HC Deb 22 June 1981 vol 7 cc9-10
10. Mr. David Watkins

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement on the operation of measures to assist industrial development in the Northern region.

Mr. Tebbit

The Government have recognised the special problems of the North, nearly 90 per cent. of which is an assisted area. However the best prospects for the region lie in our measures to achieve national economic recovery and the determination of production, sales and management workers to match the efficiency of their foreign competitors.

Mr. Watkins

Is the Minister aware that in my constituency alone the numbers of unemployed increased by 400 last month to bring the male rate to 31.6 per cent.? That takes no account of what may be announced tomorrow. Is not that just one example among many which could be cited of the complete failure of the Government's industrial policies in the Northern region?

Mr. Tebbit

No, Sir. It is far more to be attributed to the mistaken policies of expansion of the steel industry which was undertaken regardless of the fact that there was no demand for the product. I have to remind the hon. Gentleman that his constituency is benefiting from a £13 million factory building programme, a £10 million derelict land clearance programme, and £1½ million rate support for lost rates because of the steel closure, and that there are 90 industrial inquiries in Consett at the moment with the potential of bringing up to 3,000 jobs. Why does not the hon. Gentleman try to talk up his constituency instead of talking it down?

Mr. Watkins

The Minister should not talk such rubbish to the House.

Mr. Urwin

Is it not time that the Minister of State and his colleagues responsible for industry began to admit the abyssmal failure of their policies not only in the Northern region but in all the development areas and in areas such as the West Midlands which we have always regarded as the very seed corn of British industry? Why do not the Government completely review their existing policies and do something to reduce the massive rates of unemployment in my constituency and throughout the Northern region?

Mr. Tebbit

Why does not the right hon. Gentleman do something to remind his constituents and others that the prerequisites for industrial success are harder work, lower labour costs and better industrial relations than our competitors? Where that is being achieved, not least with Government help, we are successful— in th steel industry and, increasingly, in the motor industry.

Dr. John Cunningham

The house deserves a more considered answer. The Minister of State mentioned steel. In the Northern region massive job losses in shipbuilding, engineering—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must ask a question. This is not a debate.

Dr. Cunningham

Is the Minister of State aware that massive job losses have occurred in the steel, shipbuilding, engineering, textile and chemical industries? Is he aware that every economic indicator for the Northern region is now worse than it was when the Government came to office? Is the Minister of State aware that Britain experienced the fastest rise in unemployment in the EEC last year? Is he aware that the Northern region of Britain was worst hit? What does he intend to do to improve the situation?

Mr. Tebbit

I remind the hon. Gentleman that the price of creating a more efficient steel industry is the ending of overmanning. That is largely responsible for the increases in unemployment. There is more security for jobs in British Leyland, for example, where output is as high as it was 12 months ago and 30,000 fewer men are employed, than there would be in continuing to pad, subsidise and reduce the competitiveness of our industry.

Mr. Watkins

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the totally unsatisfactory nature of that reply I beg to give notice that I shall raise the issue on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.