HC Deb 22 May 1978 vol 950 cc1098-100
11. Mr. Radice

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

Mr. Alan Williams

We shall continue to do everything we can to promote investment and employment in the Northern Region.

Mr. Radice

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, despite the considerable amount which has been achieved, the Northern Region is still suffering from very high unemployment and severe structural problems? Is he aware that at the meeting of the Northern Regional Council Labour Party last weekend unanimous support was given to a report calling for better co-ordination of regional policy? Will he examine the proposals in that report?

Mr. Williams

I share and understand my hon. Friend's concern about the level of unemployment. I am encouraged by the fact that the rate of letting of Government factories has improved markedly in the Northern Region. Whereas only 11 were let in 1975–76, I understand that 21 were let in the following year and 41 last year. Already since 5th April nine of our factories in the region have been reserved. Clearly, I shall wish to examine the results of the conference to which my hon. Friend referred. If there is practicable action that can be taken to improve co-ordination, the Government will take such action. But we already have a planning board to co-ordinate the work of Government Departments in the region.

Sir T. Kitson

Does not the Minister realise that when he removed a large part of North Yorkshire from development area status he only aggravated the situation in that area? Does he appreciate that many people from Teesside work in North Yorkshire and that many companies are not now going ahead with development plans in that area? Therefore, will he reconsider his decision?

Mr. Williams

That is a completely different question. The Question relates to the Northern Region and not to the Yorkshire and Humberside Region. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to table a Question on that subject, he has the opportunity to do so. I have seen deputations from North Yorkshire and we have discussed in detail the area's problems. As yet, there is no evidence to justify the hon. Gentleman's statement that projects in the area are being turned away. I am convinced that the selective approach still available to us and the area's current status are adequate.

Mr. Conlan

Will my right hon. Friend reflect on the representations which he has already received on the establishment of a national boiler company? He will recognise that there is widespread concern in the Northern Region. Will he undertake to meet representatives from the region as soon as possible before further progress is made on these lines?

Mr. Williams

My hon. Friend was kind enough to convey to me the concern of his constituents on various occasions about the possible impact of the proposals. I have had meetings with the CSEU, and should my hon. Friend wish to bring a group of his constituents to see me I shall be only too happy to talk to them.

Sir W. Elliott

Will the Minister take note of the fact that in answer to a Question, in which I asked for the number of bodies other than direct arms of Government Departments in the NoNrthern Region receiving subsidies and how much they were receiving, I was told that no central information was available? Does he agree that, despite the amazingly high unemployment rate in the Northern Region, there is still a fantastic shortage of skills and a number of unfilled skilled vacancies?

Mr. Williams

I shall bear those points in mind, and I shall convey them to the relevant Minister in the Department of Employment. I do not recollect the parliamentary reply to which the hon. Gentleman referred, but I shall examine it to see whether there is any further information I can provide.