HC Deb 09 February 1981 vol 998 cc586-7
7 Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will now establish a Northern Development Agency.

Sir Keith Joseph

I am not persuaded that the best interests of the North would be served by the creation of such an agency.

Mr. Dormand

That is an extremely disappointing answer. Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that it is nine months since my hon. Friends and I met him to discuss this matter? Does he realise how much the position in the Northern region has deteriorated since that time and that the need for an agency is greater than ever? Bearing in mind the desperate need to have the Datsun car factory placed in the Northern region and the help that a development agency could give towards it, would it not be more appropriate for the right hon. Gentleman to lead the delegation that is to go to Japan later this month?

Sir Keith Joseph

It was because of the respect that I have for the sincerity of the case put forward by the hon. Gentleman and many hon. Friends of his and of mine about the North that my colleagues and I took so long to come to a final decision about the idea of a development agency. I know about the deterioration of the position in the North, but it still remains true that future prospects for the North depend on the enterprise of the business community both in the North and in the country as a whole and the co-operation of the work force within the framework that the Government provide.

Mr. Cowans

Is the Secretary of State aware of the imbalance created by the Scottish Development Agency and the Welsh Development Agency whem trying to attract jobs to the North? Will he correct that imbalance by setting up a development agency, bearing in mind the high unemployment there, and in doing so get away from the myth that the Government have turned their back on the North?

Sir Keith Joseph

The hon. Gentleman expresses a fairly widely held view, but all the powers held by the Scottish and Welsh Development Agencies respectively are held, though by different agencies, in the North. To add an agency on the lines of the Scottish or Welsh Development Agency for the North would not provide a single extra power but would provide an extra unit of bureaucracy which would confuse rather than increase the prospects for the North.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

In his deliberations about the creation of a Northern development agency, will my right hon. Friend consider the point that if he acceded to such a request it would lead to a call for a North-Western development agency, since that area would suffer the same problems in relation to Scotland as a result of the creation of a Northern Development Agency?

Sir Keith Joseph

I do not want to put ideas into the minds of other hon. Members. I do not think that the North-West would be the only other part of the country concerned.

Mr. Orme

If the Secretary of State has rejected the concept of a development agency for the Northern region, what steps will he take to improve a deteriorating situation?

Sir Keith Joseph

The right hon. Gentleman is yet again supporting the myth that prosperity comes from Government. That is not true. The Government can create as encouraging a framework as is practicable, and that is what we are in the process of doing. Prosperity comes from enterprise and co-operation.