HC Deb 11 July 1974 vol 876 cc1524-6
Mr. Radice

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will now increase the regional employment premium.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Joel Barnett)

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Industry gave him on 1st July in response to a similar Question.—[Vol. 876, c. 9.]

Mr. Radice

Does my hon. Friend agree that the case for increasing the regional employment premium now has the support not only of the development areas but of both sides of industry, including the TUC? Does he accept that the main strength of the argument for increasing the REP now is that it would help to stave off unemployment without at the same time adding to the already considerable inflationary pressures?

Mr. Barnett

I am very much aware of the points that my hon. Friend has made. My right hon. Friend will bear these matters in mind in the review of the future of REP which he announced in the Budget.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Does the Minister realise that to improve the regional employment premium would not stave off unemployment but merely shift it to the intermediate areas, which are already suffering distortion as a result of the present rate? Will the Minister not raise the premium but kindly phase it out?

Mr. Barnett

The answer to that is, "No" ". I do not agree with the hon. Lady's views.

Mr. Bagier

Does my hon. Friend agree that the real value of the regional employment premium, compared with when it was first introduced, has now decreased considerably? The problem of high unemployment in the development areas must be taken into consideration. Will the Minister seriously press his right hon. Friend to increase the premium?

Mr. Barnett

Yes. I very much appreciate my hon. Friend's point. As I said earlier, we are bearing all these points in mind.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Is the Minister aware that it is no good giving people encouragement to go to development areas unless he can curb the tongues of his hon. Friends who turn the position round to make it appear that those who respond patriotically are putting out the begging bowl, and that the premiums are being used for their own selfish purposes?

Mr. Barnett

I do not think that it is my hon. Friends who are doing any harm. I would have thought that it was the other way round.