HC Deb 22 May 1978 vol 950 cc1097-8
7. Mr. Rooker

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he next expects to attend a meeting of NEDC.

Mr. Varley

I will attend the NEDC's next meeting on 7th June.

Mr. Rooker

In view of the totally unsatisfactory and negative nature of the answers to the previous Questions today, when my right hon. Friend next meets the NEDC will he ask for the Lucas problem and the urgency of the situation to be put on the agenda, and for the matter to be placed in the sector working party system?

Mr. Varley

I doubt very much whether that matter will come up at the next meeting of the NEDC. I have nothing to add to the answers which have already been given by my hon. Friend the Minister of State.

Mr. Michael Marshall

Will the Secretary of State take the opportunity when next he meets the NEDC of correcting the problem mentioned by the Minister of State this afternoon in describing the industrial strategy? The Minister of State, in the optimistic view he advanced, based on the generosity of his American hosts, has confused the House and the country. Therefore, will the right hon. Gentleman define that industrial strategy?

Mr. Varley

I have done so on previous occasions, and it would take a much longer time than Question Time to do so again now. One of the great strengths of the industrial strategy is that it has been put on a tripartite basis. I, along with the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) and others, was present last week when the president of the Confederation of British Industry paid tribute to all those taking part. He said that the CBI, in common with the TUC, was totally committed to that strategy. It is trying to reverse the relative decline that has taken place for 20 or 30 years or more. What is more, these efforts are beginning to succeed, and I hope that the system, provided it is given a chance, will succeed and that Members of the Conservative Party will start to pay tribute to it—and at the same time will pay tribute to the many Conservatives who are contributing to that policy.

Mr. Ashley

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind when next he meets the NEDC that it is damaging to economic development if important regions are allowed to suffer severe plant closures without Government action or remedial measures being taken to prevent such closures? For example, does he appreciate that in North Staffordshire we are threatened with steel closures and bakery closures and that thousands of men and women are liable to become unemployed as a direct result of Government policy? Will the Secretary of State undertake a special investigation into the serious problems of North Staffordshire?

Mr. Varley

Of course I shall take note of the serious problems of North Staffordshire. I know that there are further Questions on the Order Paper concerning the steel industry. I have had discussions with my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) and his colleagues in the West Midlands group of Labour MPs on the subject of Shelton and Bilston. I promise that the British Steel Corporation, in discussion with the TUC steel committee, will take fully into account the effect on the areas concerned.