HC Deb 19 January 1977 vol 924 cc319-21
15. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has for relocating Government offices from London to the West Midlands in general and the Cannock Chase in particular and if he will study the communications and other advantages of the Cannock Chase area as a location for Government offices.

Mr. Marks

There are no plans at present to move Government offices from London to the West Midlands. If such a possibility should arise in the future the advantages of the Cannock Chase area, as well as of other areas in that region, would be considered.

Mr. Roberts

Would my hon. Friend not accept that there is now in the West Midlands a serious unemployment problem and that female as well as male unemployment is at a high level? This is an area that is proving attractive in the sense that it has good communications with many other parts of the country. Will my hon. Friend seriously reconsider his answer?

Mr. Marks

My hon. Friend will be aware that a programme involving the dispersal of over 31,000 Civil Service posts from London is currently in progress. It is a considerable programme that creates great difficulties for many individual civil servants. It was decided in 1971 that most of these posts would go to the assisted areas. The opportunities for further moves are limited. However, for any work that cannot be sited in an assisted area the claims of the West Midlands will be considered along with those of other areas.

Mr. Budgen

Would the Minister agree that the hopes of the West Midlands for the future will rest upon profitable private industry and not on moving a number of jobs and trying to swell the already over-burdened ranks of the bureaucracy?

Mr. Marks

Yes, I am sure the hon. Gentleman is right to say that private industry—assisted as it is by the Government—can make its contribution to solving these problems.

Mr. Lipton

Will the Minister strike a judicious balance, because the population of London has been falling steadily and, secondly, unemployment in London is as high as anywhere else in the country? These factors ought to be taken into account.

Mr. Marks

I appreciate, as I am sure my right hon. Friend does, that inner London has just the same problems—if not worse problems—as many inner provincial cities. What we are trying to do in particular is help inner city areas in the assisted areas. Many of the Civil Service moves will be made not from inner London but from areas more distant from London.

Mrs. Knight

Is the Minister not aware that many parts of Cannock Chase are of very great beauty and much appreciated by the residents of Birmingham? The headquarters of the National Coal Board is already there. Surely we have enough Government offices sprawled about in that area.

Mr. Marks

In my other responsibility for the Countryside Commission I take note of what the hon. Lady has said. Many of the buildings that are being constructed are attractive and are in excellent surroundings.

Forward to