Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the TUC that the Budget strategy appears to doom Northern Britain to industrial decline and growing unemployment? With these mistaken policies, what hope can the right hon. Gentleman offer to the population of Flint—some 17,000 strong—which is currently enduring the harrowing male unemployment level of 38 per cent.? Surely the right hon. Gentleman's monetarist policies must be reversed.
No, I do not agree with the alternative policies adumbrated by the TUC. The purpose of meeting its representatives on the NEDC is so that there can be a continuing dialogue. The hon. Gentleman must now be sadly aware that had the previous Labour Government allowed redundancies to occur earlier in the Shotton area those who then lost their jobs would have been able, more immediately than now, to find alternative employment. At that time the world recession had not occurred. The hon. Gentleman is aware that there are good prospects in his area for new jobs as businesses show increasing interest in the area.
Will my right hon. Friend make arrangements to estimate the cost of the national day of tomfoolery organised by the TUC for 14 May, and inform the nation of the total amount of wealth lost and what that represents in terms of jobs lost as a result of that action?
Will the right hon. Gentleman seek to justify to the representatives and the leaders of the TUC in the Northern region the cutbacks in regional development grants and all the other cuts that are being made in employment support when unemployment there is rising to proportions unknown in postwar years? Will he look again at the question of regional development grants and restore the cuts that were made this year?
No. The regional development grants were withdrawn from areas where unemployment was below the national average and where the economic structure created no especial need for subsidy from the taxpayer. The extra money for which the hon. Gentleman is asking would have to be paid by the taxpayer through additional borrowing or by an increase in taxes. The taxpayer's purchasing power would be reduced and other jobs would be lost elsewhere.
Was not the Secretary of State's stumbling, rather pathetic defence of his economic philosophy the biggest condemnation of the Government's approach to the economy? Does he agree that company liquidations increased by 66 per cent. in the last quarter over the preceding quarter? Would it not make much more sense to work in cooperation with the trade union movement?