HC Deb 19 January 1987 vol 108 cc591-3
25. Mr. Wigley

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he is yet in a position to announce the date of his visit to the county palatine early in the new year, referred to in his answer of 17 November, Official Report, column 302; and if he will make a statement.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Norman Tebbit)

I hope to visit the county palatine next on 10 March in place of 31 March date to which I referred when I last answered questions.

Mr. Wigley

When the right hon. Gentleman goes to the county palatine, will he tell the residents whether he regards it as a success of his Government's policy that 94 per cent. of the job losses since this Government came into office have taken place in the north and west of these islands, including the north of England, Wales and Scotland, and whether his answer to the unemployment problem is still that people should get on their bikes?

Mr. Tebbit

Given the time that the hon. Gentleman had to rehearse his supplementary question, he has not done terribly well on it. Unemployment is now falling in the United Kingdom. Jobs are being created at a very high rate in the north and west, just as they are in the south. However, it is not surprising that during a period of worldwide decline in such heavy industries as shipbuilding and steel the major job losses in Britain should have been concentrated where those industries are situated. The Government's regional and other policies are doing everything possible to regenerate jobs in those areas. The actions of some Labour local authorities are not conducive to helping in that process.

Mr. Sumberg

Does my right hon. Friend recall that on his last visit to the county palatine, and in particular to Bury, he performed the topping-out ceremony of a new unit at Fairfield hospital? That unit had waited for years to be constructed under a Labour Government. Does he agree that it has taken a Tory Government to build the hospitals, whereas the Opposition merely talk about them?

Mr. Tebbit

My hon. Friend is right. Many of the hospitals currently being built by this Government, and the many which have already been completed, were taken out of the Labour Government's programme during the IMF crisis 10 years ago. We should not be surprised at that, because I am reminded that it is just 19 years ago today that the Labour Government announced slashing expenditure reductions which involved postponing the raising of the school-leaving age, led to the introduction of prescription charges, the slashing of the housing programme by 165,000 houses a year and the slashing of defence expenditure. Of course, that is quite normal for Labour Governments, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time was the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), who has now been given the job as economic spokesman for the SDP.

Mr. Winnick

When the right hon. Gentleman visits the county palatine, will he explain to the people there why he was quite willing to come here in his chauffeur-driven car on Friday to vote down a private Member's Bill that would have assisted some pensioners? Since there has been a great deal written about what he did or did not say about Tories with a conscience, does his conduct on Friday demonstrate that he has much of a conscience?

Mr. Tebbit


Mr. Winnick


Mr. Tebbit

I felt that I should vote against a measure that would cause an extra burden of taxation to fall upon young widows in order to give free television licences to my noble Friends the Lord Hailsham and the Lord Whitelaw.

26. Mr. Silvester

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he is yet in a position to give the date of his proposed visit to the county palatine early in the new year, mentioned in his answer of 17 November, Official Report, column 302; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Tebbit

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Silvester

By the time my right hon. Friend gets to the Duchy, will he make an estimate of the number of people whose jobs will be affected if we were to follow non-nuclear defence and energy policies?

Mr. Tebbit

It would be difficult to make a full estimate of the number of people. British Nuclear Fuels Limited at Sellafield, Springfields and Risley employs 16,000 people, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, principally at Risley, employs 3,900, the National Nuclear Corporation at Booths Hall and Risley employs 2,300 people, and the CEGB at Heysham 1 and 2 nuclear stations employs 1,250 people. There are, therefore, some 23,000 employees directly in the north-west. BNFL alone estimates that its programme supports a further 50,000 jobs, mostly in the north-west. On top of that, we could add all the Vickers jobs on the new Trident nuclear submarine programme. All in all, an impressive number of jobs would be thrown away by a Labour Government if we ever had that misfortune visited upon us.