HC Deb 03 July 1997 vol 297 cc400-1
2. Mr. Hinchliffe

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what steps she is taking to review the criteria for regional selective assistance. [5204]

The Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs (Mr. Nigel Griffiths)

This will be addressed in my right hon. Friend's comprehensive spending review.

Mr. Hinchliffe

My hon. Friend is aware of the serious concern about the current calculation of unemployment figures. When he considers the future criteria, will he take account of a recent report by Sheffield Hallam university which suggested that a significant number of unemployed people have been moved on to sickness-related benefits as a direct consequence of the previous Government's policies? When he looks at those criteria, will he have discussions with the Department of Health about the possibility of including a health profile of individual areas?

Mr. Griffiths

I want to ensure that regional selective assistance is based on reliable criteria. I know that my hon. Friend will want to pursue this point with the Department for Education and Employment and the Department of Health. I am sure that his work to date has contributed to the success of 19 companies in Wakefield in receiving offers of regional selective assistance to secure 820 jobs and in securing capital investment of £31.3 million.

Mr. Nicholls

Is the Minister aware of the concern that, very often, selective assistance does not so much create jobs as remove them from one part of the country, by a job-shuffling technique, to another? There is great resentment in areas such as Teignbridge that that is precisely what is happening to them. While I do not expect an answer today, will the Minister at least say that the review will consider whether real jobs are created or whether they are stolen from people who had them in the first place?

Mr. Griffiths

The maps were drawn up in 1993. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman should put his question to the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), who was President of the Board of Trade at the time. He might be able to tell the hon. Gentleman why his constituency did not qualify. These matters are being addressed in the comprehensive spending review.

Mr. Barry Jones

Does my hon. Friend know that this form of assistance is ever more important to communities such as mine? Does he know that, in recent years, objective 2 status and development area status have been stripped away from my constituency? What prospect might there be of such status being awarded again?

Mr. Griffiths

I am sorry to say that I cannot give that assurance, but I know that my hon. Friend will seek to ensure that the best case is made for his area, where he has a reputation for championing local causes.

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