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Northern Region

Volume 87: debated on Wednesday 27 November 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what has been the reduction in real terms in regional assistance to industry in the northern region since 1978–79.

There was a reduction of 57 per cent. in real terms in regional assistance to industry in the northern region between 1978–79 and 1984–85. One of the reasons for that is that we are directing our assistance more cost-effectively.

Is it not a scandal that the Minister is able to give a figure of that scale to the House in view of the steady, scandalous climb in unemployment in the northern region since the Government came to office? Is not his Government's lack of care for the region illustrated, not only by his and his colleagues' ignorance of what is going on in the region, but by his ignorance of his own party's candidate in the Tyne Bridge by-election?

The hon. Gentleman should be aware that, at almost 97 per cent., the north-east remains the region with the highest assisted area coverage. He should also be aware that, under section 7, assistance is demand-led, and the support going into the region under that section depends on the quality and number of applications coming forward.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you advise me on a matter that arises directly out of question No. 10? I asked the Minister about the privatisation of Swan Hunter shipyard in my constituency and he said that that was a matter for the Ministry of Defence. The Table Office will not accept that. Can you advise me to which Department I should address my questions in future and which Minister is responsible?

On a point of order Mr. Speaker. When the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State was replying to question No. 10 asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown), he referred to the Conservative candidate in Tyne Bridge constituency in the male tense—

The reference to the female candidate in the male tense is not correct. I do not say that the Chair is responsible, but I should like to refer to the official record, which is your responsibility, Mr. Speaker. I am not aware that the person standing as a Conservative candidate in the Tyne Bridge constituency is masquerading—

Order. All this sounds like an Adjournment debate. It is not a matter for me at all. What is the point of order for me—and succinctly, please?

I was coming to the point of order, which you must rule on as custodian of the Official Report. I am concerned because, as you know, from time to time Official Reporters have to alter or correct incorrect statements made by right hon. and hon. Members so that the report is factual. Will you give a ruling—here comes the point of order—that the reference to the Conservative candidate in Tyne Bridge constituency as a male be deleted from the official record and a reference to the candidate as a female be inserted? Alternatively, will you rule that the Leader of the House should come to the Dispatch Box and make a statement to verify the gender of the person who is standing as a female?

I think that I have got the drift of the hon. Gentleman's argument. We need not have the official record corrected. The hon. Gentleman has done that.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I say that, whether she is male or female, she is very good anyway?