HC Deb 12 July 1982 vol 27 cc639-40
17. Mr. Alton

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what new industries have been established on Merseyside in the past three years.

Mr. MacGregor

All sectors of industry have been represented on Merseyside for many years. To that extent no new industries have been established. However, since May 1979 my Department has recorded the opening of over 100 new manufacturing plants, which I think the hon. Gentleman may have in mind, in the Merseyside special development area. The total number of openings is undoubtedly higher. There is also evidence of significant broadening in some sectors.

Mr. Alton

Is the Minister aware that there is great anxiety on Merseyside about the pending decision on the siting of the new Morecambe Bay gasfield service base? When is that decision, which has been postponed since March, likely to be taken? Is the Minister aware that it would be a tremedous boost to the economy of Liverpool if the expected 1,000 jobs were to be situated there as a result of the base being opened?

Mr. MacGregor

I have no details on the hon. Gentleman's point, although I am aware of the concern on Merseyside. However, the hon. Gentleman will know that there are many encouraging signs of new investment by existing companies coming to Merseyside. A substantial battery of Government aid is available. Since the Government came to power about £270 million from my Department has gone to Merseyside in regional development grants and selective financial assistance.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Is my hon. Friend aware that many people wish to see one of those bases in their areas? Does he agree that the British Gas Corporation must make a decision in the light of commercial criteria and in the overall national interest?

Mr. MacGregor

That is a matter for the British Gas Corporation and my hon. Friends in other Departments. I shall make sure that my hon. Friend's comments are drawn to their attention.

Mr. Parry

Will the Minister mention the other side of the coin and state how many old industries on Merseyside have closed down over the past three years and how many jobs have been lost? What positive plans do the Government have to reduce the 20 per cent. unemployment rate on Merseyside?

Mr. MacGregor

Of course a number of old industries have gone and jobs have been lost. Merseyside faces the acute problem of restructuring its local economy. It is encouraging that many new plants and the extra investment are in high technology industries, which will be vital if the economy of Merseyside is to be properly revived.