The Government's response to the economic problems of the South-West are fully set out in their reply to the report of the South-West Economic Planning Council. The Government will be able to give further consideration to the needs of the region in the context of the findings of the Hunt Committee, whose report is expected in the autumn.
Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that we in the South-West are just not prepared to accept the situation which he has brought about? We want action. Will he look it this matter again and ensure that we have something positive in the near future?
I think that we have given a positive response to the Tress Report. In particular, we have accepted the crucial importance of the spine road, which is the central part of the Tress Report's strategy.
Would the right hon. Gentleman give consideration to a report which might be prepared on the Hunt Report, which is due in the autumn, which is reporting on the Report of the Tress Committee, which has now reported, because we should like to know that eventually these Reports, which we have been reading and studying for many years, will lead to some action by some body?
The document to which the hon. Gentleman refers is, I think, the evidence which has been submitted by the South-West Regional Council to the Hunt Committee. This evidence was prepared probably only in the last few weeks, and it will be considered by the Hunt Committee which, I gather, is to visit the area soon.
I assure my right hon. Friend that there is bound to be disappointment in the South-West at the Government's response to the Economic Planning Council's Report. I welcome his assurance that he will give further consideration to those parts of the Report related to the Hunt Committee's finding. Would he go a little further and assure the House that he will give further consideration to other parts of the Report which appear to have been rejected out of hand?
Regional planning, and particularly long-term regional planning, of the kind which the regional councils are doing does not lead to total acceptance or refusal at a particular point of time. There is a continuing exchange of views between the councils and the Government.
Mr. Alan Williams:
Regional economic planning implications are taken into account in the consideration of road programmes for the South-West, as for other regions. The Government's decision to give high priority to the provision of the spine road reflects recognition of the key rôle of this route for the future development of the region.
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that the Government's refusal to give a definite date for the No. 1 priority in the Tress Report has caused widespread disappointment in the South-West?
I welcome the assurance that the spine road concept is accepted, but does not my hon. Friend think it a little disappointing that the part of the spine road proposed in the development area was not accepted in the Government's reply? Would not he agree that road communications become more and more important the further away parts of the country are from the centres of population?
I appreciate my hon. Friend's point. But the Council, in its Press statement, recognised that the programme announced by the Government was all that could be expected within the time span up to the mid-1970s. In addition to the spine road, we have agreed on five bypasses in the Cornwall area.
While the South-West is glad to know that this Report will be available in the summer of 1969, may I ask whether the hon. Gentleman is aware that we already have at least 10 reports on the tourist industry in the South-West? Would it not be rather more simple and quicker to abolish S.E.T. for the tourist industry straight away, and save all these reports'?
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the President of the Board of Trade said the other day that there would be no provision made in the Estimates for the year 1968–69 for any additional help to the hotel industry except the modification of S.E.T., about which we await to hear?