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Volume 84: debated on Wednesday 23 October 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to bring new industry to Merseyside.

The Merseyside travel to-work areas continue to benefit from the highest level of regional aid available in Great Britain.

When will the Minister recognise that the policies pursued by this Government have resulted in abysmal failure with regard to industry coming to Merseyside? Is he aware that about 70,000 jobs have been lost in Liverpool alone in the past seven or eight years and that unemployment among young people is as high as 80 and 90 per cent. in many areas? Is that not the reality, rather than the fantasy of the Government, who suggest that there is a better tomorrow? When will the Government act on the terrible problem of mass unemployment on Merseyside and in other places?

I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman listened to my reply. The highest levels of aid in Great Britain are available to Merseyside. Has it not occurred to the hon. Gentleman that Councillor Hatton drives away investment in Liverpool faster than any other thing?

Does my hon. Friend agree that the best way for Merseyside to encourage industry into that area is for the Liverpool city fathers to admit that the great Socialist experiment has failed, and that a belief in free enterprise, flexible working practices and lower overheads, especially rates, is needed? Until then, will the Government stop throwing good money after bad?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that the decisions which have been made by the Socialist council in Liverpool drive away investment and jobs from Merseyside.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that over the past seven years Liverpool has lost 65,000 jobs, and that Mr. Hatton has been deputy leader for the past two years only? Is he also aware that Liverpool, according to EEC charts, is fifth from the top in the league of areas with regional problems? Is he further aware that one in four of the workers on Merseyside is unemployed and that Liverpool is only part of Merseyside? Will he stop talking a lot of nonsense, like his colleagues, about Mr. Hatton and begin to deal with the real problem of Merseyside —unemployment—[Interruptioni.]

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that my constituency is just 15 miles away from Merseyside and Liverpool. I am well aware of the problem with which that part of the country has to deal. However, it would help if the likes of Councillor Hatton and his colleagues did not drive away potential investors.

Does my hon. Friend accept that one of the most sensible recent suggestions about the problems of industry was made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, who is determined to ensure that the overfat south-east industry goes to help the lean and hungry midlands, north and Merseyside? Does he agree that it is a sensible use of Government patronage to ensure that those who are hungry in the north need not always feed those in the south?

As my hon. Friend will accept, I always agree with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, who will have regard to value for money and other aspects when he places contracts.

Notwithstanding the fact that the contrived confrontation in Liverpool is undoubtedly driving away industry and investment from Merseyside and that the sooner the confrontation and aggression end the better it will be for Merseyside, does the Minister accept that one in five of the population there is out of work, and that the city planning officer predicts that a further 31,000 will become unemployed by 1991? What will he seriously try to do to attract new and better enterprise to that deprived part of the country?

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman accepts that there is a problem of turning away inward investment. I accept that Merseyside and Liverpool have great problems. As I said in answer to the main question, Liverpool receives the highest regional aid in the country through the various schemes. I do not believe that the Government can do more than that.