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North Staffordshire

Volume 885: debated on Monday 3 February 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry what steps he proposes to take to diversify the industrial structure of North Staffordshire.

I agree that diversification would be desirable, but we have to give priority to the needs of the assisted areas where unemployment rates are much higher.

Is my hon. Friend aware that he is taking a blinkered view if he regards existing unemployment as the sole criterion for deciding whether to assist areas in diversifying their industrial structure? Does he realise that in North Staffordshire we are desperately short of new industries, that earnings in the pottery industry—our main industry—are below the national average, and that many people are leaving the area because of the poor economic prospects? Will he take those facts into account in considering the future of North Staffordshire?

Yes. We shall take all those factors into consideration in deciding whether an area should be written up as an intermediate area. We take into account not only unemployment but the movement in population and all of the other considerations which my hon. Friend mentioned.

Is my hon. Friend aware that North Staffordshire has suffered in recent years because of the designation of South Cheshire by the last administration as an intermediate area, and that it is very difficult to provide career prospects for young people in North Staffordshire without this diversification?

I appreciate the points made by both my hon. Friends in this direction. As I have said, the whole question of designation is under constant review. When we look at all the factors mentioned, these are taken into account in our deliberations.