HC Deb 03 July 1985 vol 82 cc319-20
5. Mr. Alton

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the operation to date of his revised regional strategy.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Mr. Norman Lamont)

It is too early to measure the effectiveness of the revised policy, which has been in operation for only seven months. We shall make an assessment as soon as possible after the new incentive package has had time to work through into additional job opportunities.

Mr. Alton

Does the Minister agree that there are many structural improvements planned in Britain which, although not in development areas, if expedited could be of immense importance to those development areas? Does he further agree that such schemes would qualify for social funding? If so, who is responsible for making that decision, and how many schemes have been designated to date?

Mr. Lamont

I follow the hon. Gentleman's logic that a project in one area may have an impact on a development area. However, in general, those projects will not qualify for assistance under the present scheme, and they never have.

Mr. Harris

Regarding the regional strategy for the south-west, does my hon. Friend agree that the biggest handicap to its economy is the dreadful bottleneck on the A30 at Okehampton and the state of the A30 into Cornwall? Will he please lend his weight to those of us who want a reversal of the Select Committee's disastrous decision about the southern part of the Okehampton bypass?

Mr. Lamont

Every time I have been in the south-west I have heard a similar tune. I shall certainly draw my hon. Friend's comments to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.

Mr. Williams

Will the Minister confirm that the Secretary of State for Wales was party to the decision to cut regional assistance? Is he aware that yesterday, on Welsh television, the Secretary of State deplored the loss of social fund assistance to mid-Wales, although that loss is the direct result of the withdrawal of assisted area status, to which he was a party? Since in the 12 months to April 1985 Brecon and Radnor, deprived of regional aid, has seen unemployment rise faster than in any other Welsh constituency — three times as fast as the increase in Wales as a whole—will the Minister assure the House that he will restore assisted area status to mid-Wales?

Mr. Lamont

The right hon. Gentleman made a speech about the by-election last night in the steel industry debate, and he has not stopped talking about it since. We were all waiting for his comments. The social fund is of relatively small magnitude as applied to Wales. The fact is that Wales came out of the review of regional policy relatively well.