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The many forms of Government assistance to manufacturing industry in development areas should place firms in those areas in a strong position to compete for Government contracts. The Government also give preference to development area firms in awarding contracts.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the placing of Government contracts can make drastic inroads into the unemployment figures in the development areas? Is he further aware that firms in these areas are finding it difficult, in dealing with Government Departments, to get them to change from their old habits and from the firms with whom they have previously dealt? Could she look into this matter more closely?
The whole point of the contract preference scheme is to assist firms in the development areas. They are clearly marked on purchasing lists. I will certainly look at the point raised by my hon. Friend. I hope that this step will begin to have very practical effects soon.
Following that very unsatisfactory reply, could the hon. Lady say quite specifically what is happening to the promises made by the Prime Minister, in our area? This is the question to which we want an answer. Is she aware that her answer to her hon. Friend failed to make sense at all?
I am very sorry if the hon. Lady found it difficult to understand. I should point out that her particular region is having some very active work put into it. There was an excellent debate in the House last Friday on this subject.