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Intermediate Areas

Volume 961: debated on Tuesday 23 January 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the average level of male unemployment in intermediate areas.

At 7 December 1978, the latest date for which figures are available, the number of males registered as unemployed in the intermediate areas was 175,345, a percentage rate of 6·4.

Is the Minister aware that in Hove and Brighton the male unemployment level is higher than the average level in the intermediate areas? How, in those circumstances, does he justify the wide range of Government incentives—including those under section 4 of the Development of Tourism Act 1969, recently extended to intermediate areas, and others operated by his Department—being available in areas with lower unemployment than Hove and Brighton?

The designation of assisted areas is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, and I will draw the hon. Gentleman's views to his attention. Unemployment is only one of the factors taken into account in deciding which areas shall receive assisted area status. That has been true not only of this Administration but also of the last Conservative Administration.

With regard to the cotton textile industry, which is largely in an intermediate area in the North-West, will my hon. Friend tell us by how much unemployment has increased among textile workers arising from the inefficiency of the industry in the face of competition from the Common Market, where our balance of trade deficit last year increased by 400 per cent. compared with the preceding year? Will my hon. Friend approach the Department of Industry with a view to setting up, as a matter of urgency, a sector working party for that industry?

Knowing my hon. Friend's concern for employment, not only in his constituency but throughout the North-West, I shall draw his views to the attention of the Secretary of State for Industry.

Since the outlook for jobs in the intermediate areas is being made worse daily both in the short term and in the long term by the current round of trade union actions against Government policy, why did the Government not feel able to trust the unions to bargain responsibly in the first place?

There are two sides to a bargain. The difficulty that the Government faced was the vote by the Opposition against sanctions before Christmas.