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North-East Lancashire Development Association

Volume 981: debated on Monday 24 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he will now meet representatives of the North-East Lancashire Development Association.

My noble Friend will be meeting the North-East Lancashire Development Association on 22 April. My noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport will also be present.

Is not the Minister aware that there is deep concern across the whole political spectrum in North-East Lancashire that the Secretary of State views the region's problems with such complacency that the association is to be fobbed off with a meeting with Ministers who are not hon. Members of this House? Is he aware that there is even greater concern that one of those Ministers is Lord Bellwin, whose only contribution to North-East Lancashire was increasing unemployment by some hundreds through the closure of firms of which he was chairman?

If the Secretary of State is not willing to meet the representatives, is he willing, at some stage during the next six months, to visit North-East Lancashire so that he can appreciate what damage or success his policies are causing?

The hon. Gentleman refers to complacency. The fact that three Ministers will meet the deputation is a sign that there is no complacency. The Government intend to examine carefully what is said by the deputation.

The hon. Gentleman referred to unemployment in the area. The level of employment will be determined by employers and workers in the way in which they proceed. I am bound to say that there is substantial concern that wage increases not covered by improved productivity are being demanded and granted, and that these will lead to job losses.

Is my hon. Friend aware that I and my constituents are grateful for his visit to Rossendale last year when he made himself aware of the problems there? When considering the representa- tions of the North-East Lancashire Development Association will he remember that the two most important grants that we are anxious should be continued after 1 August 1982 are the industrial grants from the EEC and the derelict sites grant, which is of great value to certain parts of East Lancashire? I understand that no decision on these matters has yet been reached.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing attention to these matters. He took me to see some of the areas concerned, and I held subsequent discussions with Ministers in the Department of the Environment.