HC Deb 24 November 1980 vol 994 cc193-4
9. Mr. Woolmer

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what consideration he is giving to the reestablishment of assisted area status to areas of West Yorkshire where unemployment has been rising much faster than the national average in recent months.

Mr. David Mitchell

My right hon. Friend is currently considering representation on this point from the West Yorkshire metropolitan county council and the Kirklees metropolitan district council.

Mr. Woolmer

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that unemployment in West Yorkshire has risen by about 100 per cent. since the Government took office? As the Government's policies, which hit manufacturing industry particularly hard, have caused unemployment in Batley, Dewsbury, Halifax and Huddersfield to rise by nearly 150 per cent., will the hon. Gentleman give some reassurance to the textile and engineering towns of Yorkshire that they will have assisted area status restored to them?

Mr. Mitchell

I cannot prejudge my right hon. Friend's reply to the representations that he has received.

Mr. Thompson

Does my hon. Friend understand that, although inflation is the first enemy, my constituents are bitter about the feather bedding that has been given to redundant workers in the steel and coal industries, and that they would like something similar?

Mr. Mitchell

The level of redundancy payments in the steel and other industries is a matter for the management of those industries. It is not unusual to find similar payments made by large firms in the private sector.

Dr. Summerskill

When considering this matter, will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the unemployment rate in Halifax has risen by 133 per cent. since the Government came to power? Once prosperous manufacturing industries throughout West Yorkshire are being eroded by the Government's misguided policies, and the hon. Gentleman must take that fact into consideration and restore assisted area status to West Yorkshire.

Mr. Mitchell

In considering the question of assisted area status we shall take into account all the matters set out in the Industry Act 1972, and also the needs of other areas with even higher levels of unemployment, on which we are concentrating assistance at present.

Mr. Sheerman

If the Minister will not reconsider giving assisted area status to the West Yorkshire areas, and Kirklees in particular, will be think of another way in which to tackle what is becoming a national scandal in an area that has a history of production and entrepreneurs? Is the Minister aware that the entrepreneurs in Huddersfield are saying that this Government and this Secretary of State are obstructive and uncomprehending of their needs?

Mr. Mitchell

If we had in this country continental levels of productivity, which are 30 or 40 per cent. higher than those of the United Kingdom, we would not have the problems that we have today.