I wish to raise this evening the subject of the economic development of Norfolk, for which I am one of the Members. I do so for a number of reasons, and to argue what many people in the county and I consider to be a strong case.
We have at the moment in this country a situation in which the development of the south-east of England has been deemed to be worthy of a Ministerial study, and which in its time will benefit from regional planning of one kind or another. My purpose is to advocate the claims of the county and the obvious suitability of Norfolk for planned economic development.
The county is sparsely populated. Indeed, it is one of the few areas remaining in England in which one can travel substantial distances between one town and another. It is also characterised by comparatively low earnings. It has been impossible to obtain accurate or really useful information on this, but those who know the county, or even the city of Norwich, would hardly dispute that the earnings of the people in Norwich are well below the national average. It therefore has an immediate claim to further economic development.
Secondly, one of the features of the county is that industrial employment tends to be concentrated in a number of specialised industries. The classic example is the boot and shoe industry in Norwich, in which about 8,000 people are employed; an industry whose fortunes are tied very closely to the sale of women's and children's shoes in this country.
Other industries such as agricultural processing, and engineering to a larger extent than is often realised, provide employment, but agriculture, which has provided employment in the county, is a steadily declining industry from the point of view of providing work, and every year the number of people employed in this industry diminishes. This, in itself, could be a substantial argument for, to use a horrible word which appears in the papers, and frequently in the American Press, diversification—the introduction of different and new industries to the area. The county is also suitable for economic development. It is no great distance from the industrial centres of the Midlands, and it has a long coastline. It has a number of ports, some of which can and no doubt will be developed in the next few years. It is eminently suited for manufactures, which might be sold in the northern or western portions of Europe and which could be sent via Norfolk or, in some cases—although I hesitate to mention it—Suffolk ports to the Continent and to the Baltic countries.
In addition, the two natural large markets that exist in the country—in the Midlands, and in London and the South—are easily accessible. It is generally accepted in the county—certainly by the county council and the city fathers in Norwich—that greater industrial development is needed. There has been a substantial increase in employment in the city in the last 10 years, but characteristically the bulk of this increase has come from an increase in service trades rather than the industrial base.
It is also true—and this is a point which for many of us has a great deal of relevance, and gives rise to a number of constituency problems—that the general level of unemployment in the area of the Norfolk Exchange, for instance, is substantially above the national average. I imagine that that has always been so. What is much more significant to the life of the city is that the level of unemployment among men is well above the national average, although the level of unemployment among women tends to be somewhat below it.
I have been able to obtain figures for four years, and I have no reason to suppose that 1964 will not confirm these figures. In 1958, in the Norwich Employment Exchange area, which goes beyond the boundaries of the city and includes virtually the whole constituency of Central Norfolk, and even beyond, male unemployment was over 3 per cent. as against the national average of 2 per cent.; in 1960, it was 2½ per cent. as against the national average of under 2 per cent.; in 1962 it was 2¾ per cent. as against just over 2 per cent., and in 1963 it was nearly 3½ per cent. as against nearly 2½per cent. In each of these years male unemployment substantially exceeded the national average.
The picture is different for female unemployment. In 1958 it was one-half of 1 per cent. below the national average; in 1960 it was a quarter of 1 per cent. below the national average, and in 1962 and 1963 substantially the same as the national average.
Under the Local Employment Acts, 1960 and 1963, the Board of Trade, which is not represented here tonight, has powers to stimulate the movement of industry from one part of the country to another. Those powers are exercised by designating certain areas as development districts. The criterion for doing this is clearly laid down in the Acts, and it devolves upon the President of the Board of Trade to decide whether or no an area has an unemployment rate substantially above the national average. The burden of my case is that as well as taking into account the factor of unemployment we ought also to consider other factors concerning the economic development of the area.
At present a firm, whether it be small or large, which is considering moving from the South-East or the Midlands because of the incentives held out under the terms of the Local Employment Acts, is likely to head towards the North-East or Scotland. Such a firm might have come to Norfolk but for those provisions, and they therefore tend to discriminate against its healthy development. If, under the regional planning arrangements, it is intended to persist with this form of inducement, attracting industry from one part of the country to another—and I do not quarrel with that; I can see the case for that—I can make out a strong claim for consideration to be given to Norfolk as well as to areas such as the North-East.
Not only do we have a higher than average male unemployment rate; we are also faced with the problem that average earnings are well below the national average, probably because we are tied to agricultural and seasonal trends. My hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Derek Page), who will probably seek to intervene in the debate, will have something to say about the effect of the population movement of this sort of wage-earner.
In matters of regional planning, the level of unemployment should certainly be taken into account when considering which areas require industrial development. But so should the level of unemployment of men and, for that matter, the level of earnings. If we consider one fact we ought to consider the others. Nor is it the opinion in the county, or in the city of Norwich, that Norfolk, and the city in particular, should be used as a sort of dumping ground for various discarded offices from London, if it happens to suit planners in London and the South-East to push them out of London. It is not to say that those offices are not welcomed, but if they are to be the only form of economic development with which Norfolk is to be graced in the next few years they will be inadequate. Opportunities ought to be provided for industrial employment. That is my case. More development and planned development are required.
To most of us it seems likely that the port facilities round the fringes of the county will be improved. My hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn will have something to say about that. Some improvement has already taken place. There is a marked increase in trade done in the East Coast ports. This is neither a new thought nor an original one, but it is a fact. We would also hope that at some stage it would be possible to improve the transport facilities in the county. I assume that this will have the attention of the Department of Economic Affairs.
Norfolk has an inadequate road system, and the county is faced with the apparent extinction of the Norfolk railways, although some of us are delighted to see that the Suffolk line looks like being preserved, according to Dr. Beeching's new arrangements. Nevertheless, it rather looks as if only three major ports in the county will be connected to the railway system in the next ten years. King's Lynn may survive, and I suppose that Norwich is bound to survive, although some of us even have doubts about that. It is possible that Yarmouth will survive.
The hon. Member says that it had better. This is the first time in my life that I am prepared to agree with him—and it will probably be the last. I agree that it should. Whether or not it will is another matter—and whether a change of Government would improve its prospects of survival is still another.
It would, would it? I am only sorry that the guarantee comes from an hon. Member who is unlikely to influence his party in this respect. There is great concern in the county about the withdrawal of freight facilities from local stations. Many people think that this heralds the complete closure of the railways. In some cases their suspicions and cynicism have all the appearance of being justified. I recognise that this is not a matter for my hon. Friend's Department—obviously it cannot be—but it is, of course, germane to the question of planning in Norfolk.
Having made these points, I hope that the Minister will feel that he is able to give a little comfort to us in Norfolk. I do not suppose, in the nature of things, that a great Government Department can give much comfort to our county, but I hope that the Minister may be able to give some.
I thank the House for this opportunity to raise these matters, and I am glad to see present so many hon. Members who represent constituencies in the county, although they are not all members of my own party.
I am grateful for the opportunity afforded by the early start of this Adjournment debate to make a few points about the future of Norfolk. I support, on the whole, what has been said by the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Norwood). Without in any way wishing to sound pompous, may I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the manner in which he put his points. It was moderate and constructive.
I wish to refer to the question of the economic development of Norfolk. A lot has gone on in the past 14 years and we are now becoming more of a focal point in East Anglia in that now there is a university at Norwich. In one way that makes Norfolk a little more insular, but also more self-supporting and, I hope, more proud of ourselves in that we are able, as it were, to educate young people of East Anglia to all stages. I am sure that every hon. Member would wish the University of East Anglia the best possible success.
It would be wrong not to recognise the enormous development which has gone on over the past few years. When I first became the Member of Parliament for Great Yarmouth there was still tremendous talk and worry about unemployment and the situation which had obtained before the war. For many years there was a serious unemployment situation in Yarmouth. There have, however, been extraordinary strides made since then which is all the more remarkable in view of the fact that Yarmouth was a town which, during the latter part of the year and over the Christmas period, had always depended on the great fishing fleets to provide employment.
A crowd of drifters used to come down from Scotland and the local drifters were numerous at that time. There were thousands of people to whom the drifters gave work. Over the past 10 years these drifters have almost completely disappeared. When I first went to the area there were about 500 drifters there in the fishing season, but during this last season the number did not reach 50. Despite that, the employment situation has become progressively better although there has been a slight rise in population. There may have been a small increase in unemployment in one year, but progressively, conditions have improved all through the years.
I am delighted to see this happening, particularly in a town which in the past has been hard hit. The reason for improvement is largely that there has been a balance built up between Great Yarmouth as a seaside resort and Great Yarmouth as an industrial town. Such a balance is always difficult to achieve because of the difficulty in getting the labour necessary during the summer seasonal months. To have an economic future a good transport system is a basic requirement. I do not propose to attempt to dot any "i's" for the hon. Member for Norwich, South, but I wish to say something about transport in the county Borough of Great Yarmouth.
I know that everyone has transport problems, and it may sound a little insular to mention one's own, but it is necessary to do so. I hope that the Government, bearing in mind their great promises about modernising Britain, will not forget Great Yarmouth when it comes to modernising the transport of East Anglia and eastern England. At Great Yarmouth we have only one bridge running from north to south over the river and if that should be damaged, the consequences would be catastrophic. The only day a badly navigated ship ran into the bridge. Fortunately, it struck a great bastion and not the bridge itself. Had it done so, the consequences would have been very serious.
For the benefit of those who are not aware of it, may I say that Great Yarmouth is divided into two halves. There is Yarmouth on one side of the river and Gorleston on the other side. Many people who work in factories in Great Yarmouth come from Gorleston and the majority of them use the bridge. It will be essential eventually for Great Yarmouth to have a second means of crossing the river to link more closely the most industrialised area of Great Yarmouth with Gorleston, just across the river from South Denes.
We hope to get some financial support from the Government for the construction of a crossing and we shall have to consider whether there must be some form of toll to help to raise the money to pay for the undertaking. If we wish to do that we should have to promote a Bill in this House. No doubt the Government, who laid so much emphasis before the General Election on the necessity to modernise Britain, will provide facilities and contribute to the cost of another bridge for Great Yarmouth.
I mention these things so that the Government may have due warning that we shall he coming to them and we shall put our case gently, firmly but insistently. We shall not come for a few months, but when we do I warn the Government that the ancient borough of Great Yarmouth will expect help in its efforts to modernise this part of Britain in the way I have mentioned.
I hope that we shall find that the Government will concentrate on the things that are important and one of them is the economic future of this part of the world. There is a matter which is coming up and which will cause the Government a certain amount of worry. That body is the Boundary Commission and what the Commission has reported is most important to the future of the county. As I understand—I do not want to quote people where I am not quite sure of their opinions—the situation as far as Yarmouth is concerned is that the Boundary Commission recommended, in its original recommendation, although the final ones are yet to come, that Great Yarmouth should lose its county borough status.
This is an interesting matter. We have this great body, the Boundary Commission, coming up to Yarmouth and spending half a day there talking to one or two officials and that is about all. Then it went away and thought about it and spent, I think, another half a day there and had some sort of inquiry. But the most interesting thing of all is that the only people I can discover who want Great Yarmouth to lose its county borough status is the Boundary Commission.
I do not want to speak for the Norfolk County Council, of course, but so far as I can discover this is not a move which is particularly welcomed by the Norfolk County Council. That is sensible of it, because of the problems of a borough like Great Yarmouth, with its enormous summer specialised industry of holiday-making, which affects the police and the general running of the town. Yarmouth has run itself well for many hundreds of years and it would be the greatest mistake—[Laughter.] My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour) laughs at this, but it runs itself. I am only afraid at the moment of one or two problems, which I must not go into—
The hon. Member laughs. Therefore, I must tell him what I am afraid of. I am a little afraid of one or two plans which the local authority has. To be more specific, I am most afraid of its plan for some form of what it calls comprehensive education. This is very important for the economic development of Norfolk, for if our youngsters are to be well educated the chances of a good economic future for our town are that much greater
I am sure that the hon. Member agrees with that. Whether one is pro-or anti-comprehensive education, there is one thing which I would have thought that everybody would be against and that is a bad system of comprehensive education or a "cock-up" system of comprehensive education. That is precisely what the local authority has decided to do in Great Yarmouth. I must leave that point, I must not go on much longer, because hon. Members on both sides want to say something about this.
I only want to make one other point. The hon. Member for Norwich, South talked about the ports in Norfolk, quite rightly. I agree with him. There is tremendous possibility for the development of trade across the North Sea, as trade between Britain and Europe grows. I am not going to mention the Common Market here.
As trade grows, obviously this will develop tremendously and is developing tremendously in Yarmouth. Despite the enormous amount of work and money which has been spent on the harbour which is now in very good condition, it is now a solvent port. It certainly was not a solvent port when I went there, though I claim no credit for that. Trade is increasing now and it can increase a good deal more. I hope that the new ports authority will not just completely concentrate on the great ports such as the Port of London and Bristol and Liverpool, but will also do what it can to assist the smaller ports like Great Yarmouth, King's Lynn—
There was one point in my speech which I perhaps did not explain and with which I am sure the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) will agree—that many of us think that there is a strong case for building a road from the Midlands area to Lynn and across the north of the county and down the coastal fringe. That, I think, would certainly lead to what is almost inevitable, an improvement in the trade of the North Coast ports, for various reasons, one of which is that they are efficient.
I agree with the hon. Member. Indeed, it would help Great Yarmouth, because our train service is not all that good to the Midlands. Many people who come to Norfolk for their holidays come from the Midlands. This would be of the greatest value to Great Yarmouth and would help the ports to do more trade than they are now doing.
I have been diverted, but I end by saying that here is a great county and a most beautiful county which many people who have not been there seem surprised about. That is why we had the great Norwich School of Painting because of the beauty of Norfolk. It is the vegetable garden of Britain. This is one of the things which is bringing more economic prosperity certainly to my part of Norfolk in that we have vast food-preparaing establishments, Bird's Eye, and so on, increasing in size all the time in that area. I hope that the Government will do everything they can to help that area in its economic growth. I hope that they will fulfil all their grand promises of modernising Britain. I hope that in all their grand promises, East Anglia will not be the lowest in the list in their plans.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Norwich, South for raising this matter.
My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Norwood) spoke of the need for more adequate criteria in deciding the needs of areas for economic assistance. I would like to reinforce his arguments. It is quite ludicrous that we should not have available the figures of earnings. It is obvious to those of us who live in Norfolk that earnings there are very much lower on average than in areas which are receiving assistance under the Local Employment Acts, such as the North-East. This is like Robin Hood robbing the poor to give to the rich. Our taxes go to finance economic assistance, the same as anyone else's. I would urge that the figures of earnings which we have requested repeatedly should be made available. I do not believe that it is administratively impossible to do this.
One other criterion which should be borne in mind is migration. The figures for unemployment in the King's Lynn area are not above the national average. One of the reasons for this is that we lose so many people. The one measure which we have for this is a survey which was done some time ago, regarding the loss of young people from the town. It was found that of those youngsters in Lynn who became 21, 60 per cent. had left by the time they were 25. This certainly helps to cut down the level of unemployment, but it is a most undesirable development. There have never been sufficient opportunities for them. I would urge that in deciding what form economic help should take and how I.D.C.s should be distributed, these factors should be taken into account. The Local Employment Acts are based on far too narrow criteria.
The biggest industry we have is agriculture and, of course, horticulture, and it is likely to remain so. Many of us feel that the productive capacity which we have is not used as fully as it could be used. Time and again we see foreign produce coming into this country and taking far too large a proportion of our own market which our own industry could supply. It was recently calculated that about £250 million of the foodstuffs which we import could be provided by our own industry. To me, it makes no sense to neglect our own economic capacity purely for the benefit of foreign exporters.
Industry in West Norfolk is tending to gather around the port of King's Lynn, and this is understandable when people realise the cheapness of the facilities, particularly compared with the big ports such as London, and the efficient service which Lynn offers. This is a great credit to management and workers in the port. We have the happiest relations there, and all the exporters who have gone to Lynn have been delighted with the service which they have received. I hope that the Minister will make it his business to make known to industry, particularly in the Midlands and in the London conurbation, especially the northern end of the conurbation, the facilities which are available to them in ports such as King's Lynn.
The trade through Lynn has increased. Last year we handled about 620,000 tons throughput, which was an increase of 16 per cent. on the year before. The capacity to handle ships is a little limited. We can take only up to about 1,700 tons. There is a scheme, however, for approval now, before the Ministry of Agriculture, oddly enough, to straighten the channel, and if this is approved it will increase the tonnage which we can take up to about 3,000 tons. This is of very great importance. It will enable us to bring in iron ore and many other commodities. I urge that approval be given for this scheme with the minimum of delay. We have work to get on with.
Moreover, why stop there? It would be well worth while investigating the advisability of much greater improvements to the approaches to King's Lynn. If we could get 8,000-tonners into the port we could handle them easily, and we could then take produce from all over the Commonwealth, and we could certainly double the trade going through Lynn if the approaches were made capable of taking 8,000-tonners.
Does not the hon. Member agree that one of the most important reasons for getting a move on with this sort of development is that it would take some of the congestion out of the ports which at present cannot handle the traffic?
I agree with the hon. Member. It is not only in the interests of Norfolk and Lynn but in the interests of the economy of the country.
I imagine that the cost utility of £1 million invested in Yarmouth or Lynn would be very much better than the cost utility of £1 million invested in London. That is the sort of approach we need from a Ministry of Economic Affairs.
If we are to see the proper utilisation of the facilities which ports such as Lynn offer, we need the development of the infrastructure, particularly the development of means of communication, as my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South has already indicated. We have the most dreadful traffic jams at times around King's Lynn. There has been the start of a by-pass. Half of it is under construction. But we still get traffic jams five to six miles long along the road from Sutton Bridge, and this will not be cleared by the part of the by-pass now being constructed. For the future of the port and for the future of the holiday trade throughout East Anglia, it is essential that this blockage around King's Lynn be cleared.
At the moment we do not even know the time-table or the order of priority to be given to the completion of this bypass. I urge most sincerely that an investigation be carried out into the order of priority to be given to the completion of this by-pass. I know that we all want by-passes and that we cannot have them overnight, but at least let us set the order of priority to be given to this most important work.
We have heard a plea for an east-west motorway. This is plainly necessary, particularly if we are to make the facilities of the East Coast ports available to Midlands traffic. I feel that there is a much better case for an east-west motorway running up through the Lynn area than wasting miles of its length going through Bury St. Edmunds. Plainly, even if the motorway, when we finally get it, runs further south, spurs must be taken off it to these important ports such as King's Lynn. One other motorway which I should like to see is from London into Norfolk. We have heard vague talk about motorways to go into Essex, but motorways must not finish there; they must go into Norfolk if we are to drain some of the congestion away from the London conurbation.
I come to the railways. My goodness! This is a frightful position. One cannot understand the apparent planning of the railway in isolation without consideration of what Norfolk will be like in 10 years' time. Lynn has overspill coming from London, and yet one of the major railways—Lynn to Dereham—is very likely to be cut. This must not be allowed to happen. I implore the Government to consider most carefully before allowing any of these important rail links to be cut and to remember that Norfolk 10 years from now should be a very different place from that which it is at present—and that it will justify the improvement of railways and not the shutting of railways.
One benefit which we hope to get from the Ministry of Economic Affairs is co-ordination. I will tell the House briefly of a case which came to my notice today of a very important firm seeking to expand from London to King's Lynn. The firm thought that everything had been fixed and finalised, but at the last minute the Ministry of Agriculture put in an objection. This is a very important firm for King's Lynn. It makes various plastics, and it will employ hundreds of people. The firm is exporting 40 per cent. of its production and expects to continue to do so. This is doing Britain's job, not just Norfolk's job.
It is plainly against the national interest that firms such as these, which are progressive and expanding, should be crippled by undue hold-ups and unnecessary delays in planning. I urge the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs to do everything he can to unsnarl these blocks in planning. If he will do so he will make a great contribution to the economic development of Norfolk, and I can assure him that Norfolk will repay him a hundredfold.
I too, welcome this debate initiated by the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Norwood) and the opportunity to take part in it, and I do not dissent from much that he said. I agree with a good deal of it, but I feel that his implied comparison between Norfolk and the North-East was very overdrawn. It is quite true that earnings in Norfolk are low. This is for a variety of reasons. It is partly because the National Union of Agricultural Workers is too low in the scale of the T.U.C., and therefore if it negotiated a rise in wages, other wages have to go up, too. This is one of the main reasons for keeping wages down. But it is also true that, on the whole, costs are also lower than they are elsewhere.
On mature consideration the hon. Member may come to the conclusion that it is hardly the fault of the National Union of Agricultural Workers that agricultural wages, either in Norfolk or elsewhere in the country, are low. I understand that they would be only too happy for them to be raised, but that there are various obstructions in their way.
Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that the T.U.C. took no part in the negotiations over wages and that it has no control over its constituent unions? Why, therefore, place the blame there?
The hon. Gentleman must not put words into my month, particularly if I did not say them. I did not blame the union. I merely suggested that the T.U.C. gave the union rather lower priority than it deserved. The hon. Gentleman must not misrepresent me.
The hon. Member for Norwich, South said that Norfolk was sparsely populated. This is perfectly true and anyone travelling by train from Suffolk to Norfolk will notice the difference between the two places. This is because Norfolk is the primary agricultural county of England. It is not surprising that it should be sparsely populated. In such an area one expects to see large tracts of agricultural land. While we must welcome further economic development in Norfolk, that must not happen at the expense of Norfolk's primary industry. It is highly unfortunate, therefore, that the first measures which the Government took on coming to office hit Norfolk's primary industry.
It is no good the hon. Gentleman shaking his head in disagreement because I have with me a lot of facts and figures to prove I am right, figures which I obtained from his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food a month or two ago. I can assure the House that considerable sums were added to the cost of production in Norfolk and other horticultural areas as a result of those Government measures. This is on the record and hon. Members opposite can look up the details.
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. The costs of horticultural production have increased by between 7½ per cent. and 10 per cent. since the Government took office. This has been serious for Norfolk. The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East represents a Scottish constituency and may not take this subject seriously. I assure him that the people of Norfolk take it extremely seriously and these increases are greatly to be deplored. Any measures to help Norfolk economically must begin with taking a good look at the horticultural industry and helping it in the coming Price Review.
I am pleased to hear my hon. Friend ask for help from the Government, but is he aware that horticultural products are not included in the Price Review? I agree with my hon. Friend that the Government should help. They should begin to honour the promises which they made not long ago.
That is true, but the Government could, nevertheless, help the farmers of Norfolk in the Price Review and there has recently been a deputation from the N.F.U. to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on the question of horticulture. It is earnestly to be hoped that this will result in early and speedy action by the Government.
The hon. Member for Norwich, South was a tiny bit snooty about offices in Norwich. It may be that there are some offices which are undesirable, but, after all, Norwich is the headquarters of the Norwich Union, which has a lengthy tradition of providing office work there. I should have thought that what the hon. Member described was a reasonable and proper thing to happen and that there should be office development in Norwich.
My hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell), dealing with the question of boundaries, thought that the only people he knew who were in favour of abolishing Great Yarmouth as a county borough was the Boundary Commission. I can inform him why. It is because the Boundary Commissioners are intent on denuding Norfolk of some of its most populous and richest areas—which happen, by coincidence, to be in my constituency—and give them to the city of Norwich. To compensate Norfolk for this, it appears to have thought that Yarmouth should be "pinched" and given to Norfolk.
It may be so, but I put it to the Minister that these proposals are wrong and that even if they were right they would represent a serious hindrance to the future economic development of Norfolk. Uncertainty of this type is damaging. This sort of quasi war between the city of Norwich and the county of Norfolk is out of date, ridiculous and should be brought to an end. These proposals should be scrapped.
If Norfolk is to expand economically, help must first be given to the agricultural and horticultural industries. I agree that there should be other economic development, too, but it is important that this should not take place on good agricultural land. There is a certain amount of land in Norfolk which is not classed as really good agricultural land and this should be chosen by the Government for any future factory or similar building. They should not merely allow cities to spread out, particularly when the land sought to be used is extremely good for agricultural purposes. I agree, therefore, that while there must be economic development in Norfolk, it must be carried out with the greatest possible discrimination.
I would not ordinarily dream of intervening in an adjournment debate concerned with the affairs of Norfolk. Since the House disposed of its earlier business with such expedition, hon. Members who represent constituencies outside the area with which the Adjournment is concerned have an opportunity of expressing some views, and I am grateful for this chance to make a few comments.
As an hon. Member who represents a north-eastern constituency, I have found this a constructive and friendly debate so far. It has been particularly interesting because I have found myself making the comparison between our respective problems. They are similar in impact on our constituents, similar in their urgency and importance, yet different in some respects. I do not intend to use this opportunity, hon. Members will be relieved to hear, to press the claims of my constituency, which the Minister is already well acquainted with, since he represents an adjacent constituency.
The area I represent suffers to some extent from the run-down of the ironstone mines, and I can, in this respect, contrast my area with the picture presented by hon. Members who represent East Anglian constituencies of that part of the country. It would seem to me, from what has been said, that East Anglia is not suffering from a contraction of industry but rather from a long-term malady. That is partly due to the low level of wages to which my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Norwood) referred.
I want to expand a little on that point, because it may well be that this low level of agricultural wages in an area predominantly dependent on agriculture—
I am sure the hon. Gentleman realises that agricultural wages are settled by a body called the Agricultural Wages Board, which is completely independent and has nothing to do with the Government of the day. It hears evidence from all sides—from the N.F.U., the farmers' representatives, the agricultural workers' representatives—and decides in a completely independent way whether there should be a rise in wages and, if so, what it should be.
I was not seeking to apportion blame but suggesting that there may be a long-term depressive effect exerted by the dependence of an area on one industry in which, whatever may be the reason, the wages tend to be at an unusually low level, and below the national average, because it is quite clear that in such an area the demand for the whole range of goods and services will tend to be affected. The opportunities for business and commerce generally are reduced, and that is reflected in the gradual movement of younger people from the area. They move from it because they do not see any opportunities there.
That is the chronic situation confronting an area that has limited industrial opportunities, and it is a state of things from which my constituency has certainly suffered, though I am confident that it is one that my hon. Friend and the Ministry will spare no effort to ameliorate.
I see a hopeful sign in the current exploration for oil in the North Sea. Millions of pounds are being invested in what is an admitted gamble. It is a venture in which my constituency is interested, and one in which East Anglia most certainly has an interest, too. This possibility, we can rate it no higher, of a new and revolutionary factor entering into the present situation is an added reason why my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, when considering proposals for railway closures and developments, should be fully conscious of the possibility of a completely new and unexpected development that might upset the calculations on which decisions have hitherto been based.
My right hon. Friend has a heavy responsibility in trying to co-ordinate Government policy on the transport, housing, location of industry and education fronts—all the fronts on which this problem of regional unemployment can be tackled. Representing, as I do, a constituency and coming from a region that has similar problems, I am confident of my right hon. Friend's capacity and ability vigorously to cope with the situation.
When the hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Tinn) rose, I thought that he must be about to deliver an attack on his hon. Friend, because some of us, including the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence), well remember the tremendous efforts made by hon. Members on the Opposition side in the last Parliament to get more help for the North-East, the North-West, Central Scotland and the development districts; and the wrath with which they greeted any industrial development certificate that was granted in any other part of the country.
What we have to remember when discussing this problem is that if we are to take into consideration other factors in coming to a determination on what would be a development district, the whole pattern of the development districts will be changed, and the weight of emphasis that we can put on any one area will be less.
If the hon. Members for Norwich, South (Mr. Norwood) and King's Lynn (Mr. Derek Page) want low earnings to be taken into consideration in assessing development areas in future, they must realise that that would to some degree take away from the present development districts the pressure that there is to send industry to them. I have always believed that the most important point about a development district is that of high unemployment. It must be remembered that 14 per cent. of Britain is covered by development districts and that great efforts have been made to channel industry to those areas.
Much as I would like to see more industry coming to Norfolk and to East Anglia generally, I must accept and admit that the needs of the North-East, the North-West and Central Scotland are much greater. I do not believe that anyone in Norfolk or Suffolk, however much he might like to see more industry come there, would deny that more industry must go to the under-developed areas of the North-East and the North-West, which have very much more serious problems than we have.
After all, our main problem—it is a serious one in a way—is that the mechanisation of agriculture has meant that many fewer men are employed on farms. Therefore, we have had a surplus of labour. But we do not have the problem of the dying industries or the very old heavy industries, which have had an extremely tough time in the last few years and which will have an even tougher time in some respects in the next few years. So, much as I would like to see changes made in the method of assessing development districts, I could not, either on economic or on social grounds, admit that at this stage it would be right.
I notice that another Member representing a Scottish constituency, namely, the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson), has come into the Chamber. It is a great pleasure to Members representing East Anglia to feel that we have a chance of doing what the Scots used to do almost interminably in the last Parliament. We can now feel that we can get our own back a little by putting forward the interests of our own area. Therefore, I congratulate the hon. Member for Norwich, South on securing this debate tonight and on managing to persuade the Minister of Technology to make such a dull and uninteresting speech, earlier this afternoon, that no one wanted to continue that debate for very long. At any rate, we have got through the Orders of the Day quickly and we are very grateful for this chance of discussing our problems.
Several hon. Members have spoken about the problem of low earnings. It is true that the earnings in East Anglia are lower than they are in some places and are, on the whole, lower than the national average. On the other hand, expenses are lower. Undoubtedly, it is cheaper to live in East Anglia than it is to live, for example, in the London area or the Midlands. If we are to have higher earnings, we must have fuller employment and more industries. We must also be prepared to pay the agricultural worker more.
I have not noticed a great deal of enthusiasm on the part of townsfolk to pay more for their food, which is the natural consequence of paying the agricultural worker more. I have always stressed to my constituents that higher prices for food can be justified now if it means that those who produce the food receive a higher return, and by "food" in this context I mean food whether it is from the sea in the form of fish or from the land in the form of produce.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for the generosity with which he said that the problems of Scotland, the North-East and Wales are greater in scale than those confronting Norfolk. We all take that point. I sought in my speech to show that those of us from these areas are as conscious of the needs of other areas as are hon. Members who come from Norfolk. We, for our part, would certainly make no complaint at any act of the Government to ameliorate them. With regard to the hon. Gentleman's point about the attitude of townspeople to farm wages and farm prices, I can assure him that most of us would be willing to pay slightly higher prices for food—
I take the hon. Gentleman's point and I think that one of the points which he would have made if he had been allowed to continue is that the price of food after it leaves the farm gate has gone up in recent years.
This brings me to another important point, which is the enormous effect that the food-processing industry has had on the economy of East Anglia. We have established round the coast and inland in Norfolk and Suffolk highly efficient food-processing industries, such as Bird's Eye, Beechams, the Ross Group, and one or two others, including the Co-operative Society, and I declare an interest in that I grow a lot of crops myself for the Co-operative Society. The public nowadays like to have their food in suitably packed and easily prepared form and a large part of the increase in the cost of food in recent years has come on the packaging and presentation side. This means a great deal to East Anglia, because these industries which are drawing their labour from the area also draw their raw materials there. This has had an immense effect on our prosperity.
The hon. Member for Norwich, South was worried about too many offices being established in Norwich. We already have the Norwich Union and now we are to have the. Stationery Office. I use the word "we" because although I do not represent Norwich I was born and bred there and have a soft spot for it. I welcome the coming of extra offices to Norwich because, as some hon. Members have pointed out, there is a certain amount of emigration from East Anglia of young people, the majority of whom are highly trained, the grammar school boys, and the skilled men, including the professions.
If we had more offices of as high a calibre as possible there these people would remain in the area. We would welcome more offices. Norwich is now a very prosperous town. It is developing a new university. There is only one thing wrong with Norwich, and that is that it has two Labour Members of Parliament and has had a Labour majority on the council for a very long while.
In our desire to get more industry into the area we must remember that Norfolk is one of the most important agricultural counties and is also an important holiday county. We are apt to forget the importance of the Norfolk Broads to our economy. The Nature Conservancy Board recently issued a publication, of which I have not seen the details, which goes some way towards encouraging the opening up of more rivers and broads in the Norfolk area. This is a development which we should like to see encouraged, bringing, as it would, more development in ship and boat building as well.
Railways and roads have been mentioned. These two have vital consequences for East Anglia. I support everything that has been said on both sides of the House on these subjects. The East Suffolk line is the main line serving both Lowestoft and Yarmouth, via Ipswich. In the past this line carried more traffic than did the Norwich line and, therefore, there is a strong case that if one of the lines is to be closed it should be the Norwich line.
I was not referring to that at the moment. If the Labour Government intend to honour their election pledges, they will keep both lines open. My opponent, in his election address, said that the Labour Government would keep open the East Suffolk line. I do not think that he had a right to say any such thing in his election address, but that did not stop him saying it, and I expect the Government to honour that pledge. If they do not, the people of East Anglia will want to know why.
At the election which I fought in 1959 the Prime Minister came to Glasgow and, at a big meeting in a cinema there, gave the pledge that, if my opponent was returned and a Conservative Government got in, two new "Queens" would be built on the Clyde. They were never built. That was a broken promise.
I do not wish to pursue this too far. We passed an Act for the building of one new "Queen". We honoured our promise. If, after that, the company refused to go ahead with the ship, that is another matter. We honoured our election pledge to the full, and it was money granted on loan to the shipbuilding industry which enabled the latest ship to be built.
We honoured our pledge, and I expect the Labour Government to do the same for my railway line. I hate to think what will happen to them in East Anglia if they do not. They have not much support there now, and they will have none at all if they do not honour it. However, we are getting some way away from the problems of Norfolk.
Its all very well for the hon. Gentleman to say "Hear, hear", but he led me off the path.
There is a problem in Norfolk. We need more industry, in particular light industry. I have already mentioned food processing, but, although this industry is expanding, the amount of labour which it employs nowadays is rather small. It is a very efficient productive industry which does not employ a lot of labour. Another great industry which has developed well is printing. If printing is to expand, as it must, over the next few years, it would be a very suitable industry to come our way.
Light engineering and plastics have been mentioned in this connection by the hon. Member for King's Lynn. Woodworking would be a particularly suitable industry because we are near the Scandinavian ports. Importers could bring their timber in through Yarmouth, Lowestoft, or King's Lynn, and woodworking industries would be most suitable for our part of the country.
My hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) said that Norfolk was one of the most beautiful counties in England. Representing a Suffolk constituency, but having been born in Norfolk, I can support him in that. We want to see greater development. We want the excellent people who are born and brought up in Norfolk to be given a higher standard of living and a chance to earn more money. This is very important, but we do not want to see our area spoilt by too much development and development of the wrong sort. The balance must be kept.
The Britain of the future cannot be just one mass of industry. As we get richer as a country it will be all the more important to ensure that there are areas where a proper balance between countryside and town is kept. Norwich, part of which the hon. Gentleman is so lucky to represent, is a very beautiful city, a city admirably suited to absorb more industry and, at the same time, to enable people who come there to enjoy a full and cultural life. With its new university, its cathedral and its great architectural interest, it is indeed, as the Norwich Union so rightly says, a fine city.
In supporting what has been said by the hon. Member for Norwich, South, I hope that the Government will realise that we are not trying to be greedy, or to take away from the North-East, the North-West, Central Scotland, or the South-West what they should have. What we are asking for is a greater share of the country's increasing industry and expansion. We hope that our comments will not fall on stony ground. We realise the difficulties, but we look to the Joint Under-Secretary of State to do what he can to help us improve the situation.
On several occasions, hon. Members opposite, in expressing gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Norwood), have remarked how fortunate he is to represent Norwich. After listening to him, it struck me that Norwich is fortunate in being represented by him. We can certainly convey to the city that every hon. Member who has listened to the debate appreciates how fortunate and wise the people of Norwich were in returning him to this House.
We are now engaged in trying to disperse some of our population out of the over-crowded area of London and the Midlands. I am in favour of moving some people out of this area into Norfolk. My hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Tinn) asked that some of them should go to the North-East, but no hon. Member so far has mentioned Scotland. The hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) referred to the fact that when we were in opposition we were always pressing the then Government to have more expansion in Scotland. In the last few months, there has been greater justification than ever before for the potential of Scotland to be exploited by sending more industry there.
In this area we hear complaints of rising prices because of the imports surcharge. We have not had those rises in Scotland. Scottish distributors and manufacturers have overcome the difficulty by efficiency and organisation. Scotland is, therefore, eminently suitable for more industry.
I am speaking mainly about food. The surcharge was not imposed upon food. Scottish distributors did not put the surcharge on food. Sainsbury's has not done so in London, and no one has done it in Scotland. That is all the more reason why we should divert more industry and people to Scotland. The people already there are efficient, but there are still 74,000 unemployed although this figure is much less than it was 12 months ago.
We are being successful on the Clyde. At last we have a Government who have decided to implement the North Atlantic Shipping Act, 1961. We now have extra work on the Clyde because of it, thanks to my right hon. Friends. We also have several projects in the form of new towns.
I said that the Government have honoured it. The Act was introduced in the last Parliament. The Prime Minister of the day said in Glasgow in 1959 that two new Cunarders would be built on the Clyde. I wrote to him about it and he replied that if the Conservatives were returned the two liners would be built. The Conservatives were returned but the liners were not built. Now we have been returned and a Cunarder is to be built on the Clyde. That is a fact. All these sophisticated, political arguments dc not alter the facts.
I have given way to the hon. Gentleman. The point is perfectly clear. I know that the politicians can move it around, but that is the fact, and the Scots do not and will not forget it.
When the next election comes another four seats will go from the Conservatives to Labour because Labour is fulfilling its pledges in Scotland. It will continue to do so by increasing the movement of industrial enterprise into Scotland, as I am sure it will do in Norwich and other areas. I hope that when the expansion takes place in the South-West the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) will give credit to the Government for the impetus which they will have added to the South-West, which never happened in the last Parliament.
We have the new towns of Cumbernauld, which is in my constituency, Glenrothes, East Kilbride and Livingston. If they are to attract varied industry and to have a diversified pattern of industry, they cannot draw it from within Scotland. It must come from America, the Midlands, London, and so on. We cannot draw it from Glasgow. We have overspill agreements with Glasgow, but we cannot get industry from Glasgow because it is short of industry itself. We must draw it from the South.
I always understood that one of the disappointing things about Scotland, following the setting up of the Rootes and B.M.C. motor car plants there, was that it failed to attract the subsidiary industries which go with the motor car manufacturing industry. Is there not plenty of scope for getting more subsidiary motor car industries in Scotland?
We were handicapped for many years because no sheet steel was being rolled in Scotland. There was plenty of plate steel being rolled for ships, but no motor car sheet steel or sheet steel which is used in the domestic hardware industry and what are called consumer durable industries. It was years before the previous Administration could convince Messrs. Colvilles that a strip mill would be a useful addition to the economy of Scotland. The considerable pressure exerted by the Labour Opposition in the House at last convinced the Government and Colvilles that this strip mill should be put down. It has been in operation for only a few years and it takes time to build it up.
But what we need in Scotland is another motor car plant. Rootes has only one model. It is producing another model called the Chamois, but it is very much the same as the other one. We need a larger output of motor cars and greater use of sheet steel in the manufacture of refrigerators and domestic products. If we can get some other diversified industries using sheet steel, we shall create in Scotland and the North a centre from which the subsidiary industries can draw their orders.
The present motor car output from Rootes and Bathgate is not sufficient to warrant the establishment of major feeder industries, but they will come. They are looking to the future because they know very well that in the United Kingdom Scotland has the greatest potential to restore the prosperity of this country. Everybody is beginning to realise that. Industrialists in many parts of the world are looking to Scotland for the great revival of Great Britain.
The House will appreciate that I have at heart the best interests of all the areas of the country which my hon. Friends represent, but I represent a Scottish constituency, East Dunbartonshire, which is part of west Scotland. It is my duty to ask the Minister to give Scotland the same consideration which I know he will give to the constituencies of my hon. Friends. I know that he will give them ample consideration.
I plead finally that my hon. Friend will give the same consideration to Scotland, because there we have the skill, the labour force and plenty of land, and if the Labour Government remain in power for ten years they will have the confidence and the faith of the people of Scotland.
It has been encouraging to see so many hon. Members opposite present and to hear that so many of them come from the North-East and from Scotland. One cannot help wondering what time their trains go and whether that is the reason why they are here. One remembers that upon similar occasions in the last Parliament, right hon. and hon. Members opposite representing Scotland and the North-East were also very much present.
I hope that the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Norwood), who initiated this debate and who seems anxious still to leap into it, will be gratified by the attention that his subject has aroused.
I am gratified at the interest that the problems of Norfolk have attracted on this side, where I count my hon. Friends too numerous to mention. On the hon. Gentleman's side, however, there are only three.
The hon. Member has had quite enough to say for the moment.
I quite understand the reason for bringing forward the subject of this Adjournment debate tonight and I should like to make a comparison with what has happened in East Anglia and Norfolk and to divert the attention of the House for a moment to the South-West, because our problems are comparable. We are equally an agricultural area and we have the same sort of problems.
I realise that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs has come here armed to the teeth to reply to the debate about Norfolk and East Anglia and has neither the facts nor the figures, nor, indeed, the intention of replying to any debate on Scotland, the North-East or the South-West. I understand this because it was not long ago that I was in the same position as the hon. Gentleman. Nevertheless, I hope that my remarks tonight will be borne in mind. I do not intend to be particularly controversial.
I am glad that the Joint Under-Secretary came down to my part of the world on a visit last Monday. I hope that he enjoyed his visit and that it was of use to him. I am sure that it was of use to the people in the South-West and particularly those in Cornwall whom he saw.
If I may draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to one small unfortunate fact, I received a letter yesterday from the chairman of the county council regretting bitterly that members of the Press were not allowed in to the meeting in Truro addressed by the hon. Gentleman, at which there was free and forthright discussion with county council representatives. A prepared Press statement was issued afterwards, and the hon. Gentleman saw the Press at a conference later, but the Press were not allowed in at the meeting to hear the free exchange of views. I apologise for not being present myself, but I had to be here in the House.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for saying that. I hope that on any future occasion when he or any of his right hon. or hon. Friends come again, as I hope they will, to the South-West to see our problems there—because, as the hon. Gentleman knows, he has not solved them yet—they will have consultations with the council beforehand about arrangements for the Press to be present.
This is the moment to put forward one's ideas and views about what is needed to develop not only Norfolk but the South-West and, in particular, Cornwall. We have the same problems down there as elsewhere. One of the things which astonishes me when we have a debate of this kind is that every hon. Member who speaks, particularly from the other side, puts forward tremendous schemes, which would cost vast sums of money, which are vital to the area he represents. If one were to add up the cost of the various schemes put forward one would discover the figure to be astronomical.
It is all a question of priority. One has to decide whether the priority should be in one place or in another. The hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Tinn) was very restrained and did not put forward the priority which in his view exists for the North-East to get an additional amount of help. I feel the same way about the South-West. We have a high unemployment rate. The hon. Member for Norfolk, South talked about the high unemployment rate in Norfolk, and the hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Derek Page) told the House that many young people left Norfolk to find employment elsewhere. This is a problem in the South-West, too. As the Parliamentary Secretary knows, there is a great outflow of people from the South-West to industry elsewhere. They leave the area, not because they want to—and I am sure that this also applies to Norfolk—but simply because there are no employment opportunities available for them in the area.
The Local Employment Act, brought in by the previous Government in 1960, has gone a long way to ameliorate the situation, certainly in the South-West. It has brought industry to the area. I do not want to weary the House by reciting the places to which the industries have gone, or naming the industries, but one town which springs to mind is Bodmin, where five factories have been built during the last five years. There has also been industrial development in the Camborne and Redruth areas, and in other parts of the South-West, but this is not enough to satisfy the needs or the wants of the area.
It is essential to have a balanced economy at the end of the day. We hear a lot from the Government about regional planning. The purpose of regional planning must be to set up a balanced economy within the regions, and, of course, it must be controlled from regional headquarters. If I have understood the position correctly, one thing about which the Parliamentary Secretary was quite definite when he went to Cornwall and attended a meeting at Truro—this was reported in the Press and I confess that this is my only source of information—was that his right hon. Friend the First Secretary was quite adamant about Bristol being the regional headquarters, and that there was no question of that decision being changed. This was the final and fixed view of his right hon. Friend, so there was no point in discussing it at all.
This is unfortunate. I do not think that one should come to a firm conclusion without having the fullest possible consultation with the people most affected. I understand that when the hon. Gentleman was answering questions at his meeting he said that nothing would be done by regional boards, or in the regional planning sphere, to upset the authority or the sphere of influence of the local councils, and it was his firm intention that they would not be disturbed but would be able to carry on exercising their functions. This is unsatisfactory, because there are many authorities, many people, and indeed many councils in the South-West, who are extremely unhappy about the idea of having the regional centre in Bristol.
I am not going to suggest where else it should be—
If the Under-Secretary of State wants me to go on much longer I do not mind. I am willing to discuss all the various possibilities, and the advantages of such places as Exeter, Plymouth, and so on. The hon. Member ought to know better.
As I have said, in the last few years various regional offices of the existing Ministries—the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Agriculture, and others—have been situated in Bristol, and the regional hospital board is situated there at the moment. We have, therefore, been provided with a certain amount of experience whether or not Bristol is a suitable place from which to administer the region.
People from Cornwall and Devon live a long way from Bristol and do not find it easy to get there. It takes them a long time to travel there by train. Bristol is, therefore, an unsuitable centre for people who live in the two counties on the peninsula. With that experience in mind, I hope that the hon. Member and the Secretary of State will not take such a rigid view on the matter, but will consult the authorities yet again in order to see whether it is possible to change the decision that Bristol shall be the regional centre. Perhaps it will be found possible to place it in a more suitable location, where the two extreme counties of the peninsula will not feel so out of touch.
I also understand, from the same Press report, that when the hon. Member was talking in Truro on Monday he said that he could not give any promises or assurances that any sub-committees of the regional board or consultative council would be set up in Devon or Cornwall, or even in other counties, such as Gloucester or Worcester. He said that it was something that would have to be considered for the future. I do not wish to pursue the point, but if that was said it was regrettable, because the best amelioration of the position if he refuses to change his decision would be to have sub-committees representing the interests of Devon and Cornwall.
From the debates that we have had I understand that regional councils and consultative councils are of a purely consultative character. Nevertheless, they are of considerable importance, and there are two points in connection with them on which I should like some clarification. First—and this must apply in other regions as well—we must be certain that all the county councils will be represented on them. I am not sure that this will be the case in the South-West. I believe that 16 places are available, but if we list the number of counties concerned we find that there will not be enough places for all the counties to be represented on the consultative council. I hope that this will not prove to be the case. I hope that the council will adequately represent the views of all the counties, that it covers.
Further, I understand that it is the plan of the hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State that officials should be eligible for appointment to these bodies; there is to be a choice between officials and elected representatives. That is an altogether unsatisfactory situation.
I turn now to the immediate point of the debate, namely economic development. In the South-West we want a balanced development. Our main industries are agriculture—as is the case in Norfolk—and tourism. We hope that the Government, when planning for the future and considering what development shall take place in the South-West, will see that those two industries thrive.
During the past four months, under the present Government, the effect has been exactly the opposite. Costs have risen in the agricultural industry and also in the hotel and catering industries. Costs have gone up in the South-West, and it must be appreciated that these costs have he could not give any promises or assur- for the coming season. The hoteliers now face increased costs with no way in which they may recuperate themselves without running the risk of upsetting their clientele. Apart from the main industries of tourism and agriculture, we want a continuation of light industrial development in the South-West. It is not a suitable area for heavy industry. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and his Department will do everything possible to help the extension of the kind of industry which we want, light engineering, electronics, and so on. The more help we get in respect of this type of industry the better it will be.
The hon. Member for King's Lynn spoke of the necessity of having a survey in relation to unemployment. The hon. Gentleman was referring to the situation in Norfolk. In the South-West there is a great deal of hidden unemployment, but at the same time the figures from the employment exchanges are not always a true indication of the position because they include people who have gone to the South-West for early retirement and have no intention of working. They may register as unemployed, but they have no intention of taking up employment. There is a great deal of unemployment, particularly among women I do not think a proper survey has ever been carried out so the true position may become apparent. I should perhaps refer to the employment potential of the area rather than to the amount of unemployment. It is more important to ascertain the employment potential than to discover how many people are unemployed. I hope that the Minister will pay attention to this and see whether it is possible for such a survey to be made in the near future, perhaps in co-operation with private enterprise and firms such as A.I.C.
We must not forget the importance of road transport in Norfolk and in the South-West. The Government must continue to pay attention to this matter. During the past five years, under the previous Government, there was a great expansion in the amount of money spent on road communications in the South-West, but not sufficient was provided to clear up the problem. I know that this is another question of priorities. When the hon. Gentleman went to Truro and to Plymouth he was told that more money was needed to make sure that the arteries of commerce in the South-West were kept clear and working properly.
I cannot stress too highly the absolute necessity of having a sufficient road scheme and sufficient funds allocated to see that this is built in the South-West. If we are to develop at all down there, if we are to get beyond our existing position of having a prosperous agricultural industry and a fairly prosperous hotel industry—which is prosperous in the summer months but not in the winter—we must have an important system of roads going into the South-West, so that we can not only have our raw materials coming in more quickly and more cheaply but also so that personnel can come up and down these arteries as well.
While on that subject, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will look very seriously into the possibility of expanding the Port of Plymouth as far as civil contracts, as opposed to naval contracts, are concerned. Over the past generations they have been mainly concerned with naval affairs. At the moment, I believe they have a contract in hand. This is splendid for the employment position of those working on naval contracts. There is still a great deal of spare capacity at Falmouth. I hope that these two ports will be looked into very carefully to see how quickly and how much their industrial capacity can be extended in the near future, what the cost of this would be and whether it can be rationalised. I hope that it can be. If this can be done there is a tremendous future for light industry in the South-West. The two ports of Falmouth and Plymouth would form splendid outlets, not only for the light industry which we have at the moment but, perhaps, for even heavier industry and certainly for light industry with export potential
Of course, if this were to be so, it would be essential for the railways we hear so much about to be maintained as well. In the recent Beeching plan, I saw that one of the main fast lines was to be down to Plymouth. That is splendid, but after Plymouth there was, on paper, a weaker line. I hope that, at some future time, the Minister of Transport will issue an assurance to the West Country that the main line services will continue in the future, right the way down to Penzance on that main line. The rest we must leave for the moment.
One great problem in developing the South-West is the trend of our young people to leave this beautiful part of England and go elsewhere to seek employment. At the moment they can get a very good education in the South-West, but they have to go elsewhere for employment. Education, of course, is developing all the time. We are even talking about a university of Cornwall. I believe that the Minister was asked whether he could approve a university of Cornwall being built under the new plan for the expansion of universities.
I understand that he did not commit himself on this, which was very wise. I hope that he will think over very carefully the arguments put to him for expanding university capacity in the South-West. I hope that the claims of Cornwall to be one of the sites of a new university, which he was asked about when he was down in Truro, will be borne in mind and that he will ponder very seriously about them.
I have taken the attention of the House away from Norfolk. I do not feel quite so guilty as I might have done if we had not had interventions from the hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Tinn) and the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) as well. I think that it is only right, when we are talking about a rural area with problems of agriculture, of hidden unemployment and of the need to develop its economy, that comparable areas such as Norfolk should be borne in mind by the Parliamentary Secretary and his right hon. Friend when they are drawing up their plans for development.
It would be the most heinous crime if additional funds were funnelled into Norfolk at the expense of the South-West or if the needs of the South-West went by default. That is one of my purposes in bringing to the Parliamentary Secretary's mind once again the pressing needs which we have in the South-West. I am sure that he must bear them in mind and that he must tell his right hon. Friend about our problems.
I was not there when he visited the area last Monday. I hope that when he comes again in the near future I shall have the opportunity of being there with him and talking over with him the problems which we have in the South-West. I am glad that he went there, and I hope to see him there again soon.
We are indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Norwood) for introducing this Adjournment debate. I believe that wise planning is the cornerstone of whatever prospect there is for this country.
The hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) referred to the efforts of my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) in taking us up to Scotland. We have been almost round the British Isles. I want to direct my hon. Friend's attention to the problems in a new town when industry is being brought into the town and when, because of the existing regulations, people who are already in the new town are told, when they apply for jobs in the modern factories, that regulations prohibit the employment exchange from letting them have such jobs. These people still have to travel out of town, as they have done for many years, to their work.
I am talking about Skelmersdale. This situation represents a ridiculous anomaly, because these people in Skelmersdale have waited a long time for new industry to be directed there. The industry has gone there because a new town has been designated. The purpose of the new town is to help to solve the big problem of Liverpool in rehousing and giving employment to its people. I wonder whether the Minister would look at this problem of allowing people in a developing new town to find employment in the factories. The development corporation has tried to get the Minister to see this point of view and to give permission for people who live in Skelmersdale to be employed in these factories.
Skelmersdale is an old town which, years and years ago, depended on the pits. The last pit to be worked there closed in 1938. The majority of the men came to the pit in which I was branch secretary. They have all had to live in Skelmersdale and to travel to the various pits in Wigan and St. Helens.
This is a very serious problem for these people. It may well be that this is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. But unless somebody gives this permission, the ridiculous anomaly will persist. New industries come into an expanding town, but the people already living there are told, "These jobs are not for you. You must continue to travel to your present job, or find another job to which you will also travel. You cannot work in Skelmersdale".
Is the hon. Member saying that there is direction of labour and that when new industry is brought into the town people who live there cannot get jobs in it? I cannot believe that he means that, but that is what he said. It implies some kind of direction of labour.
Skelmersdale is being built up as a developing new town. It already has a population of 6,000. There is no industry worth speaking of in Skelmersdale. New factories have been built there and others will be built there. The factories are advertising for labour. Men who live in Skelmersdale, but who, for the last 30 years or so, have had to travel to neighbouring towns to get work—and who have travelled back to live in Skelmersdale because they like it—have applied for these jobs and have been told by the employment exchange that these jobs are not for people already living in Skelmersdale.
If a man wishes to apply to the management of a factory for a job he does not have to get permission from the employment exchange to take that job if he gets it; that is, unless the hon. Member is saying that in his part of the country there is direction of labour. There is no sanction here. If an employer wishes to take on an employee, and if that employee is capable of doing the job, surely the employment exchange cannot refuse to allow the employer to take him on or refuse to allow the employee to accept the job.
Order. This seems to be an intervention upon an intervention which, at any stage, is difficult. I am a little concerned about my duty to the Minister. What he had notice of, presumably, was the subject of the economic development of Norfolk. It has always been the practice of my predecessors and myself to discourage in debates on the Adjournment discussion of a topic of which the Minister has not had notice. I think that hon. Members should bear this in mind.
With respect, Mr. Speaker, is it not correct to say that your predecessors and, I believe, yourself, have in the past ruled that in an Adjournment debate hon. Members can discuss questions not directly concerned with the subject of the Adjournment and that their speeches can range very far and wide? Although an hon. Member in this position, making such observations, could not possibly expect a reply from the Minister to the points he is raising, does he not have the privilege, in An Adjournment debate, of ranging fairly wide in his remarks? Am I not correct, Mr. Speaker?
Yes. Everything the hon. Member says is correct upon an Adjournment debate. He or any other hon. Member would be entitled to raise any topic on the Adjournment and, curiously enough, what I said is also correct. The practice of the Chair has been to discourage discussion on matters which would produce an ex parte statement because the Minister would not have had warning of them. That is all.
With respect, Mr. Speaker, the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) was referring to the direction of labour while intervening in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire). Is it not correct to say that we have had a negative direction of labour for a considerable number of years because no jobs were available?
With respect, that is a different point. Whether in Adjournment debates or at any other time we do not allow interventions upon interventions, as they represent an interruption of the time available to the hon. Member who is speaking.
Certainly, but I do not think that the hon. Member is following me. An hon. Member speaks. He gives way, out of courtesy, to an intervention. He may, on the spot, choose to reply to that, but what is not fair to him is that there should be an intervention upon an intervention, because that deprives him of his speaking time.
It will appear on the record that there have been quite a few interventions.
I apologise for not extending to the Minister the traditional courtesy which, I understand, I should have extended. I do not want to suggest that I was delighted, but when I rose to my feet I had not quite got over the shock of being able to take part in tonight's Adjournment debate. Earlier in the day I did not think I would have this opportunity of speaking. The debate has certainly not petered out.
When I made an inquiry of another hon. Member, I was told, "You can go in and raise any topic you like". I thought that this would be a heaven-sent opportunity for me to speak, particularly since I had been waiting for several hours in case there might be an opportunity during the day for me to make a few comments.
When we talk about planning and development I have no reason to doubt that the position I was describing before the last series of interruptions does not exist. People cannot get jobs because they happen to live in a town which is being developed. Since I know this to be true, I considered this debate an ideal opportunity to raise the matter so that the Ministry could look into it and, if possible, remedy the situation.
It was not my intention, Mr. Speaker, to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire), and I respect your Ruling that the debate must not range very widely. Nevertheless, the situation in North Cornwall and in Scotland, as well as that in Norfolk, has been explained to us, and I feel that something should be said about the general necessity of bringing new industries to the areas that need them.
The hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) referred to the number of unemployed in Cornwall. He said that he was not sure that the figure he gave was the true one, and it may have escaped his attention that the unemployment figures were published yesterday and were the lowest for the last nine years. That is a credit to the change of Government in October, because there is no doubt that those figures reflect the state of the economy.
Although it is gratifying that unemployment has been so reduced, I would point out that in the North-East it is still twice the national average. That means that we face the same problem as exists in Norfolk and in Scotland—the drift of population to the Midlands, to London and the South generally every year—
Surely, the hon. Gentleman cannot really claim, on the one hand, that all the troubles that are now about are due entirely to the last Government and, on the other hand, that anything good now occurring is entirely due to this Government? It is ridiculous.
Hon. Members opposite have stated that industry has no confidence in this Government—that the import charges and the increased Bank Rate are having an effect on industry—yet, at the same time, unemployment is lower than it has been for the last nine years. That is an indication of the healthy state of the economy under the Labour Government. I am justified in making that statement, and I do so as a prelude to pointing out that in the North-East unemployment still runs at twice the national average. Every year, 10,000 families drift to the Midlands and the South in search of employment, and that has been going on practically since the end of the war.
Our problem, therefore, is to try not only to build up our economy but to attract back to the region those people who have had to seek employment in Birmingham, Coventry, Dagenham and London. We believe that, with the setting up of the regional councils, there is at last a possibility that we can plan for the region; that in the North-East we can accommodate some of the new science-based industries that we hope to attract. We believe that a hard look should be taken to see whether Government offices can be moved, not only to the North-East but—to get back to the terms of the debate—to Norfolk or Scotland. There is no vital need for many Government offices to be situated in the London region.
That being so, we believe that it will be necessary for us to look at this regional programme in the context of a national pattern, and not to accept as inevitable—as, presumably, the previous Government did—that the population in the South-East will increase by 3½ million by the 'eighties, with all the problems of housing, traffic chaos, and the rest that such a movement would create. We believe that any rational Government would view the situation in terms of the national advantage of moving industry and offices outside the conurbations.
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Norwood) said that he wanted to change the criteria of the Local Employment Act so as to include Norwich and the Norwich area in development areas? Does the hon. Gentleman also realise that Norwich is in the South-East and is, therefore, one of the places which could have some of the extra three and a half million population?
My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Norwood) referred to the need to bring more industry into Norwich, so obviously the drift of the population to the South is not settling in Norfolk or Norwich. It is coming, in the main, to the Greater London area. Rather than that we should look forward to this tremendous increase in population in the 1980s, it is right for us to develop our planning organisations in the North-East to enable industry to be attracted there.
Direction of labour has been mentioned, but labour is directed at the moment. It must follow the job. If a redundant miner in Durham or a redundant railway worker in Darlington loses his job, in many instances he can secure similar skilled employment only in the Midlands or in the South. So labour is directed by economic circumstances. My right hon. Friend should consider directing industry. I do not suggest that this could be done directly, but it could be done indirectly by the issue of I.D.C.s. For instance, the Minister could say to certain employers, "We shall not allow you to expand in the Midlands or the South-East. You must expand in an area of great unemployment". Thus it would be possible to steer industry to regions which badly need it.
Planning should not be considered in the context of what will happen in Norfolk, Scotland or Northern Ireland. We do not want to be the Cinderellas of our so-called affluent society, fighting one another. We in the North-East do not want to fight our colleagues in Norfolk or Scotland to get the crumbs which fall from the rich man's table. We should join together and ensure that we get a fair share of industry and planning. That is why I believe it is essential in the context of the national plan for us to pour more capital into development areas so as to attract industry there.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South for raising this subject, because we in the North-East face these problems. When these problems are considered by the Government, I hope that the problems facing the North-East are not overlooked.
My hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr.Ted Fletcher) said that it would be a pity if Members from different geographical areas entered into direct conflict with each other on the question of securing greater employment in their areas. Presumably his argument is that what is required is an overall steady national economic growth so that all areas will see some expansion, but that in the meantime some priority must be given to certain areas which have a particularly difficult problem to solve.
This places the Minister in some difficulty because the debate opened with my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Norwood) claiming special priority for his area, on very good grounds. My hon. Friend was followed immediately by Members from other parts of the country, in particular by a very strong contingent of my hon. Friends from the North-East, and then by the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins), who claimed priority for the South-West. Everybody cannot simultaneously claim priority. This does not make any kind of sense.
Priority presumably means that some areas must be allowed prior claims over others. It is no use if tonight my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, in replying to the debate, says that he will give every consideration and priority to the areas whose claims have been put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South. Therefore, there must be some statement of principle as the basis in establishing priority for different parts of the country. The question of statement of principle which hon. Members representing the North-East constituencies have raised time and again concerns the difficult problem there that it is not a relatively small pocket of unemployment but a large area where two of its fundamental industries, shipping and coalmining, have been running down for a long time.
My hon. Friend the Member for Darlington was perfectly correct in saying that although the unemployment figures released this morning show that unemployment in the North-East is less than it was a year ago, it is still twice the national average, and it is twice the national average in a substantial geographical area where millions of people whose jobs are in jeopardy live. If my hon. Friend, in reply, says that some priority will be given to Norfolk, I hope that he will explain to me, as a Member representing a north-eastern constituency with a high level of unemployment, how the Government see their commitments to the North-East in the light of the study which they are now making of the South-East.
What concerned hon. Members from the North-East towards the end of the lifetime of the previous Government was that a White Paper was published which assumed that the population of the South-East would grow over the next decade by about 3½ million and that not all of that increase would be due to natural growth. There was an assumption in the White Paper that 1 million of those people would be coming from the North and from Scotland and from other parts of the country. Some Government statements have been made in the last few weeks about the development of the South-East, and only today at Question Time there was a reference to the present Government's study of the South-East Plan, which, perhaps quite wrongly, has been causing some consternation in the North-East.
There is some feeling in the North-East that if priority is to be given to social development and employment problems in the South-East in the course of the next few years this could run contrary to the Government's commitments to the North-East. It may be that the feelings of concern expressed in the North-East are those of people who are misinformed and that the people are unnecessarily frightened by the development, but they need reassurance. If my hon. Friend in his reply to the debate states that some priority will be given to the area covered by the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South, I hope that at the same time he will explain to the House how this can be done without in any way jeopardising his commitments to the North-East.
The hon. Member seems to have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. This debate was initiated by the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Norwood) and was about the economic development of the Norfolk area. If we are to have a kind of priority scheme where only one area has priority and there is no economic development in other parts of the country, the economy of the country will come to a grinding halt. There must be economic development all over the country.
I am not for a moment arguing that the only area of the United Kingdom which should have any priority at all is the North-East. I am referring merely to the statement of my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South, in opening the debate, that the Government have made a commitment to the North-East and he was fearful that, perhaps, their commitment to the North-East might detract from employment prospects in his own area. I am appealing to the Minister not simply to say in reply that he will help my hon. Friend and help everyone else but to state the basis of principle on which priority is allocated to one area or another. In elaborating that, have tried to explain—I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman did not appreciate the point—that we in the North-East think that we have a strong claim, a claim, moreover, which was recognised by his Government as well as by the present Government.
I am not making a party political point out of it. For me, I have been remarkably non-partisan this evening. If I were to develop the point further, and hon. Members opposite cared to provoke me, I could be very party political about the fact that, when they were in power, one Government Department headed at the time by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) was talking about economic expansion in the North-East while his right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), then Minister of Transport, was running down our railway system, without which, of course, the Hailsham plan, as it was then known, could never have worked. However, we must not digress and we must not become too partisan.
The road development plans for the North-East, which had not really got going by the time this Government took office, were no consolation to the many hundreds of my constituents living in the Heaton and Walkergate areas of East Newcastle who were thrown out of work by the policies pursued by the then Minister of Transport. Longterm road planning did not secure their employment. However, this also is a digression.
If we are to give priority to one area or another, the basis of principle for the granting of priority ought to be stated. One cannot say in every Adjournment debate about the economic problems of X, Y and Z that they all will have priority. If the Minister were to argue in that way—I am not trying to anticipate his argument—we in the North-East would begin to be concerned because, the very moment that the pressure groups from all the other parts of the United Kingdom begin to get their way, the Government's plan for the North-East is immediately jeopardised. This is why hon. Members who came in after hearing that the debate was widening were largely from the North-Eastern constituencies.
We are pleased in the North-East that the unemployment level this month is markedly lower than it was a year ago, but the fact remains that it is still 3·1 per cent., more than twice the national average. Ours is the area of the three rivers, the Tyne, the Wear and the Tees, a substantial area geographically with a substantial labour force.
The hon. Member for Cornwall, North—I do not think that he is here now—referred to the need for a new university in the South-West. There is a strong case for arguing that we could have too many universities in this country. There is a strong case for saying that the economic size of operation for universities is a student population of about 10,000. Already in the South-West there is a relatively new university going through a phase of considerable expansion and growth. Without in any way claiming to have greater knowledge of that area than the hon. Gentleman who represents part of it, I suggest that we should be very careful about establishing our priorities and not try to please everyone all over the country by planting a university on his doorstep.
There may be a case for another university in the North-East. Perhaps we shall have an announcement about that in the not too distant future. But the idea of the proliferation of small universities with student populations of about 2,000 is not good educational administration. There is a case, however, for arguing that, as an essential part of the economic growth of a major industrial region, there should be a technological university and there is not, as yet, a major technologcal institution of university status in the North-East.
If one wants to argue in terms of priority between having a new university in the South-West, where there is already a relatively new one, and a new university in the North-East, I could develop, if there were time, an overwhelming argument for saying that the North-East should have priority.
The main factor, however, is the basic need for national economic growth, but that cannot come substantially in a fortnight or in 100 days, although one hopes that it will come in much less than 13 years. Short of a major national economic growth as the immediate solution to the immediate problem, some basic priority has to be established and I am curious to know on what principles of priority the Government are operating.
I am very tempted to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle, East (Mr. Rhodes) on the subject of universities and to press the claim of Sunderland, which has a major technical institution, but perhaps that would be going too wide after the advice you have given us, Mr. Speaker.
I am amazed at the way in which hon. Members opposite have repeatedly pressed upon Ministers that priority should be given to their own regions. Today at Question Time my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs was pressed for an assurance that the Government would interfere as little as possible with private industry in certain developments that were to take place. But no one would imagine, judging by the number of times that the need for new industry in different areas has been raised by hon. Members opposite since October, that, for the greater part of the time they occupied this side of the House, "planning" was a dirty word that must not be used.
They swept away the controls, and it is because they did so and reversed the policy being followed between 1945 and 1951 that my hon. Friends from the North-East have had to plead the cause of the North-East here tonight.
Another thing that amazes me is the way in which it is still assumed widely that it is easier to move communities than to move industries. We all realise that there was a time in our history when industry, particularly heavy industry, had to be located in particular places—at the mouths of rivers or in coalfields—near the supplies of raw materials. These considerations have now gone and it is far easier now to move industries than it is to move communities.
That is the general burden of complaint in my part of the North-East. With great respect to my hon. Friends who have put the claims for their areas, I come from a part of the North-East which the Hailsham Report sentenced to death. The Report told us quite plainly that social and economic investment would have to remain static there, that when the Government were considering making investments they would have to leave my area of the North-East out of their thinking. We were described as a travel-to-work area. When I was there, 95 per cent. of the boys who left the village school which I attended went into the mining industry. Today, less than 10 per cent. enter the mining industry.
Today, there is a complete change. Youngsters leaving the village school which I attended have little or no opportunity of work. If they lived in the area which I represent, they would feel that conditions are worse now than they were in the darkest period of the 1930s.
I grew up in that area in the 1930s. We always believed that when things got better the pits would reopen and employment would be available. Now, coke works, pits, and so on, have been dismantled completely. My hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State paid us the honour of visiting the constituency at the beginning of the year, and my constituents and I are very grateful to him. He realises the very serious situation which exists in my part of the country. It is monstrous that millions of pounds of taxpayers' money are being poured out to make life barely tolerable in the immediate area of this House, in the Greater London area and the South-East, and yet there are wide open spaces in the area which I represent where little or no development has taken place.
I cannot escape blaming the previous Administration which, for 13 years, allowed the position to get worse, and finally, when Lord Hailsham, as he then was, made his report, they condemned us to death. At the same time as we were being designated as a travel-to-work area and many people were being told that they must travel as far as Darlington and Aycliffe to find work the Minister of Transport in the Conservative Administration was closing railway lines and making it almost impossible to travel.
One hon. Member opposite said that there had been a great increase in expenditure on modernising the roads in the North-East. None of it came to any area west of the Great North Road. The administration of that time believed that when they talked about the North-East they were referring to Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Sunderland and forgot altogether the tremendous area west of the Great North Road which in earlier days made such a great contribution to the prosperity of our country. It is most depressing to visit communities which are being allowed steadily to die.
I am glad to say that, since October and the announcement of the new regional organisation and the announcement by the President of the Board of Trade of a new advance factory at Crook, we have been looking forward to a complete reversal of the policy outlined in the Hailsham plan. We are now assured by the Government that the region will be considered as a whole and we look forward to the setting up of the boards and council so that our area may have its rightful share of development. What has happened over the past 13 years in our part of the country has been one of the cruellest things that could possibly have come to any community.
It is monstrous that year after year, despite the pleas of my predecessor, industry was allowed to decline and run down and finally, after 11 years of power, the Tory Government produced the report which said to our people, "There is no hope for you. You must be prepared to travel every day to work. At the same time, we will make it almost impossible for you to travel by closing the railways." Now, we look to my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary and the Department of which he is such an important representative to plan the region so that my people will be able to work in the area, which has so much to offer in so many ways, and that we might make our contribution to the prosperity of the nation.
During the last two and a half hours, we have heard a dozen or so speakers and I wish that I felt free to range as widely as they have done. I have been sorely tempted by the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins), whose constituency I nearly visited on my journey to Cornwall earlier this week, by my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire), to whose constituency, in which Skelmersdale is situated, I paid a visit earlier this year, and by my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong) whose constituency I have also visited this year; but it would be lack of courtesy on my part to my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Norwood), who initiated this debate, if I were to range as widely as that and if he had the misfortune for the problems which he has raised to be smothered in replies to other issues which have come up during the last two and a half hours.
For that reason, I am not in the schizophrenic position which my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Rhodes) suggested in having to try to give a satisfactory and happy reply to all the demands which have been made upon me. I can only say of the number of wide-ranging points which have been made, which are clearly of considerable consequence to hon. Members who have raised them, that we shall take note of them and I shall endeavour to help as far as possible in solving them.
Perhaps I should say, for the benefit of those hon. Members who may have missed the opening remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South, that they were in every sense wise and moderate and that there was little which he said which could be—
It would be helpful if, at the end of two and a half hours, I was allowed to reply to the debate.
There was little in the remarks of my hon. Friend who initiated this debate which would conflict in any way with what may have been said later, particularly about priorities in industry. I shall come on to this presently and I will, perhaps, show that the approach of the Government to the problem of industrial location is one which recognises priorities but also recognises the subtleties of the problem with which we are dealing.
I in no sense misunderstand the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South during my opening remarks, as he would have found difficulty in knowing precisely when I would reach a position when I could reply to what he has said.
I wish, in a sense, that the long period which we have had this evening was due more to a positive wish to discuss the problems of Norfolk and other parts of the country than to a negative desire to avoid discussing other matters which we have had today.
During the last three months we have had a number of very helpful debates on specific problems affecting different parts of the country, and I am sure that there is an advantage in dealing with them in this way and trying to locate the problems and see how a solution can be found to them which will fit in with our overall regional planning.
I think that in every respect this debate has justified and shown fully the need for the new regional machinery which the Government are setting up, because there are problems in every region, there are problems between regions, and there are national problems of accommodating growing population and achieving economic growth. I should like to believe that between all those present tonight there was no question but that the object of the Government's policy in this respect should be to make sure that prosperity is fairly and widely shared. In achieving this we shall be dealing with the problems of those areas which still have a high level of unemployment, but at the same time trying to deal with the real problems which my hon. Friend indicated in opening the debate.
My hon. Friend also mentioned that the problems of the location of industry, the provision of housing, and communications, go together in proper and effective planning, and the Department of Economic Affairs exists for the precise purpose of bringing together these different disciplines. Each in its separate way contributes to economic strength, and if they are considered separately, wrong decisions can be made.
My hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Derek Page) raised a particular point. He apologised for having to be absent when I would be replying to the debate, but I assure him we shall look at the problem he mentioned. We appreciate the force of what he said and the importance to King's Lynn of getting a decision about the future of this industrial site. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government has not yet decided what procedure he will follow, but I will convey to him the views expressed by my hon. Friend on this matter. My hon. Friend said that he hoped it was the job of the Department to unsnarl blockages. We have many responsibilities, and this is certainly one of them.
I turn for a moment to deal with the specific nature of the problems in Norfolk. As my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South said, Norfolk is one of the largest counties. In many ways its economic structure is relatively stable. I think that the burden of much that my hon. Friend said was that a county which is stable in its economic structure does not stand still, but in the long run moves backwards when the country is advancing.
It is a county which is predominantly rural and agricultural. We know that in all parts of the country there is a tendency for a drift from the land, and so we see in Norfolk a rise in population which has been smaller in the last ten years than the rise in population in the country as a whole. Between 1951 and 1961 in Norfolk there was an increase of 0·23 per cent. per annum in population compared with an increase of 0·51 per cent. per annum in England and Wales. These factors are significant, particularly when they are taken together with the change in the age structure in the remainder of the population. There are fewer people in Norfolk, proportionately, under the age of 15, and more over the age of 65, than in the country as a whole.
As I think the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) said, the drift of skill is something which must always give us concern. My hon. Friend said in passing that there was more diversity of industry in Norfolk than was sometimes supposed to be the case. This is one factor which indicates a reasonable prospect for the future. There is a considerable diversity of employment, although in Norfolk we see the changes which we can also discover elsewhere. The decline in agriculture which I mentioned is matched by an increase in employment in services. This is the pattern that we see elsewhere.
I agree with my hon. Friend that to the extent that we can diversify the industry of a county further and ensure that industries with real natural growth potential are located in the county we will help to strengthen its economic fabric and guarantee jobs not only for the present generation, but for future generations which, we hope, will make Norfolk their home rather than seek employment outside.
My hon. Friend made a number of very perceptive remarks about industrial location policy. I should be happy to pursue at length the points that he raised and also to set them against a number of points raised by others of my hon. Friends, including, in particular, my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East. I will say simply, however, that it is true that the main factor which determines where development districts are, and where new employment should be located, is high and persistent unemployment. I do not doubt for a moment that all hon. Members will agree that there must be priority in providing jobs for men who are out of work.
After that, a number of other factors arise which should be looked at. First, there is the question of the desirability of concentrating growth in those points which look as if they have a real potential for maintaining a strong industrial growth and for providing employment. I entirely share the misgivings of my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West about the policy of the late Government in this respect, but I am sure that he and I would be one in recognising that choosing sites with a potential for growth is one of the complications for government in deciding location policy.
I now return to the remarks of my hon. Friend about wage levels and activity rates. These affect not only Norwich. They affect, for example, parts of Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire. I am inclined to agree that when deciding where industry should go we should not fail to recognise the hardship which could be caused partly by low wages but also by a smaller total participation of the potential of manpower in the economic life of a town, county or region in which it is situated.
In the review of location of industry policy which my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has in mind, these are factors to which he will certainly pay attention, although it would be wrong for me to anticipate any of the conclusions which may be reached, and I am certainly not trying to do so in my remarks.
In our attitude to industrial development certificates for Norfolk, and especially Norwich, we recognise the need for some industrial development, and we wish it to be as well-founded and as suitable to the county and the city as is compatible with our other obligations in different parts of the country.
My hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn referred to something to which he attached a good deal of importance bearing on the question of wage rates. He was distressed by the fact that no earnings figures were available for the county of Norfolk. I am sure that he will know that we have inherited very inadequate regional statistics. We are hoping to put this right, but it would be a mistake to promise that in the short-run we shall also be able to provide statistics for the counties which all of us in principle would like to see available.
Communications have been discussed. We recognise, of course, that communications remain the sinews of economic growth. I thought that my hon. Friend took a rather gloomy view about the future of the railways. I am sure he would not dissent from the view that our means of communication must change as our requirements change, and a railway system which was established 100 years ago may not wholly meet the needs of the mid-twentieth century.
The important thing, however, is that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has given a very clear undertaking—which was not given by the previous Minister and which I am sure will satisfy my hon. Friend—that any decision at all about the closure of branch lines will be looked at exceedingly carefully in the light of regional policy. The burden of the complaint from this side of the House is that closures were not tested against regional needs. This was the objection which I am sure was sometimes found to be justified in the light of circumstances. We want to get right our priorities for planning our transport system. I understand the impatience of my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn, after the years of neglect, but I cannot promise that by tomorrow the problems of 13 years will be cured. Certainly, we shall be tackling them in a forceful, effective and very rapid way.
Several points were raised about the future of Norfolk ports about which I ought to say something. There has been a considerable growth of traffic through these ports in the last few years and this is something which we can welcome. It may well be—I hope that this will be the case—that in the long run these ports have a considerable future in terms of the exports from the Midlands and the South. It may be that they have a potential in the developing of the roll-on roll-off container services, for which some of us see a considerable future. I understand that these are developing rapidly at Felixstowe and Harwich and Immingham further north. It may be that some further developments in this direction will help King's Lynn and also Great Yarmouth, but I think there are problems about the depth of water available.
I do not intend to give any specific assurance of that kind. The point I was making, which after all is the important one, is that any decision should be looked at in regional terms and this is what is being done now.
My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South, had a number of remarks to make about office development which I think at one time were a little misunderstood. I understood him clearly to say that he wanted to see a planned dispersal. He did not want the haphazard pushing of offices to Norwich. He thought that an unsatisfactory way to deal with the problem. In reviewing the South-East Study we have in mind the need to find suitable locations for planned office dispersal. I am sure that he and others will find that the decisions reached by this Government, to check office development in the London area, will turn out to be the right ones and will benefit other parts of the country where the economy needs to be strengthened. We all recognise that office development provides a great deal more employment than that provided for the people who work in the offices themselves.
I said in my opening remarks that I had had the good fortune in the last six weeks or so to visit a number of parts of the country and to see for myself, on the spot, the problems with which they are dealing. May I say that I would be more than happy to visit Norfolk in the near future and to see at first hand some of the important matters which have been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South and other hon. Members.
There was only one point during the debate when for a moment I doubted the wisdom of this. It was when the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) referred to Norfolk as being the vegetable garden of the South-East. I know the point which he was making, but for a moment I thought that visiting a vegetable garden would be a less happy outcome than I would expect in visiting a county which I know has a much greater reputation than that as a place which people want to visit.
I think that the Under-Secretary missed the point which I was making. This point was in connection with the industry which has grown up out of its being the centre of an enormous vegetable growing area. There are the great canning businesses and food businesses generally.
I fully understood the hon. Member's point.
The important thing within the county is obviously to get a proper balance in every possible way. What I think is a very refreshing aspect of this debate is the recognition that the proper preservation of amenity—Norfolk is a very attractive county—can go hand in hand with the development of a sound economic structure. It is not necessary to choose between becoming a rural backwater and providing the industry and employment which will retain the population. I am sure that we can find a proper balance.
Norfolk is a county with a noble and distinguished past with much to offer, not only to those who live and work there, but to those who are fortunate enough to holiday in that part of the world. It is one of the purposes of the new regional planning machinery to make sure that what is good in what exists today is preserved, but, equally important, that Norfolk—as other parts of the country—is prosperous and provides employment opportunities, not, as I say, only for those who live today but for other generations with whom, I hope, we are all wholly concerned.
The hon. Gentleman was less than fair—and I hope that he will correct this—in talking about the 1960 Local Employment Act. He gave the impression that it had done nothing to correct the difficulties which were encountered in the last five years. I hope that he will pay sufficient tribute to what has been done under that Act, the amount of money spent and the amount of industry sited—not only in the South-West but, I am sure, in East Anglia as well and the beneficial effects which the Act has had.
I have no doubt that some merits flowed from the Local Employment Acts of 1960 and 1963, but I hope that the hon. Member is not saying that he is satisfied with the results. I am sure that we cannot be satisfied when we find unemployment as high as it still is today in some parts of the country and we also have to deal with the problems of low wages and low activity rates which have been mentioned.