HC Deb 18 May 1981 vol 5 cc3-4
5. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will increase the resources available to the Northern Region National Enterprise Board.

The Minister of State, Department of Industry (Mr. Norman Tebbit)

I have no intention to do so since I am satisfied that the National Enterprise Board has sufficient funds to fulfil its regional role.

Mr. Dormand

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Opposition welcome the continuing existence of the Northern NEB, but that we are suspicious that its lack of resources is yet another example of the slow strangulation by the Government of the Northern region? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Northern board is making only a minor contribution towards solving the North's problems? Therefore, will he not only greatly increase the resources, but introduce new, flexible guidelines so that the pressing and increasing needs of the region can be met?

Mr. Tebbit

No, Sir. I think that the guidelines are flexible enough to take care of any viable projects. If the hon. Gentleman knows of any viable, profitable projects which are held up for lack of funds, I should be grateful if he would let me know.

Mr. Richard Page

In view of the proposed merger of the NRDC and the NEB and the effect that that will have on the Northern region, when may we have a statement on the matter?

Mr. Tebbit

My right hon. Friend answered a question on this matter recently, so there is no requirement for a further statement in that respect. The two organisations are coming close together under the common chairmanship of Sir Freddie Wood, and we have recently appointed Mr. Lawrence Tindale to both boards.

Mr. David Watkins

Does the Minister of State regard the Northern NEB as a necessary instrument of regional policy, or will it be allowed to wither away, as has practically all industry in the region, under the Government's policies?

Mr. Tebbit

There is a role for the NEB in the Northern region, but the principal need is for profitable projects. It cannot be used as a means of subsidising unprofitable ventures. There is not enough money in creation for that and not enough wealth is being created elsewhere in the community to afford that kind of thing.

Sir William Elliott

Is my hon. Friend aware that, despite Opposition Members talking of industry withering away in the Northern region, in the past 12 months three times as many factories have opened on our trading estates as have closed? Although we still have a long way to go and many of the factories are small, employment is in balance. We have gained as many places on our trading estates as we have lost. Indeed, there are many inquiries for small factories on our trading estates through the English Industrial Estates Corporation.

Mr. Tebbit

My hon. Friend is correct. If hon. Members wish further details, they should read the Official Report of our last debate on the Northern region when I made plain the excellent work that notably the English Industrial Estates Corporation was doing in this respect and how well many small firms were responding.

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