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South-West Durham

Volume 981: debated on Monday 24 March 1980

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2.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what is the Government's policy for attracting industry to South-West Durham.

The Darlington and South-West Durham travel-to-work area is to remain an assisted area.

Is the Minister aware that there are parts of my constituency in South-West Durham where the unemployment rate is now 12 per cent? Does he realise that, now that the area has been downgraded, not only incentives but a large part of the advance factory programme will be lost? Will he now, in partnership with the local authorities, invest in an advanced and nursery unit programme and also in the refurbishment of small units for small businesses?

The hon. Gentleman has raised two matters. The first concerns the level of unemployment in his constituency which is made up partly of the Barnard Castle travel-to-work area, where 319 people are unemployed, and partly of a section of the South-West Durham travel-to-work area, where unemployment in 1979 was 6·8 per cent. which compares with the national average of 5·6 per cent. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman was referring to a small pocket, in relation to the very high figures which he just quoted. As regards nursery units, my Department has just received a report from Coopers & Lybrand Associates Limited relating to small firm premises and we shall be publishing that next month.

Does the Minister realise the seriousness of the situation in West Durham? Statistics and averages are no answer to the men and women who now feel that their only alternative, if they are to secure work and provide for their families, is to move to the South. Is he aware that this is not acceptable? Does he appreciate that unless more regional aid is made available, the cynicism, bitterness and, indeed, anger now growing because of the savage cuts in regional aid will lead to serious repercussions?

We are concentrating regional aid on the areas of greatest need. That means that they will stand out much more than they have done in the past. We really care about the problems of very high unemployment in areas such as Newcastle and other special development areas.