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Economic Affairs

Volume 720: debated on Thursday 18 November 1965

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South-East Study (Poole)

11.

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he has completed his examination of the South-East Study; and what effect the conclusions he has reached will have on the growth of the population of Poole.

I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary gave on 26th October to a Question by the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten).

Does the Minister realise that a whole year has now passed since he began his examination and the continual delay is holding up the review?

I understand the anxieties in Poole and we are certainly going to try to reach a final decision as soon as possible. In the meantime the hon. Gentleman may like to know that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government is very ready to discuss, sympathetically, any problems that are worrying the local authorities.

Electric Traction Equipment (Export)

12.

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs to what extent the Electrical Engineering Economic Development Council has taken into consideration the importance of United Kingdom railway electrification as a basis, economic and technical, for the increased sale of British electric traction equipment to overseas buyers.

In examining exports of this equipment the Economic Development Council has invited the Government's attention to the relationship between exports and the size of the home market. We shall bear this in mind when considering future investment proposals from the British Railways Board.

While thanking my hon. Friend for that Answer, may I ask if he will bear in mind how important it is that we continue with main line railway electrification, not only because of its own merits but as a shop window for the export trade in electric traction vehicles?

I think my hon. Friend knows that this matter is still under consideration. In fact, the Minister of Transport is reappraising the costs and benefits of electrification of the line northwards, from Weaver Junction to Carlisle, and, in this consideration, matters to which my hon. Friend has drawn attention will certainly be taken into account.

Economic Councils (Women Members)

13.

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he will appoint some women to economic boards or councils; and if he will take into consideration the fact that members are yet to be appointed for the South-East Region.

My right hon. Friend has already appointed some women to these councils. In appointing council members my right hon. Friend's first consideration is the contribution which they seem likely to make to the work.

While appreciating that the Minister has very sound reasons for his reply, may I point out that so far no women at all have been appointed to any of the boards and that only three women have been appointed to the councils, one in the East Midlands, one from Yorkshire and one, I think, from Wales? It is hardly a sensible reflection of the ability of the women in our country and of the policy.

With regard to the boards, I am sure that the hon. Lady will recognise that except for the chairmen, who are appointed by my right hon. Friend, the other members are the representatives of the Departments in Whitehall. I do not think that in these matters—being rather a feminist myself—one should necessarily take sex into consideration in making these appointments. One should appoint the best person for the job.

Labour (Regional Demands)

14.

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what proposals he has for restraining demand for labour in the regions of the country where it may be too high, without causing a check to development and excessive unemployment in the regions where it is too low.

We have exempted development districts from the measures announced in July to slow down the growth of public and private investment; we are exercising control over office development in the areas round London and Birmingham; and we have tightened the controls on industrial development in places with high demand for labour. These measures are already having the intended effects in the regions. The Government's further proposals to improve the regional balance were, of course, mentioned in the Gracious Speech.

Does not the Minister think, however, that there is still acute danger that though the extra demand and money may be pumped into some regions which require it, there is too big a flow-back to the South-East? Will the hon. Gentleman look at differential rates of taxation in addition to the measures which he has mentioned?

We are looking at all possible measures. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, it is the Government's firm intention to ensure that there is a proper balance of employment and economic activity throughout the country. In this matter, Scottish considerations are always before us.