asked the Secretary of State for Industry what representations he has received on development area status for North-East Lancashire; and if he has made a decision.
My right hon. Friend and I have received a number of representations urging development area status for North-East Lancashire. My right hon. Friend saw a deputation from the North-East Lancashire Development Association on 18 March, and he is giving its case careful consideration.
Is the Minister aware that, even since the Adjournment debate last Thursday, yet another firm in the Blackburn travel-to-work area, Mossbridge Yarns, has announced closure, and that there is no sign in North-East Lancashire of the recession coming to an end, let alone being over?Is the Minister further aware that the travel-to-work areas of Blackburn, Hyndburn and Burnley have unemployment levels which, although not the average for assisted areas keeping their status, certainly come within the band of areas keeping assisted area status? Therefore, the case for assisted area status for our areas is overwhelming.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, we had a full Adjournment debate on the subject on Thursday evening, when I set out the criteria. We have always made it plain that we are prepared to look at any permanent changes in the structural decline of an area relative to other parts of the country. That would apply to North-East Lancashire as well as elsewhere. We shall continue to monitor the position.
Will the Minister examine closely the projected unemployment figures for the Accrington travel-to-work area of 19 per cent. and for the Hyndburn area of 16½ per cent.? If he accepts those figures, which have been worked out by the Hyndburn borough council, is not the case for granting development area status not just overwhelming, but unanswerable?
One must always be careful about projected figures as distinct from the real, existing figures. The situation can change considerably over the course of a few months. I have seen that happen in other travel-to-work areas. I believe that the hon. and learned Gentleman and representatives of the district council are to see me shortly. We can look at his projections then.