HC Deb 23 July 1979 vol 971 cc11-2
9. Mr. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what examination he has made of the effectiveness of previous policies towards regional aid.

Sir Keith Joseph

I have read many studies by academics, and the recent publication of the Department of Industry.

Mr. Hill

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the regional aid policy from the Community that is based on per capita income and the need to update rundown industry is in line with the present drawing of his United Kingdom regional policy map? In other words, is my right hon. Friend able to confirm that the two regional policy aid maps are now as one?

Sir K. Joseph

Certainly the policy is not in conflict. But our policy remains what is called project based rather than employment based.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Does not the Secretary of State accept that depressed areas will be the first to suffer from the recent public expenditure cuts and cuts in regional investment? Does he also accept that they will be the last to benefit from any upsurge in private investment which the Government have prophesied? In these circumstances, will the right hon. Gentleman take a fresh look at regional investment to see how he can try to maintain employment in areas already suffering unacceptably high levels of unemployment?

Sir K. Joseph

Regional development grants were carefully not cut, as a proportion of expenditure, in the areas most afflicted by poor prospects for the economy and employment.

Mr. Hardy

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that aid is to be withdrawn from the southern half of my constituency where unemployment is far higher than in the rest of the metropolitan borough, while, in the northern half, where prospects seem brighter, the area has been upgraded in status, although the rise is rather Irish in character?

Sir K. Joseph

My hon. Friends and I at the Department of Industry will be glad to listen to evidence suggesting that we have made an error in any particular case. But there is a coherent set of criteria lying behind the re-drawing of the map.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is general approval of his proposal to concentrate regional aid more closely than has been done hitherto? Will he give an assurance that in the event of a sudden change of circumstances, as will occur if steel making is closed at Shotton, he will be prepared to upgrade that area without delay?

Sir K. Joseph

We have said that we shall be prepared to consider a change of grading in such circumstances.