HC Deb 22 June 1981 vol 7 cc7-8
8. Mr. Hal Miller

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what is the basis of his current regional policy of assistance for industry.

The Secretary of State for Industry Sir Keith Joseph)

The main source of industrial jobs is entrepreneurial management and co-operative work forces working within an encouraging economic and cultural climate to serve customers at home and abroad. We are continuing to help the regions with most spare resources by a more selective and hence more effective policy of regional aid than before.

Mr. Miller

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the West Midlands qualifies under the existing rules for assisted area status? Therefore, will he either extend that or change the rules to a more hopeful and, I believe, more promising avenue, which is development on the basis of a sectoral approach?

Sir Keith Joseph

The West Midlands has suffered over past years from the then regional policies. We have reduced the damaging impact of comprehensive industrial development certificate control. I cannot agree—my hon. Friend would not be happy if I did—that the West Midlands yet has conditions as negative as those in some other regions. It is the relativities, the comparisons between one region and another, which are at the heart of our regional policy, because we seek to concentrate help where it is most needed.

Mr. Park

Will not the Secretary of State agree that the only entrepreneurial skill that we have seen in recent months in the West Midlands is that of shutting down factories and transferring their plants elsewhere?

Sir Keith Joseph

When a firm has several factories, it may be best, to preserve jobs, to concentrate the existing demand on some factories and not on all. That is part of the process, alas, of becoming more competive and getting more jobs.

Dr. Summerskill

As unemployment in Halifax has risen by 175 per cent. since this Government took office, will the Secretary of State reconsider his decision to withdraw assisted area status from Calderdale, especially as some other areas have lower unemployment? Does not this make the Government's policy both unjust and illogical?

Sir Keith Joseph

My colleagues and I are always willing to consider the relative case for any area.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

Does not my right hon. Friend agree, however, that, unless the market is expanding, if Nissan or some other company is given regional grant to move to another area, it is often at the expense of the West Midlands and jobs there are lost? Does not my right hon. Friend also agree that regional grants often do not create more wealth? All that they do is shift one bit of prosperity to another place.

Sir Keith Joseph

I agree with the gist of the last part of my hon. Friend's question. However, the House will realise that we import more than half the cars that our population buy in a year. Therefore, there is plenty of scope for more cars to be made here.

Mr. Orme

Will not the Secretary of State acknowledge that the Government's policy overall has been a failure and that it has affected all the regions? When will he change the policy?

Sir Keith Joseph

I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman. For years and years, by and large our industry has been becoming less competitive because it has been more and more overmanned and weakened by some patchy management and by restrictive labour practices. These sources of uncompetitiveness cannot be eliminated overnight. We are going through a painful transitional stage towards becoming more competive and having an increase in employment again.

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