HC Deb 06 June 1984 vol 61 cc304-6
10. Mr. Ward

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the submissions he has received in response to the White Paper on regional industrial development.

Mr. Trippier

I am pleased with the constructive and helpful comments contained in most of the submissions received, which totalled 467 by 31 May.

All submissions received by that deadline, or dated and post-marked prior to it, will be taken into account when we make our decisions on those issues on which views were invited. A statement will be made in due course. In addition, I shall make available to the House a list of all the submissions received in response to the invitation in the White Paper.

Mr. Ward

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. However, he will be aware that some of us are sceptical about the beneficial effects, if any, of regional aid. When he comes to make his final decision on the form of regional aid, will my hon. Friend bear in mind that all that aid comes from the already hard-pressed taxpayers?

Mr. Trippier

I am aware of my hon. Friend's cynicism, which I have heard from time to time, both on the Floor of the House and in the debates in Committee on the Co-operative Development Agency and Industrial Development Bill, which received its Third Reading on Monday. The Government accept that regional industrial policy costs a lot of public money and that the balance of economic benefits and costs is not clear-cut. We are increasing the cost-effectiveness of the policy, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will welcome that.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Will the Minister reject the sentiments expressed by his hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Ward), which were also expressed by some other Conservative Members in the debate on Monday evening on the Co-operative Development Agency and Industrial Development Bill debate? Will he ensure that the interests of the regions are taken fully into account in the development of new policy? Is he aware that most of the criticisms that we hear come from those areas of the country that have never suffered from the levels of unemployment endured in Scotland, Wales, the north-west and other parts of the country?

Mr. Trippier

The hon. Gentleman would expect me to reply in the affirmative, and I am anxious to do so. We made it clear in the White Paper that we support an effective regional policy and are determined to ensure that we reduce regional disparities in employment opportuities on a stable, long-term basis.

Mr. Yeo

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is no net economic gain to the country from any incentive that just asks a firm to locate its business in one part of the country rather than another? Will not the interests of all regions, whether prosperous or depressed, benefit from the promotion of free market forces, in particular Suffolk, which is ready to stand on its own feet in free competition?

Mr. Trippier

I agree with my hon. Friend's latter point, but the White Paper made it clear that we can no longer try to justify regional policy on economic grounds. We try to justify it on social grounds, because of the inequalities between the regions.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Is the Minister aware that the Government's proposals will effectively end any opportunity or chance for west Cumberland to attract any capital-intensive industry until there is a change of Government? Is that a reasonable and fair way to treat my part of the country, particularly when over the past 15 years the only industry that has come to provide jobs in great number is capital-intensive and has come as a result of regional policy?

Mr. Trippier

The hon. Gentleman is talking absolute nonsense. He cannot pre-judge the outcome of the review which we shall be conducting shortly as a result of the representations that we have received on the White Paper, or what we shall do with the assisted areas map.