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North Of England Development Council

Volume 22: debated on Monday 26 April 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he expects to conclude his discussions with representatives of the North of England Development Council on the level of grant to be paid to the council for the three-year period 1983–85.

My hon. Friend the Minister of State had a useful meeting with the chairman and directors of the four English regional development organisations on 1 April, and we now hope to reach a decision quickly about the future level of grant.

What are the so-called constitutional differences which may lead to Wales and Scotland receiving a bigger grant than the North of England Development Council? Why will Wales receive its grant from April 1982, whereas the North of England Development Council will receive its grant from April 1983? We in the north strongly support the case for Wales and Scotland, but the Minister must be under no illusions. We in the north must receive similar treatment.

My hon. Friend the Minister of State made it clear that we are anxious that there should be reasonable equity of treatment between the different parts of the United Kingdom, but that does not mean identical amounts of grant, as other factors have to be taken into account. As I indicated in answer to an earlier question, 90 per cent. of successful United States inward investment projects come by way of United Kingdom central Government effort, through the Invest in Britain Bureau and overseas diplomatic posts.

Many English local authorities in new towns spend public money on overseas promotion, whereas Scottish and Welsh local authorities are not very active in that area. No new Government money is being given to the Development Commission for Wales. The money is being redirected from elsewhere within the Welsh Development Agency budget.

However much the Minister may wriggle, is it not clear that extra resources, which we welcome, have been given to Wales? Should not the critieria be the nature of the problems and the number of people out of work, not some constitutional excuse? Will not the people in the Northern region conclude that yet again the Government have taken a deliberate decision to damage their prospects?

Extra resources have not been given. As I indicated a moment ago, it is a change in the distribution of the WDA's budget. There is no extra central Government money, in the sense of new money, going for that purpose this year. It is just a movement within the budget itself.

The hon. Gentleman ought to be fair and recognise that a very high proportion of regional development grant, which is caused because of investment, goes to the Northern region. We expect nearly 4,000 jobs in the North-East to be created as a result of foreign-owned companies, known to the Invest in Britain Bureau, starling or firmly deciding to start during 1980 and 1981. Inward investment projects have been going to the Northern region. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the interests of that region are always borne in mind in all the activities concerning inward investment.