HC Deb 12 July 1982 vol 27 cc634-5
11. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what representations he has received relating to his statement on assisted areas on 28 June.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

I have received some replies to the letters that were sent to some hon. Members and to the relevant local authorities.

Mr. Canavan

In view of the bitter disappointment in many parts of the country that has been caused by the right hon. Gentleman's announcement, will he say how high the unemployment level in an area must be before there is a grant of special development area status? What possible justification can there be, for example, for refusing special development area status to the Denny employment area in my constituency, where unemployment is running at more than 30 per cent., which is one of the worst in Britain and which is getting even worse because of the insane policies of this Tory Government?

Mr. Jenkin

It has been the policy of successive Governments to fix the areas to be covered by regional aid by reference to travel-to-work areas and not to divide them. The hon. Gentleman's constituency covers three travel-to-work areas. Stirling was made an intermediate area in 1980, and it remains an intermediate area. Falkirk was made a development area, and it remains a development area. Glasgow was made a special development area, and it remains a special development area. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's constituency has been treated unfairly.

Mr. Richard Page

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if he acceded to every request from hon. Members for assisted area status, virtually the whole country would be an assisted area by their definition and, therefore, there would be no differential advantage to those areas that needed it?

Mr. Jenkin

That was getting on for the position that we found when we came into office. More than 40 per cent. of the working population were covered by assisted area status. At the same time, the differentials in the rates of support for the different categories of area had narrowed to the point where many firms did not regard them as a significant incentive. This Government have concentrated aid on the areas of greatest need, widened the differentials in the rates of grant to the areas and, at the same time, removed the industrial development certificate system as it applied to the rest of the country. That is a sensible regional policy.

Mr. Orme

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what the 1 per cent. increase means in additional expenditure for 1982–83?

Mr. Jenkin

The right hon. Gentleman will know that the programme is not cash limited but demand related. Estimates of the cost will appear in due course when the necessary publications are produced for the House of Commons.