asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will now consider giving assistance to the Hunstanton employment area under the assisted areas scheme.
In his statement about assisted area gradings on 28 June last year my right hon. Friend made it clear that the Government do not expect to make further changes during the lifetime of this Parliament.
Does the Minister agree that the Hunstanton employment area, with unemployment at 28·8 per cent., is the only one in England with more than 25 per cent. unemployment that does not receive special area assistance? Since Corby has unemployment currently running at 21·3 per cent., and is an enterprise zone, if he will not consider special area status for Hunstanton, will he at least consider establishing it as an enterprise zone or, if free ports are introduced, as part of a free port.
I agree that Hunstanton has high unemployment, although, of course, it is small in absolute numbers, which is a factor we take into account. The level of unemployment in East Anglia generally is fairly low. I agree that the hon. Gentleman has a problem. It seems to me that the best way to tackle it is through CoSIRA. Hunstanton is a special investment area under CoSIRA. Recently, the Department of the Environment has given permission for the building of some small units and at Hesham there are to be 50–50 workshops developed with the West Norfolk county council. The problems of the hon. Gentleman's constituency are best dealt with through rural policies.
Does the Minister agree that the Government's policies on rural development have had no impact on rural Norfolk? Is not Hunstanton a good case in point? Have not the Government's cuts in public expenditure, backed by the Stone Age Tory attitudes of the Norfolk county council, meant that industrial development has been choked—not only in Hunstanton, but throughout rural Norfolk? The Government have done nothing about that.
I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's remarks. Much work has been done by the Development Commission, especially in encouraging small businesses and factory building. The hon. Gentleman knows that, even under the Labour Government, there was no assisted area status for such areas in East Anglia. It is only because he is in opposition that he changes his mind.
Does my hon. Friend agree that this case, as many others, exemplifies the position well described by my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. Warren)? Is it not yet another argument for putting maximum effort into getting the national economy right, rather than seeking to iron out the local variations in employment by costly subsidies?