HC Deb 17 May 1976 vol 911 cc946-7
14. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what is his policy for assisting industry to move into the Greater London area; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Man Williams

We must continue to give priority in the steering of new projects to the assisted areas, which have greater problems. But the raising of the IDC exemption limit from 5,000 sq ft. to 12,500 sq. ft. in the South-East from 1st May should help London.

Mr. Molloy

Is my hon. Friend aware that this is a case of the grass growing but the horse starving? Does he realise that large tracts of land in Greater London formerly used for industrial purposes and to which industry could have been attracted are now being used for the construction of vast warehouses? Does my hon. Friend appreciate that when the upturn in the economy comes there will not be any space in the Greater London area to which manufacturing industry can return? Will he please bear that in mind?

Mr. Williams

I am aware of my hon. Friend's interest in this matter. I know of the expansion of this type of development that has taken place in his constituency. Nevertheless, the unemployment trouble in London is of a recessional rather than a structural nature. The upturn will probably lead to a massive reduction in unemployment in London. I would ask my hon. Friend to bear in mind that unemployment in London is still below that of the South-East generally and below the national figure.

Mr. Anthony Grant

Is the Minister aware that the rise in unemployment in Greater London and the South-East has been of the order of 150 per cent. and, in the past two years, has been the fastest increase of any region in the country? Apart from the need to encourage industry to return, will the hon. Gentleman also recognise that in a place like London commercial development has a part to play? Will he bring pressure to bear on his colleagues in the Department of the Environment to alter their absurdly rigid ODP policy, which is working adversely for the area generally and for Harrow in particular?

Mr. Williams

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that while we can make political claims about the rate of increase of unemployment, it is generally recognised that the international recession is a major factor and that equally, because of the structure of industry in London and the South-East, there is little doubt that in an upturn substantial benefit will accrue to both areas.