Is the Minister aware that the search for this information is made more puzzling because his Department has no figures? In my constituency, at least one private development company is offering jobs and factories in return for the sale of land. Is the Minister aware that if these jobs are indeed available it would be better left to the local authority and his Department to provide the factories for the jobs that Drum Developments of Bedlington is supposed to be offering? The jobs are there, the land is there and the machinery is there. Will he start to get the information for which we have been asking for some time?
On the information the Question asks for, the hon. Gentleman will realise that in June 1972 industrial development certificates were not required for the special development areas. I hope that very shortly arrangements will be in operation in England and Wales for obtaining this information from applications to local authorities for planning permission. In Scotland, instructions have already been issued to local authorities. I know that the hon. Gentleman has written to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about the case he mentioned, and my right hon. Friend will shortly reply. I understand that negotiations for the disposal of land are continuing, but our policy is to leave the local authorities to decide the best way to dispose of their available land.
I thank my hon. Friend for that last answer, which is very helpful. When we get the information we in the north of England will be glad. Will my hon. Friend explain why he did not give the answer immediately without waiting for a supplementary question?
There are two sides to this question. First, on Government offices the Hardman Report has been made available to the Government and, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, we hope to be able to make an announcement sometime in the summer. On other than Government office employment, the Industry Act is available to assist with mobile office employment, and we are considering ways to improve incentives to encourage private office employment away from the South-East into the assisted areas. Over the last year unemployment in the Northern Region has fallen by 18,000.
Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind the needs of the Ince constituency, which is in the Wigan travel-to-work area, and South-West Lancashire in general? May I make a special plea for the Skelmersdale New Town, because the Minister has special responsibilities? We need a boost from the Government, and I hope that he will con- firm that we are at the top of the list of priority areas.
The hon. Gentleman may rest assured that we shall give every consideration to the area, but it would be unfair to everyone else if I were to suggest that it is at the top of the list.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that for far too long youngsters in the Northern Region when seeking office jobs have had to leave their homes and travel to other parts of the country and that, with the extension of education facilities, there is not only vacant office space but a pool of extremely good labour? Does he appreciate that we are waiting for the Government to take urgent action on this matter?
Since the Government promised during the passage of the Industry Act that they would encourage office employment in the development areas, can the hon. Gentleman, if he is unable to give figures for the Northern Region, at least give figures for the development areas as a whole?