HC Deb 27 June 1979 vol 969 cc433-4
19. Mr. David Watkins

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received from the chairman of the Northern Economic Planning Council about the future role of the council.

Mr. King

I have received a letter from Sir Maurice Sutherland seeking my views on the future of planning councils generally and, more particularly, the Northern Economic Planning Council.

Mr. Watkins

Will the right hon. Gentleman be a little more forthcoming about his views? Does he share the opinion of those of us on the Labour Benches who represent Northern region constituencies that the planning council should be strengthened as an instrument of regional policy?

Mr. King

I note what the hon. Gentleman says, but I am not able to be more forthcoming at this time.

Sir William Elliott

Will my right hon. Friend appreciate that there are those of us who can recall the setting up of the Northern Economic Planning Council and our being told that it was to be the answer to all the North's economic and unemployment problems? Does he acknowledge that it has been nothing of the kind, that it has been nothing but a talking shop, and that we have too many advisory bodies? Will he do something about removing these quangos from the Northern region and set free businesses, small, medium-size and large, as they are the answer to our employment problems in the region?

Mr. King

As I said in reply to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) on 25 June, at the request of the Prime Minister we are examining all the public bodies to which the Secretary of State appoints members. I note my hon. Friend's comments on the role and activities of economic planning councils. I know that there are other views held and that much valuable work has been done, but it must be sensible in this area, as in others, to review the value and continuing relevance of all bodies on which public money is spent.