North-East (Investment)

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th February 1972.

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Photo of Mr David Watkins Mr David Watkins , Consett 12:00 am, 7th February 1972

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has for encouraging publicly-owned investment in the North-East of England.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The North-East will benefit from the accelerated investment by nationalised industries and the Government's other extensive measures to stimulate output, investment and employment.

Photo of Mr David Watkins Mr David Watkins , Consett

In view of the seeming unattractiveness of the North-East for private investment, ought there not to be a very much stepped-up programme to encourage public investment, especially in the manufacturing and other wealth-producing industries?

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I, of course, of all people, would not agree about the unattractiveness of the North-East—

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

—and I would say to the hon. Gentleman that I thought the bulk of the problem was the reduction of employment provided by the publicly-owned industries at present as much as by the private sector.

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson , Bradford West

Will the Minister bear in mind that public investment per head in Yorkshire and Humberside is about the lowest in the country, and as Yorkshire and the Humberside region have only two intermediate areas and no development areas at all the Government should do all they can at least to attract public investment to Yorkshire and Humberside?

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The Government have done a great deal to increase public sector investment in both industry and infrastructure, and I feel sure my hon. Friend will agree that there has been a very large acceleration of a large number of projects, with considerable benefit to the areas concerned.

Mr. Bob Brown:

I am sure that the Under-Secretary does not need me to tell him that the North-East is one of the most attractive areas of our country, but does he realise that the problem referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. David Watkins) lies in the fact that private industry is not coming in as it did before 1970, because of the stopping of the investment grant? Will the hon. Gentleman try to persuade his right hon. Friend to reconsider this action in view of the damaging effect it is having on regional policies?

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I would not accept the basis of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, but I can say that there are encouraging signs of an upturn —[HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"]—in the economy generally which will benefit the hon. Gentleman's area as much as all the others.