HC Deb 22 June 1981 vol 7 c5
6. Mr. Spriggs

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what representations he has received about the provision of regional development agencies for those areas suffering the worst effects of unemployment in England.

Mr. Tebbit

My right hon. Friend has received representations, particularly from hon. Members and some Northern organisations, that a development agency be established for the North of England. More recently during the debate on the North-West region on 15 June, some hon. Members called for such a body to cover North-West England. As my right hon. Friend announced on 9 February, the Government are not pursuaded by those representations.

Mr. Spriggs

Is the Minister aware that in this year of technology, St. Helens is an area that was downgraded by his right hon. Friend from that of special development area to that of development area, since when unemployment has been leaping month by month? In view of the changes in technology which have brought about massive redundancies in the glass industry alone, will he and his right hon. Friend consider regrading—that is, upgrading—St. Helens to special development area again?

Mr. Tebbit

It is necessary that we preserve the higher status of special development area and development area for those areas which have the most persistent and difficult problems of unemployment. I am not yet persuaded that St. Helens lacks the ability to recover as quickly as other parts of the country from the present recession.

Mr. Budgen

Does my hon. Friend agree that the West Midlands has already been severely damaged by the effect of regional policies, and that if further aid is extended to Northern areas, it will be again to the disadvantage of the West Midlands, where unemployment is nearly the same as in many of those areas which enjoy the advantages of regional policies?

Mr. Tebbit

My hon. Friend is quite correct. Of course, all these forms of aid have to be paid for, and they are paid for particularly by those who do not enjoy them. Many of those people are themselves having considerable troubles, as is the case in the West Midlands.

Mr. Charles R. Morris

Is the Minister aware that the alternative to the establishment of a development agency for the North-West is a proliferation of industrial development officers appointed by a multiplicity of different local authorities? Does the Minister accept that development does not stop at municipal and county boundaries?

Mr. Tebbit

I am aware of that, but there is nothing to prevent local authorities from co-operating in the interests of their electors.