asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he will embody, in the responsibilities of the Economic Planning Board covering the West Midlands, full recognition of the population and industrial undertakings incorporated in the existing Agreement on Overspill between the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, Birmingham, and the county of Stafford.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (1) what progress has been made by the interdepartmental group studying the economic needs of Yorkshire; and when he will be in a position to publish conclusions for the East and West Ridings and for South Yorkshire;
(2) what plans he has for regional planning in the South Yorkshire area; whether he has considered Sheffield as the centre of such a region; whether he has had a report from the inter—departmental study group on this aspect of regional planning; and by what date further evidence should be sent from Sheffield.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs when he will announce his plans for regional development; and if he will give an assurance that the main appointments will be made irrespective of local authority membership or political connections and from men and women free from controversial loyalties.
I must ask the hon. Members to await the comprehensive statement which I hope to make next week on the structure and functions of the regional planning boards and councils and the areas they will cover.
While recognising the timetable which my right hon. Friend has set himself on this matter, may I ask him whether he is aware that my reason for putting down the Question was that my experience in Staffordshire during the last few years has been that whereas the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, the Ministry concerned in this agreement, was fully aware of its provisions, other Ministries, such as Education, the Post Office and Transport seemed to be singularly unaware of them, and that trouble has been caused by the failure to provide new industry, which was implicit in the agreement, with resulting problems to the population and their work?
Is the Minister aware that there is considerable feeling in the Sheffield area about the provision of separate regions based on Sheffield? I welcome the fact that the right hon. Gentleman is seeing a delegation from that city, but, in answer to my Question, will he answer the specific aspect of what evidence he has had from Sheffield so far? In Question No. 4 I ask what infor- mation he has prepared on the East and West Ridings and of South Yorkshire and the regional aspects of them? Will he publish that information in the form of a White Paper before he makes a positive statement?
Will the right hon, Gentleman take steps to obtain copies of the report prepared by the planning department of Liverpool so that he may appreciate our special problems before taking a final decision in the matter?
Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that the proposed region in the Yorkshire and wider area will be wide enough to be a true region and not a small urban area to meet the needs of one city?
Would the right hon. Gentleman accept my view that in order to obtain political balance the chairman of any regional board should be an independent individual? Would he also give an assurance, as far as Newcastle-upon—Tyne is concerned, that no appointment has already been made?
Would the right hon. Gentleman accept that in relation to regional planning, a great deal of co-ordination has been done in north—east England? Will he also accept that there is a great deal of concern about the possibility of apparently unnecessary new bodies undermining democratically-elected local government?
As to the second point in the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, there is no reason at all for fear. As to his first point—yes, I do know this. One of the most distinguished civil servants helping me in my new Department had a lot to do with it.
While I agree with the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) that Birmingham firms desiring to settle in the designated areas of Staffordshire should be allowed to do so, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman also to bear in mind that it is equally important that Birmingham firms desiring to remain in Birmingham should be allowed to expand properly in order to maintain their competitive efficiency?
Obviously, one of the difficult decisions one has to make is that of trying to secure proper regional balance and proper use of the country's resources, but I take the right hon. Gentleman's point.
Considering the cheapness of office accommodation on Merseyside compared with that in London and the South-East, would the First Secretary consider further moves of Government Departments to Merseyside, and would he also try to get private enterprise to do the same thing?
In view of the legacy of unemployment, depopulation and economic decline in Scotland left by the Tory Party, can my right hon. Friend assure me that the Scottish plan will in no way be held up by delays in other parts of the country, and that full regard will be had to the need for galvanising economic and social activity so as to improve the lot of the Scottish people?
I am sure that the First Secretary of State is aware of the very great interest there naturally is in all parts of the House and in the country in the subject of regional development. Will he, therefore, ensure that his statement, to which we shall look forward next week, is as comprehensive as possible? And will he indicate to us now that it will cover the whole structure of regional development, so that we can the better appraise the Government's intentions and, at the same time, perhaps some of the anxieties to which my hon. Friends have correctly referred may be relieved?