HC Deb 09 December 1974 vol 883 cc22-3
16. Mr. Radice

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he will maintain strict control over industrial development certificates; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Heffer

Changes to strengthen the operation of the IDC control were announced on 18th July. I am not aware of any need to strengthen the control further.

Mr. Radice

I thank my hon. Friend for his valuable reply, which will be welcomed in development areas. In view of the high level of unemployment in the North-East and on Merseyside, is it not time that the Government reconsidered the whole range of their regional policies?

Mr. Heffer

My hon. Friend must welcome the fact that the Government doubled REP, strengthened IDC controls and put forward ideas for the establishment of the National Enterprise Board and planning agreements. We have also given a list of about 16 advance factories for the Northern Region, and on that basis we would argue that the Government are doing well. However, we are always open to suggestions on how we can do even better.

Mr. Evelyn King

Does the Minister accept that industrial development certificates can work unfairly since they tend to go to areas where there is already a high wage level and are withheld from areas where there is a low wage level? Will he undertake that in the granting or withholding of industrial development certificates he will have regard not only to unemployment but to the average wage?

Mr. Heffer

There are problems, and it would be wrong of me to suggest that there are not, in relation to IDC control. What the Government try to do is to carry out their policy of regional development, which means that the highest priority is to get industry to where it is needed most, whether to a high wage area or a low wage area. Unemployment and the social conditions of areas are priority matters. There is, however, flexibility and the Government will continue with their flexible approach to IDC applications.

Mr. Ogden

Will my hon. Friend consider inviting the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Mr. King) to Merseyside so that he may have the opportunity to compare his wage levels with the average wage levels on Merseyside, which are not half as high as they should be, considering the productivity on Merseyside?

Mr. Heffer

My hon. Friend is right in saying that the wage levels on Merseyside are not as high as is generally thought throughout the country, but the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Mr. King) is right to say that the Dorset area is not a high wage level area. There is no point in anyone arguing that one area is necessarily better than another. The policy should be to get a proper distribution of industry throughout the country, which means a proper level of wages throughout the country.