Orders of the Day — Industrial Development Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th May 1966.

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Photo of Sir Austen Albu Sir Austen Albu , Edmonton 12:00 am, 16th May 1966

—that the views which he holds do not seem to be held by the Liberal hon. Members for Scottish constituencies who have spoken in the debate.

I should like to start by offering my congratulations to my two hon. Friends who have made maiden speeches. My hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. Ednyfed Hudson Davies) made a lyrical speech, including a very moving reference to the loss of Lady Megan Lloyd George, who will be so very badly missed here. It is true that his support for the Bill was qualified. I can say only that his points will be considered. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen), whose speech I regret to say I did not hear, naturally spoke as many others did about the interests of his own constituency and there is nothing wrong with that. We shall take into account everything he said, but we are aware of the situation in Plymouth.

Listening to both right hon. Gentlemen from the Opposition Front Bench—particularly the right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber)—I had the feeling that this has been a very muffled attack to support a vote against the Bill. The real substance of the Bill has hardly been attacked by the Opposition at all. There has been a good deal of discussion of detail. The right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale reserved his fire mainly for something which he thought he had discovered—a sinister power which would be exercised for the first time by the Board of Trade—and spent an inordinate amount of time dealing with a very small Clause, dealing with a very minor matter, namely, the possibility of the Board of Trade, when assisting firms to establish in these areas, owning equity shares. I shall be dealing with both these points.

The difficulty of the right hon. Gentleman and of his hon. Friends is that they left an economy of inadequate investment and insufficient growth and one with a recurring and ever-worsening balance of payments crisis. Against this background, their criticisms of the measures which we are taking to change the situation are completely negative. Of course, whatever we do in their eyes is wrong—we are accustomed to this—but I must say that we should have rather more respect for their opinions if they were to produce any vestige of a new or constructive approach to our economic problems.

The Bill is intended to do two things. The first is to make more direct and selective the assistance given by the Exchequer to industry. The second is to bring up to date our system of assisting those areas where there is not only a higher rate of unemployment than in the rest of the country but also a slower rate of general economic growth and a high rate of emigration or depopulation. All changes in taxation allowances or grants are unpopular with those who do not receive them and we naturally expected to hear those views expressed by hon. Members from the constituencies which are most affected or who represent interests which are most affected.

But, of course, any change is bound to involve some disadvantages, some risks and uncertainties. If we are unable to take action, the level of investment in the key sectors of our economy, will, of course, remain inadequate—