HC Deb 19 December 1984 vol 70 cc282-4
8. Mr. Loyden

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many applications for selective regional aid have been received from firms having business in Liverpool and by firms intending to set up businesses in Liverpool.

Mr. Norman Lamont

Between April 1979 and September 1984 some 300 applications for regional selective assistance were received for projects in the Liverpool travel-to-work area.

Mr. Loyden

Does the Minister agree that there have been a record number of bankruptcies in small businesses? On a number of occasions I have written to the Department asking for assistance to provide jobs in an area of high unemployment. In view of that, does the hon. Gentleman agree that that shows that this is yet another failure in the Government's portfolio of policies? When will he consider the genuine problems of businesses in that area and ensure that the Government assist them, if that is the Government's intention? This is supposed to be the Government of small businesses.

Mr. Lamont

I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman listened to my earlier answer when I said that 182 offers have a value of £32 million. That is only selective assistance. On top of that, large amounts of automatic grants and regional development grants have gone to the Liverpool travel-to-work area. Whatever else Liverpool has lacked, it has not lacked money from the Government.

Mr. Philip Oppenheim

Is my hon. Friend aware of the great resentment in areas which do not receive regional assistance but have high unemployment—.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The same rules apply to all hon. Members. The question is about Liverpool.

Mr. Oppenheim

Is my hon. Friend aware that many places such as Liverpool are treated generously compared with other areas of high unemployment, which receive no assistance?

Mr. Lamont

That is no doubt why my hon. Friend supported our decision to cut £300 million from the regional policy budget.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Will not Liverpool be hit, like many other regions, by the cut in regional aid under the new regime that will operate? Will not Liverpool, other parts of the north, Scotland and Wales, have less money going into their economies because of the massive cuts in regional aid on which the Government have embarked?

Mr. Lamont

As the hon. Gentleman knows, Liverpool will continue to receive the highest status. It will qualify in the inner tier for assistance automatically. That assistance will be much better spent because it will be much more closely related to the creation of jobs. If we are to spend money on regional policies, it is sensible to relate it to jobs.

Mr. Ryman

Will not the dilemma of Liverpool under the Government's new plans for regional aid be similar to that in many other parts of the country, especially the north-east of England, where, because of a refusal to honour a previous commitment, companies which made plans long ago for capital expansion involving job creation must now change their plans because the Government have peremptorily introduced a new policy on regional aid, on the completely false criterion of travel-to-work areas?

Mr. Lamont

It is incorrect to say that the Government introduced these changes suddenly. There was a long period of consultation. Furthermore, the changes in the map were accompanied by generous transitional provisions which take account of the hon. Gentleman's point that companies may have been in the middle of formulating investment plans. Those are catered for in the transitional provisions

Mr. John Smith

I assume that the Minister considered the position of Liverpool carefully in anticipation of answering this question. How much less money will be available to Liverpool as a result of the recent changes in regional development policy? What does it cost to create a job in an enterprise zone?

Mr. Lamont

I cannot answer either question.

Mr. John Smith

Why not?

Mr. Lamont

We have not made an estimate of how each area will be affected by the changes in regional policy. Expenditure on regional policy is demand-led and depends on companies putting forward projects, as it always has. It is impossible to make an assessment for each travel-to-work area.