HC Deb 10 June 1992 vol 209 cc298-9
12. Mr. Hutton

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the Government's regional policy.

The Minister for Industry (Mr. Tim Sainsbury)

The Government remain committed to an effective, well-focused regional policy.

Mr. Hutton

Does the Minister agree that an important element of an effective regional policy for Britain in the 1990s, unlike the statement that he has just made, would include specific and targeted measures to help constituencies such as mine which are dependent on defence-related spending? Is he aware that tens of thousands of jobs in the defence industry have been lost since 1990? When will he present to the House a range of specific policies which will offer a reasonable prospect of secure employment to people in my constituency?

Mr. Sainsbury

I assure the hon. Gentleman that employment opportunities will be the major factor that we shall take into account in our review of the assisted areas map. The implications for employment opportunities of cutbacks in defence spending will be fully taken into account, along with all other relevant factors.

Mr. Knapman

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that business and commerce should always be based where they are most efficient, and that we therefore have no national cohesion policy?

Mr. Sainsbury

I assure my hon. Friend that the Government do not intend to try to dictate to industry or commerce where they should go. I recall industrial development certificates and, even more horrific, office development permits. I dare say that if the Labour party had its way we might return to those bad days.

Mr. John D. Taylor

As employment in the regions could be improved at a stroke by reducing interest rates, why does the Minister continue to support the exchange rate mechanism, which freezes those opportunities?

Mr. Sainsbury

Interest rates have some influence on industry's decisions on investment and expansion, but currency stability also has a great influence, as do many other factors. The right hon. Gentleman would do well to take that into account.

Mr. Bill Walker

When my right hon. Friend is examining the policies, will he look carefully at travel-to-work areas? In particular, will he note that in my constituency a travel-to-work area was created some years ago embracing Blairgowrie, Pitlochry and Aberfeldy? Anyone who knows the highland parts of Perthshire knows that it is nonsensical to describe that as a travel-to-work area.

Mr. Sainsbury

My hon. Friend must be the most knowledgeable person about those areas, and I admit that I should like to know them better than I do. However, travel-to-work areas will be the basic building block of the review of the assisted areas map and there will be no fresh census data on which to reassess those areas until 1994. That would leave the review too late.

Ms. Quin

In his book, "Where There's a Will", the President of the Board of Trade called for an active regional and industrial policy, but other DTI Ministers in the past have supported the anti-regional policies of the No Turning Back group. Will the Minister give a clear statement today that the DTI is turning its back on the No Turning Back group for good?

Mr. Sainsbury

I assure the hon. Lady, as I said in my original answer, that we have had and will continue to have not only an effective regional policy but an active one.

Mr. Michael Brown

May I draw to the attention of my right hon. Friend the fact that when my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) was in charge of regional policy up to the general election he promoted Government regional policy in my constituency by ensuring a Government grant of more than £12 million to the Kimberley-Clark factory, resulting in more than 750 jobs to be created next year—

Madam Speaker

Order. What is the question?

Mr. Brown

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the presence in his Department of a distinguished member of the No Turning Back group clearly proves the Government's commitment to regional policy?

Mr. Sainsbury

I share my hon. Friend's admiration for the skill with which our hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) carried out his responsibilities for regional policy and I am glad to follow such an excellent record.

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