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Industrial Development

Volume 886: debated on Thursday 13 February 1975

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asked the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied with the co-ordination between the Ministers respossible for carrying out Government responsibilities in regard to industrial development.

Will my Friend confirm—[HON. MEMBERS: "Right hon. Friend."] Will my Friend confirm that the Government's interpretation of full employment is a figure less than that at which it now stands? If that is so, will he also confirm that it is absolutely essential that we now get right the allocation of all the resources we have for industrial investment? That being the case, will he further confirm the inadequacy of the 1972 Act and the fact that we are not likely to get the Industry Bill through in the next seven or eight months? If that is so, is not now the time to bring together emergency measures in the Cabinet so that we can start now to allocate all the resources we have to the maintenance of full employment?

Certainly. I think that my hon. Friend is absolutely right. The question of industrial investment is worrying and very important. This is why, in his measures last month, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made available £1,800 million more for industry in 1975. This is the basis for the new and justified confidence in industry, which is reflected on the Stock Exchange—[Interruption.] I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would accept that. Secondly, the Bill for the establishment of the National Enterprise Board, which will make a great deal of money available to industry, is now before the House. This again will contribute enormously to the whole range of investment.

I should like to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your great discernment—

Not everyone would have discerned a tribute in that cackle from Labour Members.

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept the respectful congratulations of this side of the House on the way in which he believes everything his colleagues tell him, founded or unfounded?

Perhaps I could congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on surviving to fight another day. I selected the criterion for the returning confidence which I thought the right hon. Gentleman would have accepted. There are others, of course. Perhaps I could add a third point to the two I put to my hon. Friend—that is, the money available through Finance for Industry. So there is £1·8 billion made available by the Chancellor, there is the National Enterprise Board legislation before the House and there is a large amount in Finance for Industry. Those are the causes for the returning confidence of industry.

Will my right hon. Friend accept that certain industries, particularly textiles and footwear, are now particularly susceptible to imports? Will he draw to the attention of his right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Trade and Industry and the Foreign Secretary the need for an early decision on the imposition of import quotas?

I discussed this with my right hon. Friend after I was last asked about it, I think last week. Certainly this matter is concerning the Government a great deal at present.

Quite apart from the overwhelming confidence in the Government's industrial policies so well displayed in the investment figures just published, will the right hon. Gentleman seriously consider the question of industrial development certificates, which undoubtedly is holding up a great deal of investment? Whatever the Government may say, whether it be this or another Government, the fact is that industry will move only where it wants to move. Can the right hon. Gentleman look seriously at the whole question of industrial development certificates, which is holding up, especially in the West Midlands, desirable industrial development?

This is certainly an important point, but the right hon. Gentleman will remember that we adjusted the criterion for the grant of industrial development certificates on 1st September last year. This has helped a great deal. In this matter we have to hold a balance between the desire of industry to move where it wishes and the important aspect of regional policy to correct the imbalances in our economy.

Will my right hon. Friend accept from me the assurance that he has more than 11 supporters on the Government side of the House? At the same time, will he reassure those of us who represent constituencies in the Northern Region, where unemployment is consistently far higher than it is in any other part of Great Britain, apart from Northern Ireland, that he will not relax or see his right hon. Friends relax such things as industrial development certificates or suppress his efforts to promote the National Enterprise Board and other aspects of Government policy which will help to develop industry in the region which we represent?

I quite agree with my hon. Friend. Being the Member for a constituency adjacent to his, I am not likely to forget the matters he raises. But certainly the fight against unemployment is our major preoccupation in 1975, together with controlling inflation.