The milk producers in Yorkshire, as elsewhere, see no reason why their livelihood should be made a unique case, where genuine increases in cost due to causes entirely outside their own control are not recouped, at any rate to a large percentage, by an increase in the pool price which they receive. This is experienced just as acutely in Yorkshire as it is elsewhere.

There may be infinitesimal reductions in the price of fodder where it is very close to large ports of import, but this is far more than offset by the less clement weather which is usual in Yorkshire compared with the South West. To give an example of what this means, bearing in mind that the pool price of milk has increased owing to the fall-off in production, as well as the fact that the manufacturing milk price has improved, a year ago on a representative low-cost farm, officially costed by the Milk Marketing Board, it took the revenue from the sale of 200 gallons of milk to pay for one ton of concentrates. Now it takes the revenue from 300 gallons of milk to pay for one ton of identical concentrates.

That is the problem common to the whole of British agriculture where milk is produced, but it is of particular importance in a part of Britain where milk producers have other problems to face which are not common to the whole of the United Kingdom. For instance, in many parts of Yorkshire farmers have additional problems to face caused in some cases by pollution and in other cases, quite understandably, by the fact that they are located, as we are in the South West, in an area where many people go on holiday, where towns are expanding considerably and therefore each year a significant amount of agricultural land is being taken, and where road networks are being developed which not only also take good agricultural land but are known to divide up farms so that the units which are left are either unprofitable or are certainly able to continue in production only at a higher cost per unit.

I hope that in the rest of the debate the entire focus will not be on industry to the exclusion of agriculture but will include consideration of this source of livelihood, which is the prime source for between 2,000 and 2,500 families in the West Riding and a substantial source to a considerable number beyond that.

1.2 p.m.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

I listened with interest to the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) about the problems facing agriculture. I asure him that we in Yorkshire are aware of them. We regret, as I am sure he does, that the hon. Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan), who represents an East Riding constituency which has considerable farming population, was not here to make that speech. It may well be, of course, that the hon. Gentleman has good reason for not being here.

I have given notice to the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Jeffrey Archer) of my intention to comment on his speech, but he has apologised for not being present to hear my reply. He made a somewhat intemperate speech about the attitude of Lincolnshire towards the new Humberside complex, of which it is now a part. I remind him that all the great coal and ore shipments go through Immingham now, but that coal in particular used to go through Hull. But we welcomed the move to the new National Coal Board facilities at Immingham because, although we did not like to see some of our own employment going, we welcomed the general development of the estuary. Hull Members of Parliament going back to long before I came to this House, have always urged the estuarial concept for the Humber. My hon. Friends and I now representing Hull, and our predecessors, have always urged this concept, and that is why we have all been so keen on having a Humber bridge.

I also remind the hon. Member for Louth that in the allocation of offices in the new Humberside County Council the chairmanships of many important committees lie not with representatives of Hull—which provides the dominant proportion of the majority party—but with people from the south bank of the Humber. These include the finance, education and social service committees and many other important posts. The reason for this is that we from Hull are determined to make sure that Humberside is regarded as one unit and not as a big brother trying to browbeat people from the south bank.

We look forward to the completion of the Humber bridge. This was a great concept by former Alderman Holmes of Hull. It is his baby, if one may say that. He forced it through. It was a great victory to get the Labour Government to accept it and he has the satisfaction also of seeing the Conservative Government building it. It is regrettable that it has been so long delayed.

It would be wrong not to talk of the problems we shall face in Hull as a result of the agreement reached with the Icelandic Government about fishing and also the long-term prospects for the fishing industry, particularly with the forthcoming Law of the Sea Conference. The Humberside ports will probably suffer most of all the fishing ports operating in the Icelandic seas because of the banishing of our heavy vessels.

I hope we shall hear from the Government something positive about the plans for the future of the fishing industry and in terms of the development of the industry, bearing in mind that the new agreement is an interim one lasting two years and that the Law of the Sea Conference is coming. In fairness to other hon. Members who wish to speak, I will not develop the point because my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) hopes to do so.

I want to talk mainly in terms of North Humberside and Humberside generally. The Government have said that we must virtually pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, that we should depend upon the development of industries within our own area rather than look to large outside industries coming to Humberside to develop. While we have had some national industries coming to Humberside and North Humberside, and Hull in particular, much of our expansion has come from firms and nationalised industries in our own city and from the sort of encouragement given by Hull Corporation to industry generally.

I draw attention in particular to the novel scheme of partnership between Hull Corporation and Hull University to develop an "inventor's paradise". People can go along to the new body set up by the two, and say, "We have what we think might be a commercial venture. Can we have space and opportunity to try to develop it?" I am sure that this is one of the most far-sighted ideas to have emerged for a long time and certainly the first of this type of co-operation between town and gown. I am sure we all want it to succeed and hope to see it copied in other areas.

One of the major problems facing industry in Hull will be the 13 per cent. bank rate. Small firms, in particular, cannot afford to carry high interest rates for the purchasing of their raw materials, waiting until they have sold their own product. The construction industry and the great importers and users of timber are feeling the situation badly. When their representatives go abroad, a foreign seller will say, "What will be the value of your money when you purchase our goods? What will you be able to pay us now?" This means that the industry has to borrow extensively and to pay very high interest rates. This situation cannot go on much longer without having deleterious effects.

The problem, as I say, affects small industries in particular, and I wish to direct attention now to one such industry which is unique in its enormous growth on Humberside in the post-war years and which is important also to the national economy. I refer to the non-motorised caravan industry on Humberside. Hon. Members may not know that nearly one-third of the caravans produced in this country—35,634 units, worth approximately £25 million, out of a total of 103,000—are manufactured on Humberside. It is very much a success story.

Unfortunately, however, many of these firms are small and, because of the seasonal nature of their work, with peak sales in the spring and summer though with orders placed in the autumn, their overheads are large, and money is expensive for them.

As far as we can estimate in Hull, the industry employs 4,000 people on the north bank. I say "as far as we can estimate" because the Government, apparently, have no statistics. In answer to a question which I put to the Minister in preparation for the debate, hoping that I might obtain accurate information, I was told that no statistics were available. However, one thing we are certain of in Hull is that this industry, because of the continuity of employment which it offers and because of the high wages which it pays, is creaming off a great number of joiners from the building industry generally, and the building industry is suffering.

As far as I can gather, and as far as Government statistics and local information go—there is none—there are no apprenticeship schemes run by the industry, apart from one or two in the very large firms. This means that apprentice joiners, painters and coach builders who go into the caravan industry are trained in other areas, with the consequence that those other areas are deprived of skilled labour. We have already noted the effect which a lack of skilled labour has been having on the building industry in Hull.

I urge the Government, therefore, to turn their attention to the question of industrial training in the caravan industry, an expanding industry, as I have said, and one of importance for our foreign earnings. There should be adequate training of apprentices and young people, a type of training which we badly need in our city.

Again, on the subject of training, although we have a first-class Government training centre in Hull, these facilities also should be considerably expanded. There is great need for that, too.

Because of the pressure of time, I shall mention only two other matters, tourism and roads. As my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) said in his splendid opening speech, Yorkshire has a great deal to offer. I welcome and enjoy the pleasures of Wharfedale and the rugged grandeur of the dales, but I must emphasise that there is tremendous potential for tourism in the East Riding of Yorkshire, with its gentle civilisation, its large fields, its lovely villages and its gracious churches. What is more, it has a virtually unspoiled coastline. It has the magnificent Flamborough Head. In passing, I must express the hope that those so-far-muted voices which we hear calling for commercial development of Flamborough Head will never be allowed to take that idea any further. We do not want to see any of our heritage coastline, or any of our coastline, for that matter, destroyed by commercial development.

We have other attractions in the East Riding. One thinks of our great churches—Beverley Minster and Holy Trinity, for instance. But our seaside towns desperately need Government aid, not only to help in the installation of the fire precautions now required under legislation but for the modernisation of the image of the area—in other words, to give it a face lift.

Such aid would be of particular value not only in enhancing the attractiveness of that area of the county, especially now that more people are landing in Hull before dispersing to other parts of the country, but for the help it would give to hotel owners and our seaside resorts in welcoming not just the foreign traveller but the many British citizens who still take their holidays in, say, Bridlington, Hornsea, Withernsea and the rest of that lovely stretch of coastline. Our visitors need improved facilities, and the hotel owners should be helped to provide them.

The roads to the resorts present a problem, too. One thinks here of Malton and Great Driffield, and the bottlenecks which occur on our overloaded roads in the season in that area as well as on the roads on the south bank. I am referring now not to trunk road developments, most of which are going ahead, but to the roads to the seaside and the countryside, which sorely need improvement.

I draw special attention to the need for the Beverley south-western bypass to be a dual-carriageway road. The members for Hull and the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) recently received a letter from the East Riding County Council on the subject of the Beverley south-western bypass arising out of the Government's decision that it should be a single-carriageway road. The county council said: The estimated cost of providing a dual carriageway bypass, at 1972 prices, is £3,900,000. A saving of approximately £750,000 is likely to be achieved by constructing a single carriageway, but this cost would be greatly exceeded if, in the future, a second carriageway were to be constructed. This is a major trunk road. It is the main road from my constituency, bypassing Beverley and going on to York. It carries a great deal of heavy traffic, both commercial traffic and holiday and commuter traffic. It ought to be dual carriageway, and I am certain that, if the hon. Member for Haltemprice had been able to be present today, he would have joined me in urging that that development should take place.

I have deliberately kept my speech short so that others of my hon. Friends might have an opportunity to speak. Today, the Yorkshire Post has a fine centrepiece article about this debate, about Yorkshire industry and about Yorkshire being at the centre of the stage. There have been only two Yorkshire Conservative Members on the back benches waiting and willing to speak, and it looks very likely that all of my hon. Friends who wish to speak will be able to do so. I imagine that it was in the light of the knowledge and interest of Conservative Members of Parliament from Yorkshire that the proprietors of the Yorkshire Post changed the name of their company from Yorkshire Conservative Newspapers to Yorkshire Post Newspapers Limited.

I wonder what will be thought by those who were fortunate enough to have their letters printed in the Yorkshire Post—the lady from Harrogate, the lady from Pocklington, the lady from Leeds 7, the lady from Keighley—all of which places are represented by Conservative Members. Did they realise, when they were writing their letters to express their hopes for the future of Yorkshire, that their Conservative Members would not have sufficient interest to come here to speak and that the debate would be conducted almost entirely by members of the Opposition?

1.20 p.m.

Mr. David Austick (Ripon)

I feel deep regret that there are so few Conservative Members present. It seems strange that so many hon. Members should be absent when they have something to offer, and I am perfectly certain that my predecessor, the late Sir Malcolm Stoddart-Scott, would have been in his place to express the opinion of the people he represented.

I must tell the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) that there are hon. Members on the Opposition side who know from first hand the problems of agriculture and do not need to spend two hours on the telephone before a debate to discover what they are all about. Out of courtesy I shall omit from my speech what I was intending to say about agriculture in my constituency and in neighbouring constituencies. It has been said already and it would be discourteous now for me to take up time on the subject.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop


Hon. Members

Sit down.

Mr. Austick

I shall not give way.

Mr. Mason

You are an intruder.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)

Order. If the hon. Member does not wish to give way, he is perfectly within his rights not to do so.

Mr. Austick

I wish to support the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) in drawing attention to the imbalance of job opportunities in many pat is of our region. Even the smaller towns and cities are entitled to a share of the decision-making centres which attract top management and specialist staff. I have no intention of making many specific constituency points but the problem of transport in my constituency is a major one, as it is for neighbouring constituencies.

Without adequate means of transport, life as we know it would grind slowly to a halt. The current scarcity of oil has provided a sharp reminder of our utter dependence upon this one form of energy. In the past our approach to the movement of goods and people has been piecemeal rather than planned and we have allowed to develop a situation in which in many cases goods take precedence over people and are threatening to destroy the environment. There are few who would claim that recent transportation policies have proved anything but disastrous, both nationally and regionally.

As car ownership has increased, so the Government have switched resources away from existing forms of communal transport in a vain attempt to provide adequate road space for the new demand. That in itself has encouraged greater use of the private car and of heavy road freight transport, not only on the new roads but also on the once quiet routes through our towns and villages which in so many parts of Yorkshire are now dominated by noise, fumes, physical danger and frustration.

I was pleased to hear from the Government earlier this week that the extension of the M62 through to the A1 will be completed within the next year and I hope that the Minister will give an assurance about this. The hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Ford) referred to the Kirkhamgate-Dishforth spur and he insisted that it was essential. I hope that hon. Members will re-examine this proposal when the M62 extension is completed because it is possible that the pattern of traffic may change and that such a new road may not be necessary. I accept that certain parts of North Yorkshire need relief from the traffic, but it is possible that this third extension would make such a difference to life that we should look at it again. I hope that the Minister will bear this in mind.

While the number of cars on the roads has been increasing, the communal services offered by rail and bus have been decreasing until we now have a disadvantaged minority who cannot afford their own transport and have to arrange their lives around much-pruned services in urban and rural areas, but particularly in rural areas. We seem to have concentrated on getting better services between the regions and London and to have forgotten that the majority of people do not travel inter-city. They travel between home and work, between home and the shops and between home and the fresh air.

When I was writing my speech I put myself in the position of not having a car and having to visit a constituent in Middlesmoor, a village in the Lidderdale Valley, served by a bus service. My secretary spoke to the traffic manager of the bus company concerned and discovered that to travel from where I live in the constituency to Middlesmoor would take me 2 hours 25 minutes each way, but that I should have to wait 3 hours for the bus back. Therefore, in order to use public transport I would need a full eight hours, and I could do that only on a Saturday.

We must have a massive redevelopment of publicly-owned communal services and the region's rail system must be revived in a positive manner with electrification for inter-city, suburban and new rail lines. The existing rail system is inadequate to meet future demands. Stations which have been closed need to be reopened, old stretches of line retained and new stretches constructed where changes in population so demand. As electricity may well be the most economical form of motive power in the future, we should consider the reintroduction of electric traction for buses, for super-trams and for rapid transit systems on the continental design. We must plan the bus systems to integrate with the rail system.

From April 1974 the passenger transport authorities will take over responsibility for the integration of transport systems within their counties. It is a welcome move but it is not enough. From April 1974 Government grants for transportation will be given as global sums and it will be left to the county authorities to allocate those sums between the new roads and the new forms of transport as they think fit. The Government's recent circular 104/73 on local transport grants is most welcome and the new urban and major road projects will need to be examined in the light of it because, within the framework of the Government's formula, money spent on roads will be available for buses, trains and the new rapid transit systems.

This change in policy must put a totally new complexion on all transportation plans for our region. Now that a global sum will be available for all new transport projects, officials and elected representatives must look very closely at all schemes. I sincerely hope that the Government appreciate that we must encourage the county authorities in the region to be bold in their thinking for the future. I hope that the authorities will work together so that we may have a truly integrated road and rail system in the region in which buses connect with trains or trams, as they do in Switzerland and other European countries, a common public timetable for all services, a fares structure in which tickets are interchangeable on any form of transport, with genuine concessions for the elderly, for teenagers and for families, and real financial incentives to use these services instead of the private car.

There is social justice in such policies because, despite the popular belief that the majority of people now have a car, it has been shown recently that four out of five people do not have free use of a car whenever they require it. Wives, children and pensioners are severely handicapped by a transport system based on the dominance of the private car. It is important that in future public funds should be used to improve facilities for the majority.

Anything for which we ask during the debate must seek to improve the quality of life in the Yorkshire and Humberside Region, particularly for those who, for economic and physical reasons, are becoming increasingly disadvantaged as other groups within society improve their relative positions. As society becomes more aware, more people want to travel and see and communicate with each other within the region.

The hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) referred to the Minister's visits to the region and to the discussions he had had with industrialists. I invite the Minister to visit Ripon to speak to the ordinary men and women when he next goes to the region.

The Minister for Industrial Development (Mr. Christopher Chataway)

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I did—during the by-election.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)

With such a result!

Mr. Austick

If we use all the means at our disposal to ensure that all our constituents are able to enjoy the delights of the county—and to enjoy them with others—we shall have achieved something of lasting value. Our attention to the improvement of transportation within the region will have a marked effect on all other aspects of life in the region.

I have not attempted to score points against the Government or against any previous administration, because the best way to make progress is by understanding and co-operation. The country can be very proud of the example shown by the House during yesterday's debate on Northern Ireland.

I hope that those of us who represent the Yorkshire and Humberside Region will take heart from the knowledge that, if we are united in our endeavour to help all our people to get the best they can from life, nothing will be impossible.

1.33 p.m.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)

Among the many good things said so ably by my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) in opening the debate, the best was that Yorkshire is the centre of the country. The most retrograde step ever made in regional planning was when, after Charles I had set up the Council of the North in York, the seat of government was brought back to this wen of wens. There is no doubt that if the metropolis were located in the centre of the country many of our regional problems would be very different, and a great deal of the North, the North West. and Scotland would benefit. As that is merely wishful thinking, because it would require the kind of imaginative lead that escapes any Government, we can only rely on trying to change the edges of regional policy.

My hon. Friend acknowledged, and I acknowledge, that giving intermediate status to the rest of Yorkshire, in addition to the development area, has made some difference. But I am a little worried that as a result of the common regional policy that will be worked out by the EEC over the next few months, Yorkshire, particularly that area which is not included in the development area, may very well lose the benefits of intermediate status. I hope that the Minister will reassure us about that in due course.

The other matter which has been of considerable benefit, particularly to York and the central area of Yorkshire, is what both Governments have done to help the tourist industry in the area. I believe that the fastest-growing area of the British tourist industry is the Yorkshire area, centred around York, in no small degree due to the efforts of both Governments to correct the imbalance caused by concentrating on the South East. Those efforts have been of great assistance, particularly to the city of York, but they are peripheral to the general employment situation in York. Employment in hotels and catering amounted to only about 4 per cent. of the total employment opportunities in the whole of the greater York area and more were so employed before the recent increase in hotel development.

We are very much more affected by the general rate of economic development in the country as a whole. We rely on a small number of large units of production. If any of those were removed from York, or their economic potential were seriously affected, there would be a disastrous effect upon the York employment situation. I mention that only because there was discussion recently about moving the rail headquarters from York to Sheffield, which would have had a considerable effect upon York's employment potential. I hope that the Minister will realise that although the York employment situation is not bad, it could be made disastrous if any decision of that nature were made.

In considering the relocation of civil servants, the Government should remember that the attractions of York and the central Yorkshire area are environmentally an advantage to anyone coming from the south and other regions.

In a sense, the two major growth points of the Yorkshire and Humberside area might be said to be York and Humberside. York has its tourism and an important aspect of the whole economy of the region which has not yet been mentioned, the potential in the new finds of coal to the south of York. They might have considerable benefits not only for the whole region but for the country's energy position, particularly in relation to oil. I hope that the deposits will be exploited, with every protection for the environment, but allowing for a growth in the area immediately south of York and touching upon it.

In the short time available I want to make five constituency points. I make no apology for that, because in all the discussions about the region there tends to be concentration upon the problems of West Yorkshire and Humberside. The central Yorkshire area is neglected, not only by the Government and the House but by the economic planning council for the region.

My first point is one which is of considerable difficulty to the city of York but which also has repercussions throughout the country. It concerns council house building. According to the latest census, there are 38,000 households in the city of York. The accommodation available to them includes 11,500 council houses and only about 4,000 unfurnished dwellings that could be rented. Therefore, if a couple cannot afford a private house—who can afford it on less than £2,000 a year these days?—they must look either to the council or to the limited private rented accommodation in the city. Of that private rented accommodation, 18 per cent. consists of houses with no hot water, 33 per cent. of houses with no bathroom or shower, and 40 per cent. of houses with no inside lavatory. It is poor unfurnished accommodation.

The major hope of obtaining rented accommodation is by means of council housing. It has always been surprising to me since I became a Member of Parliament that a city such as York, which is surrounded by agricultural land for 30 miles, should have a housing problem. The fact is that it has. Although there are 11,500 council houses, there are at least 1,000 families on the housing list. The number is restricted only because there are restrictive conditions which must be met before a name is put on the list. We cannot solve the problem unless we establish a major building programme.

When the Conservatives were in control of housing, little building was done. Since the Labour Party took over control about two years ago it has been trying to establish a major programme. For two reasons it has not been able to do so. First, there is the difficulty of getting land within the city boundary. Attempts have been made to infill in areas where council house gardens were large by taking over some of the gardens. Two such areas in Hewley Avenue and Thoresby Road were put out to tender some time ago. The tenders which were obtained were 60 per cent. above the housing cost yardstick. I accept that it is advisable for the Government to have a yardstick, but it is my complaint that it is far too low. That complaint is not confined to York but extends throughout the country.

The council tried its best to get a lower tender. It could not do so. It went to the regional office in Leeds. It was told that the regional office could do nothing and that it was necessary to speak to the Minister. The Minister refused to see the council and refused my request that he should see it. It was clear that the council would never get a better tender. The Minister insisted that the council should put out to tender again. The council has received three tenders for Hewley Avenue. The lowest was 110 per cent. above the cost yardstick. The delay has cost the council another 50 per cent. Another area for which a firm was prepared to tender was 120 per cent. above the cost yardstick. That is why it has been impossible to establish a building programme in the city.

One new area of land has become available. Against the wishes of the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, which is in control of the council, has insisted on using it for council house development. There are to be built 1,000 homes in that area. Those homes could break the back of the council house list. However, because the council has no hope of getting tenders anywhere near the yardstick, many of my constituents, people who are in real need and despair, who come continually to my surgeries, will have to be told that there is no hope of getting a council house in much less than three years.

Such a situation should not exist under any kind of civilised Government. It should be possible for the Government to recognise that the cost yardstick is inhibiting council house building. There is no alternative in private house building owing to the present interest rates. The Government must realise, even with their present financial difficulties, that it is necessary to increase the yardstick limit. I hope that the Minister will make that point to his right hon. Friend.

There is a great road difficulty in York. There are four bridges across the River Ouse. Three of the bridges are within the walled city. Consequently, all the traffic is sucked into the walled city. That is doing enormous environmental damage to a city which is justly regarded as being one of our prized possessions. The Government have now gone ahead with the plans which were made by the last Labour Government for an outer ring road. We are grateful for that, but it will take only 20 per cent. of the traffic that runs into the city. The through traffic accounts for only 20 per cent. of the total. The other 80 per cent., which is self-generating, will still be sucked into the centre. That is why the council has put forward a proposal for an inner ring road. It has caused a good deal of heat and the inquiry has been outstanding for about 12 months. I have asked the Minister to make an early decision. I hope that his decision will be favourable.

Undoubtedly there are difficulties in introducing such a road. It is essential that we have two alternative bridges. If there are to be approach roads to the bridges there will virtually be a ring road I am not happy about the line of the ring but I hope that it will be confirmed because there is no other effective way of dealing with York's traffic problem.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Ford) referred to airports. He was a little too eager to accept the thesis that it is not possible to build a regional airport in the Vale of York because of the objections of the Royal Air Force. The same or similar objections were raised about Maplin. It was said that we could never hope to move Shoeburyness away from Maplin if we wanted to build an airport. However, when the pressure was on, that was done with no difficulty. That could be done in the Vale of York. In the end the country must ask itself whether the development of civil aviation, with all its potential for growth in a region which badly needs growth, is more important than the defence requirements of the Royal Air Force, which could if necessary be moved elsewhere where there is not the same demand for civil aviation space.

There is no doubt that a major regional airport built somewhere in the Vale of York would have considerable development potential for the whole region. If Maplin does not go ahead, I hope that the Minister will consider the region. I recommend Elvington, which has a runway which was built by the Americans to accommodate the biggest jets. It would have the considerable advantage of being readily available for the creation of an airport. If we are to have a completely new airport, Balne Moor seems to offer all the advantages for the whole area. I hope that the Minister will reconsider the matter.

1.47 p.m.

Mr. Brian O'Malley (Rotherham)

It is a disgrace that throughout the debate no Conservative Members from South Yorkshire have been present. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. H. Osborn) is noticeable by his absence. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Spence) has not shown his face. I am driven to the conclusion that if Mr. Frank Hooley, who was the assiduous Labour Member for the Heeley constituency in the last Parliament, still represented the constituency, Heeley would have been represented here today. The electorate of that constituency should consider the value that it will get when Mr. Frank Hooley becomes its Member following the next General Election.

Throughout Yorkshire local authority housing is grinding to a halt. In my constituency three years ago, a man and wife with one child living with relatives could expect to receive a local authority tenancy in less than one year from the time their name went on to the waiting list. After three years of Conservative Government the average time has trebled. The situation is getting worse week by week and month by month.

It is no use Conservative Members saying that it is desirable that people should own their own houses. I have been able to advise young couples in the past that it is a good investment and a sensible decision to become owner-occupiers. But now they cannot pay house prices even in an area like Rotherham and the Rother Valley. Even if they can afford to pay, they cannot get mortgages. If they could get mortgages, the rate of interest charged as a result of Government policies makes it extremely difficult for them to be able to manage.

I have been the Member for Rotherham for 10 years and have held an advice bureau every Saturday morning. During the last 18 months, like my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy), I have interviewed large and increasing numbers of people, young and old, with housing problems which bring in their wake tragedy and deep unhappiness. The marriages of young couples are being wrecked as a result of their having to live with others.

I give three examples from my cases in recent weeks. The first is a young married couple with a baby who, because of in-law difficulties, are living separately from each other. The only place they can meet is on the street or in a corner café. The second example is that of a young couple who were living with in-laws. From the time of their marriage they had to share a bedroom with the teenage brother of the wife. That teenager was in the bedroom when she began labour pains for her first baby. Only this week I had a telephone call which provides the third example. The case is that of a young couple who are to be married on Saturday. They cannot get a mortgage; they cannot get a local authority house; they cannot get rented property, inadequate though much of that is.

All these cases represent human tragedies, and much of the cause arises from the policies of the Government. There are many other such cases. Among those who have houses already, many are finding increasing difficulty in maintaining their mortgage repayments.

Week by week I see a pathetic queue of elderly and disabled people at my advice bureau. Most of them need ground-floor or specialised accommodation. But the position is so bad that most of them will probably be dead before there is any chance of such accommodation. The local authority is being blamed for delays in repairing council houses, and the fault again lies largely with the Government because of the chaotic way in which they have allowed "the lump" to thrive in the building industry, the failure to provide for an adequate flow of materials needed for the houses and, finally, because of the cost restrictions they are imposing on local authorities for repairs.

It is right in this situation to look at the reasons for the situation and to consider what can be done. Land speculation, which the Government resolutely refuse to tackle, and galloping inflation fostered by Government policy form the major obstacles to solving the housing problems of Rotherham, Yorkshire and the rest of the country. We have arrived now in my constituency at the day of the £10,000 council house.

In June the local authority put out for tender a scheme for eight small flats and three one-bedroom bungalows, planned to house between 11 and 22 people. The tender, excluding the cost of land, was almost £70,000. Short-term money is costing the local authority 14 per cent. and if it goes to the Public Works Loan Board it will have to pay nearly 13 per cent. Thus, these eight small flats and three one-bedroomed bungalows would cost in total in excess of £200,000. No authority can with an easy mind mortgage its future on such a scale.

Quite apart from the major economic question of the level of interest rates, it is clear that the relationship between the Government and the local authorities needs a complete overhaul and that the local authorities need substantially more help and Government subsidy if houses are to be built in the numbers required.

Secondly my local authority, along with others all over Yorkshire, is having to hold back from building because of the imposition of unrealistic cost yardsticks by the Department of the Environment. I have recent examples of this in small in-filling schemes which would be extremely useful at this time but which have been held back for many months because the Government will not even talk sense to local authorities when they approach them with their problems.

Thirdly, if the Government are not prepared to overhaul the system of housing finance, they should consider as a matter of urgency a crash programme to build bungalows, flats and warden-controlled schemes for the elderly and disabled. It is not simply a question of providing suitable accommodation for these people. There is a wider implication. In my constituency more than 1,200 three-bedroom local authority houses are occupied by single elderly persons or couples. Many of them would welcome specialised accommodation, thereby releasing their own tenancies for general rehousing and family purposes. I hope that the Government will consider the possibility of a special Government scheme to produce housing accommodation for aged people and the disabled.

Fourthly there is the question of house improvements. I hope that the Government will maintain the 75 per cent. improvement grant beyond the June 1974 deadline in Rotherham, because the local authority there has an ambitious slum-clearance programme and inevitably has not been able to do all that it wants in improving council properties, some of which are almost half a century old. It would be sensible to look at the possibility of extended grants on quota systems for individual local authorities so that fewer houses would stand empty for long periods because builders are over-stretched, and some of the labour force would be made available for new housing.

The allowable expenditure for repairs under the Housing Finance Act is insufficient. I handle any cases which come to my constituency advice bureau, whether they be matters for the local authority or for the Government. I explain, of course, that I have no authority in local authority matters but that I will take up complaints made to me. I have found that there is an enormous backlog of repairs, often involving the need for new baths, sinks, doors and window frames. In the first six months of this year the local authority spent almost the whole of the allowable amount for repairs which the Government have set down under the terms of the Act.

The Government can, of course, say that the expenditure could go on to the rate fund, but they are aware of the pressures on the rate fund and of the practical realities. If we are to avoid properties falling into disrepair at a time when the building of new houses is extremely expensive, there is a great deal to be said for allowing greater expenditure by local authorities on repairs than is currently allowed under the Housing Finance Act.

The Labour-controlled Rotherham county borough has a good housing record. It has built houses throughout the post-war period in good years and in bad and its target of having all unfit houses cleared by the end of 1975 is within sight. If it is to be able to meet its housing problem, and that of the new enlarged metropolitan district, changes in Government policy are required in the areas that I have defined. We need policies to get rid of the terrible problem of spiralling interest rates.

The tragedy is that at this time there is no sign of such policies. As a result of the Government's present policies, week by week we see the human housing tragedies that I have described. The people who come to see Members of Parliament with housing problems in areas such as mine must realise that the prime causes of their difficulties are the policies of the present Conservative Government.

2.1 p.m.

Mr. Wilfred Proudfoot (Brighouse and Spenborough)

I am particularly glad to follow in the debate the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley). I have been to his constituency only once. While I was there, I was told by a builder in the area that while the Labour Party was in office so little money was spent because of the economic squeeze that he had to apply for planning permission to build temporary sewers in the hon. Member's constituency so that he could build houses, because he could not build into the main sewerage system. That sort of thing happened through the country, and it caused a hiccup in the housing programme for many years.

I cross swords with the hon. Member on another matter. I believe in participation in local politics. When people come to see me about local authority matters, I refer them to their locally elected representatives, to their councillors. I send the correspondence and other papers to the councillors concerned, and I have to say that I get excellent service from those in my area. They take up these cases and see that they are dealt with and that any available help is given.

I am disappointed not to have heard the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop). I am glad that someone has spoken about agriculture in Yorkshire. My constituency is mainly an industrial area, but agriculture is probably still the most important activity in the Yorkshire and Humberside region, and I am glad that it has been discussed.

This morning I read the motion to a friend of mine in Yorkshire. Before I was half way through he had started to laugh. The reason is that it bears no relation to the truth. I am reminded of Dickens's novel "David Copperfield". At times, the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) reminded me of someone wearing a black top hat and black crepe; he perfectly fitted the rôle that he chose for himself this morning.

I intend to lecture—not a good thing to do in this place—the Opposition for their attitude in this matter. They must not moan about the area. I ask them not to cry "Stinking fish". I was born in the North-East and I assert that the North-East was crippled because the Socialists said that it was a terrible place. The description offered this morning by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West bore little resemblance to the go-ahead, exciting, interesting and enjoyable county where we live. I hope that he will not continue with that line.

Mr. Lomas

The hon. Member is talking nonsense. I spoke optimistically about the future of Yorkshire and I believe that there is every hope for it. However, is not the hon. Gentleman ashamed of his own Government and of his own local authority, who have not built a single house in 1973? Is not that something about which to be ashamed? We are proud of Yorkshire and believe that it has a future, and I am not running it down, but it is a future for which the Government and the local authorities have to make a fight.

Mr. Proudfoot

I do not know as much about the hon. Member's constituency as he appears to know about mine. Opposition Members are talking only about council house building. There is plenty of building going on and in my constituency there is a boom in private house building. Some of the neighbouring towns and cities in the recent past and even today have had council houses standing empty.

That brings me to my next comment. It is not true that there is a national housing shortage. The statistics show that there is a shortage in some places, but the shortage that hon. Members have described exists only in the headlines and on television. I will give the figures. In 1951, the population was 49 million and there were 13 million houses, so that the number of people per house was 3.6; in 1966, there were 52 million people, 17 million houses and the number per house was 2.9; in 1971 there were 53 million with nearly 19 million houses and therefore only 2.8 people per house. In the Yorkshire region the occupation per dwelling is lower than the national average.

I have served on a local council but I sometimes wonder whether Opposition Members have. The housing problem in Yorkshire is not a matter of shortage but a matter of quality. Let us inject some commonsense statistics. One does not need 1,000 houses for 1,000 families: one needs 1,017 houses for housing sufficiency and that means that 32,000 houses nationally are required to be empty to give housing sufficiency. The housing shortage may be identified as being in one or two big cities, but not in Yorkshire. Those cities are for instance London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool. The problem in Yorkshire, however, is the quality of the houses.

One of the Ministers from the Department of the Environment recently pointed out that 2 million people were now living in improved houses, houses that had been improved in the past couple of years. There are many people in the Yorkshire area who have benefited from the 75 per cent. grant that is paid for making improvements to council houses. In fact, one of the political problems that the Tories face is that people are disturbed when a contractor works on a long row of houses for several weeks, when as much as £3,000 per council house is spent. In some districts caravans are to be found outside council houses and the tenants live in the caravans while the house is improved. The truth of that can be ascertained by mere observation.

Mr. C. Pannell

While looking at statistics in preparation for this debate, I noticed that the waiting list in Leeds, the biggest place in the region, had doubled in the past year. Does not the hon. Gentleman think that that is a useful statistic?

Mr. Proudfoot

I am delighted that the right hon. Gentleman should have interrupted, because he has taken me to my next point.

Next year, the new local authorities take over. Every hon. Member knows that the old authorities are running out with their flags and planting them firmly to say, "This is where we want more council houses." I implore the new authorities to understand that their first task will be to review waiting lists.

I served on a housing committee for eight years and I regularly asked for the list to be reviewed annually. In the West Riding some urban authorities are contiguous, and there are people whose names appear on more than one housing waiting list. When the new authorities start next April, their members will show a loyalty to the new areas as previously councillors were loyal to the old and so they will be forced to consider the lists for the entire area. Nothing but good will come from studying housing waiting lists.

If there is any message to be sent from this Chamber today it is that the members of the new authorities should review all spending projects. The other day I heard of an instance of a council selling a piece of land for £1 million. It was no doubt speculating, which is something that councils sometimes do. It went galloping off to buy everything it could with that £1 million. That is parochialism. The new local authorities will be larger bodies looking at a larger canvas.

We in Yorkshire had problems with smoke. Of the 47 black area authorities in our area, only five have not embarked on smoke control. Most of them will be in new bigger authorities, which will hurry ahead and clean the area. It is a delightful fact that 10 local authorities have completed smoke control orders, as a look around the region will prove. To say that the region does not look better after the cleaning and the environmental work is to drive with one's eyes shut. The only tartan track north of the Wash and south of Hadrian's Wall is being built in Cleckheaton in my constituency and it will put my constituency on the map.

I hate the past; it is the future that matters to me. Let us consider the future. Hon. Members went to Blackpool a week before my party and endorsed a massive programme of nationalisation. If we are to consider the economy of this region, we must consider what they have to offer in place of my party's success.

The Labour Party will nationalise insurance, for instance. There are many insurance jobs in this region and there are few people without insurance, for which they are paying. So this proposal will affect almost everyone in the area. They would nationalise the building societies. Think of the names involved in Yorkshire—the Halifax, the world's largest, the Leeds Permanent, the Bradford Permanent, the Shipley, the Huddersfield, the Bradford and Bingley. Should I go on? The proposal will affect many ordinary folk in Yorkshire—great people who know how to save and to use brass.

Mr. Mason

Who has said this?

Mr. Proudfoot

I nearly said "Little Harold". The Leader of the Opposition has said it. I will quote his speech from Blackpool.

Banking is to be nationalised. Banking also started in Yorkshire—

Mr. Joseph Harper (Pontefract)

This has nothing to do with the motion.

Mr. Proudfoot

Has it not?

Mr. Harper


Mr. Proudfoot

I wish that the television cameras were here. To say that the insurance industry—

Mr. Harper

Look at the motion.

Mr. Proudfoot

—banking and the building societies have nothing to do with Yorkshire and Humberside is to throw away the responsibility of being a Member of Parliament.

Let me say what else the Leader of the Opposition said he would do. He will nationalise all building land required for development—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear hear."] How will that grab them in Rotherham, the Rother Valley and Leeds? How will it grab them in Huddersfield? I served on a local authority so I know that a local authority cannot sell land below the district valuer's price, which is the market value. This will still apply if the land is nationalised. What creates the value of land—

Mr. O'Malley

I will tell the hon. Gentleman precisely how nationalising building land will help the people in Rotherham and elsewhere. When the present Government came to power, prime building land in this region cost £4,000 an acre. As a result of the free market policies that the Government favour, the same land is now fetching over £40,000 an acre, and the only people to benefit are the speculators and not the poor people who want to buy a house.

Mr. Proudfoot

Accepted—and the hon. Member's local authority would be forced to sell at the same price if land were nationalised.

Mr. O'Malley

Do not mislead the House.

Mr. Proudfoot

This is not misleading the House.

Mr. O'Malley

Of course it is.

Mr. Proudfoot

This is how the market works. I have never seen evidence that nationalisation keeps down prices. What is misleading the House, and the nation, is the pretence that nationalising land would make it any cheaper for those who have to build houses and factories.

To go on with the list—the aircraft industry, shipbuilding and ancillary industries, mineral rights, North Sea oil and gas, ports and docks and the cargo handling on the coasts and estuaries—all are to be nationalised. How does it grab the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) to know that the jobs of his constiuents are to be nationalised?

Also on the Leader of the Opposition's list are the pharmaceutical industry, the machine tool industry, which really matters in my constituency, and the construction industry. Presumably all house builders and construction firms will be nationalised. How will that help Yorkshire and Humberside? Labour Members must say how these proposals will help the country and our region.

The road haulage industry is another example, and that is not the end of the shopping list. The Leader of the Opposition went on to say that he would start a national enterprise board which would take over profitable firms and—this is a "lovely" thing he said—operate a Government price policy. We had a debate only the other day about that.

This is what the Labour Party says It will do, and none of these things will be of any help to Yorkshire. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), the Shadow Chancellor, went even further than his leader at that conference.

Let us consider the list of firms which the national enterprise board would take over. Of the 96 biggest companies in our nation, 40 operate in Yorkshire and Humberside. Why are not hon. Members opposite on their feet cheering the news that they will take over 40 of the companies that employ people in this region? I am an enthusiast for the policies in which I believe—

Mr. Mason

The hon. Member is an idiot.

Mr. Proudfoot

That is one thing about politicians—they can stand being called names. The right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason), who made that remark from a sedentary position, presided over the mining industry and closed every coal mine in his own constituency. He is now known as the right hon. Member for Swiss Roll, because Lyons moved in.

Three companies in my constituency which would come into the ambit of the national enterprise board are Brookfoot Limited, Paxman Coolers and Huns-worth Dyeing Company. They will also nationalise the ICI in Huddersfield—[HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] The Leader of the Opposition said this at the Labour Party Conference. I should like to know which Labour Members disagree with him.

Mr. Lomas

I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would quote chapter and verse on that. We have never said that. We have stated a number of criteria on public ownership, including whether there are obscene profits, whether a company is dependent on the State for its business and whether it represents all or most of a particular sector. We have never said that we would take over ICI. We said that the pharmaceutical industry, which is making massive profits, should be taken into public ownership. The hon. Member should recognise this. It is ridiculous for him to make a party point on this matter.

Mr. Proudfoot

I am glad that the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West, used the phrase "obscene profits". If there is anything worse than obscene profits it is obscene losses. In this House the other night we shelled out £645 million to the nationalised industries. On that occasion there was hardly anyone present. The night before we had had a three-line Whip about a temporary charge for entry into museums, and the House was full. It is a case of Parkinson's Law again. When we voted £645 million to the nationalised industries, there were fewer hon. Members present than there are now. There is no doubt that obscene losses are much worse.

Let me quote from the speech of the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. David Stoddart) in that debate—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu)

Order. I hope that the hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Proudfoot) will come a little nearer to the motion we are discussing.

Mr. Proudfoot

I should have thought that the economic well being of Yorkshire would be affected in the future by the Opposition's proposals. When I look round at my constituents and I read what the hon. Member for Swindon said about people in the nationalised industries being treated as second-class citizens—

Mr. Lomas

By the Government.

Mr. Proudfoot

But the Leader of the Opposition said at Blackpool that a future Labour Government would use the nationalised industries for a pricing policy. In other words, he was saying that he would do the same as the present Government with their stage 3 policy, That is no argument against what I am saying now.

The hon. Member for Swindon went on to say that, as a result, over a period the comparability of the nationalised industries with outside industry in terms of wages and conditions of service had fallen. He went on to say that unfortunately the people in nationalised industries were under-privileged and underpaid, and he worked in a nationalised industry before coming to this House. I hope that the Opposition will use that as an electioneering point in favour of nationalisation.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Robert C. Brown) had something similar to say—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough has been given a considerable degree of latitude. Instead of talking in general terms, I hope that he will now come back to the motion.

Mr. Proudfoot

If I may pick up the motion, I notice that it talks about unemployment, about the manpower drift from the coal mining industry and about the need to maintain investment in steel. Of course, the coal and steel industries are nationalised, and I am quoting from the speeches of Opposition Members who talk about nationalisation as being the cure for what they have been saying is wrong with Yorkshire. I maintain that these things are not wrong with Yorkshire and that it is much better served by private enterprise—

Mr. Harper

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Proud-foot) is taking up an undue proportion of the time of this House. He has been out of the Chamber for two hours having his lunch. So far he has been speaking for 22 minutes. Most of us have 200 miles to go at the end of this debate, and we are waiting to speak. The hon. Gentleman has been allowed to waste 10 minutes on irrelevancies which have nothing to do with the motion.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Harper) is referring to matters of decency. They are not matters of order.

Mr. Harper

It is not good enough.

Mr. Proudfoot

I have been speaking for 22 minutes, but I was careful as I came into the Chamber to check the length of speeches preceding my own. I am afraid that the speeches of Opposition Members have all exceeded the self-imposed ordinance of 10 minutes a time. The hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Harper) is also wrong about the length of time I was at lunch. I checked it myself—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Will the hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough kindly resume his speech about the motion?

Mr. Proudfoot

I was out of the Chamber for 55 minutes, in fact.

To get back to the motion, I believe that the future of Yorkshire and Humberside is totally tied up with the people living in the area, and I happen to believe that it is important that stage 3 of the Government's economic policy succeeds.

I began thinking about this recently in relation to our region, and I got out some figures. I realised that there was no elected Communist in this Chamber, so I decided to find out how many people serving as councillors on the new local authorities were card-carrying Communists. I discovered that of 21,965 councillors merely seven were card-carrying Communists. I looked at this

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. If the hon. Gentleman is unable to pay attention to the request from the Chair to attend to the motion, I shall have to ask him to resume his seat.

Mr. Proudfoot

I thank the Chair for that guidance. I have looked at the motion carefully. Anyway, if I am out of order, I accept what the Chair says and suggest that perhaps at a later date I might seek to bring before this House a Bill about the electoral reform of trade union elections. I was about to quote figures which showed that there was a distortion in that respect.

I believe that the future for Yorkshire and Humberside is bright—

Mr. Lomas

After the next General Election it will be.

Mr. Proudfoot

If the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) is suggesting that it will be better without me, I console myself with the thought that at least my remarks have provoked some thought on the Opposition benches.

It is totally incorrect to draw the picture that the Opposition have drawn and it is not borne out by the facts. I believe that the Government's policies are succeeding in Yorkshire and Humberside and I believe that there will be more to see on the ground there as a result of the policies which my right hon. and hon Friends are implementing.

2.27 p.m.

Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)

Yorkshire and Humberside Members owe an enormous debt of grati- tude to my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas). His opening speech was first class.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon), whose speech I also admired, I intend to make what is largely a constituency speech. Those hon. Members who wish to leave may do so. I shall be watching the clock carefully.

In a wider context this is a Humberside question. Earlier I detected a note of chauvinism among Government back benchers about the south bank of the Humber. When I come on shortly to speak about fishing and the EEC and their effects on Humberside, I shall be speaking of both banks and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) is not with us, I shall speak about both ports.

At the time of our last debate there was an air in Hull if not of melancholy certainly of dissipated gloom about conditions there. Astute business men spoke of a malaise on Humberside. In terms of the building of office blocks and of the unemployment figures and in many other ways, we were in the dumps. Since then we have attended the ceremony of the laying of the Humber Bridge foundation stone. The girders now appear against the skyline, and this activity is a visible symbol to the people of Hull that, whatever the past assurances of Governments, at last we are on the way.

It had been a sick joke for a hundred years and a matter for cynical comment. Today that mental climate has gone. The creation of the new Humberside County Council, which includes what were formerly known as North Lincolnshire, Lindsey and East Yorkshire, means that we are now pulling together. I assure the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Jeffrey Archer) that he need have no qualms. Both banks will pull together in the future.

During all these years I have voiced, both inside the House and outside, considerable optimism about the future of Hull and Humberside. Whether or not we joined the EEC, I always believed that we were the "gateway to Europe" and that what was often termed the sleeping or slumbering giant of Hull would turn in its bed. The geographical isolation which in the past was our inborn handicap will go when the M18 and the M62 motorways show us how appalling our communications were in the past to West Yorkshire, the Midlands and elsewhere. In 1975–76 when we have the M18 and M62 as magnificent turnpikes, with the addition of the Humber Bridge, we shall have access to more than 15 million souls who have been our economic hinterland, who have sent their goods to the Humber Estuary and who have dealt with those goods which have come in.

The hon. Member for Louth, who is not in the Chamber at present, made some snide comments about the workforce on the Humber. Although Southampton has overtaken us as the third port, and although our image has been tarnished over the last year or two by unofficial action in the port, the Transport and General Workers' Union called a conference this week at which, happily, a new pay offer was accepted at a mass meeting. We shall have a new climate in the docks. I hope that we have no more south bank men speaking of the north side, and making furious comparisons with Immingham. I hope that we shall all pull together and do much better in the future.

Much responsibility lies with the British Transport Docks Board, which, with other employers, must get better communications with the workforce in the docks. The most disappointing thing, which I hope the Minister will note, was the shock that we received in the city a few weeks ago when we were told that the south docks road was not to be built, mainly in my constituency, coming out of Hessle and going to East Hull commercial docks. This will take all the weight and all the traffic now plaguing the city centre. We are now told that, instead of its being built in 1975–76, we shall not get it until 1979. I hope that the Minister will see this as very important. It links the east side of the city beyond the Hull river with the new communications network which is to the north and west of where the Humber Bridge enters on the north bank.

When talking about the city, I must mention that unemployment is falling. There has been an enormous upsurge of economic activity, particularly in East Hull on the new Sutton Fields estate. Perhaps it would surprise my colleagues to know that Hull is the largest centre of caravan manufacture in Europe. That is typical of our dynamism on the north bank. Hull's output is 60 per cent. of the United Kingdom total output of caravans. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) talked in some detail about the need for training and the way in which some joiners and other artisans were, unfornately, leaving the labour force to move into other competitive fields of employment in Hull itself.

I know that the Minister would wish me to ask some questions about the deep sea fishing industry and its situation now, at the end of the Icelandic dispute; and at the beginning of our two years of this dearly bought interval of peace, before finally we are forced to leave certain waters. I believe that we shall not be allowed by the Icelanders to apply for a licence, as the Belgians have done, for some 30,000 tons, because the Icelanders will want to take the lot. They have built or are having built for them 16 or 17 first-class stern trawlers, and they will wish to have a monoply in their home waters.

Many people, in Yorkshire and elsewhere, think that the deep sea fishing fleet is our basic industry. That is not so. It is one of our basic industries but, nevertheless, despite what I have already said about the upsurge of economic activity, we muster 10 per cent. of the labour force in the catching fleet and in the ancillary activities of Bird's Eye, in filleting, and so on, on the dock. That is about 18,000 people. My colleagues from the South Yorkshire coalfield will recognise that, if we were to lose our deep sea fleets and all the associated activities in two years' time, this would be equivalent to the closure of 18 pits in South Yorkshire, each employing 1,000 men. I hope that my colleagues from the southern part of the county will bear with those of us from the Humber Estuary. We feel keenly about this problem and want to know what the Government will do about it.

In two years' time, or even beginning now, there will be a large gap in our fishing activities. The Prime Minister has said at the Dispatch Box that we would lose 30 wet fishers. They are not freezers. There will be no freezers fishing in the northern waters. The loss of 30 wet fishers, or side fishers as we call them, is a big loss. We shall have to face that in the short-term agreement.

The North Atlantic is over-fished. I shall attempt to compress this very long story in view of the shortage of time in the debate. We are now tying up limitation quotas in the North-West Atlantic. This matter has been settled. We are now being given 80,000 tons; but we were catching 200,000 tons alone off the Icelandic Banks two or three years ago. The North-East Atlantic will also have a settlement, and again the Norwegians, ourselves and others will fix a quota. All this will mean that our vessels come back to middle waters from distant waters.

What is the shape of our fleet to be, and what are our fishing limits to be? Next year, from 20th June to 29th August, the Law of Sea Conference will be held—not at Santiago, that ill-fated city, but in Venezuela. No doubt we shall attempt some kind of collective decision making about the limits. The Chinese and several of the Latin-American countries will be attending the conference. So will the black developing States of Africa and many white States, such as Canada, which also believe in extending limits. They will not be extended to 200 miles, but I believe that there will be an extension, possibly, to a minimum of 50 miles. What are we to do? We should now be doing our contingency planning. What are the Government doing about these limits in relation to the future for our fishermen?

We now have 12-mile limits, except for a six-mile limit over a small stretch between the Coquet and the Tweed. In the European Economic Community, as with the common agricultural policy, we can and must fight. The Government must be tough. They must fight for our fishermen in the same way as they have fought for our farmers. They must fight the Gaullists, who look after their people within the EEC. We must stand out in the EEC for a change in the fishing limits at some time in the future. I realise that this must not be brought about in 1979 or 1989, but we must begin now to talk about this sort of thing.

I hope that the Minister, who has listened to me with his usual courtesy, will pay attention to this matter and attempt, in his Cabinet sub-committee meetings, to deal with it. It is fearfully important. In Hull, Fleetwood, Grimsby, North Shields perhaps, and in Leith and elsewhere, we shall witness a change in our pattern of fishing. Our distant-water boats will have to come back. This will mean that we may have to fish in the North Sea. What will be said by North Sunderland, Blyth, Eyemouth, Lowestoft and Grimsby, which have a lot of middle-water boats, or by Bridlington and Scarborough? We must handle this matter very carefully. I suggest that the Minister works in the closest liaison with the owners and the trade union leaders involved, as he has done over the last year or two on the Icelandic dispute. This matter affects us greatly. As I have said, it may be like the closure of 18 pits in South Yorkshire.

We must also get new areas in which to fish. The White Fish Authority tells us that it is possible to catch fish off the whole West European Shelf. What will now assume significance is the west coast of Ireland, and Rockall and the west of Scotland, all the way through. We can catch at 600 or 700 fathoms. There is no technical difficulty apart from the need for more engine power and a tougher fibre in the nets. We can fish at great depths.

I am told by the experts that there is plenty of fish there. There are enormous quantities of blue whiting and Norwegian pout all the way through from the south of Iceland. We must try to land some of the other types of fish, with names such as ling, rattail-grenadier and so on, and having caught them our job will be to persuade housewives to buy them. That will need careful marketing indeed.

The Government can be tough. They are being tough, and no doubt they will continue to be tough with organised workers of all unions, including, unfortunately, the miners and many others. I ask the Government to be just as tough over the common fisheries policy and the common agricultural policy with their partners in the EEC. If they are not, they will stand convicted, because after the Caracas conference, when the international limits are extended, they will have the backing of international law, and hence it will not be possible for anyone to fault them.

2.41 p.m.

Mr. David Clark (Colne Valley)

I am sure that the House is indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) for giving us the opportunity to debate this motion because, apart from the problems of fishing and the port of Hull, my constituency represents many aspects of Yorkshire life. There is, in particular, the coal mine at Denby Dale where the seams are 18 into 2 ft. high. I wonder whether the Minister can envisage what it is like working in such narrow seams. The men working there certainly earn their wage, as do miners in other pits.

My constituency also has engineering and textile industries, the latter being the staple industry and basic to the economy of West Yorkshire. There are good communications with the M62. We also have the attractive Pennines and villages such as Saddleworth where the people are extremely disappointed that the building of the secondary school for which they have campaigned for so long is to be held up under the Government's stage 3 programme.

The wool textile industry has served this country well in the past, and it is still doing so. It has a magnificent export record, and it deserves better than the Government have offered it. A study of the recent history of the industry shows that no fewer than 35,000 jobs have been lost since the Government came to office in 1970. Some reduction had been expected in the labour force. The 1969 Atkins report said that there would be a contraction, and we expected that because the industry had to be streamlined and modernised, but if anyone should ask whether the reductions recommended by Atkins have been exceeded the answer is, "Yes, beyond anyone's dreams".

There was another report in 1972 by the Atkins group on the low-cost woollen industry, which is based in the heavy woollen areas, around Dewsbury, the Colne Valley and Huddersfield. The report estimated that the number of workers employed would fall from 12,000 to 7,000. That is a considerable number. The industry was aware of that, and it appointed consultants to report on any reorganisation that might be carried out. In due course the consultants' report was put to the little "Neddy", which in turn put the proposals to the Government, and in July of this year the Minister announced a £15 million aid scheme to the wool textile industry.

We welcomed that as far as it went. It was a step in the right direction, but there is now a huge gap in the scheme. I am referring to those workers in the industry who have been made redundant. I do not think that the Minister has treated them as fairly as they deserve.

I have already referred to the number of jobs that are expected to be lost in this industry. Fortunately, there is at present a boom and the problem is not acute, but we would be foolish indeed not to look ahead and plan for difficulties that might arise. This is a cyclical industry, and every time there has been a boom it has been followed by a downturn, and today the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) hinted that the downturn may have begun.

Jobs have been lost in this industry, and more will be lost as a direct result of the Government's pouring in aid to try to modernise the industry. That fact was recognised by the consultants and by the little "Neddy" in its submission to the Minister. It was suggested that there should be a redundancy scheme to help those who were displaced as a result of modernisation, but the Government took a deliberate policy decision to delete the recommendation that there should be such a scheme over and above the normal State scheme.

I make that point because, the Government having decided to pour money into the industry to help with its modernisation plans—I do not dispute the need to do that—they have a moral responsibility to help those who are displaced as a result. That need is well recognised.

Mr. Chataway

The hon. Gentleman and I have had some correspondence on this matter, and I am anxious that he should address himself to the central dilemma. There is a shortage rather than a superfluity of men in this industry. In those circumstances, can it make sense to provide an incentive to men to leave? There are circumstances in which it is right that the Government should provide extra attractive redundancy schemes—the docks are an example—to try to reduce the work force, but if there is a shortage of workers in an industry can it make sense to provide money to persuade men to leave it? There is a need to conserve the strength of the textile industry.

Mr. Clark

The tragic situation in the mining industry is that between 600 and 700 workers are leaving each week. There is a shortage of miners, yet only a few weeks ago—quite rightly in my view—the Government increased the allowance for miners who were made redundant and left the industry. I have checked the figures, and I note that a miner aged 50 with 30 years service in the industry and earning £30 a week is entitled to £1,958 if he loses his job. A comparable textile worker receives only £750, even if he has spent all his life with the same firm, which is highly unlikely.

I have raised the matter because it is causing grave concern in the industry. The textile unions are upset about what is happening, and some have not yet signed the code of practice with the employers. There is a feeling that the Minister has not been as fair with the textile workers as he was with the miners, dock workers, and farm workers who are compensated when they retire and give up their homes.

I realise that the Government are trying to improve the environment, and one of the greatest attractions of my area is its natural beauty. People are getting tired of travelling to the Lake District or to the coast. They want to get to the Dales to the Peak district and to the mid-Pennine areas which do not involve long car journeys. A survey by the Yorkshire Post showed that although there are many reservoirs in the South Yorkshire area the public do not have access to the banks of any of them. I know that the Secretary of State for the Environment is interested in this matter, and perhaps I may draw his attention to the fact that many reservoirs in Yorkshire are not being utilised to their full potential. Much the same can be said about the moors. It is tragic that there is less access to the moorlands in my constituency than there was 30 years ago in spite of the fact that these moorlands are in the Peak District. We need Government direction or encouragement to open up these areas. Land is too scarce in this island for monoculture, especially when that monoculture tends to be grouse shooting.

I should like to refer to Holmfirth which is a classic case of 1,000 acres of land owned by the Forestry Commission.

Situated in that area are reservoirs owned by the Mid-Calder Water Board, and both the Forestry Commission and the Mid-Calder Water Board want to open it up to the public. It is an ideal country park area, but they are not allowed to open it up because the shooting rights, which are not exorcised, are vested in a third party. Thus, because people have shooting rights which are not exercised, the general public is prohibited from using this very attractive area which is so accessible to Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester.

In conclusion, I should like to refer to housing where the position is an absolute disgrace. Three years ago, I never received a letter about housing, but I now have two or three a week and they point out how heartbreaking the housing situation is. Also, we need more service industries, because we are far too reliant on our basic industries, such as coal mining.

The last point which I want to make is that the Government are not doing enough to let us show off our great advantage, which is our fine environment in the beautiful countryside surrounding our industrial towns.

2.52 p.m.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Rother Valley)

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. David Clarke) will forgive me if I do not follow his very interesting points, particularly about textiles. I think it right to begin my speech by remarking on the empty benches opposite. It must be very sad for the Minister to have no support at all from Conservative Members of Parliament representing Yorkshire constituencies. It is especially regrettable since Yorkshire Television and the Yorkshire Press have highlighted this important debate, which was introduced in a masterly and most comprehensive way by my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas). It is a great pity that Members opposite have shown not the lightest interest and that two have tried to make pre-elections speeches. The hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenbrough (Mr. Proudfoot) talked about nationalisation and public moneys.

Mr. Proudfoot


Mr. Hardy

I shall not give way because the hon. Member spoke for a great deal longer than we approved. He did not refer to the vast expenditure of public moneys over the past decade on the computer industry. But he referred to computers in the last General Election when he encouraged the electors of Brighouse and Spenborough to feed details of their food purchases into his computer which would tell them how much prices had increased. I sincerely hope that the hon. Member will do exactly the same exercise in the next General Election.

I want to follow the important point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) about the appalling housing situation in South Yorkshire. Like the hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough, I was engaged in local government immediately before I entered this House, and I did not envisage four or five years ago that we would face the unimaginably dreadful situation which we are now experiencing in housing, both in terms of cost—and that includes mortgage interest—and in terms of demand and need for housing by the ordinary people of our areas.

It is dreadful that we now have uncertainty about improvement grants. Our local authorities, spurred on by the Government, embarked upon their scheme on the strength of the 75 per cent. grants which they were offered. That may have been a good thing, except that at the beginning some of us pointed to inflation, and to the inflationary result of applying a deadline.

The Government then, niggardly and unacceptably, put back the deadline by only one year, which was quite inadequate, and we now have a situation where our local authorities may not be able to complete the work, because of the shortage of labour and the increasing shortage of materials.

There also seems to be a threat that the Government will welch on the contracts upon which local authorities have embarked, because there appears to be a possibility that when 23rd June 1974 arrives, the local authorities which have not by then completed the improvement work will be left to find 50 per cent. of the cost, instead of 25 per cent. Given the fact that yesterday one of the Treasury Ministers warned local government that it has to start cutting down expenditure, the situation in so many South Yorkshire areas is very serious.

I should like to say a word about communications. It is interesting that the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) thought more highly of the Royal Air Force than he did about his constituency when he ruled out the possibility of having a proper airport in Yorkshire because the RAF need the air space. My view is that the RAF should move down to Maplin, and we could then ensure that Yorkshire has the air communications that it deserves.

But we also have to make proper use of our inland waterways, and the Government's handling of the proposal of the British Waterways Board to improve and modernise the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation Canal is an expensive disgrace. Already, because of the Government's delay, the cost of the project has risen by over £1 million, and the Minister responsible appears to be insisting that local business men behave in the most astonishingly foolish way, because he seems to require from them guarantees that they will promise in the future to use the canal 10 times more than they have done in the past, without any contract, without any price, without any idea of the costs incurred. This is a lunatic proposition which South Yorkshire businessmen—as sensible as business men anywhere, whether in the private sector or in the public sector—cannot accept.

Therefore, I believe that the Government's handling of this matter is a great mistake. I say that it is a great mistake, because the British Waterways Board still has to pay vast sums of money even to keep the canal in its present condition, whilst we see the rest of Europe prepared to make sure that their waterways are used properly.

It would be wrong for me, as the Member who possibly represents more miners than anyone else in the House, not to refer to the current problems and to repeat a point I made a day or two ago, that, whether or not the Government persuade the miners to go back to work, we are facing a very serious situation. My hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley referred to the considerable improvement in the redundancy payment benefits which are available to miners, but there are very few miners who are now prepared to stay in the industry in the hope of getting those benefits. They are getting out because they can get more money outside.

Whether or not the present dispute is resolved—and I hope that it is—we shall need to pay miners more money than phase 3 allows if the industry is to play the necessary part in our economy. I hope that the Minister will do his best to persuade those of his colleagues, who cannot see this very clear truth, to accept it a little more easily or a little more early than seems likely.

We have to realise that, although our areas contain old and, very often, heavy and dirty industry, we have some very fine scenery. In my constituency, which is a steel and coal constituency, there is some of the most mellow and rich countryside in Britain. It will not stay rich and mellow if we do not have adequate development within the conurbations rather than merely within the rural areas. It will certainly not remain wholesome and decent unless we have a much more vigorous approach to the environment than is shown by the present Government even with their gimmicky environment protection Bill. There must be more effort to clear the water and clean our air.

I should like to express a constituency regret that we have not in that Bill any provision to deal with unpleasant and offensive smells. In many constituencies, because fishing is a necessary and useful activity, bait has to be provided for fishermen. I have in my constituency a maggot farm, and it smells very badly from time to time. I should like to think that the environment protection Bill will deal with this sort of problem, thus showing the Government in a more favourable and relevant light.

I raised this matter with the Minister a long time ago and he appointed a working party to deal with it. Unfortunately, that working party is showing no urgency, and so the nostrils of my constituents are being badly offended when the wind is in the appropriate direction. I believe we can solve these problems if the Government showed a sense of urgency, a willingness to legislate and a desire to apply modern methods of technology. It is a pity that problems of this kind are completely ignored by a Government which appears to be concerned about the quality of life. I hope these problems will be dealt with within a short time.

The Government appear to be very complacent about the progress they have made in reducing unemployment in the Yorkshire and Humberside region. Looking at the nature of the new employment created, one sees that my hon. Friend's conclusions are justified. Whilst many new jobs have been created, they are very vulnerable and as soon as there is a turn in the economy it is likely that the principle of "last in, first out" will apply. We could see a very dramatic and sudden deterioration.

My constituency, as I said, is offended occasionally by smells from a maggot farm. Yorkshire and Humberside areas are in danger shortly of being offended by the taint of sad decay and bitter disappointment, which could come very quickly indeed.

3.3 p.m.

Mr. Joseph Harper (Pontefract)

My hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) is to be congratulated on introducing the motion. I am sorry that, apart from the Whip, there is only one Member on the Government benches to listen to the debate.

When I first came into this House and we debated the problems of the regions—I remember debating the North East, Scotland, the South West, Lancashire and Northern Ireland—it was always understood that Yorkshire was a prosperous region. But that is not so now. It was not until last year, on 19th June, that we tabled a motion and debated the problems of the Yorkshire and Humberside Region. There has been some improvement in circumstances since then, but this comprehensive motion affords us the opportunity of debating the problems of the Yorkshire and Humberside Region for the second time.

We agree that the unemployment figures have been reduced, and we are very pleased about it, but at the same time the average wage in the region is, with the exceptions already referred today, still the lowest in the country. The main industries are still agriculture, fisheries and coal. It is about time there was more industrial diversfication in Yorkshire.

The Government, in answer to a Written Question, proudly proclaimed that the £40-a-week barrier had been broken. With few exceptions it has not been broken in Yorkshire. The average in the coalfield is even less. One can understand why men leave the pits in such large numbers. Over 30,000 have left the mines since the present Government came into office on 18th June 1970. The Government should take note of the present overtime ban by the miners, so that they are given the opportunity to have second thoughts and show what they can do to resolve the situation in the coalfields. Miners are no longer contented to play second fiddle to any other industry, in view of the arduous work and the vicissitudes of the mining industry.

Last time when I spoke in a mining debate I said that Hobart House should be moved from London to Yorkshire.

In our recent debate about London, a lot was said about the dearth of teachers and the shortage of buildings to house our schoolchildren. Those of us who come from Yorkshire have drawn attention to this problem before. Here is an example to show what I mean. In the town where I live, in my constituency, apart from a denominational school which has been built, we have had only one new small infants school—which I had the pleasure of opening as chairman of the education committee—since 1930. That shows the way things are. For nearly 44 years we have had only one new infants school built in the town of Purston, and the rest of the constituency is not much better off.

We all agree with the raising of the school leaving age, but in a sense it is putting the cart before the horse. I say that notwithstanding our agreement with what the Government are doing in taking up the decision to raise the school leaving age to 16.

We welcome the work which is done by the Yorkshire and Humberside Industrial Development Association, its membership including Members of Parliament, notably from this side of the House. It is admittedly something of a self-help operation, but we hope that the Government will add to its efforts and give it financial support. All the business men associated with it, along with the trade unionists and Members of Parliament, and everyone else who is interested in maintaining and increasing the tempo of industry, should be given all the support possible so that they may have a voice in how the region is developed.

It is time that something was done about the infrastructure in Yorkshire. For a long time a battle has been going on—it has not been settled yet—over the Pudsey-Dishforth motorway. Some people, mainly the people who live in the area, have said that it is not necessary, and it is said that we should look to Wetherby or to an upgrading of the A1. The upgrading of the A1 would take some doing. I travel on it pretty regularly and I know that, apart from a few miles, it has only two lanes both ways. However, if nothing is done, irrespective of whichever scheme might be the best, we can expect a lower rate of growth.

Freight transport has grown in Yorkshire by over one-third in the last 10 years or so—63 per cent. road, 18 per cent. rail, 16 per cent. coastal shipping and 3 per cent. pipelines. But there is a negligible amount of traffic growth on the inland waterways. The Government could well take a closer and keener interest here so as to get freight to use the inland waterways. For the sake of a few million pounds spent on it, we could have a first-rate transport system. There is plenty of scope there.

We are greatly concerned in Yorkshire about the slump in the house building programme. Some of the blame for this must be laid on the Government and their circular 60/73 in which they talk about building for sale and say that local authority direct labour should not be used for building for sale. We regard that as a short-sighted policy. There is a council in my constituency which has a first-rate direct labour force. It has had it for many years and it has done a great deal of good work. A direct labour force like that could build houses, and, what is more, build them more cheaply than a lot of housing associations can build, and a lot more cheaply than some private builders.

Now, what about Operation Eyesore? That is what we call it, but its official high-sounding name is the special environmental assistance scheme. It is a short-term measure although, as one hon. Member on the Government side pointed out, it has been given another three months. The great need is for more financial help to be given to the assisted areas.

I recognise that this is one of the best things that the Government have done, but they have stopped short in midstream. They ought to have given the scheme a much longer period of operation, and they should give more financial help to the assisted areas so that they could clean up the environment and make things much better all round, attracting industry and making our area into what it really should be—that is, one of the best in the country. In my opinion, it would be money well spent. The original intention was to allocate £5 million. That has risen to £35 million or £40 million, but in my view the Government should go further still. Inflation of that sort we could all welcome because it would enhance the quality of life.

3.10 p.m.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright (Dearne Valley)

I have to be brief and I shall therefore raise only one or two points on which I hope the Minister will expand later. First, I emphasise what my hon. Friends have said about the M1 ending at Leeds. It is time the road was extended to the North and to Teesside to ensure that that part of Yorkshire is opened up and the transport of goods there made easier. Teesside may one day be a tremendous oil depot, and therefore something should be said about the Government's plans for the M1.

I wish to mention, too, the tremendous difficulty of getting to the East Coast and Scarborough. I shall not specify any particular road, but the Minister will understand the point and I hope he will do something to help people in South and North Yorkshire to reach places like Scarborough more quickly and more easily. They are faced with a long and tiring journey and with congestion in the summer months.

An advance factory has been built in my constituency and has been vacant since June 1972. The Government have said all along that they were doing everything to find a tenant for it, and I wish to know whether they have been successful. Do I gather that a tenant has been found for the factory at Denaby Main?

Mr. Chataway

I am happy to confirm that for the hon. Member.

Mr. Wainwright

I am grateful for that confirmation. Will the Minister now consider building another advance factory in the area?

Mr. McNamara

That's my boy!

Mr. Wainwright

I ask that because the rate of unemployment in the steel industry is 4 per cent. and a new factory would encourage other industries to come to Denaby. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will therefore consider building advance factories wherever pockets of unemployment occur in Yorkshire.

I thought I heard the Minister say something about conserving the labour force in the pits. As a former miner I want to see a viable coal industry in this country supplying our energy needs. But we are not entitled to deprive the young people, who are educated to the age of 20 or 21, of suitable work near their homes. I hope, therefore, that the Government will consider building a large chemical plant and even a motor-car factory in South Yorkshire, because as the demand for cars rises production at the existing factories might reach saturation point. Therefore, if a new car factory is planned, the Government should think about locating it in South Yorkshire.

The Hardman Report was a disgraceful effort. Yorkshire and Humberside have far fewer office staff than the national average and all the trained personnel there have to travel far afield for work. That is why the population in my constituency has not increased over the last 20 or 30 years in spite of the increase in national birth rate. It means that our young people are leaving to find jobs because we are failing to provide them in the locality. That sometimes means that elderly parents are left alone, whereas if the children were close by they could look after them and save the expense on the social services.

I had hoped to talk about canals and roads and so on, but I shall say a few words about the miners' dispute. The Minister should use what influence he has with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to try to prevent the confrontation developing into a bitter struggle. There is a grave danger of that. Probably a relaxation by the Government now, even if it meant going outside phase 3, would help to settle the dispute.

Knowing miners as I do, I am sure that, the longer the dispute continues, the more bitter will the struggle become. The Government will become more obstinate. The miners have a strength, handed down from generation to generation, that enables them to resist what they believe to be unfair treatment. Everyone knows that the rate of pay in the mines will not keep the men there. If we want to retain miners and encourage others to go down the mines, we must pay them far more. We must reconsider their pension schemes and make certain that if anything happens to them they are well looked after.

The mining fraternity will dwindle and the country will be unable to win the energy resources that it possesses unless we pay miners a fair wage, look after them if they have an accident or suffer sickness, and give them a good pension after their 40 or 50 years in the mines.

3.16 p.m.

Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas), first on his excellent, unselfish choice of subject for debate—the future of Yorkshire and Humberside—when he was successful in the Ballot, and secondly on his first-class, knowledgeable speech. He had obviously put a great deal of work into it. Above all, he set the right tone for the debate. I am only sorry that it was marred by the petty, churlish irrelevancies of the only two Yorkshire Conservative Members to take part.

The debate has been commendable. Every one of my hon. Friends who was present at the last Yorkshire and Humberside debate but was not called to speak has managed to catch the eye of the Chair today, and we shall have had 18 contributors, including the Minister. It has been a first-class example of co-operation and group work. Our regional group activity is unparalleled in the House.

We have been most grateful to the Minister for his attendance. I think that he has heard some part of every contribution, and he has hardly left the Government Front Bench for more than a few minutes during the debate.

On the general problem of the regions, I feel first that our country is still plagued by the Potters Bar barrier. Investors, developers and speculators tumble over themselves in the one-tenth of the country below Potters Bar, and the situation is further aggravated by the development of Maplin and the Channel Tunnel, while nine-tenths of the nation struggle to live and expand. The economic imbalance between the sliver of the South and the vast regions of the North must change, and is bound to change.

I believe that the change has begun and that the barrier is starting to crumble as many investors and developers scramble over it to go to the North. I am hopeful that many of them are now going into our region of Yorkshire and Humberside.

United Kingdom Governments, irrespective of the Common Market's future regulations and possible aid to regional development, must still rectify the continuing and inefficient economic imbalance. We cannot go on wasting so much of our nation's resources, our under-utilised local authority services, our communications, the underdeveloped areas, our surplus manpower and our ample land.

For many years it has been a costly exercise to pump Government money into the North to try to get it on the move. Our economy cannot grow at the desired rate to satisfy demands for fuller employment, increased exports and a higher standard of living until the whole of the nation's resources is utilised to the full. I say to all concerned with investment and commercial and industrial development that the attractions of Yorkshire are now becoming evident. Some of the Government's policies are working through. It must be accepted that some have proved attractive. Millions of pounds has been poured into Operation Eyesore and the derelict land reclamation scheme. The money has been used for hundereds of projects and hundereds of acres of derelict land.

The English Tourist Board and the Yorkshire Tourist Authority have been taking advantage of United Kingdom grants and loans. Last year they received £2½ million in loans and grants to modernise and extend hotels to cater for Yorkshire's thriving tourist trade. There were 259 industrial development certificates granted for Yorkshire and Humberside last year, with the prospect of additional employment to the extent of 12,880 new jobs.

These encouraging developments, allied with special financial assistance to industry within the terms of the Industry Act—there have been hundreds of applications—prove that the Yorkshire region is at last on the move. The environmental drive and the cleanup campaigns by the Government and local authorities are making the region a more attractive place in which to live and provide a bedrock on which to thrive and expand.

Investors and developers will be foolish to ignore the trend. The investment risk is lessening all the time. Now is the time to invest in the region. The Minister knows that no Government can ever again afford to neglect the regions. When aid was curtailed two and a half years ago, a million people became unemployed. The spectre of the 1930's begin to rise. It was a frightening sight. I am pleased that it is now vanishing as financial aid to the regions gathers momentum.

I am becoming increasingly worried about the collapse of the Government's economic strategy. The regions are bound to carry the brunt of any national economic failure. The balance-of-payments deficit, continuing price rises, frightening bank interest rates, the prospect of higher steel prices which will work their way through to most household goods and the cutbacks in expenditure on roads, social services, and housing are all indications.

If ever a point has been made forcibly, it has been made today by all my hon. Friends, including my hon. Friends the Members for Huddersfield, West, Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) and York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon). They have stressed Yorkshire's housing problem. I would deplore the curtailment of developing communications. It would be folly. We desperately need to open up more of our county to assist the flow of goods, to help halt rising costs and to keep our industries competitive. If we are to take advantage of the new interest in our region by the investors and developers, better communications are of paramount importance and must remain so.

I must tell the Minister that we want an economically strong region. That is a matter which is of more importance than merely trying—perhaps for political purposes—to shorten last year's dole queues. However strong the regions have become will now be put to the test. We will see whether the Government's new regional policy will be able to stave off depression in Yorkshire as it battles to combat rising inflation. That is the test which will have to be faced. The Minister will have to be able to say that the bedrock is now strong enough to withstand the inflationary spiral.

I hope that the Government are recognising the newly-established Yorkshire and Humberside Development Association and are prepared to give it financial assistance for the establishment of its controlled planning centres. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have been encouraging the association's formation, and now that it is there we must continue to give any encouragement we can. I hope that the Government are prepared to give financial encouragement.

Secondly, I hope that the Minister will keep stressing the urgent need to clean up the county and speed up the drive to halt dilapidations. In every study and report of the problems of the area, this is the paramount recurring theme. I am pleased that it has been decided to have a fresh survey of land reclamation. This is especially welcome because much more needs to be done, and we look forward eagerly to publication of the report.

Thirdly, there is the question of communications, particularly the need to press on with better east-west links to open up Humberside. The Humber Bridge will open in 1976, and this necessitates an improved road network, which will reveal a vast sector of our country ripe for development, with cheaper land available, a pleasant environment and space for good planning.

I want to stress also the need to go ahead with investment in the South Yorkshire waterway. This waterway, stretching from the Humber to Sheffield, could open up the heart of our county. If investment can be obtained to widen and deepen it for 500 to 700-ton barges, we could move trade and merchandise from the centre of the region to the Continent. This whole wide strip of our region would flourish as a result.

Soon, with the Civil Aviation Authority's report at hand, we shall have to demand better air communications. There are many possibilities. Some of them have been mentioned in the debate. They include an extension to Yeadon airport, Thorne Waste, Balne Moor, or pressure on the Ministry of Defence to hand over a redundant Royal Air Force station. We cannot afford to frustrate tourism and trade and the further development of our region, both domestically and between our region and the Common Market.

Fourth, there is the question of the Hardman Report. It came in for criticism, and rightly so. Our region is starved of service employment. The report was prepared by civil servants for civil servants to protect civil servants, and it proved to be a damnable disgrace for Yorkshire and Humberside. Hon. Members must keep on with their claims for Yorkshire and Humberside to be recognised for the transfer of some Government establishment. When Government establishments are transferred to a region they create a general reaction in communications, in purchasing power, in the need for new homes and in the spin-off of more jobs. That must be our aim for Yorkshire and Humberside.

What of the special problems of our basic labour-intensive industries as they shed their labour? We must recognise that with further nationalisation there is likely to be rationalisation and that these major industries have to modernise in order to be able to compete both at home and abroad. We must therefore move towards a policy which makes a work-in, a sit-in or a workers' protest demonstration out of date.

Does any industry do this? I think that one does. I think that the British Steel Corporation is the prime example. It has a plant closure policy which involves six months' notice of closure of a small plant and two years' notice for a large plant. It also has a social policy division. I suggest that the major industries, public or private, should follow suit.

Within this time scale—and it may not be long enough every time in practice—there should be a Government responsibility to guarantee that the projected job loss will be made up by alternative industry being established in the district where the closure is to take place. I believe that only a policy of this kind can stop the tendency towards economic imbalance between North and South.

Now we have a problem which will aggravate the problems of all the regions, and not only those of Yorkshire and Humberside. This is the development of Maplin airport, with its seaport complex. I fear that this, allied with the Channel Tunnel, may brake all progress on regional development.

Maplin's initial estimate is nearly £1,000 million. It will be a massive airport creating 10,000 jobs, a seaport with quayside developments, and new communications from London to Foulness—a colossal investment which may reach £3,000 million. Should all this go ahead it will suck the North dry of any major new developments for the next decade. It will be the biggest regional development blunder of all time. It will receive a massive chunk of Government investment and backing and it will cause a great diversion of our national resources. It will encourage the further migration of professional expertise and manual labour and will bring civil war in the construction industry—fighting to obtain some of the massive contracts as well as developing homes and services in that region.

In fighting to regenerate our region we feel that we are always on this rapidly revolving treadmill on which the most frantic pedalling hardly keeps pace. I warn the Minister that, if Maplin goes ahead as planned, it could exhaust us and most other regions as well.

In the longer term—and this may be more appropriate for a future Labour Government to enact than it would be for the Tories—more power must be granted to the Government for industrial intervention in more regional economic planning and expansion of the public sector. There must be a clear political commitment to effect a change in the disparities between regions. Exhortation of itself does not work satisfactorily or quickly, causing a lot of effort with little and slow return. We must use the power of public purchasing to stimulate investment and industrial activity in the regions and where substantial grants of money are involved, whether investment or capital grants in specific industries, an equity stake for the public must be secured.

We must also be ready to redesignate regions, development areas, intermediate areas, neutral zones and congested areas, with investment grants and Government aid going according to need. We shall also need to continue a payroll subsidy. The Government intend to get rid of the regional employment premium and the CBI has indicated that in the Northern Region this will cost between 15,000 and 20,000 jobs. We should be prepared to carry on with a payroll subsidy to encourage the movement into development and intermediate areas. There should be no grants or subsidies for neutral zones, but we might impose a congestion levy on employment in congested areas.

We must be ready more positively to tackle much more severely Whitehall dispersal and the movement of nationalised industries and the heads of national unions back into the regions from this congested metropolis. Only by such a set of positive proposals, which is in keeping with the continuing seriousness of our nation's regional imbalance, can we begin to use all our people and all our resources to the full.

The Minister has the opportunity and the time to let us know how the Yorkshire and Humberside Region is progressing and to give us what is virtually an annual report.

3.34 p.m.

The Minister for Industrial Development (Mr. Christopher Chataway)

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) for allowing me a reasonable time to try to reply to a wide-ranging debate. I should also like to congratulate the hon. Member for Huddersfield. West (Mr. Lomas) both upon his choice of subject and on the way in which he laid out the issues.

As many speakers today have recognised, it is in a very different atmosphere from June 1972 that we debate Yorkshire and Humberside. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite got a little cross with my hon. Friend the Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Proudfoot)—

Mr. Hardy

The only Tory here.

Mr. Chataway

I have notes from a number of my hon. Friends, as well as from some hon. Members opposite, saying that they are going to Yorkshire today, all of them observing the 50-milean-hour limit, so they have had to leave early.

Mr. McNamara

Will the right hon. Gentleman recognise that the majority of us on this side of the House who live in Yorkshire will be going home to see our families this weekend for the first time this week?

Mr. Chataway

That is another piece of good news, and I hope that I can add to it.

When my hon. Friend the Member for Brighouse and Spenborough introduced national politics into the debate, and sought to argue, I thought persuasively, that the programme of massive nationalisation proposed by the Labour Party would not be particularly helpful to the region, hon. Members greeted him a little testily. So I shall not follow the right hon. Member for Barnsley too far in discussing some of the national policies with which he dealt.

I would say one thing, however, about the Channel Tunnel and Maplin. This Government can claim to have pursued a more forward regional policy than any of our predecessors. The charge does not stand up against this Government that we are interested only in the South East. All that I am about to say will give the lie to that.

But it is unreasonable for those in other parts of the country to say to people in the South East that they may not have a Channel Tunnel even if, as all the studies seem to demonstrate, that is the cheapest way of catering for the increased traffic that there will be across the Channel, even if it is the way which will best preserve the environment in the South East.

In my constituency, noise from Gatwick is a major issue. Is it reasonable for those in other parts of the country to bandy around these global figures as if there were some additional expense to be incurred in the South East when there are choices to be made in the South East? One knows that there will be an increase in traffic and the choice to be made is whether my constituents are to endure a massive increase in noise from the extension of existing airports or whether a third airport is to be built These are issues which have been exhaustively investigated and on which, at least as far as Maplin is concerned, there is further work to be done.

The right hon. Member for Barnsley suggested that the great progress of the past year, which he recognised, was in jeopardy as a result of the national economic policies followed by this Government. It is very difficult now to find anyone who did not know 18 months ago that Government policies would drastically reduce unemployment. Of course, hon. Members start from a disadvantage because their words are recorded. One has only to look at the debate of last June to see how many Labour Members were forecasting an increase in unemployment. But outside the House, it is difficult to find anyone who did not always know that unemployment would drop drastically.

I would make one small and safe prediction. That is that, when we are running a balance of payments surplus, it will be difficult to find anyone who did not know that it was bound to happen as a result of the floating pound, as a result of a much greater increase in the volume of exports this year than of imports and as a result of the whole battery of Government measures. We shall see. If the right hon. Gentleman comes forward next time we debate this region and says how very sorry he is that he was wrong, he will have done better then than he or his hon. Friends have done today about their mistaken forecasts on unemployment.

Mr. Mason

Since the right hon. Gentleman probably has about 17 or 18 months, at the most, to go before he must face the national electorate, does he think that he will then have cleared this balance of payments deficit of about £1,500 million?

Mr. Chataway

I might be a little less chary than the right hon. Gentleman of advancing forecasts which turn out to be mistaken. But I have said a number of times, and am happy to say again, that I believe that, towards the end of next year, if one can find anyone who will own up to having made the kind of forecasts that I have been describing, one will be very lucky.

This has been a useful debate because in the past two years we have seen the beginning of a very exciting transformation in the Yorkshire and Humberside region. There are a number of basic reasons for what is happening there. First, it has benefited from the Government's growth policies. No one in his right mind would suggest that this Government or any other Western Government have abolished the trade cycle. That is a claim which would be unlikely to be made by anyone. But I believe that we are embarked in the 1970s upon a rate of economic growth which is faster than anything that we have known in the 1950s and 1960s. That has been proved already, in Yorkshire and Humberside as elsewhere, to be the most important regional policy of all.

With the development of the north-south and west-east motorway system, the region is increasingly seen as the pivot of Britain. One or two hon. Members used the term "central Britain". It is a term for which our Regional Industrial Development Board and our regional office and its energetic director and industrial director can take a good deal of credit. The Yorkshire Motorway Box is now established as a key area for industrial and service development.

Clearly the enlargement of the Community is of fundamental importance to Yorkshire and Humberside. The hon. Members for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) and Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) both referred to the caravan industry. Certainly that is one industry which is taking full advantage of the opportunities for exports to the Community. There is no doubt that one industry after another is being attracted into the area because of the excellent communications links with the Community. I doubt whether there are very many people in industry in the region who now question that entry into the Community is of enormous importance to Yorkshire and Humberside.

Then we have undoubtedly seen a tremendous response to the Industry Act in Yorkshire and Humberside. It has unleashed the energy of a great many Yorkshire entrepreneurs. Many small firms especially have applied for selective assistance under the Act. Incidentally, our interest rates were referred to by a number of hon. Members. It is very important for small firms that they should be reminded of the opportunities which exist under the Act for interest relief grants which can be of substantial value to them.

I believe that those are some of the underlying reasons for the remarkable progress that we have seen. What has happened? First and foremost we have seen the reduction of unemployment. The motion ignores the fact that Sheffield, Scunthorpe and West Yorkshire generally are now well below the national average in male unemployment. In the rest of South Yorkshire and Humberside male unemployment is still too high, but it has been falling steadily. The House will have seen from the November figures that the region's unemployment as a whole is 2.4 per cent. compared with 2.2 per cent. for Great Britain as a whole. That is a tremendous achievement since June last year. The region has moved down steadily towards the national average and has reduced its unemployment by more than 28,600, including 24,000 males. In that period, outstanding male vacancies, which are now more than 22,000, have trebled, and it is significant that the percentage reduction in unemployment has actually been faster than the national average both in total and for males.

The question is whether this will last and whether it is not just a temporary improvement. The motion talks a little churlishly about a "temporary improvement". No serious examination of what is happening could suggest that. The issue of IDCs has been running at a record level. Since June 1972, 384 IDCs have been approved, involving 18.5 million square feet of new industrial premises, and 22,480 jobs, 14,000 of them for males. All of those are jobs still to come. We have not felt the benefit of any of that.

Much of that improvement has been due to the work of the Regional Industrial Development Board and the regional office, strengthened under the Industry Act. Under the selective assistance provisions of the Act, the regional office has now made offers on 108 projects involving the creation of 9,000 jobs in the next two to three years. That has meant the commitment of £7 million in Government selective assistance money to projects costing, in all, £55 million. That is a good gearing. We are anxious to ensure that in the use of these powers under the Act we get as high a gearing as possible. That must be adjudged to be, so far, a very satisfactory achievement.

The strategy of the regional board and the office in Yorkshire and Humberside has been to go for quality perhaps even more than quantity in the jobs it secures. Most of the projects being aided are, I am told, of locally-controlled firms. It is a part of the strategy to try to build up the region to a greater extent as a management centre. Moreover, the jobs being created are, in the main, good and well-paid jobs in modern viable industries, many of them in growth sector such as plastics, central heating and ventilation, office furniture and so on.

Then again, there has been the attempt to help the wool textile industry. That industry is at present achieving some remarkable results, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) mentioned. Its output and export figures are extremely impressive. But we have not felt that simply because this was an industry that was doing well there was no need to take any notice of it. As the Atkins Report and the little "Neddy" report have shown, this is an industry which has been through a long period of low profitability, and it is an industry which, if it is to build on its success, must modernise. We have, therefore, launched the wool textile scheme in an attempt to bring the industry into the twenty-first century. It has been welcomed by both sides of the House. It will have a radical effect on the whole economic and industrial environment of West Yorkshire. The rate of applications from firms is satisfactory. It will have the effect which the little "Neddy" required from it.

Mr. Lomas

Will the Minister confirm that the present run down in the wool and textile industry is in line with what Atkins said, or are we exceeding that run down? What is being done about that?

Mr. Chataway

At present there is a shortage of labour in the industry. There is no doubt that the industry could employ more people—substantially more people in certain sectors. That is a situation which was not foreseen by the Atkins Report. We believe, therefore—I think that it is the view of the industry, as well—that the need now is to encourage people to stay. That is the reason why there has been this difference of opinion about any additional redundancy payments.

Mr. Ginsburg

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that one of the problems in Yorkshire is the comparatively low level of wages? We all agree that the unemployment level is lower than it used to be, but unless the wages problem is overcome there will be a continuing difficulty.

Mr. Chataway

One of the main reasons for introducing the wool textile scheme was to improve the quality of the job and earnings. Both sides to the "Neddy" report recognised that as one of the major objectives of the scheme.

During our last debate there was a good deal of discussion about the balance that there ought to be between encouraging inward investment, on the one hand, and expansion by firms in the area, on the other. I argued then—as I do now—that the greater part of the increase in jobs must come from encouraging firms that are already there, but over the period there has been inward investment on a fairly substantial scale. There has been investment, too, from firms elsewhere in the United Kingdom, and some useful investment from the Continent into the constituency of the right hon. Member for Barnsley in the form of the subsidiary of a German engineering firm, and the subsidiary of a French multinational has been established at Doncaster. All that is to be welcomed.

The inward investment has been promoted in a fairly sophisticated way in the region, but for the Yorkshire coalfields and Humberside the aim is to attract male employment to diversified industries. The Department's five advance factories are now all disposed of, and they should achieve that in good measure. In addition, substantial efforts have been made, and are continuing to be made, to attract industry to the coalfields, and further advance factories are being built. In the result, we can already point to about 1,000 new male jobs for the coalfields, and many female jobs too.

In addition, we have been successful in attracting to the area headquarters jobs under the new office incentive scheme. A good deal has been said about the Hardman Report. It is understood that the labours of Hardman on the matter of Civil Service dispersal have not met with tremendous acclaim in the Yorkshire area. The House knows that the Government are considering the recommendations of the Hardman Committee and are receiving representations from many parts of the country.

Perhaps even more important than the Hardman exercise is the intensive effort that we are making to move office jobs out of the South East and the West Midlands, and the scheme that I was able to announce last summer of providing substantial incentives for the first time, to attract service industries will, I think, have its effect in Yorkshire and Humberside.

Already, three headquarters are likely to be established in South Yorkshire, and two of those have unquestionably been attracted by the scheme to which I have referred, but I agree with those who argue that there is a need for more service industries in the area. That is what we want to see, and we have here an instrument which can make a substantial contribution to that.

A number of hon. Members referred to the housing situation, and in particular to the shortage of council houses. I think many hon. Members recognise that there is substantial pressure on the building industry. It is recognised, too, that there has been an enormous uptake in improvement grants, and that is part of the pressure on the building industry. In 1972, 44,600 grants were approved. That was three times more than in 1969, and this year the number of improvement grants is even higher.

One or two hon. Members said that not only did they want to see private and new council housing speeded up, but also a continuation of the improvement grant scheme—at, I presume, not less than its current level. I am not referring to the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley). He did not necessarily argue for a continuation of the scheme at its present level. It has to be recognised that one of the constraints here is the shortage of skilled men in the building industry. But whereas there were overall only 900 places in Government training centres in 1970, there are over 2,000 today and there is a very substantial expansion of training facilities under way. Until we get those skilled men there are choices to be made. I will certainly refer to my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction the comments that have been made during this debate, and I will also refer to a number of my other hon. and right hon. Friends particular constituency points to which I shall not have time to refer today.

Mr. Lomas

Is it fair of the Minister to talk about the shortage of skilled labour, when between January and September 1973 only 77,200 local authority starts were made, compared with 202,159 in 1967? That was not due to shortage.

Mr. Chataway

I certainly cannot confirm the hon. Gentleman's figures, but I can say that there has been this enormous increase in house improvements, which I believe is a very high priority in an area where so many houses are substandard. Any realistic discussion must recognise that the building industry which the Government inherited is finite in its output and is likely to be so for quite a time, so choices will have to be made.

I turn now to the question of Yeadon, Leeds Airport. The right hon. Member for Barnsley and I figured in a television drama on this subject, which may have given a great many people the impression that civil servants spend all their time mulling over one question and changing and rechanging the answer. I recognise that there are important decisions to be taken here, but the Civil Aviation Authority has now advised the Leeds-Bradford Joint Airport Committee to reapply for planning consent. It is for local authorities and other local interests to assess the air transport needs of their areas, but the views that have been expressed in this debate about airports will, I hope, be taken into account by the local authorities who have the principal responsibility in this area.

Tourism was mentioned by a number of hon. Gentlemen, and perhaps I might mention that in Philadelphia last week I met a sergeant of the police who had never been to Europe and who told me that next year he is coming on an eight-day package tour to Leeds. Perhaps that is an indication of the fact that regional tourism in this country is being vigorously promoted by the English Tourist Board.

Mr. James Johnson

The right hon. Gentleman has said nothing about the problems of the deep sea fishing industry. Is he leaving that matter to his colleague?

Mr. Chataway

My hon. Friend the Minister of State listened with care to what the hon. Gentleman said and told me that he wishes to write to him on that matter.

I am sorry, but not surprised, to find that inevitably one is unable to cover all the individual points that have been raised during this debate, particularly those of a constituency nature. All I would say in conclusion is that it has been quite clear from the speeches that have been made on both sides of the House that, whatever political arguments are deployed, there is an underlying faith in this region and a recognition that, on the basis of its expansion of the past couple of years, on the basis of the investment that is now going in, and on the basis of its opportunities within the Community, it can be one of the major industrial commercial assets in this country.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)

Will the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) seek the withdrawal of his motion?

Mr. Lomas

Yes, indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.