HL Deb 17 November 1992 vol 540 cc531-2

2.54 p.m.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, in considering the request of the Wansbeck initiative for restoration of development area status, they will bear in mind the need to reach a decision before the conclusion of the current inquiry.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Baroness Denton of Wakefield)

My Lords, we are well aware of the very serious problems facing the Wansbeck area. Those problems are being carefully considered in the assisted areas review. Our aim is to implement a revised map early in 1993. We appreciate the need for speed in this matter.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend, particularly for her appreciation that speed is required. Will she keep in the forefront of her mind the eagerness with which an early and affirmative decision will be awaited?

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that we are doing that. My honourable friends and I have met many delegations. The revised map will be submitted to Europe as soon as possible.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, can the noble Baroness give an assurance that in the review the number of assisted areas and intermediate areas in Northumberland will not be reduced in view of the fact that that is the area of the greatest unemployment in mainland Britain?

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, I cannot give a decision ahead of the outcome of the review, but I stress that it is not an automatic review. We are looking at the areas which are among the worst off one third in the country in terms of unemployment and other criteria. We are well aware of the difficulties faced in the North East.

Lord Barnett

My Lords, is it not a fact that the criteria may well result in one half of the country, or more, requiring development area status?

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, I repeat that we are seeking to identify the worst off third of the country.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that in the Wansbeck District Council area there is currently 15 per cent. unemployment, and 20 per cent. male unemployment, which in turn is higher than in the rest of the North East which, as my noble friend Lord Glenamara said, is the highest in the mainland United Kingdom? Does she further accept that the industrial base in Wansbeck is very narrow and that such employment as there is is dependent on the Alcan smelter, the Alcan power station and the Ellington colliery? Will she further accept that the position in Wansbeck is already worse than the position will be in seven of the 10 areas where pits are virtually certain to close and yet those areas are to be targeted for special help in diversification and job creation while Wansbeck is not? Is not that a scandalous state of affairs?

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, I am pleased to reassure my noble friend Lord Williams—I am sorry, that mistake must be due to the courteous way in which the question was put!—that my honourable friend the Minister for Industry met with a delegation from Wansbeck District Council. They put the matters raised by the noble Lord eloquently and fully.

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