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National Enterprise Board

Volume 940: debated on Monday 28 November 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether, in the light of his decision to set up regional agencies of the National Enterprise Board in the Northern and North Western Regions, he will consider making similar provision in the Yorkshire and Humberside Region.

My right hon. Friend does not envisage similar boards being set up by the NEB in other regions.

Is my hon. Friend aware that about 130,000 people are out of work in the Yorkshire and Humberside Region and that that is rather more than the number in the Northern Region? Does he accept that a great deal of this is structural unemployment, which has little to do with the present recession? Is he further aware that my constituency is in the process of losing 500 jobs through factory closures? In the light of this severe and continuing problem, will he reconsider whether to give us the benefits being offered to other regions?

I recognise that my hon. Friend is making a very strong case, but my right hon. Friend and the NEB are right to concentrate assistance on the areas with the highest percentage of unemployment. The figure for the North-West is 7·7 per cent., for the North 8·9 per cent. and for Yorkshire and Humberside 6 per cent.

Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that it is extraordinary to set up extra boards under the NEB when after two years the Government have not yet decided either the financial duties of the NEB or its capital structure?

That is a somewhat different question. The NEB is right to concentrate its effort where it is most needed.

I accept what has been done in setting up a board for the North-West. However, will my hon. Friend make sure that he has discussions with the NEB to ensure that it includes a represent- ative from North-East Lancashire? Is he aware that so often it has been the forgotten area, even within the North-West?

My right hon. Friend and the NEB would be in some difficulty if they were to specify that each area had to have its representative on the board, but I shall bear in mind what my hon. Friend said.

Will the Minister give an assurance that the two new agencies will involve no increase in the resources available to the NEB but that they will merely assist the NEB to take decisions which it could take in any event? Will he therefore tell the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) that the new agencies are no protection against the devolved Assemblies in Scotland getting more than their fair share of resources?

The hon. Member has introduced fresh considerations into this matter. The new boards will enable the NEB to give more weight and authority where they are needed.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is perhaps best to ensure that we make a real success of the extension of the powers of the NEB in these cases before we go on to consider wider representations? Is my hon. Friend aware that there is strong support for what has been done?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's helpful remarks. We shall take account of what he has said.