HC Deb 14 May 1973 vol 856 cc998-9
8. Mr. Horam

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the progress of his discussions with industry and trade unions on the subject of the regional employment premium.

Mr. Anthony Grant

The CBI and the TUC have been invited to discussions on the phasing-out of the regional employment premium.

Mr. Horam

As the Government are hoping to maintain general economic growth on the basis—at least partly—of a devalued currency, why will they not let the regions keep the regional employment premium, which is in effect a form of devaluation? Is it not true that the Government want to finesse their regional responsibility on the basis of a traditional consumer-oriented boom?

Mr. Grant

No, I do not think so. The Government want to bring health and prosperity to the regions and it is manifestly obvious that this is already happening. The REP is only one aspect. All these matters will be discussed with the TUC and the CBI.

Dame Irene Ward

When these discussions take place, may we have an analysis of the thinking of the CBI and the trade unions about the REP being applied only in areas of high unemployment and not all over the country? It would be very helpful to Sunderland, where there is a great deal of unemployment, if we did not do away with REP—as well as to other parts of the region which I, among others, have the honour of representing.

Mr. Grant

The CBI and the TUC have made their initial views clear, but any announcement must await the result of the discussions. I appreciate what my hon. Friend says about Sunderland, but it is gratifying to note that unemployment in Sunderland has fallen by 1.5 per cent. in the past year.