Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these figures continued to show the same average for a number of years before 1962? Does not his reply make nonsense of the Government's claims, put forward in this House last Thursday by the Secretary of State for Industry and Trade?
No, it does not. The figures I gave were up to the middle of 1963. There has been progress since then, but the plans for the North-East had not yet had time to affect the figures.
The figure I gave was a net figure. During the year ending May 1963, a total of 45,000 people left the region but 33,000 entered it. There is thus considerable movement in and out.
Will the right hon. Gentleman note that most people who migrate from the North-East, Scotland or Wales inevitably tend to gravitate towards; the London area, causing very serious problems in housing, transport and other social services?
When will later figures be available? According to previous information given to me, they are usually made up to mid-April. If that is so, why are they not available in this case?
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this pattern has been continuing for many years? What efforts have he and the Secretary of State for Industry and Trade been making to get some parent firms into the North-East instead of offshoots, which close down quite quickly as soon as the first breath of ill wind comes?
The hon. Gentleman has a Question down to my right hon. Friend later this week and I will therefore leave my right hon. Friend to answer that point. It is relevant to point out now, however, that over the period referred to unemployment in the North-East has dropped by 27,487—from 5·4 per cent. to 3 per cent. This shows that, in spite of closures, a great deal has been done in the area.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that we in the North-East welcome new firms coming in, whether they be parents or offshoots? But to encourage them to stay, might it not be worth while for a more positive policy to be adopted of selling trading estate factories to sitting tenants so that they may feel they own property that is worth while?
I will draw that suggestion to the attention of my right hon. Friend, who is pressing ahead with more advance factories in the area. These are helping to attract new firms.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that a large number of new factories have started production at the same time as others have ceased? Is he further aware that a large number of existing firms have increased production in the North-East?