Orders of the Day — Industry Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd January 1979.

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Photo of Mr Thomas Urwin Mr Thomas Urwin , Houghton-le-Spring 12:00 am, 23rd January 1979

My contribution will be relatively brief, if only because I am aware that several of my colleagues wish to participate before the Minister of State winds up this debate.

I listened with great interest on Thursday to the opening speeches of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), leading for the Opposition. My comments about those speeches are as follows. I thought that my right hon. Friend was unnecessarily muted and by no means willing—apparently unwilling—to take advantage of the opportunity of describing what to me amounts to a remarkable success story of the activities of the National Enterprise Board since its inception. I think that my right hon. Friend could have said a great deal more about the achievements to date of the NEB.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East, in his own inimical style, with sheer political dogma, poured scorn on the whole idea of State intervention in industry. His attitude was somewhat reminiscent of the attitude of Selsdon man in 1970 towards the IRC, which was dismantled by the right hon. Gentleman's Government but which was already proving that it was having an impact on industrial development in this country.

The indecision for several months after the election in June 1970 of the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friends led to a crisis of confidence in industry in relation to investment grants. I trust—indeed, it is my fervent hope—that when the electorate of this country record their vote at the polls in a few months' time they will remember the outrageously inefficient policies of the previous Conservative Government in relation to industrial development.

There are fundamental factors in the development areas in relation to unemployment and the allied subject of industrial development which demand that there should be a continuation of an agency such as the National Enterprise Board. Together with masses of my constituents and friends and colleagues in the Northern region, I deplore the right hon. Gentleman's attitude when he says, in deprecatory terms, as he did last Thursday, that the NEB will be allowed to continue with British Leyland and, perhaps, with Rolls-Royce. The right hon. Gentleman has not yet learned the lesson which I and my hon. Friends have been learning for years and years while representing the people who have elected us to the House of Commons. I am referring to the measures which are necessary to create new employment to provide job opportunities for countless thousands of people who are denied the right and privilege of working and earning a living.