HC Deb 25 April 1978 vol 948 cc1177-8
Q3. Mr. Thorne

asked the Prime Minister when he next plans to visit Preston.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to visit Preston.

Mr. Thorne

Will my right hon. Friend accept that the two issues that concern the people of Preston are jobs and housing? May we expect an early input of public expenditure addressed to those two specific problems?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend will no doubt recall that over £150 million was injected to help employment. Preston has specifically benefited from that and the Government's decision to help keep the port of Preston open by making a substantial grant. I am told that about 4,500 workers in Preston have benefited overall.

As regards housing, it is true that the allocations of funds to Preston and other towns in the area have been affected by the decision to build the Central Lancashire new town. Building in the new town is affecting building programmes in areas such as that which my hon. Friend represents.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that about 20 years ago one of his predecessors, Mr. Harold Macmillan, opened the first motorway around Preston? Does he realise that the motorway with which we are most concerned, the Calder Valley motorway, has had a history of muddle, delay and misery in the past four years as a result of the postponement by the Government? Will he give his personal attention to the speeding up of the completion of the vital link from Preston to North-East Lancashire?

The Prime Minister

I shall draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to the hon. and learned Gentleman's observations. One of the Government's priorities in building motorways lies in the South-West, which has suffered in the past because of the concentration on the industrial Midlands and the North. I am expecting to receive encomiums of praise from all the Conservative and Liberal Members in the South-West.

Mr. Heffer

When my right hon. Friend finally goes to Preston, will he call in on Merseyside on the way? Will he give the Merseyside dockers full support for turning round the ships at record speed, and for the fact that there has not been a dispute in the Liverpool docks for four and a half years? Will he contrast that with the fact that the Southampton docks have been closed, for whatever reason, for the past 14 days, and that not one national newspaper has thought fit to explain the dispute, although Merseyside is constantly attacked for any type of dispute that takes place in the area?

The Prime Minister

I think that it is the desire of the whole House that industrial relations in Liverpool and the industrial progress of Liverpool should be seen in perspective. I am sure that it is right for my hon. Friend to draw attention to the record of the Liverpool dockers, who are involved in an important part of our industrial complex. I shall be receiving a deputation from Merseyside on Thursday that will be led by my hon. Friend. I look forward to discussing these matters with him then.