HC Deb 25 June 1979 vol 969 cc21-2
28. Mr. Heffer

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what recent discussions he has had with the chairman of the National Enterprise Board; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Butler

My right hon. Friend expects to make a statement in due course about all the NEB's operations.

Mr. Heffer

When the Secretary of State makes a statement, will he make it clear that there is no intention to sell off the enterprises that the NEB has made successful after taking them over from less successful private enterprise? Will he also indicate that the NEB can play a positive role in developing industry and employment in areas such as Merseyside which have high levels of unemployment and need that type of investment?

Mr. Butler

The hon. Member will have to await the statement. I fear that in regard to the first part of his question he may be disappointed.

Mr. Ioan Evans

As the NEB has played an important part in rescuing large failures of private enterprise, will he ensure that now that they have been secured for the benefit of the people of this country they will not be handed back to private enterprise to end up in possible failure again?

Mr. Butler

The hon. Member knows that it is our firm and confident belief that there will be more jobs both in the long and short term from the restoration of these firms to private enterprise.

Mr. Cryer

If that is so, will the Minister explain the statement of the Secretary of State for Employment in the House a few days ago that he expects unemployment to increase by the end of the year? Is "by the end of the year" in the short term or the long term in the hon. Gentleman's opinion?

Mr. Butler

The answer to that was given in reply to the previous question. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment made it quite clear that the situation was due in part at least to our inheritance from the previous Administration.

Mr. John Silkin

Is it not a fact that one of the inheritances was 250,000 jobs that were saved by the NEB? Is the Minister now giving us first warning that the Government propose to end those jobs?

Mr. Butler

The right hon. Gentleman must not have heard the reply that I gave to his hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) a few moments ago.