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Volume 931: debated on Tuesday 10 May 1977

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asked the Prime Minister when he next intends to pay an official visit to Merseyside.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Michael Foot)

In the absence of my right hon. Friend, who is presiding at a meeting of the NATO Council of Ministers. I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend has at present no plans to do so.

I ask my right hon. Friend the Lord President whether he will ask his right hon. Friend to reflect on the election results of last Thursday if he cannot visit Merseyside. Will he point out to the Prime Minister that the electorate on Merseyside, scourged with heavy unemployment, is not reacting to the Lib-Lab pact as being the ways and means of finding a solution to its problems? Will he further urge my right hon. Friend to consider the possibility of a pact with the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party and the Labour Party Conference to find Socialist solutions to the problems on Merseyside?

I agree with my hon. Friend that the results are extremely serious from the point of view of everyone on Merseyside. I can assure my hon. Friend that the Government will take account of them. They will take account of all the representations that he and others have made on the matter. We shall seek to sustain our policies for assisting, in particular, the firms on whose behalf my hon. Friend has made strong representations. I am doubtful whether we shall get any assistance on these matters from the newly-elected representatives on Merseyside.

In view of the question of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Loyden), would not the right hon. Gentleman be wise to take the opportunity of going to Merseyside and meeting the architect of the Liberal showpiece on Merseyside, "Jones the Vote"? Should not the right hon. Gentleman comfort his new colleagues with the fact that both their parties had catastropic results in the Merseyside elections?

If I might use the same colloquial terms as the right hon. Gentleman, I have always preferred "Steel the Vote" to "Jones the Vote". On the whole, he has delivered it a good deal better.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that one of the best examples of Tory freedom in action is the manner in which Foster Plastics, of Rain-ford, in my constituency, has sold out to a competitor without consulting or considering the interests of the workers, most of whom have been callously thrown on the scrapheap? Is this not an example of Tory freedom and free enterprise, in which the interests of workers come last, and when the pawns in the takeover battles are never consulted or considered?

My hon. Friend raises matters of great seriousness. We should all be aware of the extremely serious employment situation on Merseyside. In reply to the questions of my hon. Friends the Members for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) and Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Loyden) I would say that in response to the representations that have been made to us by the hon. Members for Garston, Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and others from Merseyside on the cases of individual firms, asking for Government intervention and Government money, there has been a considerable amount of intervention and a considerable amount of money has been supplied. But that is contrary to the policies preached by those who have temporarily taken power in Merseyside.

Will the Lord President advise his right hon. Friend that the anti-Labour feeling in Merseyside is due to a rejection of Socialism, which is shown by the two-thirds majority that the Conservatives now hold? Do the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend realise that the rejection of Socialism has occurred because there are now no jobs on Merseyside? What hope can he give to school leavers in my constituency that under this Government there is a chance of their getting a job when they leave school?

If it had not been for intervention by the Government, about 20,000 people now in jobs in Merseyside would not have had them. That work has been sustained by Government intervention. We believe that that process has to be extended over the period to come. The Manpower Services Commission, in particular, has produced a recent report in which it has made recommendations—and I believe that the Government will be eager to act upon them as speedily as possible—for further assistance for young people, who form a major part of the problem. What is requited is Government intervention, and those on the Government Benches understand the fact.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that if one analyses the votes on Merseyside one sees that Opposition Members have nothing to crow about and that in a General Election the results on Merseyside would be precisely as they are now? [Interruption.] Yes—with more Labour seats than Tory seats. Is my right hon. Friend further aware that if Conservative policies were carried out, with massive further cuts in public expenditure plus a failure to assist in bringing industry to Merseyside, unemployment there would be far higher than it is?

I fully accept what my hon. Friend has said. I could not have said it better myself. If those Opposition Members who to judge from these questions, have apparently shown some interest in Merseyside had taken rather more interest in previous discussions, they would have realised that representations have been made by my right hon. and hon. Friends on matters affecting employment on Merseyside over many months and that some of the improvements that we have been able to achieve have been achieved precisely because we have responded to those representations.