I expect to announce the levels of grant in aid which will be awarded to each of the regional development organisations, including the Northern Development Company, for the financial year 1990–91, in March 1990.
When my hon. Friend comes to consider the funding of the NDC, will he give due regard to the great value to the region of the excellent work performed by it in promoting the region both at home and overseas? Will he further give regard to the commendable level of support which it receives locally from industry and authorities in the region?
Most certainly. I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend for the help that he has given to the NDC and for the part that he played in setting up that organisation. He will be pleased to know that, over the years, funding has steadily increased. For example, in 1981–82 funding was £230,000, but in 1989–90 it is £1,182,000, inclusive of core funding.
The Minister gave his usual non-answer. What does the Secretary of State have in mind for English Estates? Incidentally, in 1936, the right hon. Gentleman's father was one of the first directors of English Estates and it is evident that he had more vision than his son, especially as press reports suggest that it is about to be privatised. That privatisation would be a further blow to the northern region because English Estates has played a significant role in the development of science parks and technology transfer centres. Those developments are sorely needed if we are to get manufacturing back on to a competitive edge so that we can start to reduce the £20 billion trade deficit.
I have a very high regard for the work of English Estates, but the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I say that if he wants to ask a question about English Estates it would be a good idea to do a bit of homework and table a question. We are now talking about the Northern Development Company, which is a different thing altogether. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman appears to be unaware of that difference and I find it remarkable that such a person should be sitting on the Front Bench of the Labour party.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the NDC does not give the appearance of having much more than a polite interest in the affairs that it is supposed to overlook in Cumbria? Before he starts giving it a whole lot of money will he try to extract an undertaking from it that it will demonstrate a more positive approach to the problems of Cumbria?