§ Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield, East)
I beg to move,That this House deplores the ineffectiveness of Her Majesty's Government's policies and its failure to produce positive plans which tackle Britain's economic problems as a whole, which have resulted in dire consequences for the economic and social life of the people of Yorkshire and Humberside; and furthermore condemns the Government for not introducing those alternative economic and regional strategies which would restore prosperity to the region, and allow it to resume its historic role as the dynamic centre of the British economy.I move the motion with some depth of feeling as represent a constituency in the centre of Yorkshire's industrial heartland, which has been sorely damaged by this Government's policies. The House will forgive me if I dwell on some of the problems that our region faces. Those hon. Members who have read the motion will know that I do not want to make a whingeing catalogue of the problems of unemployment and regional decline. Rather, I intend to present the House with those positive alternative strategies that could turn back the clock and make Yorkshire and Humberside the centre of our industrial dynamism once again.
As I set up my stall, as they say in Yorkshire, I should point out that my central purpose is to dwell on those national policies that would lead to a real difference in the life of the people of Yorkshire and Humberside. The British people have been hoodwinked by the Government into believing that there is only one alternative — to allow the free play of market forces. We are told that there is only one, unthinkable, alternative and that is some form of state centralised bureaucracy in the Stalinist mould which would be unproductive and enslave our people.
That is a false dichotomy and I shall attempt to show that there are alternative policies. Even if the Government cannot swallow the Socialist policies of the next Labour Government, they could, with an eye to self-preservation in our industrial society, look to Britain's competitors who most certainly do not believe in the free market economy. The Government should look to those economies of our competitors which are successful and enterprising, but planned.
My chief concern is the industrial decline in Yorkshire and Humberside. In recounting the region's problems, I hope to suggest some measures that may alleviate them and to consider the planning perspective. I shall also set the problems in both a national and regional context. I also hope that the many Yorkshire Members of Parliament in the Chamber will contribute their expertise, which is no doubt much greater than mine. Statistics show that Britain has always placed much too much reliance on multinational and transnational companies, and has neglected—unlike many of our competitors—to develop domestic industries.
Often, multinationals prevent us from protecting our workers. Hon. Members may think that I am making a parochial point and that I speak only from my experience of Yorkshire, but I recall the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Irving) making an impassioned plea in this Chamber about Linotype-Paul, a subsidiary of the United States Allied Corporation. That company has announced the closure of two factories in Cheltenham which made 473 computerised typesetting equipment and other high technology products. In many ways, Linotype-Paul, in the south of Britain, was the Government's dream company. It was non-unionised, the workers accepted low pay settlements and were highly skilled, and the company was efficient and profitable. It had a backlog of orders amounting to £13 million, new orders to the value of £800,000 per week, and profits for 1983 were expected to be £1.7 million. Much good that did the company. That multinational corporation changed its mind about the location, looked at its computer forecast and decided to move the enterprise to West Germany. The European group of the Labour party is calling for an investigation to discover what inducements the West German Government offered.
I give that example to show that the problem affects not only Yorkshire and Humberside, but many of our regions, because we are unable to control multinational and transnational companies. The Government pretend that our industry is gloriously free to compete on equal terms in the open markets of the world. However, British industry has been launched on a ludicrous obstacle course, worthy of "It's a Knock-out". At the same time, our comptetitors' industries glide and sprint along on a course that is smoothed by the support, inducements, and encouragement of their Governments. I believe that it is the Government's duty to support and protect our industries and to aid those industries that we need to develop.
Only this week, following a question that I tabled on the robotics industry, I received a letter from a robotics firm in Preston, which took up my point about the lack of aid given by the Government to the new technological industries, particularly in the northern region. The chairman of that privately owned and financed family business informed me that his firm had invested in excess of £1 million in its new venture into the robotics industry, without even a penny piece of aid from the British Government.
Hon. Members should contrast that with the state of affairs in, for example, Japan. I shall cite Japan as an example several times. The Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry has invested £100 million in the emergent fibre-optics industry. We know that we have the lead in that industry, but for how long if Japan can invest vast sums in new technology? Japan's public telecommunications organisation, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, has pumped enormous sums into research and development projects within its group of electronic concerns.
I represent a west Yorkshire constituency and I make no apology for concentrating some of my attention on the plight of the textiles industry. In the 16th century, William Camden described it as one of the "pillars of the state". As we know, British industrial society had its first roots in the wool and cloth trade. Government spokesmen often refer to the clothing and textile industry as though it was yesterday's industry with no future today. Recently, I was with the firm Coats Patons, which has a subsidiary in Guiseley, in Yorkshire. That firm is at the forefront of modern technological and innovative industry. It is developing spun carbon fibres and materials beyond the dreams of any other country.
474 When I spoke to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in San Francisco in October, I learnt about the advantages that we had. It was pointed out to me that the company was the leading company in spun carbon fibres. It has invested million of pounds in new technology. But does that company receive the help and encouragement from this Government that it would receive if it were in Japan or West Germany? It does not. The Government have not shown any interest in the spun carbon fibre industry and Departments have not given that industry the necessary orders—whether it be protective clothing for the Ministry of Defence or for the police and fire brigades. When we have a good idea, money up front and the new technology, the Government seem almost unable to push the product on and give it a healthy market.
The textile industry can and will modernise if given the opportunity. George Trevelyan, a historian who is coming back into favour after being unfashionable, wrote in his "English Social History":The cloth trade, destined to make the wealth and remould the society of England, was already in the reign of Edward III fast encroaching on the mediaeval marketing of our raw material woll overseas"—I hope that I shall not bore the Minister by stressing the following—and the State was already making intermittent attempts to unite the interests of the mutually jealous mediaeval towns in a common policy of protection and control for the good trade of the nation.We can learn much from the aspirations and actions of the Government under Edward III.
Many of us think that the Prime Minister is intent upon dragging us back to the Victorian era, which she so admires, and to the time of "Dombey and Son". Perhaps she would be better advised to learn the lessons of earlier centuries, when it was at least recognised that British production in trade should be encouraged rather than hampered.
The latest quarterly review of the Wool Bureau of Statistics reveals the extent to which finished textile goods have been pouring into Britain under this Government. West Germany marketed £8 million worth of suits in Britain between January and September 1982 and 671,000 sq m of fabric, compared with 553,000 sq m during the same period in 1981. Meanwhile, in west Yorkshire 7,065 redundancies were announced in the clothing industry between the beginning of 1980 and the end of 1982, and 16,785 redundancies were announced in the wool textile industry. For the wool textile industry, that is not just a blow but will have a steamrolling effect on the whole future of our industry.
In 1980, the Werner report on the woollen and worsted sector of the textile and garment making industries was submitted to the Department of Industry, but so far there has been little positive reaction to the report's recommendations. The United Kingdom textile and clothing industry has been left to fend for itself. Any other Government who set up a thorough-going inquiry that made recommendations would at least be seen to do something on the basis of those recommendations that was a little more dramatic than the response of the present Government.
The Government's aid schemes come in for criticism from all the manufacturers whom I meet in Yorkshire. They say that the schemes do not appear to provide direct support and encouragement for investment in the productive processes in the textile and clothing industry. 475 The wool, textile and clothing industry action committee concludes that the schemes are failing to meet the needs of industry for several reasons. They are too complex.
If one talks to industrialists and textile manufacturers who have applied for one of the schemes and have to deal with five separate Departments, one sees what a hard working chap has to do who does not have ICI levels of staff, managers and accountants, but who is working close to the margin. He does not have time to deal with five Departments of State to get help. The tendency is for the Government to give grants for short-term consultancy work. That is not enough. It does not work. That is the view not of a committed Labour supporter but of manufacturers who for generations have supported the Conservative party. As we come nearer to the general election we see that the CBI is changing its tune and saying that an economic recovery is coming. It is not, but an election that is coming. The CBI has not changed its tune for three and a half years until now.
It is often said that the textile industry must modernise itself or die. I have talked a little about the real talent in the industry. I shall not whinge about unemployment. There is real talent in the industry in our area and potential for growth and renewal. When our industries are urged to improve their plant and work force, how should they do it? I shall take a classic example of what we are doing wrong.
I shall consider something in which you will be interested, Mr. Deputy Speaker, which is the education process for textiles and clothing. I recently met a delegation, made up of a mixture of trade unionists and business men, that had been to Japan. It was impressed by the way in which the Japanese were pouring money into higher education. In this country all the unions in the teaching profession, backed by the vice-chancellors and principals—everyone from top to bottom—are coming here to lobby Parliament next week and are saying that the Government's policy is suicidal. Some 60,000 children who could have gone on to higher education will not do so this year because of the Government's policy.
The infrastructure of textile education is being destroyed. It will never be recreated. Once the education process for the infrastructure of every level from top management to the bottom, which is vital in the productive task, is gone, it will never be recreated. It is essential that we keep it. There is only just time to keep it.
Two working parties of the United Kingdom national sub-committee of the professional and education affairs committee of the Textile Institute produced a report. It is important that we draw a lesson from what is happening. The report emphasises that the design and production of high quality diversified textiles necessitates highly specified training and education. The skills necessary to the textile industry are not found in other groups of workers.
Therefore, when the textile industry has gone, lads, it has gone. One does not pull in a few engineers, chemical workers or someone from the employment exchange and say to them that they will learn about textiles in the next few weeks, because that cannot be done. The skills and training in Yorkshire have been handed down from generation to generation. If one snaps that thread of experience, it can never be repaired.
The institute says that whether the workers are technologists, technicians, scientists, artists, managers or sales personnel, they are highly specific to the industry. 476 It maintains that there is a pool of expertise among the older work force in the industry that will disappear entirely if textile education and training is not maintained and increased. It is estimated that one needs at least 100 textile technologists a year and an equal number of textile technicians if the industry is to be maintained.
What do we get from the Government? In the university sector the loss of undergraduate courses at Bradford from 1982 resulted in a 20 per cent. reduction in student numbers. Elsewhere cuts cannot be sustained without destroying departments. Technician education is now almost non-existent in several of the major textile-producing regions. In Lancashire and Yorkshire and in places such as Dewsbury and Huddersfield in every technical college there used to be good departments training technicians and people for the textile industry. They have nearly all gone. They have centred into a tiny handful of departments. It is not enough. That does not make up the infrastructure that we desperately need for growth and renewal.
There are only two textile technology departments left in the university world. There used to be four professors of textile technology. Now there are two. The ones that are left are at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology and Leeds. The two universities that have contracted are Strathclyde and Bradford. At UMIST the number of academic staff in textiles has been cut from 20 to 11. At Leeds there will be cuts of 15 per cent.
Let us compare that with our competitors. Let us compare the disaster of textile education with what is happening in France, where there is a para-fiscal levy maintaining education arid research. In Germany federal and provincial Governments provide strong support to the research institutes, linked to the universities. In the United States the state Governments pour in money to support the textile industry. In many departments in Japan, Russia and China thousands of students receive education and training in specialised technical colleges. Professor Hearle, who is the head of the department of textiles at UMIST, says that £300,000 a year would not only save the industry but contribute towards growth. If one told that to the Americans and the Japanese, they would laugh. Only £300,000 is needed to save the infrastructure on which the industry is built and can be renewed.
When I hear the Government theorise about the need for young people to seek adequate and appropriate education and training if they wish to be worthy of employment, I feel a wave of cynicism coming over me, although I am not normally a cynical person. If our industries are to survive, develop and fit themselves to the 20th century, school leavers must have proper education and training. However, university and college places are being contracted and courses are being scrapped. Apprenticeships have been halved in Yorkshire in the past two or three years. It is a lucky lad in Yorkshire who gets an apprenticeship these days. He was quite lucky before, but he is damned lucky now. On the other hand this Government offer cosmetic training courses for young people which have no positive element and which serve only to remove young people from the unemployment statistics for a convenient period. This is the irony. Only £300,000 is needed for the industry compared with all the money that the Government are spending on the new training initiative.
I shall not whinge on this problem, but I wish to trace how bad the situation is. I am well aware that other regions 477 are badly off, but I represent Yorkshire. I want to drive it home that it is in a worse position than many people imagine. It was the cradle of our industrial revolution and has all the potential to be the centre for rebirth. If Yorkshire and Humberside fail, this country does not have an economic and industrial future.
I want to study a few pointers. The region is in economic decline. I do not say that cheerfully, and I know that the Minister will say that I have done a bad job in selling my region. I do not intend to. We must face the future and plan an alternative strategy on the facts and not what we should like to believe or PR. The economic wellbeing of our region is based traditionally, apart from mining, upon the manufacturing industries—clothing, textiles, steel, engineering and, in Humberside, fishing. Manufacturing industry nationally now counts for a quarter of the gross national product only.
We are the manufacturing heart of the nation and we are particularly hard hit by the depression. Manufacturing output fell to its lowest level for 16 years in November 1982 when it was 20 per cent. below what it was in May 1979. Textile and clothing output is 30 per cent. below its 1979 level, and engineering output is now at its lowest level for a decade. In Yorkshire and Humberside 173,000 jobs in manufacturing have been lost in the main industries since 1975. That is a colossal loss.
It would be less serious if, at the same time, new industries were coming in. There is less sign of new industries in Yorkshire and Humberside than in any other part of the country. It has the lowest proportion of employment in electronics. I do not want to moan again, but let us see what help this part of the country, which desperately needs it, received. In the period 1972–81, Yorkshire and Humberside received £125 per head in regional assistance. The average for Great Britain was over £365—three times as high.. The region has 16 per cent. of the country's unemployed in assisted areas but receives 7 per cent. only of the regional assistance payments. Similarly, the EC regional development fund assistance amounted to £16.50 per capita for the region during that period, while the average for Great Britain was over £40.
If one considers the income for the region, one finds that a man in full-time employment in Yorkshire and Humberside receives 95 per cent. only of the national average wage, while a woman receives 92 per cent. Household income in Yorkshire and Humberside is low. It is not something about which I wish to brag. In 1980–81 it was 14 per cent. below the national average and 26 per cent. below the average for the south-east. Northern Ireland only was lower. In 1982 the average weekly earnings of a man in west Yorkshire were the lowest of all metropolitan counties. In addition, the region's unemployment rate was 14.6 per cent. compared with 10.4 per cent. in the south-east—in October 1982—the last month for which we have credible figures before the Government fiddled them.
For every vacancy in west Yorkshire notified to employment offices 37 men and women were waiting for the job. That contrasts with a national average of 27. In Kirklees, 67 of my constituents and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. Woolmer) were waiting for every job.
478 Few young people in Yorkshire and Humberside have any prospect of finding a job and it is impossible for them to find the right job for their talents. It is a frighteningly bleak prospect. We all talk about youth unemployment here, but those who make my heart sink when they come to see me at my advice surgery are the men who have written themselves off at the age of 52. They say, "I am too old; I am over 50." It is a disgrace to any civilised society.
The results of the latest family expenditure survey show that households where the head of the family is out of work receive 55 per cent. only of the income of a family whose bread winner is working. Hard-hearted Victorian-style men on the Conservative Benches may say that that is how it should be. Households, the head of which is unemployed, tend to have more children than those where the head of the family is working. Such families spend 30 per cent. less on household goods, 20 per cent. less on food, 50 per cent. less on transport and 43 per cent. less on clothing. Even the meanest intellect must realise that people suffering such personal hardship and grinding poverty do not need the Conservative party Think Tank saying, "Let us go back to the Victorian era." We are already there.
§ Dr. Keith Hampson (Ripon)
I want to point out to the hon. Gentleman and others who are dependent upon the county councils association document on statistics that the problem is that electronics form such a small percentage of manufacturing in the region. It is not the total amount but the percentage that matters. The region is still massively dependent on the staple heavy industries—coal, steel and textiles—and this has an effect on family income statistics. Does not the hon. Gentleman feel that the heart of our problem in a competitive world is that the same goods are produced more efficiently elsewhere?
§ Mr. Sheerman
I wish the hon. Gentleman well in his selection conference today or tomorrow. I believe that what he has said is nitpicking when we see the scale of the problem. However, I realise that the problem is far greater than the hon. Gentleman would recognise. We do not have the investment in new technology. The Government must intervene to produce it.
I want to take advantage of my luck in the ballot to see what the Government have done and then put forward an alternative. The purpose in having the debate was to look at possible solutions to our problem. It will be no surprise to anyone to hear that I believe that prosperity in our economy can be achieved only if it is planned, with planned investment and sensible controls of imports, coupled with genuine industrial democracy and growth of regional confidence, competence and cohesion. Looking at the economy as a whole, it is apparent that manufacturing trade has been affected severely by the level of sterling. Despite the recent welcome fall, the effective exchange rate, even taking account of inflation, is disastrous compared with only two or three years ago. It puts Great Britain at a trading disadvantage relative to her competitors.
The other day I read what the then Leader of the Opposition, now the Prime Minister, said in July 1978 about the economy. She was looking back nostalgically to the days of earlier Conservative Administrations, and recalled that growth was on average 3 per cent., inflation was on average 4 per cent. and unemployment was on 479 average 2 per cent. In contrast, the Labour party had only achieved a reduction in growth, a fall in manufacturing output, a fall in the standard of living, a fall in national income and a rapid increase in unemployment. She wondered how many people would like to return to the levels achieved by the previous Conservative Administration. There are many members of the British public who would like to return to those levels but they will not be achieved by the Government, who were elected on a false prospectus in 1979. In the first two years of the right hon. Lady's Administration she achieved a fall in industrial output of 17 per cent., a fall in gross investment in manufacturing industry of 33 per cent. and a rise in unemployment of about 2 million. National income fell by over 4 per cent. in real terms. That was the price that we paid for a fall in inflation of 1½ per cent. What a pyrrhic victory that was! It is ironic that a Government who were elected to cut public expenditure have increased that expenditure to a higher level than that which was reached in 1978–79, the last year of the Labour Government. The British people should remember that public expenditure has increased to meet the demands of the two Ds—the dole and defence. The wrong defence policy and the wrong economic strategy are taking the wealth of our oil. The right hon. Lady's Administration is the luckiest in the history of Britain because of the massive oil revenue. It is almost like taking a large oil pipeline direct from the North Sea to the dole queue. That is where our oil revenue has gone. We would be in a different position if it had gone into industry and the Government had planned for growth.
I am not very fond of Japan but I recognise it for what it is. When we peevishly demand the revitalisation of British industry and a reduction in unemployment we often hear the Government quote Japan. It is the paradigm which the Government most like to hold before our eyes. On so many occasions we have heard the Prime Minister allude to the success of another highly populated island that lacks raw materials. The right hon. Lady likes to point to Japan. Folklore tells us that Japan is the quintessential market economy. We are told that Japanese workers are desperate to get on their bikes and to pull themselves up with their bootstraps while standing on their own feet when we know that they are only 5 ft high. What is the true picture? It is true that Japan thrives, but have successive Japanese Governments really had a policy of leaving industry to its own devices? Of course they have not.
During the debate on the impact of unemployment in the regions in January some interesting facts emerged concerning the economies of Japan and West Germany. These were startling facts. Apparently Japan is making available £20 billion a year in the form of low interest loans to high technology small business. Our Government are making £150 million available. I regard that as peanuts. West Germany is making available £1,400 million on a fixed interest rate of 9 per cent. Our measly £150 million is provided at the current rate of interest.
The Government repeatedly state their commitment to the introduction of modern industry to replace traditional industries but their policies ensure that emergent industries have little chance to compete with their carefully cosseted competitors in planned economies.
How has Japan set about securing its economic recovery? Recent books on the success of the Japanese economy are available in the Library. There is a flood of these books. They set out the effects of a planned industrial 480 economy when implemented by a Government who believe in central planning, import controls, tariffs, the direction of industry and strong regional policies. They believe in an economic policy that would make Milton Friedman's hair curl, if he had any.
Japan has been successful because it has protected its industry. In 1953 the Japanese were trying to get their car industry on its feet. In that year their controls permitted the import of 5,900 cars. They found that that was too large a quota and in 1954 they allowed only 370 cars to be imported into Japan.
§ Mr. John Townend (Bridlington)
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the performance of the Japanese motor industry contrasts greatly with that of our industry? Surely it is significant that there have been no strikes in the Japanese motor industry for years. When that is contrasted with the actions of the irresponsible elements in the British motor industry, especially the vandalism at Fords at Halewood, a significant factor emerges.
§ Mr. Sheerman
We continue to hear these old clichés. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the Ryder report. Lord Ryder can hardly be described as a Labour activist. The Ryder report, in common with every other report on what happened to British Leyland and to the British car industry generally, did not conclude that only the trade unions were to blame. So many Conservative Members take the approach of The Sun and the Daily Star and always blame the poor workers. The Ryder report drew attention to bad management decisions and, very often, a lack of Government planning for the motor industry.
The motor industry faced a period of intense competition at a time when it should have been reorganised. The Government should have taken a far more positive approach even before the Labour Government were elected in 1964. The damage had been done before that Administration were formed.
§ Mr. Harold Walker (Doncaster)
I visited parts of the Japanese motor car industry about 15 months ago. I learnt that every Japanese car manufacturer and car plant had a trade union closed shop and that in every one of them the workers had the guarantee of a job for life.
§ Mr. Sheerman
My right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) has answered the question of the hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend).
§ Mr. K. J. Woolmer (Batley and Morley)
Perhaps my hon. Friend should allow the hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) to intervene once more.
§ Mr. Sheerman
No. The hon. Gentleman has had his bite. Japanese industry is an example of sophisticated industrial planning and planning for growth. The Japanese Government provide loans, they control the banking system and they control licensing. During the 1960s they imposed strict control over patenting licences and firms were guaranteed a monopoly for four years. That meant that they had the self-confidence to plan for four years before they faced competition. After that period they knew that competition would come into the area.
The policies of the Japanese Government would be anathema to the present British Government. It was not until the late 1960s that Japanese cars really came into their own in terms of creating export markets. Very often good government is about long-term planning and 481 forecasting and working in accordance with that approach. In addition to the protection afforded to Japanese industry through its Government's trade policy, it has received support through state subsidies and state guidance. State subsidies have established and supported the development of research into new technology for Japanese industry. Research programmes are heavily subsidised. Japanese industrial development is planned to encourage the development of industries in which high sales can be confidently predicted and in which expenditure on imported raw materials represents only a small sum in relation to the value of the finished product. Value added products have been the planned aim of growth for a long time.
Japanese thinking is not inscrutable, it is crystal clear. First, build up the home market for the new product, providing protection from foreign competition at the developing stage; subsidise research and development, and allow finance for investment on favourable terms; set up the machinery to enable the state to direct and encourage new industries and see that they develop along efficient lines that do not necessitate heavy reliance on imported raw materials or parts.
Only a fool would denigrate Japanese economic success, but only a fool would maintain that the Japanese achievement was based on monetarist theory and some myth about the free working of the market economy. We may resent the effects of Japanese industrial protectionist policies, but we cannot deny their efficacy. Much of our resentment is probably a reflection of our frustration at having to compete with such an economy, with such planning, while we suffer the restraints imposed by outdated and discredited economic dogma.
It must be clear now that this Government have been positing a false dichotomy. We are invited to choose between a free market system in which everything is up for grabs, the weakest are swept aside, and lust for personal short-term profit is the keynote and profit the only discernible rubric, and its supposed alternative—a Stalinist state with crippling bureacracy that crushes individual initiative and treats its workers as powerless pawns. This is such a crude portrayal of the argument that I wonder that even the Conservative party has had the nerve to peddle it for so long. The tragedy is that some hon. Members such as the hon. Member for Bridlington actually believe it. We see about us countries with western-style democracies, with systems of growth and achieving success in planning and with no adherence to out-dated dogma.
I am not advocating that we should slavishly follow the dictates of Japanese experience, because every country has its own individual experience and history. If we are to bring life back to our economy, and life back to the industrial regions of Yorkshire and Humberside, we shall have to take the experience of Japan and the United States and other successful industrial free democratic countries, transplant them to our country and achieve some synthesis between British experience and potential and the lessons that we can learn from abroad.
I have gone into some detail, but I finish with my region. I know well that in Yorkshire and Humberside a great deal of effort will be needed, but it is there. The potential is ready and waiting to be tapped. It is ready and waiting for a Government to give a lead. We need a 482 Government able to capture the imagination of industrialists and workers and of the people living in the region. That will be the key to unlocking the talents of our people, learning from experience and bringing a planned process of growth for all our people that will result in prosperity, in a future, and in the good will of all men and women in Yorkshire and Humberside. An incoming Labour Government would do just that.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)
Order. Before I call the next speaker I point out that no fewer than 21 right hon. and hon. Members have shown their wish to take part in this very important debate. Patently, it will not be possible to call them all unless contributions this morning and this afternoon are relatively brief.
§ Sir Paul Bryan (Howden)
The hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) has given us a long and entertaining speech and, apart from intermittent political flights of fancy it was a constructive speech. I started my working life in a worsted mill in Kings Cross, Halifax, and spent most of the rest of it making clothing in Hebden Bridge, so I am familiar with the area about which the hon. Gentleman has been speaking. I have sympathy with much of what he said.
The hon. Gentleman's speech was in striking and pleasant contrast to that which we heard the other night from the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason). If I had been a director of Nissan wondering whether I should go to Humberside, I would, after reading the speech of the right hon. Member for Barnsley, decide that the answer must be, "Not to such a depressing place as that." The truth is that although we are afflicted with unemployment, especially in Hull and south Humberside, as the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) will no doubt tell us if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, it is a thoroughly sound area in which to set up business. There are wonderful communications, with the M62 and the Humber bridge, a fine labour force and an under-employed steel industry. I can hardly think of a better place for a motor car plant. I hope that these considerations will come into play.
It is as well to point out that although none of Yorkshire is booming, there are areas that are still standing up to the recession very well, areas in a more favourable position to do so than the big cities.
My constituency of Howden stretches from the outskirts of Scarborough 50 miles or so down to Boothferry bridge and is obviously largely agricultural. However, we have some significant industry there. That industry is modern, not something inherited from the last century, so it starts with an advantage.
We have a resilient attitude among the firms there. A managing director told me the other day, "When we were hit by the recession three years ago we used the slack period to invest and to build up production ready for the time when the upturn came. The upturn never came, but because we had improved our productivity we are now finding new markets."
One firm in my constituency, in Driffield — Dewhirsts—is the finest clothing firm in England and perhaps in the world. There are not many firms in this 483 country that have doubled their labour force in the past 10 years. I should not think there is one in the textile industry that has done so, but Dewhirsts is now employing about 2,500, so it is on a considerable scale and is still expanding.
§ Mr. Richard Wainwright (Colne Valley)
Nobody would contest what the hon. Gentleman so correctly said about the progressive firm of Dewhirsts, but I am sure that he will be aware, and will want the House to know, that in a written answer on 1 March this year, Driffield was listed as having had a percentage increase in unemployment of 210.7 per cent. from May 1979 to October 1982.
§ Sir Paul Bryan
I am well aware of the unemployment situation in my constituency, but Dewhirsts in Driffield is short of labour, oddly enough.
The recipe for its success has been the natural one of good industrial relations, modern machinery and alive management. It is constantly doing things which in normal industrial practice would be impossible. For instance, I was in Hong Kong last year and I saw shirts for sale there that were made by Dewhirsts. I doubt whether many textile firms are exporting to Hong Kong. It had always been a firm in the light end of the clothing industry making shirts and pyjamas. Now, it is turning to tailoring suits. Anybody in the clothing industry will know that this is unusual. One is either in one end of the industry or the other, but in the past five years it has built up to a production figure of 9,000 jackets a week. It is an extremely go-ahead firm now employing 650 in Peterlee, in Redcar 350, in Sunderland 500—all areas that need employment. They are getting it from this firm. In Hull, where the firm set up only about five years ago, it already employs 260 and the firm is expanding there. That is a healthy story.
At the other end of my constituency and in a very different trade, there is Derwent Plastics, which makes plastic mouldings for the car industry, construction and so on. It has been hit by recession. Two years ago, it employed 770 people but that fell to 550. During that period, as a result of modernised machinery and methods, productivity has increased by 75 per cent. The work force has now been increased to 600 and is slowly expanding. The company is opening new markets in Europe—in Germany—and supplying parts for the Sierra and the Maestro. It is steadily going ahead in these difficult times. One piece of good news from the firm was that, in its view, the construction industry, a big customer, is beginning to show signs of expansion.
I have half of the Selby coalfield in my constituency. Five of the service shafts are in the villages there. There is a good picture there. In the end, we shall have 4,000 people employed in the coalfield. That will bring a lot of attendant expansion in other industries which depend on the coal industry. The problems with such expansion are not only industrial but social. The social problems that people feared are proving to be, I will not say non-existent, but very much less severe than might have been expected. The miners who have arrived in Selby have settled down extremely well in the community. A great many of them are buying their houses, far more than the National Coal Board expected. That is extremely healthy. I can see the miners settling in the various attractive villages where the shafts emerge.
We shall see a good social set-up as the field develops. I hope that one of the other things that the advent of the 484 mine will bring is a replacement for the Selby toll bridge, which has been a festering sore on the traffice scene in that part of Yorkshire for 150 years. The idea of that antediluvian bridge as the gateway to the most modern coalfield in the world is an anachronism. We need a new bridge and bypass.
From the figures that were published on agriculture last week, the House will expect to hear a report of unalloyed prosperity. If one motors over the wolds and down to Howden one sees many fine farms. Those growing corn and potatoes, livestock farmers and general farmers have had a good year. But, of course, there are snags. Several specialist areas are doing extremely badly. I single out pigs and horticulture. Anyone familiar with agriculture will know that there are cycles in pig farming. While I have been the Member of Parliament for Howden we have had half a dozen such cycles as gluts have occurred and people have gone out of business. In the end the industry recovers.
In the east riding of Yorkshire we have more pigs and more pig producers than in any other area of England. Many of them are specialist pig producers on a large scale. The present "down" in the industry is not simply the result of the glut. It has another cause. This time it is mainly due to the fact that corn is subsidised. While that is much to the advantage of the corn growers, it has increased the price of pig food to a point at which it is impossible, at the moment, to make a profit. What can be done about it? I cannot tell my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food exactly what he should now do: no one knows what should be done. But unless something is done, efficient people will go out of business. One fault that can be found in the pig industry is marketing. It has never been good and we are all waking up to the fact that, had it been more efficient, and had we tackled this point earlier, we would probably be exporting to Europe on a larger scale. That area needs attention.
Last year was the worst year for horticulture for a long time. Costs have continued to increase. Last year, tomato producers produced about the same volume but received about 10 per cent. less for their crop. Losses were made on a considerable scale. Prospects for horticulture still remain poor. Morale is not good because horticulturists can see the coming of Mediterranean countries into the EC and fear the subsequent competition.
§ Mr. Thomas Torney (Bradford, South)
Will the hon. Gentleman agree that the Government give considerable financial support to agriculture both in Britain and, unfortunately, through the Common Market, to France? I do not disagree with support for British agriculture, but will the hon. Gentleman agree that if the Government gave similar support to the west Yorkshire wool and textile industry which suffers and has suffered greatly, the industry would not be in such dire need?
§ Sir Paul Bryan
Such help would be welcome to the textile industry of west Yorkshire but the queue for such help would extend well beyond the textile industry. Many other industries also want such help.
In general, the outlook for the towns and large villages of the east riding is good. It is an agreeable area and reasonably prosperous. One finds towns such as Pocklington, Howden and Driffield and large villages such as Holme on Spaldingmoor are enlarging, and populations are increasing healthily. To a certain extent that has been 485 aided by the advent of the M62 which has given new communications to the area. The villages on the other hand are not in such a healthy position. They suffer from a loss of amenities, as villages all over the country have suffered. The schools tend to close down as the school population diminishes. That cannot be helped. Some losses of amenities are self-inflicted. For instance, the policy in the east riding now is to do away with the village policeman. That is a tragic development. The presence of the village policeman gives a general sense of security which the village cannot get in any other way. Explanations such as redeployment mean nothing to me when compared with the human and security factors for people in the villages.
Another loss which is taking place too quickly is that of the village shop and the village post office. Each time one of these closes it is regarded as almost inevitable that it will not be replaced. A real effort should be made to prevent this happening. I hope that the county council will carry out a viability study with the express intention of preserving these shops.
One other self-inflicted loss at Driffield would be the closing of the jobcentre. This would be a serious blow to the area. It is being considered and a decision is expected in the spring. I ask the Minister to use his influence with the Manpower Services Commission. Such a closure would put people in Driffield and the villages at a great disadvantage when seeking jobs because they would have to go to Beverley or Bridlington. I leave that problem with the Minister's mind, with the hope that he will do something about it.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central)
It is not my intention to detain the House at great length today because I know that many of my colleagues wish to speak about their regions. I have the advantage of knowing that a major contribution will be made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), who will speak from the Opposition Front Bench. I am sure that he will follow many of my points and fit them into the whole canvas of the picture in Yorkshire and Humberside. I shall, therefore, restrict my observations to the specific problems of Hull.
The House may be weary of hearing the facts and figures of the rundown in the fishing industry, but I make no apology for raising the issue once again. I refer the House to answers in yesterday's Hansard, which gave the startling figures of the rundown in that industry. They show the failure of Governments to look carefully and properly at the problems of a rundown that was sparked off by straight political factors. It had nothing to do with new technology, a lack of people prepared to work or even with a lack of employers prepared to invest. The rundown was due to two factors—first, the extension of the 200-mile limit, originally by Iceland and then by other countries such as Russia, Greenland, Faroes, Canada and the United States, and secondly, the effect of our joining the European Community.
Ten years ago, I tried to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 because Britain was entering into an agreement that made no provision for the fishing fleets, whether inshore, middle or distant water. Mr. Speaker, in his wisdom refused to grant me an emergency debate. I have gained some solace because I 486 have spoken about the subject every three months during the past 10 years, but that has been no consolation to those who have lost their jobs in the industry not only on Humberside, but in other parts of the United Kingdom.
Whether or not we like the agreement that has been reached—on on balance I do not like it—it is incumbent on the Government to press ahead quickly with the restructuring of the industry. They must pay special attention to such areas as Humberside, which has lost a great many jobs. It would be foolish to deny that parts of the fishing industry are doing reasonably well. Fishermen are rather like farmers—if they are doing reasonably well, the majority of us think that they are in clover. They are, perhaps, reluctant to admit how well they are doing. The inshore and some of the middle-water fishermen are doing reasonably well, but the deep-water vessels—those we have left, which are based mainly on Humberside and specifically in Hull—have little future. There must be a specific and deliberate Government policy to license vessels from specific ports. That would enable the deep-water fleet to gain advantage—not only with the mackerel catches within our waters, but in the areas of third water countries where the Community has specific fishing rights. Our allocation should go to the deep-water ports so that the big boats can benefit and what little employment is left in that area can be protected.
While Hull and Grimsby welcome the good will expressed by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in his approach to the Community, and also the help that we expect to receive from the Community towards the restructuring of our fleets, the type of help envisaged will not go halfway towards meeting the needs of the fishing industry in Britain. If all that money were given to Humberside, it would still not meet the needs of the fishing fleet in that area.
There is a need for a massive Government capital injection into the fishing industry, and especially the deep-water fleet. The Government must carefully consider the potential that exists in Humberside—not only in the fishing industry but in food technology generally. They should make use of the facilities of both banks and the educational structures of the universities and colleges to ensure that a flourishing industry can be built up. It will be an enticement to the European Community, when looking at centres of European fishing excellence, to see that that is an area into which it can put Community money. We must have the full and enthusiastic support of the Government, which means that they must inject massive sums of money. Unfortunately, the necessary money and commitment is not being supplied.
I would not take it upon myself to speak for my hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell). However, I am sure that when he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he will make similar points about fishing.
During the past few years Hull city council has attempted to work closely with the Government in their urban renewal policies. It is a credit to the council that the developments that have taken place—with Government money, private money and also local authority money—have been used by the Government as examples of how inner-city development can take place. They bring people back to city centres and create light industry. Nevertheless, there have been a number of problems to which the Government should pay attention.
The Government say that they intend to help people to set up industries. From the time that people embark upon 487 an idea to the time that they eventually earn an income from it, surely there are good grounds for saying, especially in such areas as Humberside, that they should receive subsidy and help from both local authority and Government, together with help from the Manpower Services Commission, to develop their ideas. There should be a system that allows them to continue to receive social security benefits—whether supplementary or unemployment benefits—or some income while they are attempting to get their industry off the ground.
We find in Hull that people who have good ideas and want to develop them need extra finance during the first three to six months when they are getting the ideas off the ground. If they had that finance, they could get their ideas going. Unfortunately, there is a limit on the amount of money that banks will advance for this purpose. It would be one positive way for Governments to help small business men. This is one of the main pleas that Hull corporation has put to the Government in connection with its innovation centre, which is one of the first—if not the first—to be developed by a local authority in this country. People who wish to start up small businesses are prevented from doing so, not from any lack of good will or even of markets, but simply because they do not have enough money to keep going during that start-up period.
I hope, too, that the Government will reach an early decision about help for the marina project in the centre of Hull, the hotel development there, and so on. The former Secretary of State for the Environment wanted to spend some public money to attract a lot of private money. We have such a scheme in Hull in the form of the marina development, but we want an early decision as to how much money the Government will give, and a statement from the Minister about when we can expect a decision from the Department of the Environment. The marina itself is developing well. Many of the proposed berths have been booked. There is a lot of interest in it, and we need the public money that the Government are prepared to spend to get the project properly off the ground, and the boats into the marina and the development around it.
I want to say a word about the long-term unemployed. One of the great problems in Hull is that a large proportion of the people out of work are long-term unemployed, and the number is growing because the economic base of the city, although wide and varied, depends on traditional unskilled jobs—or what are called "unskilled jobs"—mainly associated with the transport industries. We never had the proper training and apprenticeships for young people over a general spread of industries to enable us to develop as we would have wished when the traditional industries were run down. If the Government are to embark on a free port policy it is important that one of those free ports should be in Hull, with its advantages in communications, modern factories, and the quick turnround of vessels. Hull would be able to take advantage of such a port by using its vacant sites and old railway land.
Whether one is talking about the progress that the local authority has made—it is great—or the work of the many local business men who have tried hard in the face of appalling difficulties to make a go of things, or the attitudes of other public services provided by universities and training colleges, and so on, one thing is clear, and that is that we are running like hell to stand still. We are not achieving anything, because all the effort is made against the background of Government policies that are 488 aimed specifically at hampering industry, reducing credit, and not giving our people an opportunity, in either public or private industry, to get jobs and develop.
The only way that we can achieve expansion in Hull and Humberside is by a change of Government and a change of attitude, with a massive injection of public capital into the public and private sectors. That will be the spark. The problems involve the construction industry, in particular, the basic replacement of our sewers and social infrastructure, the need for new schools, some of which in my constituency still have outside toilets, and slum clearance in west Hull, to which the Government have been reluctant to commit money. Public money, public will, and the collective use of our resources locally and nationally are what is needed in Hull, Humberside and Yorkshire, and we look forward to that after the next general election from the next Labour Government.
§ Mr. John Spence (Thirsk and Malton)
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan), I represent an agricultural constituency, and much of what he said about the state of agriculture applies to my constituency. Equally, in towns and villages such as Malton, Helmsley and Thirsk, there are pockets of unemployment where there is considerable hardship. Whether the numbers of people unemployed are small or large, the effect on the individual who is out of work is the same. The fact that the surroundings happen to be more beautiful does not make the event any more acceptable.
The hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman), said that he did not intend to embark on a whingeing catalogue of despair, and that he would prefer to look at positive strategies. I think that that is the most helpful approach to adopt. In his motion he says that he wishesTo call attention to ways of reversing the trends and effects of industrial decline and unemployment in Yorkshire and Humberside".I heartily reject the rest of the motion, and I shall leave it at that. I prefer to call attention to ways of reversing the trends.
One could summarise the hon. Gentleman's speech, and the end of the speech of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mrs. McNamara), by saying that they both fall into the same category of asking for more Government aid. I do not propose to deal with that proposition, although I may come to it later. I prefer to look at positive ways in which the Government, without any extra aid or public expenditure, can help to solve unemployment which, as I said, is in small pockets, usually in highly developed technological industries, where a little spur and imagination from Government could greatly help.
I want to mention, first, Kirkbymoorside, which is a country town in my constituency. For a long time—going back, I believe, to the years before the war—a person made gliders there. He was called Slingsby, and the company was called Slingsby Aviation. He achieved a reputation for expertise in gliders. Later, he went into other forms of aircraft development and design. The company has now been developed and taken over and new brain power injected into it, but its reputation still stands, and the tradition of a skilled work force in this highly skilled area continues.
489 Slingsby Aviation has a considerable reputation for aircraft manufacture. It has a world first in a fully aerobatic aircraft which can be manufactured primarily from fibre composite materials. It is called the Slingsby Firefly and I must emphasise that it is acknowledged to be a world first for Britain. We know that that aircraft meets the training needs of the Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy and the Army. The present trainer aircraft in the services is the Chipmunk. It is 25 years old and is now out of date. It is expensive to operate and has considerable landing problems and so on. The services would welcome the opportunity to replace the Chipmunk with a modern aircraft. What better opportunity can our services have than to take the Firefly and give a spur to a British first?
§ Mr. Spence
It is not asking the Government for money at all. The aircraft is competitive. One must try not to knock Britain on every occasion. This is a British first, of which we should be proud. With its fibre-optic materials it is perfectly capable of competing in the world markets. Fibre composite materials will be used in the aircraft of the future. If the services could be persuaded to replace existing training aircraft with the Firefly that is made in my constituency, it would be a major contribution to increasing job opportunities there. As the manufacturing process of the future it would create lasting jobs.
Our services have a record of excellence in training, and if, as a result of its performance and economic merit, they were persuaded to buy the aircraft, that would be a great fillip to our salesmen abroad. What better recommendation can there be than that the British Government and services are prepared to buy the aircraft in competition with others? We are not suggesting that it should be given preference; we simply want it to be examined and I am confident that it would be found to be satisfactory.
Another area in which the Government can be helpful and give a positive spur to my constituency is in town planning. We all have town planning problems and I am not suggesting that my constituency is particularly burdened by them, but we have the additional burden of the national park. I wholly accept that our own town planners must be careful in the administration of town planning laws, but sometimes they do not examine town planning matters in the light of employment strategy. At the moment, a structure plan which was constructed for north Yorkshire by the North Yorkshire county council and accepted by the Government is marginally at variance with a decision which I would exhort the Government to make in relation to an industrial site on the Malton road just outside York in my constituency at Pigeon Cote farm. If the 57 acres of land there were to be excluded from the structure plan, it would be of considerable help and would provide about 250 jobs as well as a fillip to the construction industry during the construction period.
I can assure the Minister that there is already a queue of people willing to take up a high proportion of the sites which have become available there for industry. That must surely be a spur to changing marginally the structure plan. It was never intended that structure plans should ossify the postion of 10 or 15 years ago. I always thought that the structure plan was capable of change in order to meet 490 circumstances. The circumstances most likely to cause change must be those that affect the well-being and prosperity of a community over which we are exercising planning controls and imposing planning rules.
The Ryedale district council unanimously agreed that that site should be used for industrial purposes. The district council is composed of people who are closest to knowing what constitutes the well-being of a community.
Therefore, I exhort the Minister to consider the matter seriously. It should be recognised that the district council has made the correct decision in granting planning permission here unless there are overwhelming arguments why 250 or more jobs should not be created in my constituency. It is up to the Minister to state why the district council is wrong. I do not accept that the existence of a structure plan, in which we are now calling for an alteration on the margin only, would be adequate grounds for refusing that planning permission.
North Yorkshire is growing as a tourist area. The growth of the tourist industry in the area has been remarkable over the past few years and it is still growing. My hon. Friend the Member for Howden referred to our villages, as distinct from our small towns. Young people in many of the villages in north Yorkshire are virtually dependent on the catering and hotel trade for employment. I know that the trade is seasonal and difficult, but many get employment throughout the year because the tourist season now lasts from March through to October and provides opportunities at Christmas, too. Therefore, tourism is becoming a major industry for the villages and the small towns. We should consider how the application of our town planning laws can help to encourage people to invest in further tourist attractions, to convert houses into boarding houses, to extend small hotels and so on.
I have been the Member for Thirsk and Malton for more than 10 years and during that time I have had trouble with the advertising and signposting of tourist attractions. We do not seem to be any nearer resolving that problem which has lasted for 10 years now. Neither the tourist board, the motoring organisations nor the Department of the Environment seems willing to sit down with representatives of the county council and the north Yorkshire moors national park to design and devise acceptable and effective methods of advertising the tourist attractions of a place for the consumer.
In the little village of Huby off the main road in my constituency a man embarked upon an extension to his hotel involving many thousands of pounds. He was not able to erect a directional sign and advertise his new facilities on the main A19 road. So bad was it that on advice he appealed to have his rates reduced. The rates on his property were assessed as if he had not erected the extension. It was accepted that no addition to the value of his property had been made because he was not able to advertise. That must be absurd when we are trying to increase the tourist attraction of the area. Our planning laws are far from reality. The problem has existed for 10 years at least.
I ask the Minister to use his best endeavours to persuade the Department of the Environment to get down to some positive decision-making and to design signs that are acceptable aesthetically and on efficiency and effectiveness grounds.
I have visited national parks throughout the world and I have been impressed by discreet but effective signs. We 491 need not to put much more thought into the problem, but to copy what happens elsewhere. We would be more than happy with that.
Unemployment among young people has not been mentioned in detail today. In a rural area such as the one that I represent unemployment is particularly tragic. Transport facilities and other services to help alleviate the problem are not available.
Yesterday I visited the exhibition in the Upper Waiting Hall and obtained a computer printout of the activities in my area under the Manpower Services Commission community programme. Help is being given to my constituency. Most of the activity is on the periphery, but my constituents will benefit. I spoke to Mr. Peter Beaumont, the officer in charge of the community programme in the York area. He is responsible for the programme in my constituency. He has approached the Ryedale and Hambleton district councils with a view to persuading them to become community programme agents. They have not yet agreed to that.
I can think of several jobs that could be done in the area. The old railway cutting of Malton could be dealt with. The station and its forecourt could be cleaned and made attractive. In each town there are opportunities for the community programme. I hope that the Minister will ask both councils to become community programme agents. Much work needs to be done, and if the councils applied their minds to it they could be helpful. Transport could be a problem, but problems are there to be overcome. By overcoming the transport problem other opportunities will present themselves.
In response to your exhortation not to be too long-winded, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall conclude. I hope that the Minister will apply his mind to helping my constituency in the positive ways that I have suggested.
§ Mr. Harold Walker (Doncaster)
I have not the slightest doubt that the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Spence) is genuine in his concern for young unemployed people in his area, but it is an extraordinary contradiction that Conservative Members should express anxiety about youth unemployment and yet be prepared to vote for Government policies that cause that unemployment.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak as a Back Bencher. I hope that I shall not speak for too long, but if you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, were to shout "Time" I should not mind.
I intend to speak about my constituency. That is proper in such a debate because a region is the sum of its parts and hon. Members should speak of matters that they know something about at first hand. The Minister can draw the composite picture when he replies.
The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton referred to planning applications and the hon. Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) spoke about the village bobby. But the issue that overshadows everything—the infrastructure, environment and social life—is the decline in our industry and the dire consequences of unemployment. Towards the end of 1978 about 8,500 people in the Doncaster travel-to-work-area were unemployed. Just over 5,000 of them were men and the rate was 7.8 per cent. Four years later the unemployment rate is 18 per cent. and nearly 20,000 people are unemployed, 13,000 of them men. That is a 150 per cent. increase.
492 At the time of the last general election 1,250,000 people throughout the country were unemployed. Today we can only guess at the unemployment figure because the Government refuse to publish the unemployment figures and publish only the number of claimants—a different figure. We can guess that no fewer than 3½ million people are unemployed. On 8 June 1982 I was told by the Department of Employment that the cost to public funds of 3½ million people being unemployed was not less than £20 billion a year. Too great a share of that burden is carried by the Yorkshire and Humberside region.
The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State say to the people, "You had better travel. Go and look for work. Get on your bike." For years the Department of Employment has helped people look for work through the employment transfer scheme and the job search scheme. My constituents write to me about how they have taken the Government's advice and gone to look for work elsewhere. They tell me that they are disqualified from receiving assistance from the Department if there are suitable unemployed people in the area where they are looking for work. That means that they are disqualified wherever they look.
A pamphlet on the job search scheme tells people who have got on their bikes to look for work how to claim assistance. The pamphlet saysYou can get a free return fare to an interview for a job provided that:and seven conditions are listed. Catch 22 is the seventh condition which states:There are no reasonable propects of suitable employment in your home area, and no local unemployed people suitable for the job for which you have an interview.Recently a constituent of mine was sent for an interview to a small town just outside Harrogate. He was in receipt of only £20-odd a week in supplementary benefit, being a single man. He discovered that the return fare to Harrogate was £6-odd. He was quite unable to pay that, but he was told that he could not be helped under the scheme. It seems that the Secretary of Stale either is ignorant of the way in which his Department is administering its scheme or is saying one thing to the House and practising another.
My constituency seems at first sight to have everything going for it. It is a lovely town. It has a beautiful environment. There are first-rate shopping facilities. It has the finest rail communications between any provincial town and London, and it is at the centre of the motorway network. Under this Government's policies, instead of flourishing and prospering, we have suffered factory closure after factory closure and redundancy upon redundancy. Famous-name firms have disappeared, such as Ransomes, Burtons, and so on. ICI is facing severe cuts in employment. A very heavy share of the responsibility for that rests with the Government. Firms are on short time and others have suffered redundancies because of cheap imports from the EC and elsewhere.
Some of my hon. Friends have joined me in protesting to Ministers and drawing the facts to their attention, only to be met with complete indifference. There is a wall of silence. It is a dialogue of the deaf to attempt to talk to Ministers about these problems. We have made representations about the way that industry on the mainland continent of Europe is subsidised with cheap energy and cheap transport. Our pleas fall on deaf ears. These are the aids that give our competitors the marginal 493 advantage that is driving our firms to the wall. We have only to consider what is facing the railway workshops in Doncaster.
In our debates on Yorkshire and Humberside we have referred quite properly to some of the historically important industries on which the region is still so heavily dependent. My hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) spoke of the importance of the textile industry. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) talked about fishing. The hon. Member for Howden spoke about agriculture. But the one industry that we do not mention, and which is the most important because it is the biggest and has the best potential for the future in Yorkshire and Humberside, is engineering. It is the biggest industrial employer in Yorkshire and Humberside and the one on which our hopes for the future must rest so heavily.
An important part of engineering is railway engineering. We have railway workshops not only in Doncaster but in York. They have a great reputation for producing the finest engineers in the world. The Doncaster railway workshops are a testimonial to any boy who serves an apprenticeship there. His credentials are established wherever he goes. Such people as Mr. Bentley of Bentley cars were apprentices at Doncaster railway workshops. These are the workshops that produced the famous Flying Scotsman and the Mallard, which still holds the world speed record for steam locomotives. Now, not only because of the Serpell report but because of the Government's failure to invest in the railways, the railway workshops are facing a serious threat, including my own workshops at Doncaster.
We have already suffered redundancies at "the plant", as it is known in Doncaster. New redundancies are facing us. The railway workshops and the great tradition of which they are part have contributed significantly to our economy. Some of us struggled very hard in 1965 to give the railway workshops the statutory right to manufacture anything that they could produce successfully and competitively. My workshops at Doncaster have been doing precisely that. They have taken on outside work, which they have secured by open tender against competition from elsewhere, and they have been doing it successfully. We have produced a new, revolutionary locomotive that would have an enormous export potential if only the Government were prepared to back it instead of, through the Serpell report, jeopardising the future of the railways.
§ Mr. Walker
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall conclude my remarks very shortly.
It is not Socialism or any ideological conviction that says that if only the Government would make a significant investment in major public sector projects such as the electrification of the east coast main line—investment in our railway system—that would perhaps be the most effective short-term influence on unemployment that we could have.
Very properly, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you gave me a reminder. In turn, I remind you that someone once said, "If you are in doubt about when to terminate a speech and up to that point it has been a good speech, perhaps that is 494 a good point at which to terminate it. However, if it has been a bad speech, it is a damned good time to terminate it." This may be a damned good time for me to terminate my speech, but not without repeating that in all our proper concern about the industries in our region we must recognise the crucial importance of engineering. We urge the Government to listen to our pleas about energy costs, unfair import penetration and subsidised transport costs.
§ Mr. John Townend (Bridlington)
No one will deny that in the Bridlington travel-to-work area we have a serious unemployment problem. The latest figures, published in January, showed that unemployment in Bridlington was the highest in Humberside. There were 19.6 per cent. unemployed, compared with 15.9 per cent. in Hull and 17.9 per cent. in Scunthorpe. Male unemployment was even worse. It was 25.2 per cent. in Bridlington compared with 20.3 per cent. in Hull and 20.7 per cent. in Scunthorpe. These are appalling figures, but it must be remembered that to be deducted from them is a factor that most hon. Members ignore, which is the extent of the black economy.
These facts are not reflected in our assisted area status. Although Bridlington has a higher level of unemployment than either Hull or Scunthorpe, it is only an intermediate area, whereas Hull and Scunthorpe are full development areas and, in addition, Scunthorpe has been given one of the new enterprise zones. The people of Bridlington consider this to be most unfair. It makes it practically impossible to attract new industry to the area when new industry can go a few miles down the road to Hull and get better benefits. It also tends to persuade existing industries which want to expand to move into a development area.
The Department's answer to our representations is that, in absolute numbers, unemployment in Bridlington is lower than it is in Hull and Scunthorpe. We reject that argument. The effect of one in four of the male population being unemployed in a small community can be just as devasting as one in four of the male population being unemployed in a large community.
I accept the Government's overall policy of trying to reduce the areas of the country covered by the assisted areas scheme. But while there is the unfairness that there is at present, it would benefit areas such as mine if the whole of the assisted area scheme were completely abolished, with the money saved being used to reduce the national insurance surcharge. The money saved is about the equivalent of 1 per cent. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer could be persuaded to come up with about another £500 million in his forthcoming Budget, this obnoxious tax could be abolished.
The abolition of assisted area status could be of help to the whole of Humberside. We all hope for a spin-off if we succeed in getting the Nissan development, but we all fear that we may not get it because of the additional benefits available to special development areas.
There is one form of Government assistance that we have had in Bridlington which has been effective and for which we are grateful. It is the building by English Industrial Estates of 10 advance factories.
One of the most important industries in my constituency is that of inshore fishing. It has been going through a long period of uncertainty while we have waited for the negotiation of the common fisheries policy. Now that we have that behind us, we are looking for stability. Given the 495 right atmosphere, there is a great potential for the expansion of fishing in Bridlington. We must get an adequate share of the available moneys for rebuilding as the fleet is aged and many of the boats need replacing.
Agriculture is also important. What my hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) said also applies to my constituency. The arable sector has been prosperous and efficient while the pig sector has been efficient but, unfortunately, not so prosperous. Like manufacturing and service industries, tourism is important. As a result of the nature of the area, small businesses are important and great providers of jobs. They have undoubtedly benefited from the 66 initiatives that the Government have taken.
All of those industries have had problems, as have those in other constituencies, as a result of increased costs. Because of the pressure of costs, industry and small businesses in my constituency strongly support the Government's priority of reducing inflation, which is now below five per cent. for the first time in many years. There is also considerable support for reducing Government spending and Government borrowing so that interest rates can be reduced. Now that inflation has dropped to 4.9 per cent., interest rates are historically high in real terms, and put a heavy burden on such small firms. Increased costs inevitably mean fewer jobs and fewer job opportunities.
What I have to say about rates is controversial but fact. Since the Labour party took control of Humberside county council two years ago, it has increased rates by no less than 64p in the pound—an increase of 69 per cent. That is in sharp contrast to the record of the preceding controlling Conservative group, of which I had the honour to be the leader for a few years. During the four years in which the Conservatives were in power, rates never went up by more than the rate of inflation. The county council has acted irresponsibly. As soon as the Labour party took control, it took on 400 or 500 more staff when industry was having to slim down because of the recession. As a result, it has not kept within the Government's target.
§ Mr. Townend
If the Humberside county council had kept within its target, as have many district councils, the rates would have been no less than 17.9p in the pound lower. That extra burden, which industry must pay, has resulted in job losses.
§ Mr. Stan Crowther (Rotherham)
I am sure that everyone is listening to the hon. Gentleman with great care. Will he tell the House by how much the rates have had to increase to compensate for the loss of rate support grant since the Government took over? Is it not equivalent to at least 25p in the pound?
§ Mr. Townend
No. The loss of grant in Humberside has occurred mainly because the county council has not kept to the Government's target. Comparing local authorities to private industry, the reductions that the Government suggested were small. I know that Opposition Members do not like hearing facts, but this is fact. If they talk to business men in my constituency, everything that I have said will be confirmed.
§ Mr. Townend
The cost of nationalised industries has borne heavily on industry, especially small businesses. Recently, the costs of nationalised industries have 496 increased faster than others. The first reason for that is that nationalised industries have not improved efficiency and reduced manning levels at the same speed as private industry. The second reason is that wage increases in the nationalised industries have been higher than those in the private sector and the rate of inflation. I urge the Government to continue their efforts to force nationalised industries to increase efficiency, reduce manning levels and keep wage increases at or just below the rate of inflation, as the private sector is having to do.
Because tourism and the retail trade are large employers of labour in my constituency they are much affected by wages councils. Many of those councils, by an alliance of trade union members and independent members, most of whom are academics with no experience of business, have increased——
§ Mr. Townend
I apologise to the House. My voice will be better after a glass of water.
That unholy alliance has increased wages at a rate that is much higher than inflation. Recently, two wage councils have recommended awards of no less than 8 per cent. Such awards take no account of the employers' ability to pay They are national awards and if employers cannot afford to increase wage costs above the rate of inflation, they are forced either to reduce their labour force or, in extreme cases, to shut down their businesses, whereupon everybody is out of work. By progressively reducing the starting age for adult pay, wages councils have reduced job opportunities for young unemployed people.
I know that the Government are not taking immediate action because they feel bound by their signature of the International Labour Organisation convention. My hon. Friend the Minister should be aware, however, that the problems of unemployment in my constituency are so serious that we must put Britain's interests and those of our young people before the rules of international bodies. The Government should abolish the wages councils forthwith.
§ Mr. Torney
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that wages councils were introduced many years ago because of deplorable wages and bad working conditions in some industries, notably the distributive industries? Is he aware that appointed members always had a reputation of voting with the employers? If they are now voting with the trade union side on wages councils, surely that shows what deplorable, rotten and low rates of pay there are in those industries. That is why they have voted as they have.
§ Mr. Townend
Many things that were necessary 50 years ago are not necessary now. We all agree that, 50 years ago, there was a great need for trade unions. However, many of the founders of trade unions would be appalled by present-day abuses. There can be no doubt that wage settlements which are consistently above the rate of inflation will lead inevitably to job losses. I apologise for taking up so much time—l: was being generous to the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Torney).
The hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) mentioned the fall in apprentice opportunities. That applies in particular in my constituency. One of the most important reasons for that fall is pay. In the late 1940s an apprentice started in his first year at about 15 per cent. of a skilled man's wage. Today, he gets 50 per cent. 497 of a skilled man's rate in most industries. In my constituency, many small firms, particularly in the building trade—plumbers, electricians and decorators—cannot afford the cost of an apprentice in his first year and do not take them on. I am delighted that that fact is beginning to gain widespread acceptance, even among some trade union leaders. I congratulate, in particular, Frank Chapple and the electrical trades unions, which have announced that the starting rate for pay in the electrical industry should be reduced to about £25 per week to provide an incentive towards giving more apprenticeships. If other unions adopted the same sensible attitude, there would be a considerable growth in the number of apprenticeships in the next few years.
Despite our area's problems, we are not—unlike many areas, and particularly Merseyside—always whining for Government help. In Bridlington there is a sturdy spirit of independence and a desire for self-help. Last year, I decided that that local wish to help the unemployed and to create jobs locally should be harnessed. We called together all those in the town who might be interested. They included the district council, the chamber of trade, the hotels and boarding houses association, the trade unions, the education authorities and voluntary bodies such as the Rotary club, the Round Table, the junior chamber and the Lions. As a result, we set up an unemployment liaison committee, which has already taken some very successful initiatives. It launched a competition for new small businesses called "Enterprise 1982", which was very successful. Prizes were awarded of £1,500, £300 and £200. The money was all raised voluntarily in the town.
We set up a business advisory service, which consists of professional people, bank managers and business people, who give their time voluntarily to advise people who want to set up new businesses. We circularised all the employers in the town last autumn, encouraging them to take on school leavers and drawing their attention to the help that the Government were giving through, for example, the young workers' scheme.
We have a very progressive district council, which has taken several initiatives to help to encourage employment. At present, it is actively searching for premises to convert for use by new one-man businesses. It has helped to finance the installation of gas supplies to the Carnaby industrial estate and has developed two industrial estates. It is providing loans and grants to businesses. When a business was in financial difficulty, it waived the rent. It is providing key worker housing and has been involved in the opening of a new training workshop with 29 places.
There has been great pressure on the Government to increase capital spending in the public sector to create jobs. The Government have responded, but I urge them to allocate some of that capital spending to deal with the serious problem of coastal erosion that has been facing my constituency for years. The sea is steadily washing away the Holderness coast—[Interruption]—and my constituency. I know that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) would rejoice if the whole of my constituency ended in the sea. However, there will be no solution to this problem without Government support in the form of capital expenditure.
§ Mr. Townend
No doubt the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) will have an opportunity to speak, but the more he interrupts me, the less likely he is to be called.
There are two aspects to the problem. First, good agricultural land may be lost through erosion. That is the responsibility of the district council as the coastal authority. One of its functions is to provide coast protection works. However, under present legislation it cannot receive any grant aid for coastal protection work in rural areas, because that aid is restricted to coastal protection work in urban areas. Holderness is a large, but relatively lowly populated and poorly rated, authority, and it cannot afford to deal with the problem. The Government have been circularising local authorities, urging them to increase their capital expenditure. Some Conservative Members were surprised to find that the circulars were not restricted to authorities that underspend but were also sent to Labour-controlled authorities that have overspent their current revenue allocations, and spent all their capital allocations as well as their capital receipts. It seems ridiculous that a small local coastal authority cannot receive any help to prevent land from disappearing.
I accept that there is no easy solution to the problem, which has been with us for generations. However, as the Government are increasing capital expenditure in the public sector, they might well consider a pilot scheme on the Holderness coast to test various innovative methods of preventing coastal erosion or, at least, slowing down the rate of erosion.
The second aspect of the problem is flooding. Along some parts of the Holderness coast the land immediately behind the coastline is below sea level. If the sea broke through, thousands of acres of agricultural land could be flooded. That is the responsibility not of the local authority but of the water authority, and that complicates the issue. The sea has broken through in one place and the water authority has responded by building mud banks. However, that is only a short-term measure, because they will eventually be eroded. The water authority's policy is then to build mud banks further behind.
In the past two weeks another serious problem has arisen. At Spurn Point, Spurn is owned by the Yorkshire Naturalists Trust. I have no reason to disagree with its view that Spurn is in great danger. It says:Spurn Point could be split in two almost any day … All it needs is a major storm surge with high seas for several weeks and the split could be permanent. For years the Trust has been warning that one of Britain's best-known coastal features is under serious threat from the sea. Always there have been options open to it to try to stem the tide. But at a recent meeting, the Trust admitted it had come to the end of the line. A split, possibly creating a permanent Spurn Island, is now a near certainty. It is only a question of time … Since 1973 the Trust has been reconstructing defences to try to stem the erosion.
§ Mr. Townend
This is very important, because capital expenditure is desperately needed, and could provide jobs. It is also said:But in a big storm on February 1 more than 30 ft. disappeared. With limited resources the Trust has accepted there is now little more it can do. The point could be saved but only at an incalculable cost.499 If the sea broke through, it could have an appalling effect. It could seriously harm the channel of the Humber, and if that silted up it could have very harmful consequences for the port of Hull, which is represented today by the hon. Members for Kingston upon Hull, East and for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara). The sea defences at Spurn were once the responsibility of the Government and were maintained by the Ministry of Defence. However, since its interest ceased, despite the enormous efforts made by the Yorkshire Naturalists Trust, the situation has continued to worsen. Not only is there a danger to the channel to the port of Hull, but if the river bank inside Spurn bite at Sunk Island is opened to the full fury of the sea, thousands of acres of land would be flooded.
I must bring my speech to a close. I strongly ask the Minister to take note of what I have said because it is most important for my constituency. I make it clear that we are confident about the long-term future of the Bridlington area. We have an excellent environment. We have a co-operative district council. We have a work force with virtually no industrial disputes. Despite the burden of an irresponsible county council, we can see that we shall overcome our problems in the near future. Our people are sturdy and independent. There is tremendous entrepreneurial skill in the fishing, hotel and tourist industries. If the Government continue their policy of sound money and lifting bureaucracy off the back of business, our problems will reduce progressively in the years to come.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Unless more hon. Members are ready to follow the splendid example set by the right hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker), many hon. Members with strong constituency interests will not be able to speak.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that the Chair always takes into consideration previous debates and the number of times that hon. Members have addressed the House.
§ Mr. Richard Wainwright (Colne Valley)
The hon. Member for Huddersfield, East, (Mr. Sheerman), to whom we are all indebted, has chosen a favourable moment for a debate on our region. At long last the political curse on Yorkshire and Humberside is being lifted. For some 50 years the predominance in our region of safe parliamentary seats has meant that the Yorkshire public have been taken for granted and minorities have been ignored. The county has been hopelessly split between north and south. Compared, for example, with the highly influential political force of Scotland in the House, Yorkshire has been paralysed by chronic disunity. A line drawn roughly through the middle of Leeds to the north of the Hull boundary has persistently, in election after election, separated the hitherto safe Tory seats in the dales and the moors from the hitherto safe Labour seats of industrial south and west Yorkshire, with only a few, though distinguished, exceptions. Now that a three-party 500 system is eroding the unhealthy safe seats, Yorkshire Members of Parliament of all colours have at last a common incentive to work for the region as a whole. I do not intend to be parochial in my brief speech. I seek to advance the interests of our region rather than of a political sect.
§ Mr. Wainwright
I am speaking under Mr. Deputy Speaker's injunction; otherwise I would.
I hope that the first fruit of what I believe to be a new basis for unity among Members of Parliament of north, south and west Yorkshire and Humberside will be a Yorkshire and Humberside development agency with resources that are comparable to those of the Scottish Development Agency.
I should like to take issue with the hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) on a broader issue. He claimed that the Government were responding at last to the persistent requests on both sides of the House for more capital expenditure. I sound a warning note that the Government do indeed plan capital expenditure but have so lost control of it that there is serious underspending year by year. In its new report on public expenditure, the Select Committee on the Treasury and Civil Service said:we view with deep concern the fact that a substantial part of total underspending in 1982–83 is accounted for by underspending on capital investment.A table in the report shows that, whereas plans for capital expenditure in 1982–83 totalled over £8! billion, the estimated outturn is only £7.4 billion and the actual outturn is likely to be smaller than that. I hope that the House will not for a moment confuse Government plans with actuality in capital spending.
The hon. Member for Huddersfield, East gave an eloquent panegyric on Japanese industrial structures and the way in which they have built up such a remarkably successful industrial economy. I would be the last person to doubt the wisdom of studying carefully what Japan has done and is still achieving. However, I take issue with the hon. Gentleman when he draws the conclusion that necessarily industry needs a large domestic base.
I hope that the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East is equally serious about the example of Sweden, which from a small home market has developed over many years remarkably successful worldwide export industries. The telecommunications firm of Ericsson, for example, has a home market for its telecommunications equipment of only 7 per cent. of its sales on average, but, despite that, has a leading position in telecommunications supply throughout the free world. What matters is not the size of the home market but having centres of excellence that produce good design, development and production technology. In Yorkshire and Humberside, especially with our many universities and successful polytechnics, we have those centres of excellence. We ask the Government for the resources to develop industrially what those centres of excellence produce in design and technology.
501 Peculiar characteristics in Yorkshire and Humberside need attention. It is a prime area for conserving fuel by effective and widespread heat insulation. In the Pennine area of the region there is an expression, which is probably not widely used in the House, "moorgrime". This is a peculiarly insidious form of bitterly cold drizzle that comes down from the hills and permeates almost all traditional building materials. It is because of moorgrime that so many Pennine front doors are permanently sealed. Even the letter boxes are blocked up against the intrusions of canvassers and the deliveries of political literature.
In our area insulation is of prime importance compared with some of the more climatically favoured parts of the country, yet the Government are still relatively niggardly in the resources that they provide to local government and industry for insulation to be carried out effectively.
We are also a great region of waterways. There has been some useful development in south Yorkshire recently, but a great deal more could be done with a little more imaginative help——
§ Mr. Wainwright
Sheffield city council has made an admirable proposal for the Sheffield canal basin. It proposes to make use of that tremendous Victorian resource for the benefit of south Yorkshire. There are other Yorkshire canal projects that I shall not discuss today.
My last special point is about the enterprising employee—in the old days a young foreman usually—who tries to better himself by becoming self-employed. In the past, when banking was more devolved and local bankers could make meaningful decisions, more people became self-employed in the Yorkshire industrial areas. Recently the process has been frustrated by a frightful version of Morton's fork. All hon. Members will be aware that, when someone decides to quit paid employment or is made redundant and then shows signs of becoming self-employed, the benefit office has no choice under the rules but to say that that person is no longer eligible for benefit.
My complaint is that the Government have, characteristically, thrown a sop at the problem by establishing tiny areas of experiment with an enterprise allowance. The scheme is valuable because it accepts that a person is trying to start a business, and, without regard to his business efforts, it allows him £40 a week. No questions are asked in the early months about what money may be coming from the business. The nearest place to Yorkshire where this admirable enterprise allowance is available is the Lancashire town of Bacup. It seems peculiarly mean of the Government to restrict the scheme to three small areas of Great Britain. The Government have told me that the scheme is successful, and I hope that they will develop it as soon as possible.
I should like the Manpower Services Commission to adopt a more flexible attitude to job creation for community projects. I receive continual complaints from my constituents and from people in the big Yorkshire cities that the MSC is inflexible, especially towards giving sufficient allowances for the management of projects. 502 There are, for example, admirable new community bus services springing up in west Yorkshire. I could name three if I had the time. They could provide a great deal more assistance if the MSC would come down to earth and recognise that paid management is essential if the schemes are to survive and grow. The MSC should not be so niggardly in its provision for management.
Yorkshire does not ask the Government to write a prescription for its ills. It simply asks for a fair share of national resources so that Yorkshire folk can get on with the job themselves.
§ 12.3 pm
§ Mr. Peter Hardy (Rother Valley)
I was pleased that the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) referred to the south Yorkshire navigation. I was relieved when the Labour Government, spurred on by my hon. Friends and I, approved that project. I was less pleased with the reference made by the hon. Gentleman to some Yorkshire constituencies showing signs of a break in the two-party system. He is the only hon. Member of the alliance elected to represent the region. I accept that the alliance has two Members from the region, but they were not elected. They spurned whatever opportunity may have been available to secure democratic approval for their presence here. However, it is nice to see them occasionally during our deliberations.
There are 1,300,000 people in South Yorkshire and nearly 100,000 of them are unemployed. We may have already passed that figure. There were fewer than 1,200 vacancies shown in last month's figures. South Yorkshire has been shedding jobs recently at the rate of 100 a day. Many of them are in the steel industry. Just before the last election, there were 50,000 people employed in the steel industry in our county. In Great Britain today, there are no more than 75,000 people employed in the steel industry. I believe that there are 62,000 in the public sector and 13,000 in the private sector.
In the first three years of this Government, the EC shed 72,000 steel jobs, and 68,500 of them were in Great Britain. In Yorkshire, we are not sure whether we shall be relieved of any participation in the further contraction of the steel industry demanded by the Commission. The Government have betrayed Great Britain. I do not share the optimism of some of my hon. Friends about the Nissan project. It would be desirable provided that a dominant part of the steel and equipment needed for the cars was to be made in Great Britain. I have no confidence that the Government will serve the national interest and insist upon that.
§ Mr. Hardy
I believe that my hon. Friend is right.
On Wednesday I took a deputation to see the Minister of State about the hand tool industry. I discovered that we imported £11 million of hand tools from Japan last year. We cannot export to Japan because the Japanese Administration make sure that no hand tools enter their country. We should show the dedication to our national interests of some of our competitors. I learnt that one country threatens the tool industry by substantial exports to this country and yet applies an 85 per cent. tariff against British tools when our people try to trade there.
I want to refer to coal. In recent years, we have lost coking plants at Manvers in the Dearne Valley 503 constituency, and at Brookhouse in my constituency. The Orgreave coking plant in my constituency now seems threatened. It is interesting that the National Coal Board in recent years spent a great deal of money ensuring that the Orgreave plant, operated by the British Steel Corporation, had adequate supplies of fuel. The person who will ensure that the National Coal Board investment is nullified is Mr. MacGregor, to whom yesterday the Government offered the position of chairman of the National Coal Board. It is tragic that the man who has demonstrated a disregard for the coal industry is now being asked to lead it.
We have 50 million tonnes of coal stocks, for which the miners are blamed. Much of those coal stocks is piled in Yorkshire. The blame should be laid at the door of the Government's policies of deindustrialisation. The size of our coal piles and the unused energy that they represent are a memorial to the fecklessness of the Government's policies.
I recognise that the Government believe that they are doing no more than other countries. However, it is difficult to find any part of Europe that is suffering the same rate of unemployment as our county. It would be difficult also to find any Minister in Europe who would display the same disdain for our region as that displayed by our Ministers, and particularly the Minister of State, whom I am pleased to see in his place.
This is the 47th time that I have raised the problem of the 11 southerly parishes in my constituency. They form the Dinnington employment exchange area. Those 11 parishes have a population of about 40,000, of which 30 per cent. are unemployed.
The Minister has recognised that parts of the Rotherham metropolitan area are in need and should have an enterprise zone and development area, but the areas in which the industrial estates are largely situated are not included within the development area. The area which has 30 per cent. unemployment—the highest in the county—is not allowed even intermediate status. It is not allowed any assistance, although the Government did, as an afterthought, make some assistance in terms of dereliction available when they perhaps ought not to have done according to their regulations. That area has been left without aid. What rankled with us — it rankled with Conservative as well as Labour supporters in my constituency — was that the Minister would not even receive a deputation to talk about the problem.
When I advanced the case for industrial grant in the area, the Minister wrote to tell me about the development grants that were available, ignoring the fact that the area with which I was concerned was not in the development area. When I wrote to tell him that that illustrated the confusion which existed in his office, I was told that there was no confusion. He still would not receive a deputation. There is still 30 per cent. unemployment in the area and I still bitterly resent the fact that this deaf and flinty-hearted Government should refuse to receive a deputation of decent, well-mannered people who are frustrated and increasingly angry.
We have been fortunate in the stability of the people of south Yorkshire. My hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) and I met the police last week in Rotherham and we found that the crime rate had fallen. That is a tribute to our policemen and the community and to the new approach in policing methods. However, unless 504 there is a shift in central policies, the stability of our population will not help us to withstand the strains and consequences of the economic wasting that is taking place.
Next month the Prime Minister will be coming to south Yorkshire. I understand that the cutlers have invited the right hon. Lady—perhaps that is a tribute to the fact that their management is not all of a supremely high quality. I am not sure that I want to urge people to go to Sheffield to scream, demonstrate and make a terrible noise. However, I think that many people should go to Sheffield and should be absolutely silent in their expression of contempt and frustration. When the right hon. Lady attends the feast in south Yorkshire, the menu before her should be no better than a modest portion of bread and a very small glass of water.
§ Mr. John Watson (Skipton)
In these debates we always seem to end up asking the Government for money. My constituency extends into four different counties and within it are five district councils. It is my pleasurable duty to have to speak in no fewer than three regional debates, in which a certain sameness develops.
Some hon. Members—predominantly Labour Members—tend to have good ideas and to articulate them with skill, but their suggestions always involve the spending of more Government money. I tend to view such suggestions with a degree of scepticism. My constituency is not, and stands no realistic chance of becoming, an assisted area. At the same time my constituents need jobs, just like everyone else. It is not a high income area, but I know that when other areas ask for more money, the people in my constituency will be asked to sign the cheque.
§ Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)
Labour Members do not argue that the Government should spend more money. They contend that Government money should be spent on the right projects. We suggest that the £20 billion that is used to sustain the dole queue should be used to regenerate British industry.
§ Mr. Watson
The Labour party has clearly said that it believes in a dramatic increase in public expenditure. If it were merely suggesting a shift of resources, there would be greater ground for debate.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) sought to challenge the concept of regional aid. If my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) is successful in catching your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I suspect that he will wish to take up the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington.
There is a great deal to be said for regional aid. There is no doubt that without it new investment would gravitate towards the south-east. That would put increased pressure on housing and other services in the south-east and put unreasonable demands on working people who happened to lose their jobs outside the south-east.
If there is a case for regional aid, there is a strong case for saying that Yorkshire and Humberside should get rather more than at present. The region receives 7.5 per cent. of Britain's regional development grant and it has 8.5 per cent. of the population. The northern region receives 505 30 per cent. of the regional development grant and it has only 5 per cent. of the population. Compared with the northern region, Yorkshire has a lower level of household income. Admittedly it has a lower rate of unemployment, but that is rising faster than in the northern region. Further, Yorkshire has a lower level of investment in newer industries such as electronics.
Regional aid, necessary though it is, is not the be-all and end-all. I suspect that regional aid will take no higher than sixth place in an industrialist's list of priorities when he is taking an industrial decision. The industrialist will need to be sure, first, that suitable premises are available for his investment; secondly, that in the intended area there is an adequate availability of skills; thirdly, that industrial relations are fairly good; fourthly, that in the intended area he will be able to gain access to the markets that he intends to serve; and fifthly, that local authority rates and the cost of other local services will not present too great a burden. Sixthly, and only sixthly, will he consider the regional aid that will be available to him.
During the past 10 days my constituency has had the misfortune to hear the announcement of the closure of a significant mill—Dewhirsts—with the loss of 240 jobs. When I asked the management whether I could assist in retaining the mill in Skipton, I was told that the decision had been taken on commercial grounds and that it had nothing to do with the availability or otherwise of regional aid.
We frequently hear requests for assistance on energy prices. The petrochemicals, steel, glass and cement industries are energy-intensive. I hear what is said by those who represent constituencies that have such industries within them. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will bear in mind what they are saying when he announces his Budget.
It must also be said that the number of industries that are truly energy-intensive are not numerous. Steel, glass, petrochemicals, cement, ceramics, paper and aluminium are, I believe, the only British industries that have more than 10 per cent. of their added value represented by energy bills. There is now much evidence that those industries are paying more for their energy than their overseas competitors. I hope that that factor will be taken into account.
Energy represents no more than 3 per cent. of added value for industries that do not fall into that category. An energy subsidy would be very much a grapeshot approach. It would be highly expensive and would not necessarily assist the most efficient industries, especially as energy-intensive industries tend also to be capital-intensive. If our principal role is the creation of new jobs, perhaps the least effective way of achieving more jobs is to place an overall subsidy on energy prices.
Cash is asked for in an otherwise commendable document that has been published by the British Textile Confederation under the title "A Plan for Action". The plan is for the United Kingdom's textile industry. It is a good document that sets the right tone. It contains illustrations and figures that are informative and relevant. It urges industry action as much as Government action. However, I take issue with its principal proposal for Government action in the form of an interest abatement scheme. The document, in page 3, states: 506The scheme would run for a limited period of five years and would be available for all firms in the textile industry for all forms of capital investment associated with modernisation and the improved viability of the enterprise. We propose that the assistance should take the form of a direct grant, effectively reducing the rate of interest payable to a constant figure of 5 per cent.I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will consider seriously most of the recommendations that appear in the report, but will be sceptical of the interest abatement scheme, for a number of reasons. The confederation is advocating a form of sectoral aid. At the same time, it is saying that the Government should do what they can, within the European Community, to resist the activities of the Belgians and others in bringing in sectoral aid for their textile industries. The Government's case will not be assisted if we seek to do the same thing here.
The second argument against this form of aid is that, if the textile industry is declared by the Government to be a worthy candidate for sectoral aid in the form of an interest rebatement scheme, it is naive to presume that other industries will not follow through the hole thus created.
My biggest doubts about the scheme focus on its workability, particularly its definitions. It is a form of capital assistance. But how does one define "capital"? A new twisting machine costing thousands of pounds would presumably come within the scheme, but what about a word processor, a typewriter or a new chair for the managing director's office? Will all that come within the definition of "capital"?
What is the definition of "textiles"? Five companies in my constituency could claim to be textile manufacturers if such a scheme were introduced. Bernard Wardle makes coated PVC fabrics; Silentnight makes bedding and upholstery; Johnson and Johnson makes bandages and first-aid equipment; Angus Fire Armour makes hosepipes; and Hothfield Carpets, not surprisingly, makes carpets. I do not know whether it was the intention of the British Textile Confederation that bandages, bedding and carpets should be included in the industry subsidy scheme, but I know that if such a subsidy scheme were set up, those companies, understandably, would want to take advantage of it.
I cannot see how such a scheme could be policed. Many of the textile companies in my constituency are not just involved in textiles. I can understand a company wanting to buy two machines, one to produce textiles and the other not to produce textiles, asking for the invoice for the textile machine to be bumped up so that the amount of interest aid available would thereby be increased.
Some assistance to the region is justified. I hope that my hon. Friend will treat sceptically the dramatic claims for more cash that are always made. The region will not benefit from or be assisted by the begging bowl mentality. If the Government can keep their existing promises of making industry more competitive in the world, our region will benefit as much as any other.
§ Dr. Shirley Summerskill (Halifax)
The constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) is almost next to mine and many of the problems that he so eloquently and lengthily described are similar to the problems in Halifax. I do not apologise for speaking about one particular constituency, mine, because 507 it is symbolic of the problems of the Yorkshire and Humberside region and the rapid decline that has taken place since the Government took office.
I remind the Minister that in May 1979 the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) was the new Secretary of State for Industry. He wrote a short article in the industrial review section of the Halifax Evening Courier, only a few days after the Government were elected, in which he said:Halifax and the Calderdale area are fortunate in having a wide spread of manufacturing industries, with a high reputation in carpets, machine tools and confectionery, particularly.This diversity has been a source of strength in helping the area to weather the recession in better shape than many other parts of Britain.I should like the Minister to bear that in mind when he hears that at that time in Halifax there were 1,802 unemployed. Today, after the havoc wrought by his Government's policies, there are now over 7,000 registered unemployed, a 288 per cent. increase, which must be one of the largest and steepest rates of increase in unemployment in the country. This does not take into account the hidden unemployed such as the women who do not register and the people who are made redundant at 50 and give up all hope of getting further employment and do not register.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East must eat those words because he relied on diversity of industry to be a source of strength, but it has not helped the area to weather this recession. So great is the recession that it has overcome Halifax's diversity. If Halifax cannot survive this Government's policies with that diversity, what hope is there for industrial towns that do not have such a diversity of industry, as many of my hon. Friends have said?
The Government's monetary policies are clearly decimating manufacturing industry, whether it is carpets, machine tools, engineering or confectionery. Perhaps the Minister will point out to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the blow that has been dealt the confectionery industry by value added tax. Every month we have closures and every week redundancies in Halifax.
Within weeks of the 1979 election the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East had introduced a measure that deprived the area of sources of help that it desperately needed. It was supported by every Member on the Government Benches, including the hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Waller), who, in a minute, will be trying to talk about Calderdale. Like all the other Conservative Members, he voted to take away assisted area status from Calderdale in the summer of 1979.
That vote meant the loss of regional development grant, selective financial assistance, Local Employment Act grants, office and service industry grants, and EC aid. Repeated representations from the county council, the local authority and the Calderdale economic regeneration advisory committee have pressed for the reintroduction of the assisted area status to every hon. Member who has occupied the position once held by the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East.
§ Mr. Gary Waller (Brighouse and Spenborough)
I remind the hon. Lady that only two or three weeks ago she voted against the Shops (Amendment) Bill in the name of 508 my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney), which had the immediate effect of costing 200 jobs in her constituency because of the closure of the Piece hall.
§ Dr. Summerskill
The hon. Gentleman does not understand the implications of that Bill. There is far more to it than the Piece hall, as the hon. Gentleman must know. He is intelligent enough to have read the Bill and seen exactly what was involved.
The traditional basic industries of Halifax have been decimated. So many factories have closed and so many jobs have been lost that I despair of any real revival in Halifax and west Yorkshire. The words of the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East, when he wrote that article in 1979, are of another age and another world, and unrelated to the circumstances in west Yorkshire at the moment.
There is an old Yorkshire phrase "owt for nowt" and 1 am sure that west Yorkshire and Calderdale would not be asking for assisted area status if they did not feel that they had done something to deserve it. There is a skilled and hard-working work force and wage claims are not excessive. The Prime Minister constantly says that wage claims are too high, but that does not apply in west Yorkshire and Calderdale.
The Government have said that they want to channel help into the areas that most need it. What is the point of doing that if, at the same time, other areas such as Calderdale and Halifax decline and become so depressed that they fall into the category of areas most in need? Surely they should be saved and the industry should be saved while there is still a chance, rather than waiting until they require assistance as a desperately impoverished area.
In the debate on unemployment in Yorkshire and Humberside on 22 February, the Minister of State, Department of Employment accused Opposition Members of spreading gloom and doom in their speeches and of having an attitude of hopelessness and despair. I can only conclude that the right hon. Gentleman does not accept the facts we are putting forward. We are not expressing emotional feelings; we are stating facts about the areas we represent. He is saying that the jobs lost, the mills that have been closed down, the unemployed school leavers, the long-term unemployed and those who are on the scrap heap at 50 are apparently figments of our imagination about whom we are spreading doom and gloom, but these are facts which he must accept. I could similarly accuse him of complacency and euphoria and of being deaf and blind to the facts that we are presenting to him.
Finally, I should like to ask the Minister three specific questions about Halifax and Calderdale. Only two or three years ago, thousands of people in Calderdale benefited from the short-time working compensation scheme. The number has gradually fallen. Now only 128 people in Halifax benefit from the scheme. Will the Minister explain that? Why do the Government appear to have withdrawn support and finance from it? Secondly, will he reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East, who asked why further finance cannot be channelled into the decaying textile and engineering industries in the same way as it is being poured into the car and steel industries. Why is there discrimination between one industry and another?
Thirdly, for some incomprehensible reason, Halifax alone of all the textile areas in west Yorkshire was excluded from the list for European regional development 509 fund non-quota allocation aid to textile areas. Bradford and Huddersfield and many areas of Lancashire were included, but Halifax, which has similar if not worse problems than those other areas, was not on the list. Will the Minister press strongly for its inclusion?
§ Mr. Gary Waller (Brighouse and Spenborough)
The motion of the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) emphasises the fact that Yorkshire and Humberside have an unemployment problem greater than most other parts of the country. It states the truth that we all know—unemployment has serious consequences for the life of the region. Indeed, it is extremely demoralising, as hon. Members who deal with such constituents know, for those whom it affects, especially, of course, if they are school leavers anxious to start work. What the motion singularly fails to, do is suggest any effective remedies. I listened throughout the hon. Gentleman's speech but failed to hear an adequate remedy.
Very soon after we were both elected on the same day in May 1979, I received a letter from the hon. Gentleman in which he asked me to comment on the views expressed about industry by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), who was at that time Secretary of State for Industry. I replied in the most courteous terms, only to find that a month or so later he wrote to me again and asked me again to comment on the views of my right hon. Friend. I wrote back to the hon. Gentleman and said that I was not responsible for the views of my right hon. Friend although I fully accepted that he had a serious point to make. I said to the hon. Gentleman in my reply that the electors, particularly those of his constituency, also had a right to know his views about industry in Yorkshire and Humberside. I asked particularly for his views on the nationalisation of companies, which was included in the Labour party manifesto, and for his views on withdrawal from the EC, which is obviously of concern to a large number of companies in his constituency which trade within the EC.
I did not receive a reply to my letter and, after a month or two, I wrote to him again. I still did not receive a reply. I thought that he might have something to hide. Incidentally, I did not hear from him again asking me for my views. Obviously, my Exocet missile had a deterrent effect. I thought that we might have heard today about his views on those two issues, but again I was disappointed.
§ Mr. Sheerman
I have learnt never to reply to letters written in backward-sloping handwriting in green ink with lots of underlining.
§ Mr. Waller
Hon. Members may make what they wish of that reply. I notice that the hon. Gentleman has still not responded to my points.
I want to address my remarks to the present dispute in the coal mining industry, which is one of the most important industries in Yorkshire and Humberside. I came to know the miners well during the two elections in 1974, when I fought the consituency of Rother Valley in south Yorkshire, which has 11 collieries. I came to respect the miners who had a most commendable loyalty to their industry and their union. The economic facts of life in the mining industry are, in many ways, the same as in any other industry.
510 The hon. Member for Huddersfield, East spoke of the need for modernisation in the textile industry. The textile firms that have not survived were those that failed to invest in good times. But I accept that many firms that did invest and modernise have also not survived. That is because they are in an especially difficult sector, with imports from low-cost countries.
The mining industry has a great future, as is shown by the enormous investment in the new Selby coalfield in the Barkston Ash constituency of my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Employment, whom I am delighted to see in his place today. The miners in Yorkshire and Humberside have a good future. The one thing that will kill jobs in the industry—as it will in other industries—is an attempt to hold on to inefficient plant. I am afraid that the 120-year-old Lewis-Merthyr colliery is one pit whose time has passed. As the Prime Minister said yesterday in response to a question, that pit is losing £30,000 per man per year. That will kill jobs in the mining industry in Yorkshire and Humberside, in Scotland and, in the long term, in South Wales if nothing is done to stop the burning of pound notes.
The miners are not only loyal, they have a wealth of common sense. I urge them to consider their jobs and their prosperity, and reject what must be a pointless and stupid strike. I hope that they will vote massively against it.
The problems of the region emerge from the fact that its industry is concentrated in traditional sectors, such as heavy engineering and textiles. If those sectors are to succeed in fighting overseas competition, they must be efficient and competitive. I regret that that often means employing fewer people. Like the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East, I also have a subsidiary of the Coats Patons group in my constituency. It is in the textile sector, and has to compete head-on with low-cost countries. There has been some Government assistance towards capital equipment, and it is successfully competing with those low-cost countries because it has invested. It has meant, unfortunately, that it employs fewer people, and the fact that it employs those people at all is because it was prepared to take those difficult decisions. Overmanning will destroy companies altogether. We want to attract new companies to Yorkshire and Humberside, and many of those companies should be in high technology.
I confess that I am sometimes disturbed that many business men have not invested when they should have done, and have not made sufficient changes. An hon. Friend said that in a recent league table showing the proportion of total industry in electronics, Yorkshire and Humberside were at the bottom—even below the northern region, and clearly miles below the south-east. Nevertheless, we are making progress. In response to a recent question that I tabled about the robotics support programme, it emerged that 10 per cent. of the applications for the programme came from Yorkshire and Humberside.
The hon. Member for Huddersfield, East spoke about Japan and its enterprising industry. We still have a long way to go before we can compare with nations such as Japan, which lead the field. However, it is significant that Japan has one of the lowest unemployment rates of all industrialised countries, although it has more robots than any other country.
I have some reservations about the way in which regional policy operates in practice. I cannot disagree with the principle, because under the Labour Government 44 511 per cent. of the work force was in a designated area. Clearly, there is a strong case for concentrating aid in the most deprived areas, and the regional policy now covers just over one quarter of the population.
What has been the result? In west Yorkshire, Bradford has attained its assisted area status. It is true that in Bradford unemployment has been high in recent years, particularly because of the loss or contraction of several large employers of labour. However, there is evidence, as shown by work done recently by the West Yorkshire metropolitan county council, that unemployment in Bradford has now stabilised, in relative terms. On the other hand, the trend in other parts of the county is still upwards. The bulk of those losses has been in the metropolitan districts of Kirklees, Calderdale and Leeds. Among the worst hit black spots are the Seacroft and Crossgates employment exchange area in Leeds, which is the worst of all, with 23.2 per cent. unemployment, Batley in Kirklees with a high rate of 18.3 per cent., and Todmorden in Calderdale, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Thompson), with 16 per cent. Yet it is the Bradford travel-to-work area that retains its assisted status.
§ Dr. Summerskill
Do I understand the hon. Gentleman to be asking the Minister to restore assisted area status to Calderdale, when he voted for withdrawing it in 1979?
§ Mr. Waller
I am not. If the hon. Lady will be patient for a moment she will hear what I am suggesting.
We need new companies to bring new jobs. A study by researchers at Leeds university of 57,000 job losses between 1975 and 1981 shows that just over half of them occurred in factories that were owned by firms based outside West Yorkshire. In fact, almost 30 per cent. were controlled by firms based in the south-east. Clearly, that is a quite disproportionate loss. These companies unlike those based in the county, are easily able to consider in what part of the country they should locate plants. They very often do so, and do reconsider.
Many high technology firms are located in the southeast. If they should consider establishing themselves in Yorkshire and Humberside—and in my opinion, they should do so bearing in mind the relatively low cost of housing, the high level of skills, and the dedication to the work ethos of the people who live there—what would draw them to Calderdale or Kirklees or Leeds, compared with Bradford or, indeed, some other assisted area in the country? As I have said before, much of west Yorkshire is caught between two stools: it is regarded neither as too bad to qualify for help, nor sufficiently rich in assets to attract industry without this help. Calderdale, in particular, as the hon. Lady knows, has a topography which is against it. It has few sites where firms can settle and expand.
Without Government assistance such areas do not qualify for European regional aid and that is a serious loss. My fear is to do not with the fact that Calderdale has lost its assisted area status but rather with the fact that the sharper delineation between the favoured and unfavoured so close together has created new problems of distortion which are, perhaps, in some ways as bad as those that previously existed.
As well as the unemployment rate at any one moment, should not we also consider the underlying trend and the reasons for it when dispersing Government regional 512 assistance so as to get the best possible return for that money in future? We are not interested in the past; we are interested in the future. It is surely better to spot and change a trend before it get too serious, bearing in mind that there is a complicated interaction of industrial activities between companies. Perhaps regional policy could pay more attention to preventive medicine and less to acute surgery following a life-threatening collapse of vital functions.
Although the problems of Yorkshire and Humberside are particularly severe because of the underlying structure of the industrial framework, they are not in essence so very different from other parts of the country. The remedies are similar and are as well understood in Yorkshire as anywhere. We must produce the goods and services that people want to buy. I never cease to be amazed at the initiative shown by so many firms in finding new markets.
The latest trend survey produced in Yorkshire and Humberside gives reason for hope. Only industry itself can turn that hope into reality—not the Government. The Government can and must remove progressively all the hurdles that slow down the transformation. Too many still remain. We welcome what the Government have done so far but there is still a long way to go.
§ Mr. K. J. Woolmer (Batley and Morley)
I was amazed to hear the hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Waller) say that he welcomed what the Government have done. I do not welcome what the Government have done in west Yorkshire. I certainly do not welcome what they have done in my constituency. In four years the Government have destroyed 100,000 jobs there. That is an extraordinary figure in one county of our region.
§ Mr. Woodall
Is my hon. Friend aware that in reply to a question that I tabled to the Secretary of State for Employment on 8 February I was told that 169,600 jobs had been lost in our area—an increase of 154 per cent.?
§ Mr. Woolmer
I am grateful for that information. It reinforces the point that I was making.
For a Conservative Member to welcome what the Government have done is either to ignore reality or to be willing to support policies which have no support in Yorkshire. I am not alone in challenging the Government to put their confidence to the test and face the electorate. The electorate in Yorkshire will certainly not give them a vote of confidence. West Yorkshire has lost one in every eight jobs.
The two major industries that have been severely affected in my area are the textile and engineering industries. The textile industry has lost more than 35,000 jobs in the four years since the Government took office and the engineering industry has lost 30,000 jobs. That is in one county alone. They are two important basic industries for Britain. Therefore, it is no surprise that the constituencies that we represent have been badly hit.
In Batley unemployment among men and women is on average about 20 per cent.—one in five people out of work. Male unemployment is virtually 30 per cent.—almost one in three men and youths out of work. That is a horrific figure. It is not a record of which the hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough can be proud or a record that he should accept.
513 I wish to confine my remarks today principally to the textile industry because in west Yorkshire the wool textile industry has been so important. About three quarters of the workers in the wool textile industry work in west Yorkshire and it remains of the utmost importance as an employer in the Dewsbury, Batley and Spenborough area and in Bradford, Halifax, and Keighley. It is little wonder that we are worried about the future of the textile industry.
The wool textile industry is not outdated; it is not an industry of yesteryear. We should not think of wiping it off the map of industrial Britain. It exports more than £400 million worth of commodities a year, representing £10,000 per worker each year. That is the wool textile industry's export record. We cannot afford to ignore it.
The wool textile industry has a fine productivity record and excellent industrial relations assisted by progressive and responsible trade unions. In recent years the industry has improved the range and quality of its products and diversified to new products for the world market. Despite its efforts, investment has declined sharply in the last few years, profitability and confidence are low and job losses unacceptably high.
Today I shall look ahead and make suggestions for providing a more secure base for the textile industry and its workers. We are indebted to the British Textile Confederation for producing yesterday a document for the United Kingdom textile industry which has already commanded hon. Members' attention, "A Plan for Action". It is a result of work by both employers and trade unions. It is a carefully researched and considered document which demands an early and more serious response from the Government, than that given by the hon. Member for Skipton (Mr. Watson). Action is required by both sides of the industry and by the Government.
The document calls for Government intervention and for positive trade and industrial planning. It calls for and welcomes selective import controls and demands of the Government a positive attitude to intervention in industry, to education, marketing, research and everything that makes a successful industry and trade policy. I welcome the direction and thrust of the document. I regret that the industry did not find it possible to reach the logical conclusion and call for the full-blooded approach to trade and industrial planning which the textile industry needs.
The Government should consider the textile and clothing industries together. They need to be developed and planned together. The textile industry looks still for a large part of the outlet for its products to the clothing industry. I regret that over the years textiles and clothing have been splintered by the employers and the trade unions. The industries employ over 530,000 workers between them. I welcome the fact that they are now beginning to live and work together.
Government planning, intervention and aid are essential. The British Textile Confederation rightly shows in detail in its document that Belgium, France and Italy in the EC are busily intervening, by putting hundreds of millions of pounds into modernising their textile and clothing industries. They are busy intervening on imports and are putting Government money into the industries. Surely that shows that Government intervention is not only desirable in practical common sense terms, but essential if we are to compete not only with low-cost countries but with the high-cost countries of Europe.
514 Trade policy must be positive, not just defensive. The multi-fibre arrangement provides a breathing space, but the Government must decide which sectors of the textile and clothing industries have a future. Selective import controls and a positive industrial policy are needed to ensure that the investment, research, marketing, design and new machinery are available to back that future.
I call upon the Government not to sit back congratulating themselves on coming to another multi-fibre arrangement, but to consider seriously the introduction of an interventionist trade and industrial policy. The Opposition acknowledge that the Government are incapable of such an interventionist and progressive policy and that the textile and clothing industry will have to wait for a Labour Government to bring it forward.
Let me explain why the textile and clothing industry requires a trade and industrial planning approach. Textile and clothing firms typically are small to medium size. That causes a series of problems, often making the industry capable of realising what wants doing but incapable of implementing the changes required. It is aware of the need for planning in terms of new technological processes and the need for research and development. The awareness is there in the industry, but typically the firms are too small to take advantage of those processes or to invest in them.
The firms are aware of the need for training in new skills at all levels. That was brought out eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman). Individual firms in the textile and clothing industry typically are far too small to invest in training for new skills, and this needs to be a matter of public policy. The same applies in design and marketing, for export as well as home markets. In the British Textile Confederation document, both sides of the industry call for Government money to be put into financing improved design and marketing in export and home markets. The industry itself recognises that this is a matter of public policy.
I draw attention to the need for a textiles and clothing industrial development board. What is required is not simply an administrative organ but an active industrial planning and development organisation with teeth and access to finance—in the view of the Labour party, access to a new national investment bank, but certainly access to Government finance. It must have powers to establish industry-wide training, design and marketing organisations. It must have power to invest directly in the industry on a selective basis in backing up a trade and industrial policy. In my view, such a board should have access to the Government so as to prevent the nonsense whereby individual firms have to approach from 10 to 13 different Government Departments to find their way through the web of different powers.
Any industry which is made up of firms each employing between 100 and 200 workers but which in aggregate employs more than 500,000 workers—there are thousands of small and medium sized firms in the industry—requires a proper planning and development agency.
The textile areas of west Yorkshire have suffered severely under this Government. We have lost about 35,000 textile jobs in one county alone in four years. Unemployment has trebled in the textile and engineering towns of west Yorkshire. We need not only a vote of confidence. If we are to have any future we need an active trade and industrial policy which will put money into the textile industry on a planned interventionist basis which 515 converts words into deeds. In my view, nothing less will ensure that the textile industry serves not only west Yorkshire but the country as a whole.
§ 1 pm
§ Mr. Michael Brotherton (Louth)
The House is grateful to the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) for introducing the debate. I apologise to him for missing the first half of his speech. I had to keep a hospital appointment. There was no implied discourtesy on my part.
I am grateful for the attendance of the Ministers. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Employment represents the Yorkshire constituency of Barkston Ash and my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Industry, who attended the first three hours of the debate, hails from Grimsby and still has strong family connections with the town. We can say that the Government are listening through representatives who have strong links with historic Yorkshire and historic Lincolnshire.
I hope that the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. Woolmer) will forgive me if, in the interest of brevity, I do not comment on what he said. I am conscious that many Opposition Members wish to speak, so I shall try to be as brief as possible.
I shall start with a few comments about general aid for industry which would help throughout the country, not merely Yorkshire and Humberside. I hope that there will be a firm commitment in the Conservative party manifesto for the next general election to the final reform of the rating system, both domestic and industrial. The industrial ratepayer on the south bank of the Humber has suffered considerably in the past two years as a result of the swingeing increase in the rates that has been imposed by Humberside county council. Rates there have increased by 68 per cent. in two years.
In an intervention in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend), the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) mentioned cuts in Government grants. When Humberside county council increased its rates last year by 60 per cent., Lincolnshire county council, part of which also falls in my constituency, increased rates by 4.7 per cent. Therefore, industrialists on the south bank of the Humber were seriously affected.
I should like the Government seriously to consider derating. It is ridiculous that if a factory or office building is left empty, a county council should levy rates on it. It is also ridiculous that people must go to the length of stripping off the roof so that they will not have to pay rates. That is not a party political point. It is sheer madness, regardless of which party is in office. We all know that if the roof is taken off, a building will deteriorate and eventually be destroyed simply through the force of the elements. I hope that all county councils will bear in mind what I have said. County councils have a discretionary power whether to levy rates. It is crazy that people should be forced to take off the roof of a factory or office building, because, when new businesses are set up or when assisting businesses to expand, they will be forced to build new factories and offices rather than use existing ones.
All hon. Members recognise that unemployment has increased greatly in our area. However, it must be admitted that much of the unemployment—not all of it—is due to the overmanning from which British industry has suffered for many years. There is a large company in my 516 constituency which, alas, has had to lay off hundreds of its work force. That firm is now producing as much as before with approximately one third of the previous work force. That is a terrible reflection on the overmanning that Britain has suffered.
I should like to add to what my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington said about wages councils. It is an emotive subject, but wages councils, as constituted at present, contribute to unemployment. I have three cases at the moment, which I have taken up with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, which relate to people who are losing their jobs as a result of wages council awards. They want to work, but, because their employer is unable to pay the wages laid down by the council, they have been driven out of work and are now drawing dole. I am not saying that we should abolish all wages councils immediately, but surely willing workers and employers should be able to contract out of the requirement of a wages council so that the worker can remain in employment instead of having to suffer—I stress that word—the necessity of drawing unemployment benefit.
The Serpell report is just so much nonsense Opposition Members might well point out to their constituents that it is only a report and that it bears no resemblance to Government policy towards the railways or British Rail's intentions about the future development of the railways. Some of my hon. Friends who share with me a similar view of the economy, regard me as a bit of a heretic, because I believe that we should invest far more money in our railways as they provide a sensible and efficient method of communication. I am always surprised to see big fish lorries leaving the port of Grimsby every night and cluttering our roads. Only a few years ago the railway trade from the port of Grimsby was flourishing, carrying fish not only to Billingsgate but to provincial areas.
Immingham, in my constituency, would be greatly aided by a more efficient and complex system of rail communication to the south bank of the Humber. Immingham is the only deepwater port on the Humber. As I have said before, it was the great jewel in the crown of our ports. I hope that Associated British Ports wall invest considerably more money in Immingham than has been invested in the past. Immingham is the most successful port on the Humber and one of the most successful ports in this country. Its development would help not only my constituency, Immingham, and the surrounding area, but the people of Grimsby, Brigg and Scunthorpe and those living on the north bank of the river. It would be unwise of Associated British Ports to invest a lot of its money in unsuccessful ports. It would make far more sense to invest that money in Immingham, which is a deepwater port that ships queue up to enter. Normally, there is a waiting list to get into Immingham, because it is such a successful and efficient port.
Yesterday, a report about free ports was published. I inquired yesterday, and again at the Vote Office this morning, but alas the report is not available to Members of Parliament—at least in the Vote Office—although I was told yesterday that members of the press had Roneo copies within the precincts of the House. Although I do not have any inside knowledge of the report's contents, I should like to draw the Minister's attention to the merits of Immingham as a successful port that should—with great 517 benefit to the whole region of Yorkshire and Humberside—be given free port status as one of the Government's first priorities.
Little has been said about the Nissan project today, although last week it was widely canvassed in a shorter debate on this subject. However, an overwhelming case can be made for suggesting the south bank of the Humber for the Nissan project, if it comes to this country. My hon. Friend the Member for Skipton (Mr. Watson) pointed out the grave imbalance in the aid given to the northern region, given such factors as average income, and so on. It would be a great mistake to encourage the Nissan project to go to any other region than ours. That statement can be argued on fact, not on pure emotion. We have on the south bank of the Humber the port of Immingham. We have the south Humber airport. We have communications by sea and by air. There is an improving road system on the south bank of the Humber. I shall refer to the bridge in a few moments. In a couple of years there will be a proper system of road communication on the south bank of the Humber.
In Yorkshire and Humberside we have many of the raw materials necessary to make the component parts for Nissan cars, should the company come to our part of the country. I echo the hope of the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy) that if Nissan came to Humberside, most of the component parts would be made in Britain. I wholeheartedly support that. However, two things must be borne in mind. One is that if the component parts are to be made in this country, we must be competitive in our pricing.
There is another side to the coin. I have always been in favour of free trade. However, we must add the rider that if trade—and therefore competition—is to be free, it must also be fair. It is not right that protectionist policies should be operated against our goods particularly in Japan, when we seem to lean over backwards to play the game and go by the spirit rather than the letter of the law.
Therefore, by all means let Nissan come to the south bank of the Humber, as many thousands of jobs would be created not only in the short term for the construction industry, but in the long term for the motor industry, which would be more than welcome. The spin-off, if the majority of the component parts are made in this country, would be of almost inestimable value to us.
There has been a wide welcome across most sections of the fishing industry to the final agreement reached on the common fisheries policy. Hon. Members on both sides of the House will be grateful that the long drawn out, tortuous argument has been brought to a reasonably satisfactory conclusion. My point about the fishing industry concerns not the ships that go to sea or the processing factories on both banks of the river, but further education and training in the fisheries industry. The Humberside college of higher education has undertaken responsibility for the entire range of fisheries from basic training to advanced courses in fisheries management. Our partners in the Common Market have recognised Britain's predominant role in fishing in the Community. I should like Humberside college of higher education to become the training ground not only for our fishing industry but for that of the Community.
Inspectors will be appointed and, I presume, trained to monitor the implementation of the common fisheries 518 policy. I hope that the Minister will draw to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the facilities available in the Humberside college of higher education for training not only inspectors, but people from all other facets of the industry not only from this country but throughout the Community.
A constituency such as mine, although so far I have talked only about industry, fishing and the port of Immingham, has wide agricultural interests. My hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) drew the attention of the House to two facets of agriculture. Despite the great increase in farm incomes last year—if they were taken over the past four years it would be seen that the increase is nowhere near as dramatic as the 45 per cent. would imply—the increase in the price of food in the past 12 months has been only 1 per cent. We are rightly proud of getting inflation to under 5 per cent., but to keep the increase in food prices down to 1 per cent. is a remarkable achievement.
However, all is not perfect in agriculture. As my hon. Friend the Member for Howden has made the point already, I shall not labour it. Much needs to be done to help the pig producers. They would be more than grateful if they felt that they could plan from year to year or every five years rather than have the present system when they are up one year and down in the doldrums 18 months later.
Similarly, horticulture, compared with cereal producers and others engaged in agriculture, has been hard done by over the past five years. Our industry has been subjected to grossly unfair competition from Dutch horticulture. I hope that the Minister will be able to give horticulture in Yorkshire and Humberside some words of hope.
I come now to "that" bridge. For eight and a half years I have been asking questions in the House about the price of "that" bridge. It started at £19 million. The outstanding debt on the Humber bridge—Castle's folly, McNamara's castle, call it what one will—is about £160 million. It is an incredible sum. I accept that I shall not receive an answer from the Minister today, because I presume that it comes more within the purview of the Department of Transport. However, the time is coming when we shall have to know what will be done about the monstrous debt produced by this beautiful construction—this lovely piece of civil engineering. It has not drawn the level of traffic forecast. It has drawn the level of traffic that I forecast eight years ago.
Post offices are often the centre of life in villages. Many elderly people and those without transport have to do their shopping in village post offices, and much of village social life emanates from them. I hope that we shall not hear anything more from the Government about closing them down and making people draw their pensions monthly by cheque. An enormous amount of money would have to be carried by mobile shops to cash the cheques of 100 or 150 pensioners drawing monthly pensions.
I believe that Yorkshire and Humberside, particularly south Humberside, have a great deal to offer the nation. I am sure that the area will contribute to the nation not just now but in future if the Government bear in mind many of the points made today.
§ Mr. Edwin Wainwright (Dearne Valley)
It was not fair of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) to take 519 up the time of the House by talking as he has. I promise to sit down after five minutes, so as to give my hon. Friends an opportunity to make their speeches.
The hon. Member for Louth spoke about overmanning. It is the responsibility of past bad management, although the hon. Gentleman did not say so. He spoke about the willing employer, but how many small, willing employers have been driven into liquidation by the lack of Government support? The Government have never done anything helpful for small business men. They boast about how many businesses have started up but they never talk about how many have finished. Inefficient plants are caused by bad management, employers and owners.
The Government should take note of what happens in Japan where management, the banks, the Government and the trade unions work in unison to try to make their industrial plants more efficient. This Government want all the time to fight the trade union movement and to split it wide open. That is their intention on every occasion.
The Government have neglected Yorkshire and Humberside. They have run down our steelworks and our textile industry. The British Textile Confederation sent me a great publication from which I wished to quote. I recommend the Minister to read a good part of it. The Government should take note of many of the sections within the document. Our tool industry has been run down by the Government. It has been depleted over four years and it has now almost ceased to exist.
I am deeply concerned about the future of the mining industry. It is obvious that the Prime Minister will appoint Mr. Ian MacGregor to run the industry. That inference could be drawn even before the miners decided that a ballot should be held.
I have no complaints about the ability of Mr. MacGregor. I have met him on one or two occasions and I know that he is a great manager of industries. However, I am afraid that he will do a Beeching on the mining industry as he has done on the steel industry. We shall require more and more from our great mining industry in the next two or three decades but if Mr. MacGregor is appointed to run the industry it will be so depleted that it will be almost ruined. That will mean even greater unemployment.
I do not blame the miners for fighting. I declare my interest because I am an ex-miner. In that sense I am still a miner. I appreciate miners' fears. I understand that they are extremely concerned about what might happen to their industry. Some of us went through the depression and we know what a depression means. I was a Member of this place during the 1960s when it was decided to reduce the number of pits to too great an extent. The Government's policies will cause Yorkshire to suffer a great hurt.
Unemployment in the area that I represent is slightly more than 24 per cent. That is the extent of unemployment in the Mexborough travel-to-work area. There is no hope for our young people. Equally, there is no hope for those who are middle-aged who become unemployed and no hope for those approaching middle-age because they are expecting at any time to be declared redundant or out of work. Redundancy pay may appear to be good but for how long does it last? The highest sum that a miner can recieve on being declared redundant is £42,000. That is a large sum but its true value is almost nil when it is spread over 20 years, It is not nearly as good as the chance of being able to continue to work.
520 At Easter and in July there will be 5,000 youngsters leaving school in Sheffield, 3,000 in Rotherham, 2,200 in Barnsley and 2,850 in Doncaster. There will be 13,000 trainee opportunities. A Manpower Services Commission team is ascertaining how many south Yorkshire employers will be willing to take part in trainee schemes. Seminars are being held in Doncaster, Barnsley and Rotherham. The target is 5,000. Employers will be offered £1,850 a year for every teenage trainee that they take on, but they have been short of applicants.
The glass industry is suffering more in this country than any glass industry in Europe because the Government ignore the cost of energy that is required. It is time that the Government looked at this problem because we are losing out repeatedly in our exports of glass and in maintaining home supplies.
I hope that the Government will do something for the Yorkshire and Humberside region that is far better than they ever thought of doing and far more than they have done.
§ Mr. John Prescott (Kingston upon Hull, East)
It is a great pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright), particularly as we are so near to a general election and the possibility is that we might not hear his voice again in the Chamber. He is secretary of the trade union group of which I am a sponsored Member, and has been a great friend to myself and to many hon. Members who have come here after him.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) on his presentation of the motion. He argued his case with considerable eloquence and with a formidable analysis of the nature of the economic and political problems facing the region's economy. Even more important, he gave us some ideas of the alternatives that a future Labour Government would attempt to introduce as policies, and that we can put before the electorate. My hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East also made clear the importance of the social and educational investment required to go alongside investment in industry and capital. The importance of training, apprenticeships and so on is to be seen in the Yorkshire and Humberside regions as is to be seen in every one of our regions.
I have attended all the regional debates that have taken place in the past few months and have not been able to speak in them, but I have listened to the arguments. Therefore, I should like to respond to some of the arguments presented by Ministers, normally by the Under-Secretary of State for Industry. He has made it clear that he believes that the Labour party is not offering any alternatives to the Government's policies and has not been giving sufficient analysis to the detail necessary for alternative policies.
That is not a fair response, and I shall try to answer some of the criticisms made by the hon. Gentleman. Other criticisms were made by the Minister of State, Deoar1ment of Employment, who said that both parties had doubled unemployment and then used the west midlands example, where unemployment doubled from 1 per cent. to 2 per cent. under the Labour Administration, which he equated to the doubling from 5 per cent. to 10 per cent. 521 unemployment under this Government. The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that a doubling from 20,000 to 40,000 is considerable, but it is not to be compared with an increase from 75,000 to 150,000, which is what the percentages mean. The scale is crucial to this argument. The figure of 1.3 million unemployed when the Labour Government left office is one of mass unemployment, however that is defined. The figure of 4 million unemployed to which we are apparently on the way is catastrophic, and is also mass unemployment, however defined.
The debate today that has been remarkable, and the speeches have reflected something that I want us all to recognise—that the unemployment trend is something that did not start in 1970. Anyone looking at the figures must readily recognise that the increase in unemployment started in the mid-1960s and has continued through various Administrations. That is an important point that we should all recognise. However, I put in defence a point that is ignored by the Government. One should also look at the active employment record of the two Administrations—that is, those who were still in work when the Administration left office. The fact of more people coming on to the market and of population increases and all sorts of other reasons lead to unemployment. In 1979 the Labour Administration left office with 500,000 more people employed, although the unemployment figures were higher. In the last three years of the Labour Administration there was a net yearly increase of 70,000 in the number of people in active employment. In the first 3 years of this Government's Administration, the net loss of jobs to people actively involved in employment has been 700,000 per year-10 times greater in scale. The world recession may have played a part in that. In an earlier debate in July, I tried to differentiate between the scale of unemployment which may be be attributed to recession and that which can be directly attributed to the Government. I will not go into the details again, because time does not allow. My speech is reported in Hansard if hon. Members wish to read it. It is clear that 1.3 million of the 2 million could be put down to the policy being pursued by central Government.
We reject the monetarist approach. Many of my colleagues have made that clear. We believe that the Government can have an effect on the level of economic activity and the level of employment within our society. Governments can choose to decide whether they are prepared to put all their policy options into maintaining a reduction in inflation or simply to reducing unemployment. We believe that unemployment and inflation can be traded off and that an attempt should be made to do so by adjusting policy within our framework. We cannot duck that possibility if it means having a lower level of employment and perhaps a higher level of inflation. Rather than mouthing all we hear about the signal success with inflation which, while it has fallen, has done little to increase economic activity.
The Labour alternative strategy takes a reverse view. It pursues the greater moral obligation to reduce unemployment. It is spelt out in detail in a number of documents and has been questioned on the Floor of the House. We believe that the policies pursued by the Government have produced low investment with high unemployment, a scale of deindustrialisation greater than 522 we have known since the 1930s and a massive inflow of imports and a massive outflow of capital. The Government have a disastrous record on the economy over the past three years.
The Under-Secretary of State for Industry has said in previous debates that the Labour party has produced no analysis and no detailed alternatives. I am somewhat surprised at that accusation because I have constantly heard Ministers attacking our public expenditure programme for expansion as being expensive and inflationary and they have quoted the figures in our documents. They have said that our interventionist and planning proposals will introduce mass bureaucracy—that is a matter between us—and that planned trade and import controls will lead to retaliation. These criticisms are presumably borne out by the reading of the detailed plans that we have presented to the country and to the House.
I should like also to add my personal contribution to that development of thought. In the alternative regional strategy document—I do not know whether the Minister has had a chance to study it—we spell out, in detail, an entirely different and radical approach to regional policy and its contribution to the reduction of mass unemployment. In terms of the coherence and detail of the strategy, no one can legitimately make that criticism, provided that people are prepared to sit down and work through many thousands of words which have been printed about those alternative policies. I will not accept that we have not spelt out those alternative policies as best we can. Indeed, the alternative regional strategy has sold 5,000 copies at £1 a copy. I can only presume that people are buying and reading it. That is the only capitalist enterprise in which I have been involved.
§ Mr. Prescott
Therefore, I cannot accept the judgment that we have not spelt out and costed what we intend to do. Of course, the finer details of the planning and integration of these matters will have to come with the mass of information that only Government and Civil Service can provide. Nevertheless, the framework is there for all to see.
I should like to make clear one point which, I believe, is agreed by both sides of the House. No regional policy on its own can solve the problems of regional economies and regional unemployment. That requires a positive central economic policy. The two major parties are divided on the alternatives they provide to the electorate. We intend to make strategic decisions on some of our basic industries.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has made it clear that we will expand production in the steel industry to 20 million tonnes. Such a decision requires strategic decisions about the size of the motor car industry and whether Nissan if it comes to Britain, will get its steel car parts from the British industry. We must make decisions about the size of the coal industry, railways, textiles and manufacturing. At present these decisions are being taken by the industries themselves depending on Government aid. My hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. Woolmer) pressed the Government for their view on what the size of these industries should be, particularly those involved in manufacturing. They are the core of our industrial strength. They create the wealth. The Opposition direct their thoughts towards that core to try to provide a framework that will produce employment.
523 We reject the idea that matters can be left to market forces. Whatever the Government may say, nobody thinks that they believe in the role of the market forces as the only answer. They have been forced, albeit reluctantly, to intervene in the shipbuilding industry—for example, on the decision whether the replacement for the Atlantic Conveyor should be built in a British yard or elsewhere. They have had to provide up to £1,000 million for British Leyland. They have been forced to negotiate with Nissan on such matters as where it buys its steel parts from and what aid it receives with a declining British car sector. All that is Government intervention in industrial application.
I am not as convinced as the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) that Serpell has nothing to do with the Government. After the next election, the 12,000-mile commitment to the rail service will disappear and there will be wholesale slashing of the rail industry. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) said, the rail workshops will also be affected for a fraction of that given to Nissan.
It is clear that Mr. MacGregor, in his role in the steel industry, was not allowed to implement fully his commercial policy, or Ravenscraig would have been closed. When the question of Ravenscraig arose, the Government—under pressure—decided to keep it open, at least until the election.
The coal industry is important to the Yorkshire and Humberside economy. The signs of Government attitude towards that industry are not good, because they have appointed Mr. MacGregor to be the next chairman. The national decisions made outside the regions will have a direct effect on the development of the Yorkshire regional economy. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster said, we must also remember the important fact that engineering and manufacturing industries are facing the biggest collapse since the 1930s.
The Opposition's policy of planning and playing an interventionist role must be correct. That policy is being called for by a number of industrial and private bodies. As my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley said, the textile industry produced a document yesterday called "A Plan for Action". It co-ordinated the financial and economic policies of he Government, their trading policies and the effects the Community and called for a number of proposals. That industry has suffered a major contraction, but no one can say that there has been under-investment, that it has suffered from high wages or that it has been directly affected by Third world imports. The Government constantly claim that they protect the current size of the industry. It is an important industry, whose sales are greater than that of the car industry. It is important to the economy of Yorkshire and Humberside. Whatever action is taken by the Government will be crucial to the level of unemployment in that region.
It is interesting to note that the textile industry does not directly blame the Government for its problems. It says that they arise from environmental costs. The Opposition would not call them environmental costs. They are the costs of public service industries such as energy and rates; and there is also the over-valuation of the pound. Those factors have resulted in an import penetration of 50 per cent. in 1979, and it is expected to rise to 70 per cent. by 1988.
The industry is calling for balanced trade. It wants the Government to take action not against Third world countries but against developed economies, in and out of 524 the EC, which seem to be expanding in that area. Whatever the industry calls it, that is exactly what the Labour party wants. A trade barrier between Spain and Britain in the car industry would be an example of planned trade, and we shall constantly call for that.
The debate can go on between the two sides of the House about how important or how effective such a central policy will be. I shall pray in aid of the Cambridge economic policy group, which has a good record in estimating. That is probably one reason why it did not get any money from the National Social Science Council—no doubt with some influence from certain Government quarters. The Cambridge group judged the Government's policy against the alternative economic strategy. The report came out only two months ago. It said that, if the Government pursue their present policies, by 1990 there will be 4.5 million unemployed. We are well on the way to that. With the alternative economic strategy, it would be 1.9 million. There is a 2.4 million difference between the Government's assessment and that of the alternative economic strategy.
With a strong regional policy—the Cambridge group feels likewise—we believe that we could perhaps reduce unemployment even further. We believe that a strong regional policy is vital. The Government's regional policy is to reduce the assisted areas. So Yorkshire and Humberside has been more savagely treated than any other region. Only 40 per cent. of its area is covered now. After a 60 per cent. cut, the Government have scrapped the planning boards and the development agencies. They have reduced resources in regional grants to such an extent that the amount now envisaged, in real values, is equivalent to £125 million, an amount equivalent to that given in 1967 for regional funds when unemployment was only 500,000.
The Government have moved to the super black spot approach: flower power for Liverpool, enterprise zones for Scunthorpe, and free trade ports, for which all hon. Members are now bidding, with an urban aid policy, passing over much of the regional policy to the Department of the Environment to determine the nature of economic development with American whizz kids' advice.
The debate has vividly illustrated the effects of three years of Tory rule on the region. Labour's record—here we can consult the regional analysis in the Cambridge review—showed that the net increase in jobs during its last three years in office was equivalent to 10,000 a year. The Tories in the past three years have lost 70,000 a year. The difference is considerable. One figure is a net increase and the other is a net loss—seven times greater than our increase in jobs.
I have spent most of my limited time on central policy because I am firmly convinced—as is my party—that employment in the regions will be directly affected by the amount of public expenditure and the policies adopted at a central level. We do not accept that somehow our policy is not about redirecting expenditure. Clearly, it is, as alleged by the hon. Member for Skipton (Mr. Watson), whether from defence into industry, or from unemployment into sewers, rail and electrification. All this had a great effect on unemployment, both nationally and regionally.
One can appreciate from this debate that the Government's attitude on steel—undoubtedly forced on them by European Community policy—has affected Sheffield, Scunthorpe and Rotherham. Their attitude on coal has affected many towns in Yorkshire. Their attitude 525 on British Rail Engineering has affected Doncaster and other places, and their attitude on textiles has affected Bradford, Kirklees, Halifax, and Huddersfield. There is no doubt that their fishing policy is affecting both sides of the bank in Humberside, and is directly the result of a political decision about the Common Market. That cannot be ignored. I shall not go into their broader policy on engineering and manufacturing, which is crucial. We get notes constantly from the CBI in the region, the chamber of commerce, the local authority, and the Yorkshire and Humberside development area, all asking for cash, help, protection and intervention. They all ask for the Government to play a purposeful and positive part in developing their industrial policy.
It must be recognised that all regions are essentially different. That is why the Labour party believes in harnessing the real skills, knowledge and expertise in the areas. We shall bring back regional planning boards and development agencies and make them accountable to the people in the region. We intend to work on the wonderful efforts that have been made by the local authorities. In Sheffield, there was assistance for the steel industry and other sectors by its employment committee. Hull built a landing company to save the fishing industry from collapse and it developed an innovation centre. The south Yorkshire transport policy may mean cheap fares and more employment and there are of course the metropolitan counties enterprise boards. Local authorities certainly have a positive role to play and presently do so despite attacks upon them by the Government.
If one compares the alternative regional policies, as the Cambridge economic policy group did, it becomes clear that if the present policies for Yorkshire and Humberside are not changed the present 300,000 unemployed will rise to 411,000 by 1990. Labour's alternative economic strategy, with its regional policy would reduce that to 175,000 unemployed—a difference of 236,000 people and 236,000 reasons why people in Yorkshire and Humberside will vote Labour at the next election. The Labour party's national and regional policies provide the only hope to reduce the grinding misery of many unemployed in Yorkshire and Humberside and elsewhere in Britain. They provide a radical alternative to return our people to full employment and to reverse the de-industrialisation of our great industrial centres so that Yorkshire and Humberside can yet again make a great contribution to the creation of Britain's wealth and prosperity.
§ The Minister of State, Department of Industry (Mr. Norman Lamont)
I, too, shall try to be brief so that those hon. Members who are still waiting to speak will have an opportunity to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
It is a particular personal pleasure for me to reply to the debate today, having lived for many years in Humberside and having stood as a Conservative candidate against the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) in 1970 when he beat me by a small majority of 23,000 votes.
I join hon. Members in congratulating the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman). He introduced his motion with great zest and enthusiasm and he spoke 526 constructively. It is interesting that, although we had a debate on the same subject not so long ago, today's debate has been extremely well attended.
The hon. Gentleman accused the Government of wanting to go back to Victorian times, but he himself wanted to go further back to the time of Edward III. I agree that Edward III was both a strong and wise monarch, although I am not sure that I would entirely agree with Edward III about the virtues of protectionism. Perhaps the circumstances then were rather different. Our economy, so heavily dependent on exports, is very different today.
The hon. Gentleman also referred to G. M. Trevelyan—a historian who he felt was, perhaps a little late, coming back into fashion. However, I do not think that he would have shared the hon. Gentleman's somewhat critical view of the Victorians. He in fact underlined the great benefits that accrued to Britain in the 19th century as a result of entrepreneurship and the great outburst of national energy which had a beneficial effect on many of the areas that are represented in the debate today. I am not sure that that was the hon. Gentleman's strongest point.
I am not sure either that I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman about Japan. At times I thought that the debate would become one on Japan rather than Humberside. One rather got the impression that the hon. Gentleman was seeking to justify the Labour party's policies by saying to the public that they were not so much Socialist or Left wing policies as Japanese policies; they are not so extraordinary or extremist. I agree that it would be wrong to describe Japan as a free market economy; it is not. The Japanese economy is competitive, but it is not a free market economy. It would be wrong to say that it is run along the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East. It is not the centrally planned economy that the hon. Member described and advocated.
Perhaps significantly, the hon. Member did not mention Japan's success in bringing down its inflation level. Japan has one of the lowest inflation levels in the industrial world, if not the lowest. One of the consequences is that Japan has managed to keep interest rates low. That has had a beneficial effect on employment.
My hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) referred to the importance of agriculture in Yorkshire and Humberside. He wanted me to convey to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the difficulties experienced by pig farmers. I shall do that, and I shall take up the point that he made about the jobcentre at Driffield.
My hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Spence) talked about various planning matters and mentioned the Firefly trainer aircraft. I shall raise that subject with the Ministry of Defence. I shall also take up the comments about coastal erosion and Spurn Point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend).
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East commented on the Common Market fisheries settlement. He said that for advantage to be taken of that deal further steps had to be taken. He made out a case for granting aid to restructure the industry. I shall draw the attention of the Minister of Agriculture to that.
The hon. Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) asked why Halifax did not qualify for non-quota aid from the European regional development fund. I agree with her. We should like Halifax to be included in the list of textile areas qualifying for non-quota aid. We have pressed for that and shall continue to do so.
527 A number of hon. Members have referred to the Nissan project, including my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton). If the company decides to invest in the United Kingdom, choosing a site will be up to the company. I am sure that it will consider Humberside and will see that there are some attractive areas there.
A number of hon. Members doubted whether the Government would insist upon tough enough conditions for the Nissan project. The Government have always said that they would welcome Nissan to the United Kingdom, on the right terms. That includes provision for local content and it has been the subject of negotiations. Provided that the project is established on the right terms, we believe that it could be of advantage to the country as a whole.
I agree with the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East and the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East about emphasising national policies. Of course regional policy is important. It plays a great part in affecting differential unemployment rates throughout the country. But in the final analysis it is broad national policies which affect the overall employment position. I agree with the Opposition about that.
However, I disagree with the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East when he says quite openly and without being at all abashed that the Labour party regards inflation and unemployment as factors to be traded off and that it is acceptable to have a higher level of inflation to gain a higher level of employment. The trouble with that argument is that the trade-off between inflation and unemployment has been getting increasingly worse over the last two decades. Time and again we have seen that we may get a brief boost to employment if inflation is allowed to rise but that it is a short-lived benefit and that the only consequence in the longer run is that employment is damaged, the currency has to depreciate further and we get into a spiral of accelerating inflation and rising unemployment. The only way to break out of that spiral is to achieve the difficult objective of getting down inflation.
The Government welcome the dramatic fall recently in the annual inflation rate to the lowest level for almost 13 years. But industry has experienced a very severe recession. The outlook for 1983 is for gradual recovery. Some key indicators of the United States economy, industrial production, retail sales and unemployment on which world recovery depends show signs of quicker than expected movement out of the recession. Most forecasters expect United Kingdom output to increase by at least 1 per cent. in 1983, alongside a smaller increase in manufacturing output.
In terms of the next few months, it is encouraging that the results of the latest CBI monthly trends inquiry suggest that demand may have improved, especially for exports. A majority of the firms surveyed expected a rise in output over the next four months.
My hon. Friend the Member for Skipton (Mr. Watson) emphasised that Conservative Back Benchers were not looking for more money to be spent in the region. They did not see that as the solution to the region's problems. My hon. Friend stressed the need for industry to have its costs cut. The Government have helped industry's own prodigious efforts to cut costs. We have cut the national insurance surcharge—Labour's tax on jobs—by 2 528 percentage points. This will be worth £1.5 billion to the private sector in 198–384. The announcements on industrial gas and electricity prices will help further.
Yorkshire and Humberside has a work force of two million. Everyone agrees that to have 300,000 unemployed in the region is a serious and tragic waste of human resources. The region has suffered quite severely during the recession, though not as much as other comparable regions such as the north-west or the west midlands, where unemployment has risen more rapidly and reached higher levels.
Yorkshire and Humberside's unemployment rate is 14.9 per cent. compared with 13.7 per cent. for the country as a whole. Within the area there are considerable disparities. In Rotherham and Mexborough in south Yorkshire, about one fifth of the work force is unemployed. But in the rural county of north Yorkshire the average is less than 10 per cent. Such places as York, Harrogate, Skipton, Malton and Pickering do not have unemployment rates worse than many places in the south of England. In a ranking of travel-to-work areas by their average unemployment in 1982, Yorkshire and Humberside had seven areas in the lowest 10 per cent.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Dr. Hampson) emphasised, some parts of the region have had a long dependence on traditional manufacturing, especially steel, textiles and general engineering. It is those areas and industries which have had to bear the brunt of the recession.
It is not all gloom in the region, as Opposition Members have sometimes been inclined to tell us. Yorkshire and Humberside has a broadly based industrial structure. There is a considerable diversity of firms which produce a variety of products. Even in the hard-pressed textile industry, there have been recent reports of stronger order books and increased output from firms in the Kirklees and Wakefield areas. There have been areas of brightness even in those industries that have faced the toughest circumstances.
There are also companies such as Microvitec in Bradford which is a young company that went into the business of producing colour display screens for computers. After two years in business it had a turnover of nearly £3 million and it is starting to export to many countries. It has 115 employees and plans for expansion. The founder of that firm chose Bradford because of the pool of highly skilled labour in the city.
Some firms are achieving success by going all out for export markets. Airedale Air Conditioning of Leeds, another young company, is one of the best exporters of air conditioning equipment, especially to Arab countries. In 1982, it increased its sales from £3.5 million to 5.6 million and exports rose by 126 per cent.
Westall Richardson is a Sheffield cutler with a success story. It claims that its Laser range of stainless steel knives is selling especially well. Its turnover increased by 30 per cent. last year. I see from a report in the Sheffield Morning Telegraph that cutlery with the Viners name is again to be made in Sheffield by cutlers working under contract from the company that bought the name.
There is also some good news from the clothing sector. The region is well blessed by the presence of some prominent suppliers to Marks and Spencer who have been doing well. Mansfield Hosiery and I. J. Dewhirst, referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Howden, which have factories in Hull, have recently announced expansion plans.
§ Mr. Woolmer
Last year the textile and clothing industries pressed the Minister to provide Government aid schemes for those industries. He replied that other EC countries had such a scheme but that the Government would oppose them. Since then, the European Commission has approved the French, Belgian and Italian textile aid schemes. Will the Government now cease objecting to those schemes and introduce a textile aid scheme in Britain so that we can compete on equal terms with other European countries?
§ Mr. Lamont
As we have said to the hon. Gentleman before, the Government remain opposed to those schemes and we shall continue to make our opposition clear to the Commission. We have recently been in touch with the Commission again on the subject.
Opposition Members tend to concentrate their speeches on the need for financial aid to industry, as if the Government have spent next to nothing on helping industry in the area. That is far from the case. We have spent £200 million on regional aid to firms and on providing Government advance factories. That aid has been supplemented by substantial help from European Community funds, including £27 million in loans to firms from the European investment bank.
In addition to regional help, the region has benefited from national support schemes. I agree with one point that the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East made: modern technology in the form of robotics, information technology an micoprocessors has as much application to existing traditional industries as to the new industries of tomorrow. The production methods of existing industries, including the textile industry, as he rightly pointed out, can be assisted by the introduction of modern technology. All of the industries that have been discussed today qualify for aid under those schemes. Many small firms in Yorkshire and Humberside have benefited from the Government's measures to help them and from expenditure under the urban programme. The catalogue of measures totals nearly £400 million, and that is before taking into account other ways in which public money has helped to sustain the region's economy such as through the CEGB's investment and that of the National Coal Board.
I have not yet mentioned the battery of special measures operated by the Manpower Services Commission. Quite unprecedented levels of Government spending on special support measures designed to protect both jobs and the jobless are having a big impact in Yorkshire and Humberside. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend)—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"]—said that wages councils had an effect on employment levels because the wages of young people were too high. There is some evidence that the wages of the newly employed and of school leavers has been high compared with average wages and much closer to average wages than in many other European countries. That is why the Government introduced the young workers scheme, which encourages employers to take on more 16 and 17-year-olds at realistic rates of pay that reflect their inexperience and, often, lack of training. That scheme has supported more than 16,500 youngsters in Yorkshire and Humberside and has been going only 14 months.
Some hon. Members mentioned assisted area status. The hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy) raised the question of Dinnington, the employment office area, and the definition of the travel-to-work area. Of course, 530 drawing the line for individual travel-to-work areas is a matter for the Department of Employment. The hon. Gentleman said that I had refused to see him, but I wrote to him saying that I was willing to see him. I repeat that I am prepared to see him, although I emphasise that the definition of an individual travel-to-work area is the responsibility of the Department of Employment. However, if he wishes to see me about that matter, I shall be prepared to talk to him.
Several hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington referred to English Industrial Estates, which is the Government's factory building agency. It is directing some of its activities towards high technology industries, by developing speculative buildings with a high technology user in mind, adjacent to universities and polytechnics. The first of those developments was opened recently in Bradford at the Listerhills high technology park and consists of 22 units built at a cost of £1.3 million. A similar development is taking place linked to Leeds university and one is also planned for Hull.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) asked for an allowance that might enable unemployed people to set up businesses while still retaining the right to benefit. I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the attraction of such a scheme and that is precisely the purpose of the enterprise allowance. Admittedly, it has only so far been set up on an experimental basis. I accept that the hon. Gentleman would like to see an experiment carried out in Hull. However, we are trying to evaluate the experiment, and the first results appear to be encouraging. I agree entirely with what the hon. Gentleman said.
§ Mr. Lamont
I have just said that we must evaluate it before we can consider doing that.
Hon. Members have referred to local authority rates. Time and again we hear local authorities complain that they are not getting enough from the Government to nurture industry in their areas and, at the same time, they pursue policies that lead to high rate demands on companies, make them uncompetitive and force them out of business or prevent their expansion. Local authorities should consider carefully the burden that they are placing on business men before they approve public projects that will increase the rates. The Humberside business ratepayers group was recently reported as saying that a 6p in the pound rate increase would cost the equivalent of 1,000 jobs in trade and industry in Humberside.
We have heard some depressing noises from Opposition Members, but in the longer term I remain optimistic about Yorkshire and Humberside's prospects. Its industry is resilient. Its people are hard-headed and determined to succeed. The region is geographically well placed in the centre of Britain. It has, as several hon. Members said, an excellent communications system and outlets to Europe through the Humber ports. Now that, as a result of Government's policies, we have returned to low inflation and sound money, we have created the right climate for sustainable growth in output and employment. As the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East rightly said, national policies will determine the success of the region. 531 Our national policies are beginning to pay off, and Humberside will be able to take advantage of that, as will other areas.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)
Order. In the few minutes of the debate that remain, I appeal to hon. Members for brief contributions—perhaps five minutes each.
§ Mr. David Ginsburg (Dewsbury)
Willy-nilly, I shall comply with your request, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to speak for only five minutes.
Listening to the Minister, I did not recognise my constituency or the neighbouring area. That is not the record of achievement in our eyes. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) might recognise that diagnosis is easier than cure. In what we say to our electors we must consider how the problem will be resolved. Public expenditure has a role in terms of expenditure on infrastructure and regional policy. The correct fiscal tax and rating policies also have their parts to play. If one had a balanced programme about 100,000 people could be taken off the unemployment register quite rapidly in the region.
The subject that we have discussed is not academic. In my constituency there is an unemployment rate of over 15 per cent. I remind the Minister and the House that what has happened, although serious, was not entirely a surprise. With regard to my constituency and that of my neighbour the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. Woolmer), immediately after the war the wool textile working party reported on the peculiar vulnerability of our area. The aging industrial base in our constituencies cannot be stressed too strongly. The disappearance of pits and the decline in wool textiles meant that full employment in the 1950s and 1960s—it is important to recall this—concealed a dangerous local situation. When eventually some new industries and service employment came to the area it was too little too late. It has to be borne in mind that in the first 15 years after the war there was no new industrial building in the area. We are paying the price today. That may not have seemed serious in a period of full employment but in retrospect the failure to bring in new industry and to have a proper regional policy has been serious. We now have the problem of finding new high technology industries into which to move the unemployed.
It is important to have the right regional policy, and the Government should be censured for removing our intermediate area status. I will join anyone in pressing for the restoration of these incentives, but I believe that it is not the only or best cure for Yorkshire. The right cure is to pursue correct economic policies nationally rather than to go for an inadequate share of the regional inducement cake.
Regional policy made good sense at a time of full employment and still has a role to play although it must have a lower priority now. Some of the grants passed around the country have been spent on highly capital-intensive industries which produce little permanent employment.
We must look at the nation and the areas as they are, and recognise that there are many small and medium sized firms that lack financial backing from Government or large 532 companies. We need to concentrate urgently on measures that will produce a modest, controlled reflation and stimulate employment. Reductions in national insurance and rates and cheaper interest rates are all essential if the smaller employer is to be encouraged.
Local authorities must accept that they can play an essential role in helping good housekeeping. They should do a deal with the Government, which will lead to a substantial measure of industrial derating.
I leave the House with one thought that I think is of relevance and importance. The 1966 Labour Government introduced the selective employment tax. Its rationale had, perhaps, some justification in making labour dearer at a time of full employment, but that is not the case today. We should perhaps consider the reverse—a more ambitious job subsidy scheme. The Government's tendency has been to remove job subsidy schemes. Given the level of unemployment, the Government should move more rapidly along those lines.
§ Dr. Keith Hampson (Ripon)
I apologise for having been absent for one and a half hours, but the hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand) and I were repaying our debts to the Fulbright commission by addressing this year's Fulbright scholars.
My hon. Friend the minister highlighted the rate problem, caused by many local authorities, which penalises industry. However, there is another aspect of the local authorities' role. The Government have not washed their hands of putting money into the regions. The problem is how it can best be used. The Government have moved to more selective ways through the urban development grant scheme and the derelict land category A schemes which draw in large sums of private money on the back of small sums provided by the Government.
One of the problems in the Yorkshire and Humberside region is whether the local authorities are getting off their backsides quickly and imaginatively enough to put forward schemes. I have considered the derelict land scheme. Scunthorpe has a £2 million scheme, which has triggered off £30 million of private investment. Many other parts of the region have derelict land category A grants, but not Bradford. Although Bradford makes many requests to local Members of Parliament for assistance, it did not put in for any derelict land grants.
The house builders federation in Yorkshire tells me that Leeds has not been prepared to negotiate with the private house building sector for the "homes within reach" concept—low cost home ownership. Is it surprising, therefore, that when one looks at the regional figures for 1982 housing starts, one finds that there is an 11 per cent. improvement in Yorkshire and Humberside as against a 25 per cent. increase throughout the country?
With respect to Opposition Members, we must see what our local authorities are up to. It is not just a matter for the Government. The Opposition Front Bench spokesman, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) in an effective speech, focused on the idea that the Government should be more purposeful and positive if they want to do anything about regional policy. By that the hon. Gentleman means more public spending. That is not the answer. No one is saying that Government spending does not have a role, but the most important element is the climate in which private industry, business and commerce can thrive. That means that the key factor 533 is interest rates. The report on the textile industry emphasises the key importance of interest rates. If we are to continue pouring huge public subsidies into many and various projects and using public money to prop up industries——
§ Dr. Hampson
—such as the Lewis Merthyr colliery and other coal fields that are clearly inefficient, interest rates will be pushed up.
§ Dr. Hampson
British farming has saved our economy by carrying the burden of billions of pounds' worth of imports. Labour Members should thank their lucky stars that farming has been one of the growth sectors of the British economy. That has been proved more dramatically under this Government than ever under a Labour Government. I intended to speak for only two or three minutes more, but if Labour Members continue to make interjections I shall be tempted to continue for longer.
The primary role of the Government must be to reduce interest rates. It is an objective that has been achieved by dynamic economies throughout the world. One of the contributions to pushing up interest rates has been state subsidies and public spending in general. The rate of inflation also has a direct bearing on interest rates. When the Labour Government were in office inflation went through the roof, reaching 23 to 25 per cent.
Similarly, we cannot ignore the impact of oil. There were tenfold increases in 1973 and 1979. Those increases slowed down world trade but increased dramatically the strength of the British pound. Textiles and other industries in Yorkshire are facing a declining world market and their costs are increasing as interest rates increase. Their competitiveness is being lost as a result of the movement of the pound.
There are two nations within Britain but that is not the will of the Government. The Government do not wish to have two nations—the north and the south. They are not desirous that that should continue. The reality is that there are two nations because there are two economies.
In Glasgow, Scotland's midland belt, the north, the north-east, Humberside and south Yorkshire we are talking about traditional staple industries—coal, steel, shipbuilding and, to a certain extent, chemicals and textiles. These industries have faced a declining world market, high costs and overheads and more productive, more efficient, low-cost producers throughout the world. This has meant that their existence has become a problem and they have had to shed labour.
The powerhouse of the British economy throughout the previous century and right through to the first world war cannot be recreated. We cannot stop the deindustrialisation of traditional sectors of industry. We must find the means of creating new growth and new industries. We must stop putting so much money into declining sectors. Instead we must single out growth sectors and encourage them.
As several Labour Members have said, that is exactly what the Japanese have always done. They have crucified our motor cycle and typewriter industries, the Swiss watch industry and the German camera industry. They have been 534 able to do that because of their efficiency and competitiveness. British people have not been buying British cars, but there has been no lack of demand for cars produced elsewhere. There is increasing demand for Japanese and German cars. British Leyland now has a product that may be a good design and may be reliable. It is possible that the British people will buy it. These are the basic realities of the nation's economy.
I shall make what I consider to be a sensible and constructive proposal. It is one that is based on what happened on Merseyside. A survey showed that only 3 per cent. of the goods purchased by one of five major stores—four of them were part of national operations and purchased their goods nationally—were manufactured in the region. We should build on the CBI's "Can you make it?" campaign. Our local authorities and the chambers of commerce jointly should fund some bright manager, seconded from industry, to undertake a full examination of what our major companies are buying in the way of components and products from abroad with a view to ascertaining whether we can make them at home in our region. If we can put together these two things—what goods and components we are capable of making and getting our industries and shops in the region to buy them—that would go a long way to stimulating our regional economy.
§ Mr. Austin Mitchell (Grimsby)
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Ripon (Dr. Hampson) in his litany of excuses for the Government, who have pushed up interest rates to the highest level in British history and crippled the economy with it. Today we are talking about the effects on our area of the worst recession in the industrial world. In Grimsby, there has been a kind of anorexia nervosa, a wasting away, as firms, for good reason, have laid off or made redundant 20 people here, or 100 people there, bringing the unemployment rate to one in five, with no compensating development.
Our industrial base has been narrowing and that process has been going on, as in the textile industries, at a time when our basic industry, fishing, has been in decline, partly because of the loss of the distant water opportunities and the collapse of the distant water fleet, but also because the new fleet making a smaller catch is threatened by a crisis of confidence because an aging fleet is not making enough money and is too crippled with debt to pay for new investment or even, in some cases, to keep going.
If the banks put the pressure on the fishing firms, as they have been doing, we shall be faced with the bankruptcies and we shall be in danger of bringing the whole house of cards, which is so precariously balanced, crashing down. The effects will spread to the ancillary services, such as engineering and the other firms that supply the fishing industry. They will be left with a legacy of debt from fishing firms, at a time when they are already finding it difficult to keep going. The whole fishing industry is in danger unless the Government take urgent action to help it.
Grimsby, as a port, does what it can. It is now joining Hull in an approach to the Common Market. In a common study we are trying to develop new structures for the industry, but the essential help that we need is help from the Government and new operating aid to rebut the crisis of confidence in a restructuring plan that will allow us to get the new building, development and equipment that we 535 need. It is impossible for firms to go in for the restructuring or replacement of the bigger vessels such as the cat type vessels without cheap loans and Government finance for restructuring.
What is true of the fishing industry is true of our industrial position in Grimsby. These are problems that can be tackled, given the scale of the problem, only by a Government who are largely responsible for those problems in the first place. What we need from the Government, for fishing as for the rest of the industry, is an attempt to use their power for benign purposes such as growth, expansion and investment, rather than to shackle, restrict and burden industry.
I hope that in the next Budget the burden of the national insurance contributions and interest rates will be lifted. The Government must also boost demand. Grimsby's industries live by demand—the demand for paint products, caravans, textiles and for the food that we process. Without a substantial boost in demand, the process of industrial decline will continue.
It is curious that a Government who claimed that they would turn the position round are, at the same time, accused by the Treasury and Civil Service Committee of a failure to stimulate capital investment and allowing a deliberate decline in capital investment. The essence of the Labour party's complaints is that we need the tools to help ourselves. Most of all we need things such as free ports, for which Grimsby is a natural choice, enterprise zones, the ability to control our destiny, and, above all, more backing, help and support from the Government.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) will draw the debate to a conclusion. I congratulate him on his motion.
§ Mr. Sheerman
This has been a good debate, particularly in the contributions from the Labour Benches. The words from the Government Benches, particularly from the Minister, should be engraved on the memory of every Yorkshireman and every person from Humberside in the coming months and years. People will be saying, if the textile industry has a plan for action and the Labour party has a plan for action to help Yorkshire and Humberside, why have not the Government?
§ I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Cryer
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In view of the massive preponderance of Labour Members from the Yorkshire and Humberside region, many of whom were not called because of the limitations on time, and of the small number of Conservative Members who took an inordinate amount of time in the debate, in any future debate on Yorkshire and Humberside could consideration be given to calling those Labour Members who have sat here for a long time to show their strength of feeling and their concern at the lack of Government action in creating jobs in Yorkshire and Humberside?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)
That is not a point of order. I can understand the frustration of the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer). I think that the most helpful thing that I can say to him and to the House is that a careful study of the length of speeches should be made. Despite two appeals from me and from my predecessor in the Chair, the contributions to today's debate were over-long.