HL Deb 11 March 1971 vol 316 cc171-3

3.12 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether any progress has been made in the science centre project in the New Town of Peterlee in County Durham.]


My Lords, the Peter-lee Development Corporation are continuing to promote the New Town's potential as a base for research and development. The Government's recent decision, announced on February 18 by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to accord Special Development Area status at Peterlee will increase the attractions of the town for new industry.


My Lords, is the noble Lord not aware that making it a Special Development Area will not improve the economic position of the town of Peterlee? Also, is he aware that if the project for a science centre is not implemented it may embarrass the economic future of the town, particularly in view of the figure of 10 per cent. unemployed in the area? Is he further aware that there is a rumour current in the area that if the project for a science centre is not implemented the I.B.M. computer firm are contemplating closing down a large part of their works, which would seriously affect the area?


My Lords, I would not agree that the designation of Peterlee as a Special Development Area will not contribute considerably to the town's future progress and advance. It was one of the contentions of the Development Corporation that the lack of this status was hindering its growth in relation to the surrounding area. I am not aware of the rumour which the noble Lord has mentioned.


My Lords, is the noble Lord not aware that the concept which was initiated some time ago to create a science centre in the new town of Peterlee raised high expectations which were far in excess of anything that could be expected as a result of declaring it a development area? Will he consult with his right honourable friend who is responsible for matters of this sort, to see whether the project can be proceeded with?


Yes, certainly, my Lords. Everybody has high hopes of the future of Peterlee as a science-based centre, and everybody is anxious that this should go forward. But there are limits to what we can do in one particular place, as against all the others which are demanding special attention.


My Lords, does not the noble Lord the Minister agree that the future development of this centre depends very much upon Government help at the present time, particularly Government help following up the initiative, which I mentioned on a previous occasion, of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, who proposed some years ago that a Government research station should be placed in the North-East? Will the noble Lord assure this House that the Government are thinking along those lines?


Yes, certainly, my Lords.