HC Deb 31 January 1977 vol 925 cc10-1
7. Mr. Radice

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he is satisfied with industrial progress in the Northern Region.

The Minister of State, Department of Industry (Mr. Alan Williams)

We shall continue to promote industrial development in the Northern Region.

Mr. Radice

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the abolition of the regional employment premium, coming as it does at a time when industry in the Northern Region is extremely depressed and when there is also the threat from devolution, makes the case for a northern development agency even stronger than before?

Mr. Williams

I am sorry to disappoint my hon. Friend, but I do not necessarily accept his conclusion. He should bear in mind that the temporary employment subsidy gives a far more realistic form of assistance to firms that are really under pressure, and the switch to a more selective approach will be more advantageous to the Northern Region. I also draw my hon. Friend's attention to the consultative document in relation to devolution within England and ask him to consider how far it would be to the advantage of the North if the development agencies which he envisages were set up for every region. I am not sure that it would be to the advantage of the North.

Mr. Hal Miller

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that no industrial investment in the Northern Region has been at the expense of the West Midlands? When he next meets the CBI, will he consider with it the Government's input, particularly the recommendations of the sectoral working parties on industrial strategy?

Mr. Williams

The hon. Gentleman will know that few IDCs have been refused in the West Midlands. The difficulty of recent years is that, because of the international recession, there has been little mobile or new industry created here or in Western Europe. That is why there is understandable pressure in the West Midlands against regional policy. I ask the hon. Gentleman to look again, however, at the context in which my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Radice) asked his question and to consider the level of unemployment in the Northern Region. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that it is essential to retain regional priorities.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Will my right hon. Friend look again at the question of replacing the general blanket aid of the regional employment premium by more specific industrial aids, since this is a matter of major concern in an area such as mine? Will he also consider the inadequacy of the temporary employment subsidy, particularly as a means of encouraging major investment in my area?

Mr. Williams

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for focusing attention on the fact that, in addition to the temporary employment subsidy, funds have been made available for a more selective approach to industrial development. I am sure he will appreciate that this will be extremely helpful in meeting the specific needs of firms that are considering setting up in the Northern Region.