Northern Region (Employment)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd May 1971.

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Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth 12:00 am, 3rd May 1971

I am taking up what the hon. Gentleman said, and I hope that he will be fair. I have been in the House for very much longer than he has, and I know—[Interruption.] Perhaps the hon. Member does not like it, but, fortunately, people in the North do. It is untrue to say that the regional policy was not developed by the Conservative Party. The instigator of it was Mr. Stanley Baldwin. In the time of high unemployment arising from the economic crisis after the Labour Government of 1929–31, Mr. Baldwin instituted his inquiries and, before the outbreak of the last war, our regional policy was started by the Conservative Government of the day.

I remind the hon. Gentleman of what is said on the plaque at the Team Valley Trading Estate and the Treforest Trading Estate in South Wales, the first two trading estates, and both started under Mr. Baldwin's aegis. Also, at the West Chirton Trading Estate in my constituency, there is a plaque which shows that International Formica, a very important industry in our part of the country, was begun before the outbreak of the Second World War. Therefore, it is completely untrue to say that it was not the Conservative Party's idea, and I resent it.

The present Lord Chancellor, my noble Friend, Lord Hailsham, went north at the time of the then Conservative Government and set in motion a much improved system of regional development. We are both realistic and intelligent people in the North of England, and we follow what happens. It is ludicrous for the Opposition to refute what the Conservative Party did, and it is not right to say what has been said.

Having got that off my chest, I return to British Rail. The sacking of porters was a decision not of Lord Beeching but of the present British Railways Board. I take great exception to this. We have a very good south-north and north-south service, but the only people in whom the Board is interested are the business community. It has no thought for the elderly, those who have had operations, or women travelling with children. One cannot get a porter for love or money unless one is very lucky. Some very nice police officers at Newcastle Central found me a porter the other day, but there are not enough porters to do the job. Talking to them, one finds that porters have been sacked or taken off to do jobs that they never had to do in the past. This creates more and more unemployment.

There is a similar situation in the service industry. Hotels have reduced their staff to an absolute minimum, partly because of S.E.T. There is very good and dedicated service in many hotels, but the employees are run off their feet. It is very difficult for hotels which hope to attract the tourist trade, because they have had to sack so many workers as they cannot make ends meet. Exactly the same thing is found in shops, where the staff have to work—and by Jove they do!—twice as hard as they ever did. The shops cannot afford to keep the same number of staff as they had in the past. Therefore, when we are discussing these matters we must remember that other factors arising out of Labour Party policy have had their effect on employment.

I have kept on saying, and I repeat, that my idea is to have a fair day's work for a fair day's pay, and then if there is a profit in the big industries that we have on the North-East Coast, it is equally fair that those who are part of the labour force should share in that profitability. But that is not the Opposition's approach. They never say anything like that. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has any news about what has happened on the Tyne, where there was a strike of fitters.