Regional and Industrial Policies

Part of Orders of the Day — Supply – in the House of Commons at 9:10 pm on 14th July 1982.

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Photo of Mr Stan Orme Mr Stan Orme , Salford West 9:10 pm, 14th July 1982

Throughout the Falklands crisis, when we needed ships and they had to be turned around quickly, men in the North-East and elsewhere worked night and day. British Shipbuilders could build the new container ship competitively. It merely needs the chance to do so.

The story is the same throughout every sector of British industry—lack of investment, collapse of demand, layoffs, redundancies and short time working. The economic news is universally bad, despite the latest output figures. The hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) suggested how the May figures were calculated in relation to the bank holiday. There was also undoubtedly a Falklands crisis factor involved as well.

The Government have no strategies to deal with the tidal wave of destruction. They continue to rely on market forces without reference to the needs of our industry. They look no further than occasional tinkering with the problems. They are blind and deaf to the death rattle of British industry. Wherever one looks, unemployment is reaching new records—441,000 in the North-West, 350,000 in the West Midlands, which is currently the area with the highest growth rate, 223,000 in the North-East and 699,000 in the South-East. One could go on. The figures speak for themselves. The banner on the front of County Hall has obviously hurt the Secretary of State because it tells the truth about the number of unemployed in the Greater London area.

Despite those horrific figures and imposible Government policies, people are fighting back. I congratulate the GLC on setting up its enterprise board to create jobs in the capital. I also congratulate the West Midlands and Lancashire enterprise boards. Local authorities are fighting back to create jobs. That has been their major priority since they have been attacked and partly dismantled by the Government's policies. Their task is to create jobs in their areas. Whether it is on a large scale, as in the case of the GLC, the West Midlands, Corby, Sheffield, St. Helens, Salford and many other areas, or on a smaller scale, jobs are being created. Section 137 of the Local Government Act 1972 provides only a 2p rate, but it is being used to create employment, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Cunliffe) has said.

Against that gloomy overall picture, we were given a taste of what a further dose of Thatcherism would mean for the British people in the recent speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He spelt it out very clearly. Instead of talking about growth, productivity, investment and unit costs, he gave the familiar anti-trade union speech threatening further privatisation in industry and in local government, including health and education. All that adds up to a policy of two nations—discrimination by a favoured minority against the majority. A nation torn by dissent with rising unemployment, social deprivation and a rising crime rate is the reality of Tory policies.

Yesterday, the Labour Party and TUC liaison committee launched a major part of its industrial policy under the heading of planning and industrial democracy. That policy is completely opposed to Thatcherism and monetarism. It will lay the basis for industrial recovery. The plan for jobs spells out an economic future for this country that will restore employment opportunities, based on the concept that investment linked with a major public sector and the implementation of industrial democracy is a radical and Socialist alternative to the Government's disastrous policies.

We must restore competitiveness without conflict. We shall use planning to expand capacity and replace outdated equipment. We shall lower the rate of the pound to make British industry competitive. We shall certainly do something about the export of capital that is still leaving the United Kingdom at a disastrous rate for our economy. Investment should be made in the United Kingdom.

Our policy statement makes it clear that we want to see an expanded Department of Industry that will have powers in its own right. Transfer forecasting and medium-term forecasting must be removed from the Treasury and given to the Department of Industry. Expenditure planning could also go to the Department of Industry. We want industry to be financed by a national investment bank. We also want to attract pension fund investment.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) referred to a national planning college. There are about 36 universities in the United Kingdom, but not one of them is solely committed to training people for management in industry or the public sector. Continuously, we have to obtain management for the public sector from the private sector. We need to train people ourselves for the public sector. We would set up a training college for that purpose.

Within this infrastructure there is clearly a need to strengthen regional policy and the contribution that regional and local planning can make to our objectives. In the past few years there has been a rapid decline in the traditionally prosperous areas, with unemployment rates reaching levels usually associated with the deprived areas. Critical problems are emerging within our inner city areas.

A Labour Government will get the economy moving and create growth and employment, but there is no doubt that areas will be left behind, in parts of Scotland, the North-East, Wales and Merseyside, that will need a regional policy. At present every region needs a regional policy and an overall policy is necessary. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East has been visiting such areas and discussing the measures that will be necessary to solve their problems. We accept that the policies implemented by past Labour Governments have not filled the bill. We need to look afresh at these areas and to regenerate industry.

The Secretary of State referred to inflation. I agree, that is important. He referred to unit costs, and that, too, is important. He talked about competitiveness of British industry. Yes, that is important. We want to see industry moving, because without a successful British industry we shall not create wealth in our society, let alone improve or even maintain our standard of living. The manufacturing sector in the United Kingdom is approximately 26 per cent. of the insured working population. Therefore, a great responsibility rests on the manufacturing sector.

The proposals put forward by the Opposition are an alternative to the policies pursued by the Government. The position now is not two or three times as bad as it was when the Government came to office, but five or six times as bad. That is a condemnation of Government policy. The sooner we can implement the policies outlined by the Opposition this evening, the better it will be for Britain.