HC Deb 27 October 1982 vol 29 cc1036-7
40. Mr. Dormand

asked the Minister for the Civil Service what proposals he now has for the transfer of Civil Service posts to the Northern region.

The Minister of State, Treasury (Mr. Barney Hayhoe)

The Government's dispersal programme remains as announced in July 1979.

Mr. Dormand

Why do the Government persist in being so inflexible and dogmatic about the dispersal of jobs to the regions, particularly in view of the powerful arguments in the Hardman report? Will the Minister at least promise to re-examine the position? Will he comment on the speech that was made last week by his hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Industry, when he said that the Government were determined to disperse to the regions the head office and the research and development activities of all types of industries? That would at least be a start, which we would welcome in the Northern region.

Mr. Hayhoe

I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman's persistence. He has asked similar questions for more than two years. The answer remains the same. The need to contain public expenditure rules out any further dispersal initiative in the foreseeable future.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Has the Minister read the speech to which the hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand) has just referred, which raised hopes in the regions? Will the Minister remember that the PSA was due to come to Middlesbrough? A site was laid aside for that in the middle of the town and it is still vacant. That was a devastating blow to Middlesbrough. A great deal of prestige was put by that site. Will the Minister consider that again and, in the light of his colleague's speech, consider moving to Middlesbrough any research and development or other stations that may be moved from the South-East and London?

Mr. Hayhoe

I fully understand the concern in Middlesbrough when the Government decided early on not to go ahead with the dispersal of 3,000 PSA jobs to the building that was being put up specially for them in Middlesbrough. My hon. Friend's speech is primarily a matter for his Department. However, the Government reviewed the Labour Government's plans under the Hardman report and we are sticking to the plans that were announced in July 1979.

Mr. Alan Williams

Do not the decisions on the PSA and the Laboratory of the Government Chemist—both of which were due to go to the Northern region—conflict utterly with the speech and statements made by his hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Industry?

Mr. Hayhoe

I do not believe that they do. One must remember that four out of five civil servants are working outside London. There is no basis for the suggestion that the Northern area does not have a fair share of civil servants.