HC Deb 22 December 1983 vol 51 cc554-5
10. Mr. Campbell-Savours

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the implication for the Northern region of the policies in the Autumn Statement.

Mr. Peter Rees

The Government's economic policies, which are confirmed in the Autumn Statement, offer the best hope for sustainable non-inflationary growth, from which the Northern region should benefit.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

That is a very complacent reply. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the Autumn Statement provided little Christmas cheer for the region and little long-term hope for the future? Is he further aware that areas such as my own in west Cumberland and the county of Cumbria have failed miserably to attract the high technology industries that have been the salvation of many areas in the south of England? When the Chancellor introduces his next Budget, will he incorporate some tax measures wth a regional base that will enable us to attract those industries for our future?

Mr. Rees

I cannot anticipate the Budget of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, but I remind the House that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry emphasised that the Government remain firmly committed to an effective regional policy. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to take back a message of cheer to his constituency, I remind him and the House that steel production in the third quarter of 1983 was 21 per cent. higher than a year earlier—

Mr. Campbell-Savours

We do not produce steel.

Mr. Rees

I remind the hon. Gentleman and the House that the British Steel Corporation in Workington recently won a £10 million order and supplied 34,000 tonnes of track to the New Zealand railway. That is a better message than the hon. Gentleman has given.

Mr. Fallon

Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that the whingeing pessimism of Opposition Members does no service to the Northern region? Does he further accept that nationally imposed wage levels and excessive business rates have done as much harm to the Northern region as anything else?

Mr. Rees

My hon. Friend conveys a much more robust message to the Northern region than Opposition Members. I believe that the Northern region would welcome it. I agree that the rigidities of the Labour party need to be eliminated if real jobs are to be created again.

Mr. Dormand

Does the Minister recall the welcome suggestion by the Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry, some time ago that companies should transfer their research and development to the regions? As exhortation has manifestly failed, will the Chancellor now introduce a financial incentive for that purpose? Such activity and employment would be valuable to the Northern region.

Mr. Rees

I would be the last to underestimate the importance of research and development. The Government would not resort to the tactics employed by the Labour Government. With regard to fiscal measures, the hon. Gentleman must await the Chancellor's Budget.

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