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Volume 643: debated on Tuesday 4 July 1961

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asked the President of the Board of Trade, having regard to the fact that the contraction in the mining industry, and shipbuilding and ship-repairing industry has had an important bearing on the migration that has taken place during the past ten years from the North-East, what proposals he now has to bring the kind of industries to the region suitable to the skills of such workers, and other workers, thereby stopping the drift away from the area.


asked the President of the Board of Trade what proposals he has for dealing with the decline of the basic industries in the North-East, especially West Durham, in order to stop migration from that area to more congested areas.


asked the President of the Board of Trade what studies his Department has made during the last ten years into the migration of young people from the North-East.


asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to establish new industries in the North-East to assist in stopping the continuing migration of young persons from this area.


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the action he contemplates to establish new industries in the North-East which will provide jobs for young persons and so arrest the continuing migration from this area.

As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour said on 26th June, the Government, through their distribution of industry policy, are encouraging firms to develop in parts of the country where unemployment is relatively high and discouraging firms in already congested areas The number of new jobs at present in prospect in the North-East is 21,000, including 10,000 in the development districts. The projects giving rise to these jobs extend over all the main areas of unemployment in County Durham, including West Durham. They should provide opportunities of suitable work both for the skilled workers now unemployed, and for young persons, and thus help in reducing migration from the area.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, whatever he thinks he is doing, he certainly is not doing enough? It can be seen from the Census Report that the position in the North-East is far from rosy. Will he stop fiddling with the problem and be more precise about the type of industry he intends to induce to go to the North-East? Will he consult his right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and ensure that, if there are to be any economic restrictions such as the payroll tax, the North-East will be excluded from their operation?

That is a fairly wide range of supplementary questions. I have no powers to order firms to go to the North-East, and I am sure that the House would not wish me to have such powers. We discussed that question when the Bill was passing through the House. Within that limitation, we do all we can to encourage firms to go to the North-East and we are making quite considerable progress.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the people of the North-East look upon this as the major failure of the present Government? Is he aware that economic pressure is driving people away from the North-East to where they have never had it so good in the Midlands and the South? Will he do something to keep people in the North-East, where they are anxious to stay? The area has been scheduled under the Local Employment Act. We are told that something is coming in the dim and distant future, but not at present.

I do not think that anyone in the North-East who looked at this matter objectively would share the views of the hon. Member. We have made great progress there, as we have in other districts. My powers under the Local Employment Act are to deal with the problem of local unemployment. They are not to deal with the whole question of migration. The Government have not the power, and in my view should not have the power, to freeze the population in its precise location.

Would the right hon. Gentleman get himself out of the pipeline he is in at present?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, despite the 21,000 jobs in prospect, to which reference has been made on a number of occasions, his right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour only recently reported that for the last four weeks there was a number of filled vacancies and that these were the lowest of any region in the country in comparison with figures of unemployment? This has gone on for a considerable period. Does not this fact of itself suggest that there is a very strong case indeed for bringing industries to the North-East?

I agree. There is a strong case, and we are trying to do that. However, I have no powers to compel people to go there, nor would I wish to have such powers.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in addition to the constant demands which are made for Government action to bring new industries to the area, recognition should be given to the existing industry there? It has made enormous efforts to retain prosperity in the North-East. Would my right hon. Friend agree that in technical advance and in its excellent labour relations the North-East compares very favourably with any other area in the country?

Yes, I agree. I do my best to bring that fact to the attention of all employers who consult me on location problems.

On a point of order. In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.