asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will now restore investment area status to the Ormskirk travel-to-work area; and if he will give the reason for his decision.
The Ormskirk travel-to-work area will retain its intermediate area status until 1 August 1982. There are no plans to remove special development area status from Skelmersdale new town, which lies within the travel-to-work area.
In view of the fact that unemployment in the Ormskirk travel-to-work area has risen by 77 per cent. since the Conservative Party came to office and that it now stands at 21·8 per cent. compared with 12·8 per cent. when this disgraceful decision to remove intermediate area status was taken, will the Minister now reconsider that decision? If not, will he explain why intermediate area status was removed from the Ormskirk travel-to-work area, which has 22·8 per cent. unemployment, and yet has been retained for Kirkham, Lytham and St. Annes, where unemployment at 11·3 per cent. is still lower than it was in Ormskirk two years ago?
As I have told the hon. Gentleman, it should be borne in mind that Skelmersdale new town is also in the travel-to-work area, and a high proportion of the unemployment to which he referred is in the Skelmersdale new town.
Does the Minister know how much?
Yes. It is nearly 5,000 of the total figures. I point out that that is a special development area.As we have made clear on several occasions, we take into consideration the possibility of long-term structural decline, comparative to other regions of the country, in making decisions about areas in general. The hon. Gentleman wrote to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State only last week on the subject. I shall send him a considered reply shortly.