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North-West Region

Volume 828: debated on Tuesday 21 December 1971

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asked the Prime Minister when he next plans to make an official visit to the North-West region.

I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend visited the region on 29th October, when he met the North-West Economic Planning Council, the North-West Industrial Development Association and the British Textile Employers' Association. He has at present no plans for a further visit.

Is the Home Secretary aware of the need to pay more attention to the North-West in view of the fact that since that visit of the Prime Minister the position has continued to deteriorate? Is he aware that in the last year 53,000 jobs have been lost in textiles alone, and that according to the statistics of wholly unemployed issued on 16th December to the Press by the Department of Employment, the seasonally corrected figure for the North-West rose six times as much as the figure for Scotland, six times as much as the figure for Cornwall and 25 times as much as the figure for the North of England? Will the Government now take the advice of the North-West Development Association and pay some attention to the needs of this area?

The hon. Gentleman will also recognise that the wholly unemployed rate in Oldham remains below the national average. The textile industry will, of course, benefit considerably from the retention of the quota system, and the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel) will help considerably over the question of marks of origin.

Will my right hon. Friend convey to the Prime Minister the appreciation that is felt in North-East Lancashire—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—Great appreciation is felt over this—about the decision of the Government to continue the quota system in the coming year, and their decision not to press ahead with the original plan to abolish the payment of unemployment benefit for the first six days out of work?

Yes, Sir. Certainly I will. It is noticeable that the points made by my hon. Friend were singularly lacking in the supplementary questions put by hon. Gentlemen opposite.

Has the right hon. Gentleman noted the structural industrial change that has come about in the North-West, and particularly in the Greater Manchester area, affecting basic heavy industries? Is he aware that this has been leading to a great increase in unemployment and that this, coupled with a lack of alternative jobs, has created a situation in which the region now has an unemployment figure of 136,000? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Government should conduct a full-scale inquiry into this structural change and that any recommendations resulting from it should be implemented as soon as possible to rectify the position?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government are well aware of the nature of the problem of unemployment in the North-West region. I recall how a few years ago there were structural changes in engineering and textiles and how the North-West carried them through with great success. I am sure that the area is resilient enough to carry other structural changes as well.