§ 7.6 pm
§ Mr. Stan Crowther (Rotherham)
I am very grateful, as are my right hon. and hon. Friends from Yorkshire, for this opportunity to talk about the problems of our region.
This is an historic occasion—my first, and no doubt my last, appearance at the Dispatch Box. I hope that the House will soon recover from the experience.
What I think this debate will bring out is that the problems of Yorkshire today are essentially similar to those that have beset the region for many years. What has changed is the fact that for the first time, for a few years anyway, we have a Government that have not only abdicated from the responsibility of solving those problems but who are actively pursuing policies calculated to make them worse.
I refer first to the extremely damaging effects of the public expenditure cuts on a region that still has, despite the efforts of the local authorities, a substantial amount of substandard housing, long waiting lists for houses, many thousands of elderly people waiting for residential accommodaton, and a good deal of industrial dereliction. It has many thousands of sick people waiting for medical attention, because of the inadequacy of the Health Service. The fact that the Government axe is falling on the social fabric in all parts of the country is no consolation to those areas which have particular needs.
If it is permissible for me to refer to my own constituency, I should tell the House that the Rotherham area has almost always been near the bottom of the league for the allocation of Health Service resources, if not at the bottom. Under the Labour Government there was a levelling up process. We were making some progress. That has now all gone by the board, and the area health authority faces an impossible task. Many vitally needed schemes are having to be shelved.
An area of heavy industry, where many people work in hard and dangerous jobs and therefore where the incidence of industrial injury and industry-related diseases, such as bronchitis and emphysema, is necessarily higher than the 106 national average, should receive more than the national average of resources. It should receive more resources than those areas that do not suffer from those problems, but that is not what is happening.
Turning to the industrial scene, I am sure that we all agree with the Under-Secretary of State for Industry that in the end everything depends upon the creation of wealth by industry. That is absolutely true.
Yorkshire faces many difficulties in the industrial sphere, not the least of which is highly subsidised competition from abroad. In common with other areas, we face one apparently insurmountable problem—the total intransigence, the hard-faced obduracy, of the Secretary of State for Industry which leads him to believe that any kind of Government support for industry is some form of original sin, even when giving support is manifestly in the national interest and when failing to give support will mean that companies go out of business, that jobs are lost and that the balance of payments is further damaged.
I am pleased to note recently that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food does not agree with that view. According to The Guardian on Friday he told a conference of the Food Manufacturers Federation:If you are in competition with an industry from overseas which has the support and collaboration of its Government, and you do not, you will normally lose.That is absolutely true. The right hon. Gentleman went on to point out that in France, Germany and Japan industry and Government work together against foreign competition. That is also true. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman can persuade his Cabinet colleagues that British industry also needs and deserves some support from the Government.
It is not a matter of asking that British companies and workers should have unfair advantages over foreign competitors. We are saying only that they should be able to compete on equal terms. If we once arrived at that position, the industrial picture in Yorkshire would be very different from what it is today.
I could quote many examples, as could my right hon. and hon. Friends, but I shall mention only one—the process plant industry, which includes an important 107 company in my constituency. That industry has been suffering heavily from competition from foreign firms which are able to submit tenders for the supply of capital equipment for projects in our assisted areas, where taxpayers are contributing to the costs, which can be shown to be little, if any, more than the actual cost of the materials.
The Secretary of State refuses to intervene on the industry's behalf. He applies this same philosophy to every area for which he is responsible, including the steel industry, where his inflexibility caused a dispute which has done immense damage to the industry—damage from which it will take the industry a very long time to recover, if it ever does.
The right hon. Gentleman knew what he was doing. He did it deliberately. I believe that one of his ambitions is to preside over the dismemberment of the publicly owned steel industry. I want him to know—and I hope that his hon. Friends will tell him—that he will not be forgiven for the social distress that he callously inflicted upon the steel areas in the relentless pursuit of his own ideology. Time will tell what further horrors the Government have in store for the steel industry. But it is time for Ministers to understand that they must stop insulting my constituents, for example, with lectures about productivity when these men have smashed world production records time and again.
The community has paid a heavy price for that high level of productivity in my area. The price has included the loss of 11,000 jobs.
That sort of thing highlights the need for an effective regional policy. I am not pretending that the Yorkshire and Humberside region as a whole has an unemployment level substantially higher than the national average. It has not. It is marginally higher. There are a number of reasons for that. One is the efforts made by industry, trade unions, local authorities and the Yorkshire and Humberside Development Association, of which I was the chairman for a number of years, to generate new economic activity in the region.
Another less joyful reason is outward migration. For decades now we have 108 lost thousands of people moving out of Yorkshire to look for employment elsewhere. If they had not moved out, unemployment in Yorkshire today would be much higher than it is. The figure for the region is 6.2 per cent., but that hides some serious variations. In my area it is now 8.8 per cent., which is almost half as much again as the national average. My hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy), who unfortunately is unable to be here tonight, has told me that it is now 9.3 per cent. in Maltby and that he estimates that it is 11.5 per cent. in Dinnington.
Yet, in Sheffield, where I remind my hon. Friends from that area that the unemployment level is traditionally well below the national average, the Government have decided to establish one of their so-called enterprise zones—a sort of Dodge City without Wyatt Earp, a free-for-all area where industrialists and developers will be relieved of what some call bureacratic interference and what others call the necessary protection for the public and workers. I do not think that this kind of thing will work anyway. But, if it does work in Sheffield, it must detract from the creation of jobs in other parts of South Yorkshire where unemployment levels are much higher.
It is nonsense to argue, as the Secretary of State does, that the problems of regional economic decline can in some miraculous way be solved by the operation of market forces. It was the operation of market forces that caused the problems in the first place.
It could be said that I am guilty of base ingratitude because the Secretary of State has made my area a development area. But a development area under the new regime has little, if any, net benefit over the intermediate areas of the old one. Although the old regional policy operated by the previous Labour Government and by the previous Conservative Government—since 1972 anyway-helped, it certainly failed to come anywhere near to solving the problem.
I do not know whether it is permissible for Members to quote from their maiden speeches. If it is permissible, I propose to remind the House of one sentence in my maiden speech, nearly four years ago, when I said:It is now manifestly obvious that only public intervention on a vast scale can get rid of 109 this problem of regional unemployment"—[Official Report, 7 July 1976; Vol. 914, c. 1430.]Nothing that has happened since then has convinced me that I was wrong.
I had great hopes at one time that the National Enterprise Board would be used as an instrument of regional policy to pump public investment into new growth industries in the regions. But, now that has been emasculated, those hopes are dashed. Until some Government are prepared to take control of what the late Aneurin Bevan called the commanding heights of the economy and to use that control in the public interest, the problems of Yorkshire—indeed, the problems of the country—will not be solved.
Our region is not a begging bowl region. We are not asking for handouts. We say that there is a vast potential that is not being used, that is not being properly exploited, because of lack of imagination, initiative and investment in growth industries on the part of people who sit in cosy offices in Whitehall and in the City of London and think that Scotland starts at Potters Bar.
Yorkshire has made an incalculable contribution to the nation's economic welfare in the past. It is difficult to imagine how Britain could have become a great manufacturing nation without Yorkshire coal and steel, how the nation could have been clothed without Yorkshire wool or fed without the products of Yorkshire agriculture or the fishing fleets of the Humber ports. Yorkshire is still the nation's powerhouse. I have no doubt that the traditional grit and resilience of Yorkshire men and women will get us through these present difficulties.
However, there is no doubt that the combination of the Government's industrial, social and financial policies—their refusal to accept any real responsibility for the future of our industries or the creation of new employment, the record interest rates, which inhibit private investment and which are driving small firms into bankruptcy, no matter how the Government may protest about their support for small firms, the slaughter of the housing investment programme and the vicious attacks on the health, education and social services—must necessarily mean that the prospects for those areas of Yorkshire where the needs are exceptionally heavy and where the demand for services is par- 110 ticularly high will remain very bleak as long as this Government remain in power.
§ Sir Donald Kaberry (Leeds, Northwest)
On behalf of all of my hon. Friends, I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) on his maiden speech from the Dispatch Box on the Opposition side of the House. Lest he has any fears that it might be a once only occasion, perhaps I may say on behalf of all of my colleagues how very much we look forward to him making many more speeches from that Box for many more years to come.
There is a point in time when all of us who have the fortune to be born Yorkshire folk or to represent Yorkshire constituencies join hands across the Chamber in many ways to see that our county, our champion county, still maintains its place among the trading parts of this country, of Europe and of the world.
§ Sir D. Kaberry
We shall go on improving as the years advance.
I shall speak reasonably briefly, I hope, because many of my colleagues wish to intervene in this very short debate, and, necessarily, I must refer to that part of the county which best I know—around my own city of Leeds. But this part demonstrates very much the overall trading and manufacturing capacity of our county because we certainly had what I might call all yesterday's industries. We had our steelworks in Leeds. We had glass, pottery and leather, and railway foundries. We made some of the best railway engines the world has ever known. What a joy it was to see them running on many railway lines in many parts of the world. We had engineering of all descriptions. We had woollen and wholesale clothing manufacturing.
But they have changed with the times. Other countries now make what we alone used to make. We find now that we have fewer engineering firms. Our woollen manufacturing is on a different scale. Our ready-made clothing manufacturing peaked a few years back. We have some modest footwear processes, some printing, and now, on a larger scale, some warehousing.
111 We have mentioned today some of our industries which need all the administrative help which any Government, of any colour, can give to keep them prosperous and in good employment. We are suffering from intense competition throughout the world and in many cases we are suffering quite unfairly from dumping and unfair trade practices.
But what we do not want is only today's industries. We want to develop tomorrow's industries. There is a changing pattern evolving the whole of the time. We are getting industries with newer techniques, the newer electronic processes of manufacturing and manufacturing for electronic processes. We have computer assembly firms. We have firms which are computerised in themselves. In fact, one may say that we are advancing rapidly to the stage—although we may not wish to admit it—when we shall have, as the saying goes, chips with everything.
Therefore, I take advantage of this debate to look at the position today and to ask what more a Government can do and what we can do to build up for the future. As the hon. Member for Rotherham so rightly said, none of us in Yorkshire seeks to go out on the streets and stand outside Government offices with the begging bowl. The characteristic of every Yorkshireman is his ability, from his determination and character, to stand upon his own wit and innovation and his capacity to make and to sell. That brings a smile to some people's faces, but none the less it is the true position. We want to have an opportunity, increasingly getting better, to make goods and, having made them, to be able to sell them.
One of the fallacies in industry today is that some people seem to think that one makes and that the process of selling comes at some much later time. We have the example today of British Leyland offering slashed prices in order to sell off the mass of motor cars which it has made but which so far it has not sold.
Therefore, we are against dumping and unfair competition. The hon. Member for Rotherham and I are fortunate enough to be members of the Select Committee on Industry and Trade. One of the peculiar things which has arisen from the evidence that we have taken in public—and upon which the Committee has 112 expressed no opinion—is that, through our membership of the EEC this country is better able to present a case against dumping and against unfair competition than when we were going it alone. It is a fact of life which came as something of a surprise to me, having originally been so strongly against any activities of the EEC.
On that Select Committee, we are examining the question—it has been publicised—why this country does not sell more abroad and why we import so much. It is in relation to that matter that I should like to direct my attention to two industries alone. The question why we do not sell more abroad calls immediately into consideration the question of leadership at every section and every stage of our manufacturing processes. Leadership is not confined to the managerial staff. It goes way down to the very newest member on the shop floor. I should like to develop that point a little further in relation to the engineering industry.
Leeds has many fewer engineering firms than ever it had, but those of us who know something about the engineering industry in Leeds know that there is a constant call for better techniques and for better apprenticeships, for a better type of man who will come forward and take up engineering as a career. I immediately welcome the activities of the Council of the Engineering Institutions, which is starting a scheme called "Opening Windows on Engineering", and which is asking the brighter boys on the shop floor to be nominated to go round to the schools and to interest the school children of today in the career which engineering can provide for them. It is a move in the right direction for better production and the production of better skills.
Engineering as such in Yorkshire, certainly around Leeds, still suffers from the effects of the transport strike of last year. It still suffers from the three-day working week which the engineering union called last August and September. The many reports now being issued by many engineering companies bear witness to the losses which were sustained through that disastrous strike, which gave no benefit to anyone. If that gave no benefit to anyone, it makes one ask: what on earth will be the good of the day 113 of non-action on 14 May next? I have yet to find a wage earner who is in agreement with the proposition that England should come to a full stop on 14 May. It certainly will not add to our productive capacity.
There are two other matters to which I should like to refer in relation to unfair competition. In a letter to the Secretary of the all-party textile group in this House, the Secretary of State referred to the question of origin marking. I merely mention this in passing. He said:As you know the Minister for Consumer Affairs is looking into the possibility of making origin marking compulsory for certain types of consumer goods.I am not concerned only about marking, but about the nature of the claims that are made. Yesterday, I had in my hands a set of cutlery marked with a name that is well known in Sheffield. The name is not unknown to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Consumer Affairs. It was marked with the name of the firm, followed by the word "Korea". I do not know how such cutlery could have been made in Korea when it bears that firm's name. It is an example of grossly unfair trading.
No one in the clothing industry believes that nothing more can be done about the dumping of ready-made clothes in Britain. The Government should show strongly that they are doing something. I urge them to take every possible action to prevent the dumping of cheap, ready-made suits. One could give many examples of dumping. Ministers may explain what they have done, or intend to do about it. However, whatever they have done, it is not enough. They should not relax. They must continue to pressurise those agencies that permit it.
There is another way of looking at the problem. Those who have had the good fortune, by one means or another—fair or foul—to go to Hong Kong, will have seen products made in the woollen mills of West Yorkshire on the shelves of shops. It is a two-way trade. One should not be too ready to complain about events in the textile industry.
If the Government still have public relations officers—I do not know whether they are employed on the massive scale of the previous Labour Government—they should show textile workers what 114 the Government are doing. The textile industry asks only for free trade in Europe, and fair trade throughout the rest of the world. Perhaps that could be explained in simple, short sentences. The Government may then achieve something that is worth while. Meanwhile, those hon. Members who represent constituencies in Yorkshire should press the Government to pay more attention to our industries.
§ Mr. Albert Roberts (Normanton)
I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, a senior member of the Conservative Party, has not made reference to the cleaning up of inner city areas. My hon. Friend the Member for Rotheram (Mr. Crowther) and the right hon. Gentleman have referred to the "begging bowl". How much taxpayers' money is paid per capita into Lancashire, compared with Yorkshire?
§ Sir D. Kaberry
I cannot answer that question. I am not a right hon. Gentleman—[HON. MEMBERS: "Shame"]—and if I were, I would take more advantages than I do. Many hon. Members wish to speak, and they will explain about inner cities. I wish to concentrate on the engineering, textile and ready-made clothing industries. I hope that I have done that. I want to go on living in a champion county and I hope that my sons and grandchildren will live there in prosperity.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central)
This is a sad debate for me and for those of my hon. Friends who represent constituencies in Hull. Today we learned of the death of the lord mayor of our city, Councillor Maurice Rawling. He was well known in Yorkshire for his public spirited work. He was particularly well known in the trade union and labour movement for the work that he did in trying to advance the interests of the party to which he belonged and those of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, of which he was proud to be a member. On Thursday he would, had he been fit, have been part of the delegation that will see the Prime Minister to discuss the immediate problems facing the city of Hull and, in particular, the fishing industry. His advice and counsel will be sorely missed, not only in the city, but in 115 Yorkshire. All those who knew and admired him will join in sending their sympathy to his family and to the city.
When the delegation visits the Prime Minister on Thursday it will give her some stark and telling facts about the fishing industry. It will tell her that we now have 25 trawlers, compared with 75 trawlers in 1976. It will tell her also that over 4,000 jobs were lost in the fishing industry and its ancilliary trades between 1976 and 1980. It will state that the problem will not be solved but will be made far worse in the long term if our fishing interests are sold out to the Common Market as part of the right hon. Lady's bargain for the missing £1,000 million.
As a deepsea port, Hull is hampered not only by problems of conservation limits on vessels and the enforcement of regulations but by a complete inability to make third party arrangements without the agreement of the Common Market countries. Third party arrangements will have to be the salvation of our deepsea fleet. However, we suspect that we shall not get the support that we need from our Common Market "partners" or from the Government. When the delegation meets the Prime Minister on Thursday, I hope that she will deny that that is so. However, our fear remains.
The problems of Hull are mirrored in the fishing industry. Yet it shares the problems of many of Yorkshire's northern cities. They are old industrialised cities that have seen their industrial bases transformed by changes in their transport systems, as happened in Hull, or by the appearance of new and different industries, together with the disappearance of the old. Although we have a wide and varied industrial base in Hull, the present situation is exacerbated by a number of factors.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rother-ham (Mr. Crowther) referred in his eloquent speech to the change in regional policy. I congratulate him on a fine and forceful maiden speech from the Dispatch Box. His speech reflects great credit on him, his constituency and the trade union of which he is a member. His points were of considerable importance. Development aid to Hull has been restricted, and other 116 Government policies have cast doubt on the ability of many of our industries to survive.
In the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), the pharmaceutical division of Reckitt and Colman pays about £2 million a year in interest rates. That does not produce any jobs. It causes them to be lost. That money cannot produce anything or pay for research. Any firm on the frontier of technology must have money for high-risk research and development. A firm cannot carry out such research and development if it has to pay high interest rates.
When that is coupled with the high inflated value of the pound, partly because of North Sea oil, but more because of the monetarist policies of the Government, it becomes increasingly difficult to sell our exports. We once led Europe in caravan exports. Now, major caravan firms have been closing in the area—one, in a neighbouring constituency, which only a few short years ago won the Queen's award for exports. That cannot help either Hull or the other cities of Yorkshire. That policy needs to be changed.
We are witnessing the complete disappearance of our industrial base. It is being chopped away by policies of high interest rates and the expensive pound. It is preventing companies from making the effort needed for further investment. Bank interest is taking up all the risk capital that might have been available for further innovation. Whatever the Government do by means of income tax concessions or any other small incentives, they will not replace the need for real capital growth to provide investment. That will not come under present policies.
More than 10,000 jobs have disappeared in Hull, and long-term unemployment is 12 per cent. above the national average—37.3 per cent. of total unemployment as compared with 25.4 per cent. It is difficult for young people to find skilled jobs. It is the same picture nationally, but things are worse in Hull. Our problem until recently was our relative isolation. Special regional policies must be created to encourage local authorities, firms and nationalised industries to put their investment and work opportunities into such places.
117 Despite our relative geographical isolation, in many ways we offer great advantages for investment, but, because of the failure of Government policies, it is not happening. We have good communications and a good social infrastructure, as well as a local authority which, by such methods as its new innovation centre—launched at the House earlier this year—is designed to encourage firms to come to the town. All our industrial estates have been completely let and there is almost a shortage of further land for industrial development.
But new firms are not arriving in any great numbers. Some new firms are coming in from out of town, but basically what is happening is a relocation of existing firms to new and better premises—which of course is good for them and for their workers. Although we must look for development and expansion from within an area, the Government should take on the responsibility when faced with such tragedies as that of the Hull fishing industry. They should put real money and jobs into such areas and direct work, employment and factories there. It is no good leaving this to the chances of the market.
The scene in Hull at the moment is grim. Unemployment, at 15,000, is well above the national average in percentage terms. This is compensated for, in some measure, only by the growth of jobs for women in the service industries. But we believe that, with Government encouragement, we can go a long way.
Hull is perhaps unique in Yorkshire and in the North because we know that, whatever else happens on 3 May, the rugby league cup will come to Hull. That is a particular pleasure to me, and might be the reason why I was called to speak, because one of the teams involved is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) and the other in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East. I can therefore happily say "Let the best team win", and I will be on the winning side.
Although that is a tremendous fillip to us and we look forward confidently to the promise of the opening of the Humber bridge—these are signs of our resilience and hope for the future—nevertheless, the effort must come from Government. It 118 is no good the Government saying that it is not their responsibility.
The conditions in the fishing industry, for example, were created by the Government. They voted to take us into the Common Market and we are at the rough end of that decision. We have the right to expect not only our fishing industry——
§ Mr. John Townend (Bridlington)
Surely the hon. Gentleman will agree that the problem of the fishing industry has not been caused by our entering the EEC. It stems from the extension of territorial limits from 6 miles to 200 miles—and the greatest loss has been that of the Icelandic fishing grounds.
§ Mr. McNamara
My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East and I remember the EEC referendum, because we challenged people then to say what would happen to our fishing industry. There was a deafening silence from both Labour and Conservative Front Benches. I do not absolve either party. The fishing industry thought that the North Sea would be its little English lake. My hon. Friend and I tried to disabuse it of that idea, but it did not take it on board at the time. It has now, but it is too late.
It is wrong to say that the problem was simply the raising of the limit around Iceland to 200 miles. The important thing is the ability to make third party agreements, whether with the Canadians, with the Norwegians or with the Icelanders. Our Community partners, if such they are, are preventing us from doing so. That is why I say that it was a Government decision that affected the industry, and that we have a right to expect Government to get us out of the mess into which they put us.
§ Sir Paul Bryan (Howden)
The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) has tempted me to talk about the West Riding, where I spent much of my industrial life, but as I represent part of the East Riding, and as the West Riding will be more than covered tonight, perhaps I had better confine my speech to my own constituency.
There, we do not suffer to the extent of the West Riding from unemployment and the troubles of industry.
119 Although the East Riding is not going through a particularly buoyant or booming time, it can be regarded as a land of promise. For that, one can thank first the people, who are robust and skilful in their various trades. One can thank nature, which has given us the Selby coalfield and a fertile countryside which supports some fine agriculture. We can even thank Governments, who have given us the M62, which is making a great difference to the development of the area.
The Selby coalfield will bring social problems. When a work force of 4,000, plus their families, move to an area which has been entirely agricultural for many decades, that obviously causes problems; but the National Coal Board, the local councils and local communities are working well together in preparation for this change and I see no great difficulties ahead.
There will also be practical problems. The area includes land liable to flooding and we are told that subsidence will be about 3 ft or so. Naturally, the local people, especially farmers, who know little about coal mining, are worried that subsidence and the high water table will lead to flooding trouble.
Also, the Selby coalfield may bring the increased traffic which will finally clog up the old Selby toll bridge. Perhaps that will persuade the Government of the day to give us a bypass.
At Selby we do not have the difficulties of the Belvoir coalfield. The countryside will not be disfigured with huge slag heaps, because the coal is extraordinarily clean; we will therefore have a fairly unobtrusive coalfield, and in the long run it will bring the area great benefit.
The M62 motorway has already brought development. Towns and villages such as Howden, Holme upon Spalding Moor and Gilberdyke, are increasing greatly in population. A number of firms which have come to the area would not have done so without the advantage of direct access to the M62 and the national motorway network.
Having said that, I must point out that the East Riding is not insulated from the present recession. You are a farmer yourself, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and, if you motored through the Vale of York, you 120 would appreciate the quality of the farming there. However, that conceals the rising costs that the farmers suffer, their lower profits over the past few years and their consequent difficulties in investment. The long-term worry of the farmers in the area, many of them owner occupiers, is the question of transferring their farms to their sons with capital transfer tax at its present rate. It was a great disappointment to many people that nothing was done about that in the Budget.
A great concern at present is the plight of the growers. In my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), we have the biggest area of glass in the country. The growers are being priced out of the market by the Dutch, who have cheap North Sea gas. There appeared to be nothing that one could do about that. However, I read today in the National Farmers' Union magazine that the German Government are providing a subsidy of £12.5 million to help their glasshouse growers to compete. The French intend to do much the same at a lower figure. I hope that our Minister of Agriculture, who has been a great champion of the farmers, will bear this in mind and see what he can do.
Nor are we in Yorkshire insulated from Government cuts. Last night I spent the whole evening with the Vice-Chancellor of York university. We examined in some detail the effect of cuts on that very fine university. The Vice-Chancellor did not adopt a defeatist attitude. I cannot imagine the standard of education at that university dropping at his hands, whatever cuts are made. Nevertheless, as we went through the figures, it occurred to me to question whether some of the comparatively small savings to be made were justified by the severe effect on the department concerned. I urge the Secretary of State for Education and Science to take a personal interest in the details of what is happening in the universities. I should be delighted if he would come to see us at York university.
Lastly, I wish to spend a few moments on textiles. For 25 years I was a clothing manufacturer in the West Riding. In my constituency, although rural, there is the headquarters factory of Dewhursts, one of the biggest manufacturers in England, and probably the best. The situation in the textile industry now is not just a 121 shake-out of the least efficient firms. Some very fine firms have gone out of business. There are firms, such as Homfrays of Halifax, which has a long record of good management and heavy investment. It has not gone out of business, but it has been grievously hit and has had to lay off a lot of people. Although Dewhurst is prospering at present, its level-headed management views the future with a good deal of apprehension, especially with the prospect of low-cost countries such as Portugal, Greece and Spain joining the EEC.
Millions of pounds have been put into textiles recently by the Government in grants and by firms in investment. This has been done to establish well-equipped and labour-intensive plants; it seems wrong that this investment and the jobs that it has bought should go to waste.
§ Mr. David Ginsburg (Dewsbury)
The hon. Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) made a point about unfair competition. This is something to which I should like to draw the Minister's attention once again. The wellbeing of the area that a Member of Parliament represents must always be a matter of supreme importance to him. Yorkshire Members have long pleaded in this Chamber for a fairer deal for their constituents. I suppose that our electors should feel slightly gratified that local unemployment rates have never been high enough to merit special development area status. But crude statistical arguments are usually poor consolation for a population who have to put up with an ageing social and industrial infrastructure and with unemployment rates perilously high by the standards of Southern England.
Although I personally accept that, despite our many problems we cannot reasonably lay claim to full development area status, I believe that the Government were quite wrong to withdraw the stimulus which, after years of neglect, intermediate area status was at last providing for the bulk of the former West Riding. One cannot really depend upon local self-reliance alone although that has its part to play. It is worth reminding the House that the period of high employment—the 15 to 20 years immediately after the war—was a time of low industrial rebuilding in the West Riding. The marked improvement in industrial building, 122 certainly in my constituency, which characterised the late 60s and early 70s came with a battery of Government inducements and encouragements. It is sad that all this is now in danger of coming to a full stop, unless the House can prevail upon the Government to have further and urgent second thoughts.
§ Mr. John Watson (Skipton) rose——
§ Mr. Ginsburg
No, I will not give way. Normally I always give way, but this is a very short debate and many other hon. Members wish to speak.
I cannot over-emphasise how dangerous the position will become. The effects of the textile recession are inexorable rather than sensational. It is rare for a mill which closes to re-open. Occasionally a factory building lives on as a provider of labour but always of lower numbers. That is not all. Outside the textile industry, other industries newer to the area face their own troubles today. Demand in the electrical transformer industry is declining. The Yorkshire Electrical Transformer Company, part of the Hawker Siddeley group in my constituency, had to shed labour last year, and it announced only last Friday that it will do so again in substantial numbers before the autumn. The export market is difficult and exports account for 92 per cent. of its output. The home market is even worse. Even at this late hour I suggest to the Government that they should give urgent thought to modernising our domestic electricity transmission network, because arising from a policy of this kind the employment offered to constituencies such as mine would be considerable.
Much has already been said about the dumping of cheap textiles from the Far East, and even from the United States through artificially low energy costs. I have little to add, but unemployment in my area could be adversely affected by dumping of a different kind which has not hit the headlines so much—that of low-cost greeting and Christmas cards which the Soviet Union provides in payment to the Control Data Corporation of America in lieu of payment for computer installations.
I hope that, in the changed international situation, the Government will do more to stop this highly undesirable barter trade, of which our constituents are the victims.
123 With regard to artificially cheap petrochemical derivatives—it is a serious problem—I hope that the Government will prevail upon the United States to accept some sort of compensatory tax. Reference has already been made by the hon. Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) to the action taken by the French and German Governments on Dutch gas. The sanctions on Iran, which sooner or later will undoubtedly involve oil, will mean that supplies will grow tighter and prices will get higher. The United States, because of the hostages held in Iran, has a right to expect considerable sacrifices from Britain, but in return we have a right to ask something of the United States. That could be vital to the local textile and carpet industry which is seriously affected by cheap imports.
Two other matters claim urgent Government action. In my constituency an industrial trading estate of great importance—it is also of importance to my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. Woolmer)—is programmed in Ravensthorpe, Dewsbury. Common Market funds have been promised for the sites, but site provision, although important, is not enough. Industrial units are needed, and we need to be satisfied that between the developers and the Government and local authorities there is a sufficient sense of urgency to bring this important project to fruition.
The need for a more generous provision of urban aid remains. Older industrial areas are afflicted with highly localised pockets of dereliction and distress, which must be eradicated. It is complacent to remain satisfied with existing allocations.
I should like to conclude on a broader note. If I had to choose a precondition for industrial regeneration or recovery, I would place less emphasis on grants and incentives, and I would put the highest absolute priority on the need for cheaper money. The West Yorkshire area, with its existing—and we hope improving—transport network is ideally suited to attracting small and medium-scale new industry. But investment will not be made at existing interest rates. How can anyone set a reasonable profit target and pay the bank 20 per cent. first? This Government, who preach the virtues of initiative and enterprise, surely have a 124 duty to make them realisable by withdrawing the penal interest rates. That is within their capacity.
Reference has been made to a strong pound. There are different views about whether a strong pound is good or bad. But we can capitalise on a strong pound, because a strong pound enables us to be more courageous, and to adopt lower interest rates. That is the single most important objective of economic policy today. It makes good sense for Yorkshire, and it makes good sense for Britain.
§ 8.4 pm
§ Mr. Donald Thompson (Sowerby)
I intend to tailor my speech to the small part of Yorkshire that I represent. There are many and varied problems in Sowerby. There is hardly a company or industry without a problem, and yet, fortunately, my constituency is vastly diversified. It is that diversification that has turned my constituency against protectionism and import controls, the subject of which I am sure will be raised during the debate. However selective those controls may be, we believe that the retaliation would fall indiscriminately on other industries in the constituency.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-West (Sir D. Kaberry) illustrated graphically, my area calls for a fair crack of the whip and for fair dealings within the rules of the EEC, GATT and the various bilateral trading agreements which could, if more fairly and promptly applied, bring expansion rather than recession to our textile industry. In common with other hon. Members, I feel that a return to less usurous rates of interest would help small firms. In Sowerby very few firms employ more than 600 or 700 people. Those companies are looking towards cheaper money.
A more careful consideration by the Government of various decisions and of how those decisions will affect trade and industry will pay dividends. The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Ginsburg) mentioned Iran. If sanctions were imposed on Iran, many of my constituents would lose their jobs. Will the Government compensate them at a full rate, and will they compensate the firms for their loss of profit? We have been the folly of sanctions in Rhodesia. They will not work, they cannot work and they never have worked, and ultimately it is the working people who pay for the sanctions.
125 If a "Buy British" campaign is to be launched—people in my constituency have encouraged me to support such a campaign—it cannot be supported by a Government who rely on 30 per cent. of the gross national product being exported. Instead, such a campaign should be aimed at the buyers in our larger retail firms. They control our transparent market, and they can, at the stroke of a pen, make or break too many firms. We should aim our "Buy British" campaign at them. It is impossible for consumers to buy British if British goods are not available in the stores. Are the problems of British delivery and quality and fashion—in the textile industry—as great as the buyers would have us believe? Of course they are not. A buyer who commits his company to a new foreign supplier solely on the basis of cost makes sure that the deal is firmly tied and explicitly negotiated. If anything goes wrong he is more likely to give ready excuses because he is committed and he has committed his firm to the new supplier.
The companies in my constituency and my constituents try to buy British at an industrial level, and they would welcome any help from the Government in directing trade and industry over which they have control to buy British in the same way, within the rules that I mentioned. There must be many areas where we can support our industries in Yorkshire through British, local government and nationalised purchasing.
The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) obviously does not want an enterprise zone in his area. My area competed for Inmos. It is to go elsewhere and we wish it well. If the hon. Member for Rotherham does not want an enterprise zone in his area, perhaps the Minister will look favourably at my area. We have sites and enterprise. Perhaps our enterprise should be rewarded with an enterprise zone.
§ Mr. Edwin Wainwright (Dearne Valley)
My hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) was complaining that Sheffield had an enterprise zone, whereas Rotherham did not.
§ Mr. Richard Wainwright (Colne Valley)
I hope that the Government will take note that when the House debates Yorkshire it does not debate 126 parochial, peculiar or idiosyncratic matters but deals usefully with the effect of national policies and problems on an important and varied productive area. Apart from lifting the morale of our constituents, it is valuable to debate the specifics of national problems in a varied context—since Yorkshire is a varied county—rather than in the abstract as we often do on greater occasions. This is not a "begging bowl" occasion nor one for a vast amount of special pleading.
I shall concentrate on two aspects which the Government could accept without swallowing their principles and without reversing major policies. First, derelict land causes an enormous problem in many parts of Yorkshire. It is a national curse but it is particularly tiresome in an area which pioneered power-driven industry. I plead with the Under-Secretary of State to recognise that there is no necessary connection between the provision of full Government grant for dealing with derelict land and assisted area status. It was merely a convenient linking with which I had no quarrel at the time. However, it is very unfortunate if the withdrawal of assisted area status—another controversial matter—automatically takes away from most of Yorkshire the valuable and not expensive full grant for dealing with derelict land.
Ministers from Governments of both parties who have inspected the way in which Yorkshire has used relatively small amounts of public money to deal with derelict land have testified that the money has been well spent. Since nature and the good Lord do most of the work, it can be described as pump-priming money. In many parts of Yorkshire the effects have been dramatic and useful. I hope that the Government are not in favour of false economies but that they are prepared to see the virtue of allowing some spending programmes to continue where they have proved their worth.
The other matter is more serious in that it affects more people. I refer to national insurance, a heavy tax which is rarely mentioned in the Budget speech, and certainly was not this year. National insurance contribution has become a tax on jobs of major proportions. An examination of the net income budgets 127 of a number of representative families in the light of what happened to taxes in April reveals that in all too many cases most of the advantage from the raising of the income tax threshold is wiped out by the increase in national insurance contributions which stealthily and silently, after the occasional Government advertisement, is administered through employers' wage offices.
A Government who are anxious to show, especially to their own supporters and potential donors, how much they differ from the previous Administration, should wish to abolish the national insurance surcharge—a gratuitous tax on jobs which contributes to unemployment and bears heavily on labour intensive industries, many of which are in West Yorkshire.
In a positive and constructive way the wool textile industry is trying to obtain all types of Government assistance in order to achieve a fair deal. The Government have the opportunity of providing immediate relief without offending EEC or GATT obligations. They could get rid of this crude tax on jobs which was imposed in different economic conditions and which is now a serious obstacle, especially to the employment of school leavers.
National insurance law was enacted by the House in a totally different employment climate, in times of relative full employment when anyone who forecast today's unemployment rate was derided as a prophet of alarmist doom. The cost of providing the unemployed with a barely reasonable standard of living was then to be borne entirely by industry and those still in work. That is the concept in the national insurance Acts which ordains that contributions shall rise as the cost of unemployment benefit goes up and the number of unemployed increases.
The Government must consider where that will lead in the next two or three years. Businesses which are still struggling and people who are still hanging on to jobs will be singled out to bear the cost of rapidly rising unemployment. Something which seemed harmless at a time of relatively full employment is a time bomb, financially and economically, which is certain to go off in the next two or three years unless the system is changed. The heavy cost of unemploy- 128 ment should be a charge on taxpayers as a whole and not upon those who are managing to keep afloat in industry and who should be spared unnecessary burdens.
The national insurance burden is also an unnecessary tax on exports. It is a burden which is borne by our exporters without justification. It is also a deliberate incentive to imports. Imports do not have to bear the national insurance burden. Because of the astonishing change in our economic fortunes the whole national insurance system is becoming grotesquely out of gear. I hope that in the interests of Yorkshire and of all other manufacturing regions the Government will give the matter urgent consideration.
§ Mr. Gary Waller (Brighouse and Spenborough)
When he opened this short debate, the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) referred to his maiden speech. Perhaps, therefore, I may also be allowed to do so, because in my own maiden speech only some eight months ago I drew attention to the flexibility and adaptability of companies, especially small companies, based in my Yorkshire constituency and their willingness to make changes to remain viable.
It has to be said that in recent years, especially during the past few months, many firms in my constituency and in Yorkshire in general have had to draw on all their resources of innovation and inventiveness to compete in what has become an increasingly unfriendly world.
I have been listening closely to what Opposition Members have been saying. To hear some of them, one might be forgiven for assuming that the present situation in West Yorkshire is entirely the creation of the present Government. In fact, industry in Yorkshire has done remarkably well over many years to produce the goods which have been demanded in the domestic and world markets. Compared with the position a few years ago, many firms are now exporting a very much higher proportion of their output. They have had to because of the contraction of the home market.
In a sense, however, the clouds of economic recession have had silver linings in that they have forced manufacturers to look elsewhere. When the clouds lift, firms 129 in the West Riding will be well placed to lead Britain's export drive.
Reference has been made already to unemployment. Until quite recently, in my part of the West Riding unemployment was not an enormous problem. This was partly because of the willingness to diversify. It was also because of acceptance of the need to change rapidly in response to developing fashions and new technology. The area is still considerably dependent on traditional industries. Nevertheless, it has a wealth of small firms which are able to employ many of those who have become redundant, especially if they possess the skills which are needed. It has to be said now, however—and this has come about only in the last month or two—that the threat of unemployment has become more real and that for many it is already a fact of life.
The Scottish carpet manufacturer BMK, is in the process of running down its factory which used to employ 300 people at Liversedge, and it is retreating to Kilmarnock, with the loss of those jobs. Other companies, not all of them in textiles, are no longer taking on new employees and employ far fewer than they did a year or so ago. The short-time working compensation scheme, which was rightly retained by this Government, is keeping many men and women in work, especially in the carpet industry in Brighouse.
We have already heard reference made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Thompson) to protection. Listening to some Opposition Members, one might assume that textile industries enjoyed no protection at present. In fact the clothing and textile industries enjoy very considerable protection, with 95 per cent. of low cost imports subject to actual or potential restraints, and many new quotas have been imposed since this Government came into office.
To a considerable extent, the environment in which our manufacturers in Yorkshire operate is determined by the European Economic Community. In February, the EEC Commission agreed to the British request for quotas of imports on polyester filament yarn and nylon carpet yarn. It is unfortunate that carpets are not subject to quota and that the EEC Commission turned down our request for a quota to be imposed on carpets from non-EEC sources, the proportion of which has in- 130 creased greatly during the past few months.
It should be recognised that the situation in the carpet industry is becoming increasingly difficult. Low demand is at the root of the problem, but, in addition, one has what is perhaps the straw which is in danger of breaking the camel's back. I refer, of course, to the imports of tufted carpets from the United States based on their low-cost raw materials. Since the EEC decision was announced, the advertising of carpets imported from the United States has been stepped up greatly. It is becoming clear that the equivalent figures for 1980 will be much higher.
I received a letter today from the managing director of Heckmondwike Carpets. He pointed out that imports from the United States in January and February of this year were about three times higher than for the corresponding period in 1979. With this situation, any delay in taking action could be fatal. I hope that the Department of Trade is watching it carefully and will not waste any time in drawing the Commission's attention to any deterioration.
It must be stressed that Yorkshire industry has no wish to be sheltered from world trade, providing it is fair trade. We look to the Government to take up cases of dumping and inadequate or incorrect marks of origin wherever they occur. But I am encouraged by statements by the Secretary of State for Trade recently and by the assurances which he has given that he will take up cases of this kind wherever they occur.
The Government should also be congratulated on continuing to support the youth opportunities programme. The latest figures provided to me by the Calderdale economic regeneration advisory committee revealed the important role that is played by this scheme. But at the same time we must not underestimate the problems faced by older workers, especially skilled or semiskilled workers. There are those who talk about shirkers. There are many, and I am not afraid to attack them when they show their faces. But no one should allow their existence to obscure the fact that the overwhelming majority of workers do not want to remain unemployed for a day longer than necessary. Many small firms, especially in the engineering sector, have never been busier, and I see 131 that for myself as I go round my constituency. It is true that high interest rates are contributing to severe cash flow difficulties which face them in the short term.
Concentration on our immediate problems should not blind us to medium-term technological developments. Over the past two years, a number of multinational companies have announced firm plans to manufacture microprocessors in Britain. All these plants are in the Home Counties, in Bristol and in the central belt of Scotland. None of them is in Yorkshire. This is regrettable, and I hope that in the next wave of investment in new technology, we in Yorkshire will go all out to attract some of this fresh investment.
In my experience, industry in West Yorkshire has not shed many tears about the special assistance given to some areas in terms of special development area and intermediate area status. Industry does not ask for Government handouts. What is more serious and what has been mentioned to me far more often—and it has implications for job creation as well—is the heavy burden of rates which have been imposed on so many industrial as well as domestic ratepayers. If one scans the list of local authorities one notices with monotonous regularity the high in creases imposed by Labour-controlled authorities. They have been unwilling to——
§ Mr. Waller
The hon. Gentleman refers from a sedentary position to Humberside. One or two members have referred to towns in Humberside during the debate. But the Order Paper refers clearly to Yorkshire. That is the area to which I wish to refer. When one looks at the district domestic rate in Kirklees and asks why the ratepayers will be required to pay an increase of 30 per cent., despite the fact that the Conservatives are governing that district, one has to understand that the Conservative proposal for a much lower increase was rejected by the Liberals combining with the Labour Party to impose an increase of 30 per cent. I hope that this fact will be well publicised before 1 May.
132 I have a great deal of sympathy with councillors endeavouring to keep control of expenditure in the larger authorities imposed on Yorkshire since 1974. Until then, councillors looked after their own town or village. They were responsive to their electors and sought the best possible value for their electors' money. The changes in 1974 not only cost the services of many dedicated servants of the public among local councillors; they demanded that elected members travelled to towns miles away, such as Huddersfield and Halifax, in the case of my constituency, to discuss the affairs of places even further away where some local people have never been. It is hardly surprising that councillors often have to take the word of paid officials that expenditure, perhaps on administration, is a necessity and cannot be cut back. Unless they were to spend all their time on council work, they would be in no position to argue with what the professionals had to say. I do not blame the local authority officers, most of whom give good service to the public. I blame, rather, those who allowed lines to be drawn on maps, often in the face of local loyalties, to create authorities that might have been designed to make local control by the electorate, and answerability to it, more difficult.
§ Mr. Waller
I do not think that either party has a creditable record in this regard. The proposals by the Labour Party at that time would have produced very much the same results as have been seen—[HON. MEMBERS: "Worse."] My hon. Friends behind me say "Worse". It is possible that is so.
People in Yorkshire have a great loyalty to their own county. The disgraceful decision to alter the administrative boundaries of Yorkshire and to move some communities into Lancashire and others into something called North Humberside is one over which it is best to draw a discreet veil. No one with the slightest understanding of Yorkshire people would have done that. As far as local government reorganisation was concerned, certainly in so far as it affected the metropolitan districts of Yorkshire, no party can draw much credit from that exercise. It is normal practice, as this debate has shown, for Yorkshire people to speak bluntly.
133 Loyalty to the county is strong, as many expatriates living in Lancashire, who have sent their wives over the border to Huddersfield so that their sons can be born in Yorkshire, can attest. But local loyalties should not lead anyone to think that Yorkshiremen are inward looking. Yorkshire has lived by trade for centuries. The world does not owe Yorkshire a living. I am confident that with its excellent transport links, its energy resources and its skills, Yorkshire is better placed than most areas to face the future.
§ Mr. Ben Ford (Bradford, North)
It may be a great disappointment to my colleagues, and perhaps to Conservative Members, that I do not intend to address myself to the subject of textiles, except to support the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Sir D. Kaberry) in his contention that the Government could do more, and should be shown to be doing more.
I wish to pursue one or two hobby horses. The first is the Leeds-Bradford airport runway extension. There has been an inquiry. The report is residing somewhere in the depths of the Department of the Environment. We expect the Minister to report to the House at some time.
I hope that the report and the determination will come quickly. The extension of the runway is crucial to the good health of the economy of West Yorkshire in particular, but also to the whole of Yorkshire, as I shall attempt to show.
Most people will agree that one cannot work an industrial economy without good communications, particularly air communications. Business men wish to fly to the scene of their operations. We are also increasing the area of tourism. An extended runway, taking medium-weight equipment, is essential to the increase and growth of the tourist industry.
To some extent, connected with that issue is the extension of the Ml from Pudsey to Dishforth. I note that the inquiry on improvements to the A1 east of Leeds has been discontinued. It became clear that those concerned with the inquiry wanted to discuss the question of the line of route. The Minister took that fact on board and decided to avoid the further expense of continuing with an abortive inquiry. I hope that there will not be too much delay in holding the 134 new inquiry and that it will study the whole line of the route of the Ml extension and settle the matter for once and for all.
I want to put forward a case for the blue route—a case which I have pursued for some years. That is the route that runs to the west of Leeds, along the eastern boundary of my constituency in Bradford. That is not to say that I have any particular parochial interest, but the fact is that the eastern side of Bradford contains a great deal of industrial dereliction. In my view, much of that can be repaired only if good communications are developed. I believe that such communications should consist of the blue route—the Ml extension running between Leeds and Bradford.
Mention was made earlier of the M62. That motorway is now working almost to capacity. I believe that it is the most heavily congested motorway in the country. The M62 was sited in the centre of the conurbation, in a north-west context. My contention is that the Ml extension should also be sited in the centre of the conurbation in an east-west context—that is, running between Leeds and Bradford. It is patently apparent that the Ml cannot just finish at the south of Leeds for ever and a day. It must be continued at some time, and the sooner the better in relation to cost.
I should like to refer also to fire cover in West Yorkshire. The Conservative-controlled West Yorkshire metropolitan county council has proposed a reduction in manning and the number of appliances throughout West Yorkshire. I believe that that was a result of a computer operation which did not appear to take into account the question of traffic flows, town centre congestion and similar hazards. I have met the fire brigade union, as have other hon. Members. My view is that the firemen want to offer a good service and protection to the citizens who employ them.
The fire brigade union has prepared a detailed technical paper on the effect of the reductions, which it has submitted to the county authority and the Home Office. I should like the Minister to give an assurance that the union will receive a detailed and carefully considered reply from the Home Office before the county council is allowed to put any of the cuts into effect.
135 I hope that the Minister will give a helpful reply, and possibly assurances, on the matters that I have raised.
§ Mr. John Watson (Skipton)
I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in the debate. I shall be brief. I wish to make only two points. The first concerns regional aid, the withdrawal of which seems to some Labour Members to have been the worst thing to hit Yorkshire since the Ice Age. I do not agree. At worst, I think that the withdrawal of regional aid will have only a marginal effect on employment and industry in Yorkshire. At a time when the unemployment rate throughout Yorkshire is only slightly above the national average, and when—if it were not for the unemployment rates of Rotherham, Bradford and Hull—unemployment throughout Yorkshire would be decidely below the national average, it does not behove us particularly well to demand that yet further national resources be directed towards Yorkshire to subsidise its economy and employment, for whatever reason we may choose to express.
I honestly do not believe that the presence or otherwise of regional aid is the most paramount fact in the mind of any potential employer when he is deciding whether to invest money and create jobs. From my experience in my own constituency, I believe that what is paramount is the availability of suitable premises. What comes second is reasonable geographical access to the markets which a potential employer wishes to serve, and third is the availability of certain skills which he may need. Reference has been made in particular to engineering skills in Yorkshire.
Fourthly a potential employer needs to know whether the area in which he intends to invest cash enjoys good or bad industrial relations. Only then do the handouts that are potentially available from government come into the reckoning. It was significant that the chairman of the regional CBI said, after regional aid was substantially withdrawn from Yorkshire, that he did not mind because "Yorkshire business men were not looking for handouts."
§ Mr. Allen McKay (Penistone)
In the context of regional aid it should be pointed out that Sheffield received financial assistance amounting to £20 136 million. The estimates of the Department of Industry showed that that assistance provided 7,000 additional jobs and saved 5,000 others. That demonstrates that regional aid did much good work.
§ Mr. Watson
I do not deny that, nor do I advocate that regional aid should be wiped out entirely. However, I question its effectiveness, for the reasons I have given. In my constituency we have lost intermediate area status. With the exception of Pendle district council—which is not even in Yorkshire—I have not had one letter complaining about the withdrawal of intermediate area status. The issue has never been mentioned to me, even when I have raised it at public meetings.
When those people in my constituency who have thought deeply about it were asked whether they would like the Government to spend an extra £223 million on regional aid—that was the extent of the cut—or whether the Government should borrow £10 less per household than otherwise would have been borrowed they said that they would prefer to see Government borrowing reduced. In cash terms my constituency is better off to the tune of £250,000. That is the amount by which, related to Skipton, the Government have reduced their borrowing as a result of withdrawing regional aid.
I have been slightly dismayed by some Opposition Members who, at the beginning of their speeches, said that it was terrible that regional aid had been withdrawn and who at the conclusion of their speeches said that the next worst thing was that money was so expensive to borrow. The most important single reason why money is so expensive and interest rates so high is that the Government are borrowing too much money. It is economic nonsense to say, on the one hand, that the Government must increase their expenditure and, on the other hand, that interest rates must come down.
My second point concerns civil engineering work—a rarely mentioned subject in this Chamber. Rarely will I stand here and say that Government expenditure must increase overall, but if we are to have Government expenditure at a certain level I am as anxious as anyone else to make sure that Yorkshire gets its share. In the context of civil engineering I do not think that Yorkshire is getting 137 its fair share. According to figures published by the Department of the Environment under the category of "public non-housing"—normally reckoned to be the bellwether of civil engineering work—new projects started in 1978—which is the latest year for which figures are available—in all regions other than Yorkshire have increased in value by 13 per cent. since 1976. In Yorkshire they have fallen by 4 per cent. since 1976.
Under the more specific category of "roads, bridges and harbours", between 1976 and 1978 in all other regions there has been an increase of 49 per cent. In Yorkshire there has been a reduction of 77 per cent. The latter figure represents a fall from £77 million in 1976 to £18 million in 1978.
I hope that the Minister was able to accept my earlier personal assurances regarding regional aid and I hope that he will now accept my view that Yorkshire, which has traditionally been something of a national base for a thriving civil engineering industry, needs continuity and confidence in Government plans if that base is to be maintained. I hope that my hon. Friend will bear that in mind.
§ Dr. Shirley Summerskill (Halifax)
I shall confine my remarks to manufacturing industries, as they form the traditional basis of the prosperity of Halifax and West Yorkshire. Together with the prosperity that those industries have created, Halifax and West Yorkshire can boast of the traditional skills, expertise, capacity for innovation and good industrial relations which are well known in the area..
The Prime Minister has recently made the dismal and depressing forecast that manufacturing output in this country will decline throughout the lifetime of this Parliament—that is, for the next four years. Added to that, we have in my constituency increasing short-time working, an increasing number of redundancies and, since last summer, a series of closures which, despite what has been said by Conservative Members, are related to Government policies.
The withdrawal of assisted status cannot have helped the situation and there is certainly a lack of alternative employment within the area, which is a new aspect, combined with unemployment.
138 I shall give four examples of how once-thriving industries in Halifax—machine tools, confectionery, tufted carpets and textiles—are being hit by Government policies.
The machine tool industry is the barometer of industrial activity in Halifax and we find in that industry increasing short-time working and redundancies. We have also had the announcement of the proposed closure at the end of June of Stirks machine tool factory, which is one of the oldest and largest in Halifax, employing more than 260 people, who have been given redundancy notices.
Recently, Mr. Harry Smith, the national organiser of TASS and a member of the machine tools economic development council, made a speech in my constituency in which he said:The industry is so depressed and so lacking in capital it needs a colossal boost. The British machine tool industry will certainly be in its death throes if its share of world exports continues to fall at the rate it has been doing recently.As the machine tool industry is the key to engineering work and production, it needs an adequate investment by the Government. Everything possible must be done to gain for the industry a greater part of the home market—almost half of the home sales market is dominated by machine tools from abroad—and we also need to increase the British share of the world market.
One of Rowntree Mackintosh's largest factories is based in Halifax and is the district's largest single industrial employer. It has won several Queen's awards to industry for exports and is normally extremely successful, but there has been recently an uncharacteristically pessimistic statement by the chairman of Rowntree Mackintosh, who said:The combination of the current high sterling exchange rate with a high rate of inflation is not a good basis for buoyant and profitable export trade.Since the Government took office, inflation has nearly doubled and the sharp increase in VAT has hit the confectionery industry extremely hard. A once-thriving industry is now in difficulties, due, in large part, to the economic policies of the Government, who believe in a monetarist philosophy more suited to the 1930s than to the 1980s.
The hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Waller) referred to the 139 carpet industry. Nearly 3,000 jobs have been lost in the carpet industry in Yorkshire and Humberside in the past three months alone, and there is increasing short-time working.
The situation continues to deteriorate. In the first two months of this year, there has been a 180 per cent. increase in imports of American carpets. The refusal of the EEC to support the request for temporary import restrictions on tufted carpets was a bitter disappointment to the industry.
The chairman of the world-famous carpet firm in my constituency which manufactures Crossley and Kosset carpets told me:The fact that quotas are to be placed on yarn, but not on carpets, has seriously weakened confidence. We may have to reduce or postpone the increase in output which was planned.Have the Government now abandoned the tufted carpet industry? Have they no plans to help it through its present difficulties?
With regard to textiles, the third largest employer in the United Kingdom, there is no need to reiterate to the House or to the Minister's Department the serious crisis which exists. I propose to him that there should be an EEC textile plan. Can the Government not press for the adoption of an overall strategic plan within the EEC for the textile industry, in view of the increasing world-wide competition which it is facing?
Other industries, such as shipbuilding and steel, have been subject to a Community policy. What is standing in the way of an agreed Community textile plan which would enable all member States to plan long-term rationalisation of the industry together? If it does not, we shall continue to have repeated closures and a repeated decline in the textile industry. The industry is trying to put its own house in order, as the Government repeatedly tell it to do. Why, at the same time, can it not have much-needed Government support to secure its short-term and long-term future?
The Government's laissez-faire policy, of which they boast, can lead only to the continued decline of the textile industry. I hope that the Minister, in his reply, will deal very seriously with these four critical industries which, since the Govern- 140 ment took office—partly due to the doubling of inflation and partly to the fact that business confidence has decreased—have declined as a result of Government economic philosophies. I hope that the Minister will be able to offer some hope for those four industries.
§ Mr. John Townend (Bridlington)
My constituency consists of a large part of the former East Riding of Yorkshire. Although it is now included in Humberside, the people there consider themselves to be Yorkshiremen. I consider that it is right, therefore, that I should put forward their views tonight, despite the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Waller).
The main sources of employment are agriculture, fishing, tourism, and other small businesses. We have an unemployment rate well above the national average. Naturally, there was some disappointment when the area was not granted development area status, but I agree with the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton (Mr. Watson), that there was considerable pleasure that the unfair competition from the much more prosperous area of Scarborough was removed and that that area received the same classification as Bridlington, although I appreciate that my hon. Friend would not necessarily support that.
This is an area of enterprise and of entrepeneurs and, because of our dependence on small business, the main worry of business men, farmers and fishermen—as many other hon. Members have mentioned tonight—is the high interest rates. As we all know, they are becoming an impossible burden. My hon. Friend the Member for Skipton touched on that subject.
But how depressing it is to hear Labour Members criticising the present high level of interest rates, and insinuating that the Government can bring them down at will, without considering the causes of the high interest rates. They are threefold. High interest rates are caused by high inflation. With an inflation rate of 20 per cent. one can never have interest rates at 10 per cent., because that is a negative interest rate. High interest rates are also caused by the level of public borrowing, because the Government have to borrow, and they have to offer an 141 interest rate which will attract people to buy gilt-edged. The more the Government need to borrow, the more attractive is the rate of interest.
Thirdly, high interest rates are affected by overseas rates of interest. That is why the people in my constituency seem to be far more aware of these matters than the Opposition are. If they have any criticism of Government policy, particularly Government financial policy, the business men in my constituency say that the Government should have cut public expenditure sooner and by more, and then the high interest rates of today might already have been reduced.
One of the items in the Budget that I welcomed was the enterprise package of my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor. There were no fewer than 13 individual schemes to help small businesses. They have been enthusiastically welcomed by small business people in my constituency.
I was particularly attracted to the proposals of my right hon. and learned Friend for enterprise zones. The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) said that an enterprise zone would only take employment away from other areas. That is nonsense. The logical answer is that an enterprise zone will create more jobs, and will not take jobs from other areas.
My only criticism of the Chancellor's proposals is that North Humberside was not included in the initial list of enterprise zones. It is an area of growing unemployment, particularly in the Hull area, because of the decline—indeed, some would say the collapse—of the fishing industry. In view of this, I ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment to suggest to my right hon. and learned Friend that the list might be re-examined. Possibly Hull could be included as a site for one of the zones, because of its special problems.
My interest is that my constituency goes right up to the eastern boundary of Hull, and many of my constituents look to Hull for their jobs. They travel there to work. An enterprise zone would offer job opportunities for many people in the southern part of my constituency.
There has been much talk of self-help and the self-reliance of Yorkshire people. I would say to the hon. Member for 142 Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) that the local council could play a much bigger part in attracting industry. I have received a letter from a constituent who is in business in the Hull area as a developer. He had a prospective client who would have produced about 70 jobs. A planning application was put in on 27 January. The criticism was not that the application was turned down, because planning authorities must take account of all sorts of things, but that 10 days ago the application was deferred yet again. The managing director of the company concerned told my constituent "We shall not be messed about by the council any longer." That development, with 70–80 jobs, has gone to Lancashire. I have written to the chairman of the development committee in Hull drawing the matter to his attention.
§ Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield, East)
I agree with the hon. Gentleman's general point, but does not what the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends are saying add up to the fact that almost every town and constituency in Yorkshire needs to be an enterprise zone? Does not that mean that the Conservatives are asking for regional development to be brought back?
§ Mr. Townend
I am not saying that. Many areas of Yorkshire do not have problems so much greater than those in the rest of the country. But, as the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central pointed out, Hull has particular problems resulting from the collapse of the fishing industry. My point was that bureaucracy in local government often hindered the creation of new jobs more than anything else. That is why I welcome the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to reduce planning delays and planning constraints.
I wish to raise two other points, with regard to the European Economic Community. The first is in connection with inshore fishing. I urge the Government to keep up all the resolution at their command to maintain their present policy of obtaining a fair deal for the British fishing industry. It is desperately important that we secure the 12-mile exclusive limit, a preferential zone for 50 miles and an adequate share of the total EEC catch. We must also have properly policed conservation, and see that the abuses by the 143 other EEC countries and their fishing fleets are stamped out.
We have had talk about dumping. Nowhere is dumping having such an adverse effect as in the dumping of foreign fish on the British market, much of that fish having been illegally caught. That is destroying not only the deep sea fishing industry, but the inshore fishing industry.
The second point that I wish to mention was brought up by my hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan). That concerns unfair competition by Dutch growers who are receiving North Sea gas at a lower price than householders and other industries in Holland. I agree with my hon. Friend that this is unfair competition. Coupled with a strong pound, it is devastating the British growing industry. It seems an incredible situation.
I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench to see whether something can be done about this matter through the EEC. It is incredible that Holland should be selling North Sea gas cheap so that Germany requires to make a subsidy to its growers, which means that France will follow with a subsidy for its growers. Unless we follow with a subsidy, our growers will go out of business. Surely that is a nonsense. If the EEC is to mean anything, the Dutch should pay the proper price for North Sea gas. If they do, no subsidies will be necessary.
One final point, which effects my constituency, is the question of coast erosion. I thank my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment for coming to my constituency and seeing the danger for himself. We look forward with considerable interest to his findings. We hope that we shall receive some concrete help with this difficult problem.
Apart from those few points, the part of Yorkshire that I represent is still solidly behind the Prime Minister and supports the Government's financial, economic and industrial policies.
§ 9.1 pm
§ Mr. K. J. Woolmer (Batley and Morley)
The House hardly needs reminding that Yorkshire and Humberside are very nearly the size in population of Scotland, almost double that of Wales and treble that of Northern Ireland. It is always worth reminding ourselves of the signifi- 144 cance of our county and of the enormous variety that it represents.
I shall confine my remarks, first, to the industrial situation, as the West Riding, part of which I represent, is primarily an industrial area, and, secondly, to certain social problems to which we should be addressing ourselves not only in Yorkshire, but in the country.
First, on the industrial side, it is overwhelmingly important to our industry that the Government change course from their disastrous policies and do something about the exchange rate, the high rates of interest and inflation which in large measure are now the fault of the Government's policies.
Whether we talk to industrialists or to housewives in the West Riding the story is much the same. Industrialists—the friends of the Conservative Party only a year ago—are disillusioned with the deflation, the loss of profitability, the high value of the pound and the high interest rates which are undoubtedly causing a squeeze, not only on firms which face basic change and are perhaps on the way out, but on modern progressive industries which cannot compete nowadays.
As I am sure everyone is finding as the local elections draw near, housewives who a few months ago so gladly voted the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) into office thinking that she was going to do something about prices, are sadly disillusioned. I confidently forecast that the Labour Party will sweep into power in a great number of local authorities in the West Riding.
Batley and Morley, the costituency that I have the honour to represent, is concerned about all these matters, but in particular the wool, textile and carpet industry. This matter has been fully discussed today. I wish only to emphasise the commitment to a renegotiation of the multi-fibre arrangement with clauses that ensure that the growth of imports is strictly related to the development and growth of our own market, which is essential to the wool textile industry, and further ensures that wool textiles form a more specific and clear part of the multi-fibre arrangement which, until now, has been concerned more with clothing, cotton and man-made fibres.
145 I turn to some of the social questions. In my part of Yorkshire we still have a considerable housing problem. We still have long housing waiting lists and a considerable amount of old, outdated, inadequate private houses, particularly in the rented sector. The present Government's policy of very substantially reducing the housing programme—by 20 per cent. in real terms in the current year—and policies published in the public expenditure White Paper that imply either completely stopping all public house building or doubling rents, or some variation on those enormities, can have only a very severe effect on people on very long housing waiting lists and those in grossly dilapidated and outmoded housing.
I turn finally to what seems to me to be a matter on which we spend too little time, even on these occasions—the problems facing many of our immigrant communities. In the West Riding, in Bradford, Leeds, Huddersfield, Dewsbury and Batley, we have very substantial numbers of people who came into this country, very often at the request and bidding of our manufacturers, to help out with labour shortages, particularly in the textile industry. We are at the stage—as Bristol has shown us—of becoming increasingly complacent once again about the problems faced by our immigrant community.
§ Mr. Sheerman
Does my hon. Friend accept the recent report on the influence of microprocessors on Tameside, which like Kirklees, we share as our local authority? That report shows that the unskilled ethnic groups, the young blacks, are faced with a future involving a 40 per cent. projected new decline because of microchips and microprocessing in the clothing and textile industries. These kids will not have jobs. The real problem that the country faces, but which the present Government will not face, is that there are no initiatives to provide the necessary jobs.
§ Mr. Woolmer
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Many of those problems will be faced by all people in our society.
I address my closing remarks to the very specific problems faced by our immigrant communities. We had a wave of immigration some years ago, and now is the time when the young people born 146 of those families, who regard themselves as English, and as Yorkshire men and women, are facing great frustrations in matters such as housing, education and employment, which they are simply not prepared to tolerate in the way in which the first generation of immigrants did. This is certainly true in Batley, Leeds and Bradford. Youngsters simply cannot get jobs. Housing is getting increasingly difficult to obtain. These young people will not be prepared to tolerate the discrimination and the frustrations that they face.
This is a very difficult topic. It is, perhaps, largely confined to the West Riding of Yorkshire and to Humberside but it is nevertheless a very serious matter. I hope that we do not lose sight of the fact that we in Yorkshire have a tremendous opportunity, and one that is not given, perhaps, to cities such as London. We have smaller communities, towns and cities, where many waves of immigrant communities have been absorbed and welcomed in the past. We have a tremendous opportunity to show to Britain and the world how to live together and how to discriminate positively for the better good.
Unless we take very seriously the problems faced by these young people in jobs and housing, and unless we are willing to swallow our pride on occasions and to discriminate positively, we shall lose great opportunity. I hope that this House and Yorkshire Members of Parliament will ensure that we add a Yorkshire dimension to this matter and show the country that we are prepared to demonstrate a willingness to work together to bring our communities and our coloured populations together.
§ 9.9 pm
§ Mr. Michael Shaw (Scarborough)
Time marches on, and I shall make three brief points. The hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. Woolmer), together with several other hon. Members, mentioned high interest rates as a cause of our difficulties. That is true. However, high interest rates are a symptom of other things, particularly inflation. We suffer not only from our inflation, but from world-wide inflation. High rates of interest are not peculiar to this country. In deciding when to reduce interest rates the Government must look at events in other countries, particularly America. The 147 quicker that we can get back—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Kerr) is very good at waiting and at interrupting from a sedentary position.
§ Mr. Russell Kerr (Feltham and Heston)
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his undoubted courtesy in giving way. What was the picture on or before 3 May 1979? The hon. Gentleman seems to think that all our troubles date from then.
§ Mr. Shaw
The hon. Gentleman has made a good point and one that I was about to make. However, no apologies are necessary. Not only are high interest rates bedevilling the situation, but the amount of borrowing by the public sector has remained a feature for too long. I am glad that the figures seem to be moving in the right direction at long last.
Another factor should be taken into account. We shall take cognisance of that factor, along with others, when interest rates begin to fall. I refer to the way that oil sustains the level of the pound. We shall not have oil for ever. If we learn to live with a pound that has been kept artificially high, we shall be in serious difficulties when oil runs out. We must learn to use the bonanza of North Sea oil to our advantage. I am sure that we shall.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) rightly raised the question of fishing. He also mentioned the jealousy that exists between Bridlington and Scarborough. One is in a development area, but the other is not. In 1966 I was a member of the Committee that dealt with development areas, and I put forward amendments to bring Bridlington into a development area alongside Scarborough. Alas, I was unsuccessful.
Scarborough and Bridlington have fleets of about the same size. They depend largely on inshore fishing. No finer fishing can be had by those good boats. There are about 34 keel boats and 20 cobble boats. However, although operating costs have increased by 30 per cent. during the past year, the price of fish has gone down. One difficulty is that when inshore fishermen have put their case and stated the cost of running their boats, they have made far too conservative estimates of their weekly 148 costs. I asked them to ensure that their figures would show the true cost of running their boats. They are doing that, and in the end they will discover that the figures should have been much higher. They should seek a better minimum price for their fish, because present prices are absurdly low.
The other matter I wish to raise was peculiar to the Scarborough area over Easter, namely, the problem of organised visitors to seaside towns at holiday weekends. Of course we welcome visitors to all our coastal resorts. None the less, when visitors come on an organised basis as they did over Easter, driving their scooters around the town, causing considerable damage and frightening away many other visitors, we must look at the matter very seriously.
We must thank our police force for the capable way in which it handled affairs on that occasion. It is not practical to ban all people who arrive on scooters. I received a letter written by the parent of one of the scooter riders after she had heard me on the Jimmy Young show. She thanked me for saying that not all people who rode scooters behaved badly. Of course they do not, and her son was one who did not. If we decided to ban them all we would be banning many good visitors, who have good bookings at hotels. Also, if we banned them, we would cause them to find some other place in which to behave riotously. We would push them off to another place where there might not be an adequate police force to deal with them, and that would only make matters worse. That might mean that the police at Scarborough had to dash off to Filey, Whitby or Pickering and leave Scarborough unpoliced. There must be some hard thinking about this. The police dealt with the problem very well over Easter, but plans should be made for dealing with it better in future.
I am glad to hear—and I hope that this happens in other towns as well—that meetings are being sought between police authorities and local councillors in Scarborough to examine this matter in depth and see whether organised visitors of this sort can be better looked after in future so that there are no further disturbances to frighten away other visitors and spoil everyone else's holiday. 149 In Scarborough we welcome a large number of visitors every year. The town has a rightly-earned reputation for being a place in which one can enjoy a quiet holiday. We are determined to keep it that way in future.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)
I shall be as brief as possible. There is no direct link whatever between a large public sector borrowing requirement and high rates of interest. The Labour Government had a higher proportion of GDP as a public sector borrowing requirement, yet had a level of inflation that was only half the current level.
It is particularly interesting that Conservative Members stand up and say they are against import controls and then plead for them. They say that they are against regional aid and then plead for it. They also say that they do not like local government reorganisation, but they omit to point out that it was a Tory Government that reorganised local government. I say that as a representative of the West Riding who is deeply and bitterly critical of the Tory Government who wiped out the Ridings. That action is still bitterly resented and I hope that at some stage in the future the Ridings will be restored.
I echo some of the points that have been made about the decline in investment in the machine tool industry. In the part of the West Riding that I represent textiles and the metal-working industries are pre-eminently important, and that is so for most of the West Riding. It is a matter of concern that investment in the machine tool industry has been declining over the past years, not simply since 3 May 1979. The measures undertaken by the Government are accelerating decline, high interest rates and the erosion of regional supports.
The textile industry is facing unfair competition, and it is patently absurd for Conservative Members to exhibit such complacency. Not only the Opposition, but the Tory-controlled local authorities believe that the application of import quotas is not tight enough and the antidumping arrangements are pathetic. Early-day motion 546, signed by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), is critical of the Conservative Government, of their relations with the EEC, and of the lack of action by the Government 150 and the EEC on matters such as the application of the MFA and antidumping arrangements.
In 1979 the textile industry had a deficit of £658 million in textile goods. We are not even talking about vaguely fair competition. In the first two months of this year there has already been a deficit of £131 million, and if the Department of Industry had been efficient, I would have the figures for March today. But it has not yet produced them. Action is needed. If necessary we should gird our loins and take action independently of the EEC. But the Government are so supine towards the EEC—as are their Back Benchers to Government policy—that they will not urge action or take action independently of the EEC.
At the beginning of the year the Yorkshire Post—not a newspaper that spreads light among the Labour Benches—spoke about the growth of fraudulent labelling of imported garments. What has the Department of Trade done about that? How many prosecutions has it vigorously undertaken? Not many, I imagine.
I should like to mention my constituency because to some extent it represents a microcosm of the general points that I have made. The Conservative Government have brought about an increase in male unemployment from 61 per cent. in January to 6.3 per cent. in February. Hardly a month goes by without fresh textile redundancies being announced. Intermediate status is to be brought to an end. In view of the difficulties facing the textile industry that decision should be reviewed for the areas in which there is an important contribution from the textile industry.
The small firms employment subsidy has been terminated. That was a highly successful subsidy, and about 50 firms in the Keighley travel-to-work area benefited from it. The job retirement scheme has been curtailed. That is a sad loss, because under the Labour Government it was a move towards a common retirement age for men and women. I cannot emphasise too much that in altering the job retirement scheme age from 62 to 64, the Tories have robbed many people who, after a lifetime of toil, were looking forward to the opportunity of early retirement. That scheme was taken advantage of by many people in my constituency.
151 Whatever the hon. Member for Skipton (Mr. Watson) thinks, regional assistance is an important stimulus to industry. The regions, including Yorkshire and Humberside, would have been worse off without it. The 100 per cent. allowance on investment in manufacturing industry is already available, but it is not enough of a stimulus. The investment allowance as a stimulus has been recognised by the free fire zones where the 100 per cent. allowance is simply extended to service industries. Coupled with the regional incentives through intermediate area status that is a valuable contributory factor.
I suggest that the Government restore intermediate area status to all those areas in West Yorkshire from which it has been removed. I am sure that the Government will not do that, because they are set upon their foolish and disastrous industrial policies. The Government might ask "Where is the money to come from?" They can obtain the money by imposing a windfall tax on the massive profits which the banks are making as a direct result of high interest rates. They could recycle the money for the benefit of the people who are on the dole as a result of Government policies. The Government should extend the job creation and job retirement schemes. Public expenditure for that could also be obtained through a windfall tax on the banks.
The Government should impose quota controls and proper anti-dumping measures to secure textile jobs. If we are to stop the erosion of our industrial base and halt de-industrialisation we must examine the possibility of imposing selective import controls while we make up for the lack of investment in many years past.
Before coming here today I spoke to about 200 children at South Craven comprehensive school. Most of those children were in the fifth or sixth forms and about to leave school. When I looked at those young people I felt that Government have a duty to ensure that, when they leave school, they have a job and security. The Government clearly do not care about that. They talk about three years of unparalleled austerity and the dole queues lengthening. If the Tory Government cannot provide a decent future for our 152 young people let us elect another Labour Government as soon as possible.
§ Dr. Keith Hampson (Ripon)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) for being so brief as to allow me to take part in the debate. I hope that he will not take it amiss if I criticise him. He and the hon. Members for Batley and Morley (Mr. Woolmer), and for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) sounded as if they were born yesterday, but of course they were not. They merely have a selective memory. They speak as if the world turned round when the Tory Government were elected. All the problems that they have highlighted have been with us for a long time. The problem of youth unemployment existed under the Labour Government. The problems of imports and dumping in the textile industry were with us when the hon Member for Keighley was a Minister. The problems of nurturing small businesses and helping them to expand were there when he had responsibility for them. The small businesses in my constituency find more attractions in the present Government's package than anything that he produced.
The hon. Gentleman did not produce much for small businesses or for textiles. When we were in opposition we made the same complaints about his Administration as he and his colleagues levied tonight. Who ruled the country for most of the last 15 years? A Conservative Government did not, but a Labour Government did. Why did they not apply the wonderful panaceas which they now propose? The problems have been getting worse and worse. The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) called for "massive" injections of Government aid. The Labour Government threw money at the problems, but they got worse. Between March 1974 and May 1979 the rate of unemployment in the Yorkshire region doubled from 2.6 to 5.4 per cent.
We have to turn round the nation's economy. We have a difficult and painful time ahead of us while we grapple with inflation and high interest rates. These are serious problems, and they are hurting business, but how naive it is of Opposition Members, who always describe the Conservatives as the party of business men, if they believe that we are trying to foster high interest rates in order to help our business friends.
153 What the Government can do is act as a catalyst and improve the climate in which industry and business men can thrive. In that connection, I refer to one specific problem. We in Yorkshire, as blunt, down-to-earth people, are engaged not in wallowing in nostalgia but in looking into the future and to the new industries and technologies upon which future jobs and in turn our prosperity depend.
In two senses there is an important development needed here. One aspect is finance. I have just had the pleasure of looking at industry in Japan. Bank money is extremely important to fund industry in order to launch new technologies and to get the necessary investment. The second is the linkage between the new technologies in industry and higher education. This is linked to the Finniston report about which I spoke last week.
The Yorkshire area is almost unrivalled in the entire country in the sheer wealth of intellectual ability at its disposal. There is a tremendous belt of knowledge from the University of Bradford and Bradford college, through Leeds university and Leeds polytechnic and York university to Hull university and Hull college, which ought to be a polytechnic. We have to pull together that sort of talent and link it more intimately with industry, and we have to search for ways of doing that.
Most of the basic problems have existed for a long time. They are still with us. They have nothing much to do with this Government. The ethylene cracker opened by our two biggest and most successful companies, ICI and BP, just a few weeks ago on Teesside, was two years late and cost double what the companies estimated. Those are the basic problems that we have to face and, until we get on top of those difficulties, the problems of Yorkshire and Humberside will not be resolved.
I do not intend to delay the House any longer. I am sure that it is a great pleasure to right hon. and hon. Members to see the hon. Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) in his place on the Opposition Front Bench. His presence there is a tribute to his many years of service to his party, and I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House wish to listen to him.
§ Mr. Edwin Wainwright (Dearne Valley)
This has been a very interesting debate. Sometimes hon. Members should be honest with themselves and with the nation. The hon. Member for Ripon (Dr. Hampson) spoke about the Japanese and their banking system. He knows that there is a much closer relationship between the banking system and industrialists in Japan than there is in this country and that money can be obtained from Japanese banks much easier and cheaper than it can here, though perhaps in a soft, subtle manner.
The hon. Member also knows a great deal about the education system. About one pupil in four goes to university, and then the majority go into technology, science and engineering. But who has been to blame for any failings in the education system in this country for many years? The answer is Conservative Governments.
In my view, we should debate this subject more frequently, and we should have more time to do so. In this debate practically every industry has been mentioned, especially those undergoing difficulties which are due mainly to the present recession.
Let me say a few words about the recession. It is all very well for Government supporters to talk about what happened when the Labour Government came to office in 1974. As soon as we had taken over, we came face to face with the biggest recession experienced since the 1920s and 1930s. We had to cope with it, and we found it difficult to do so. Government supporters who complain about what the Labour Government did from 1974 to 1979 should bear that in mind.
It has to be said, however, that the Opposition ought to bear in mind the difficulties faced by the present Government because of the international situation.
My hon. Friends have proved to the House that Government policies have failed to stem economic depression and recession. The cuts in public expenditure have produced a situation in which unemployment is still rising and inflation is in the region of 20 per cent. I do not expect that any Conservative Member will blame the Labour Government. This has happened under a Tory Government. The 155 House does not need to be informed that the economic depression is bound to have grave effects on the situation in Yorkshire. Many Yorkshire industries have been noted, over a long period of years, for the exports that have produced wealth for this nation.
I was impressed by the speech of the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Sir D. Kaberry), who showed a tremendous Yorkshire spirit. He criticised the Government far more than he criticised anything done by the previous Labour Government. He proved to the House that Yorkshiremen have a grit that should help to pull this country out of its present economic position if only the Government would realise what is happening not only in Yorkshire but throughout the whole country.
I fully appreciate the attitude of my hon. Friends in opposing the trend of imported textiles, clothing and footwear. These industries, in spite of criticisms levelled against them about lack of investment, have undergone vast changes in the past few years. They were helped by legislation passed in 1972. What can they do when competing against Taiwan, Korea, eastern Europe and the United States that are supplying this country with textile goods and footwear almost more cheaply than our cost of materials? Are the Government not failing the nation if they allow industries to be ruined due to imports and allow those imports to continue? I am not opposed to free trading, but I believe that, unless the Government take action on imports, we shall lose jobs on a tremendous scale.
As other nations aspire to Western technology, there are bound to be clashes in the textile, clothing and footwear markets, mainly due to their low wages and the high technology given to them. It would be foolish for us to ruin our economy simply to ensure that our markets are free to allow such goods into this country. The textile and footwear industries still require Government aid. Nearly half the workers are employed in the North-West and the Yorkshire regions. Large areas are no longer in assisted districts, receiving financial aid from the Government. To become more competitive, these industries must be greatly improved by the application of new technology.
156 The Government should not avoid the responsibility for ensuring necessary investment in research and development to make certain that new plant and equipment are introduced in these important industries in Yorkshire. It is necessary to regenerate our textile, clothing and footwear industries, so that, not only do we keep and improve our own markets but we increase exports so that jobs are maintained. Many hon. Members have referred to the textile industry. We shall want to hear from the Minister what action the Government intend to take.
I should also like to say a few words about the steel industry, which is experiencing great difficulty. Hon. Members representing the Sheffield area, if they had been called, would no doubt have outlined to the House far better than I can the great difficulties that the industry is undergoing. The steel industry was reorganised in the early 1970s. As a result of the OPEC oil price increase in 1973–74, there was the recession. In 1974–75, everyone thought that the recession would soon be over, but that has not been the case. Therefore, even though there were plans to increase capacity in the steel industry, it was still a backward industry when compared with the technology in steel industries abroad, which hon. Members who served on the Select Committee visited.
I have been to Japan on two occasions and have seen the technology there. Believe me, Britain will have great difficulty in fighting the technology and the increase in productive capacity of Japanese industries, be it steel, radios or motor cars. I do not have time to go through the whole list. It was fascinating, but also frightening, to learn that we were so far behind. However, the steel industry has tried to cope with those difficulties, and the Sheffield and Rotherham parts of the industry have done exceedingly well. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) spoke highly of the steel industry in the Rotherham area, of which we are all proud.
§ Mr. Allen McKay
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. Does he not agree that it is necessary for the Government to consider import controls, especially in relation to special steels? 157 For example, in 1972, the work force in tool steel, high speed steel, forge bars and bright bars numbered 17,400 in the Sheffield area, whereas in 1980 the figure is only 5,400. Imports have virtually ruined and practically demoralised the whole of the special steel industry.
§ Mr. Wainwright
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for supplying that information. It is certainly correct. We must look closely at all imports into this country, but we must be careful because we are a trading nation. We are the greatest trading nation in the world proportionate to what we produce, and that must always be borne in mind. Nevertheless, it would be foolish, imprudent and crazy to allow our industries to suffer by allowing subsidised imports into the country.
We do not even take into account the subsidies that are given to overseas coalmining industries, yet such coal is imported into Britain. In many instances, the subsidies that are given to those industries are greater than the subsidies given to our own coal-mining industry. Yet, because we believe in free trade, especially when it is in competition with a nationalised industry, we tend to forget that we are ruining our own economy. That is something at which we should look very carefully.
I would rather that we regenerated industry and made it more productive and competitive. We must look at the system of management in Britain and at the relationship between management, work force and the trade union movement. That must be given closer examination. We should forget about the fight between Government and trade unions. We talk about it too much and too often. We give the impression to the nation's work force that the Government are against the organised trade union movement. The hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Shaw) shakes his head, but that is the impression among trade unionists. We want to improve the nation's wealth, to improve production and to ensure that the work force gets its rights as well. There are some tremendously low wages in Britain today, a lot of them in Yorkshire. We must bear in mind that low wages in the region bear no comparison with those of the South-East and the South-West.
158 Because of lack of time I will forget the rest of my speech but I must refer to the nasty criticisms of the Labour Party made by the hon. Member for Skipton (Mr. Watson). Some hon. Members have spoken of high interest rates as though the Opposition were to blame for those rates. Let us examine the matter. Have interest rates increased since the Labour Government left office? Of course they have. Has VAT increased? It has almost doubled. Have the banks made greater profits? Of course they have. We must also bear in mind that interest rates are influenced from many quarters. Conservative Members, including the Prime Minister, believe in reducing income tax regardless of the effect on the economy.
That policy has been tried before. A former Chancellor of the Exchequer, the present Lord Barber, during his term of office gave away £5,000 million in reduced income tax. He said that that money would be channelled into industry and that, as a result of investment, industry would be regenerated and strengthened. That money did not go into industry. It went abroad; it went on buildings and on land. Can anyone guarantee that the recent reductions in income tax have resulted in more money being channelled into industry to make it more viable? No one can give that guarantee. Those are some of the reasons for increased interest rates and it it is time that the Government examined the matter.
I am proud and honoured to have spoken at this Dispatch Box. It is the first time that I have spoken from this position and I think that it will be the last. I can say that with greater assurance than could my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) because he is somewhat younger than I am.
However, I hope that the Government will take note of what has been said on both sides of the House in this debate. I am certain that, if it gets fair play from the Government, Yorkshire will take the lead and uplift the nation to the position it deserves.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Marcus Fox)
This is a great parliamentary occasion for Yorkshire, if not for the whole House. The 159 hon. Members for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) and for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) have staged a great double act, and perhaps this is not the last time that we shall see it.
I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House who represent constituencies in Yorkshire and Humberside—not only those hon. Members who have spoken—are grateful for this debate. As a Yorkshireman I yield to no one in my admiration for the special characteristics of our county, and I trust that nobody will ever accuse me of being insensitive to any of its problems.
I have listened with the greatest interest to all the contributions to the debate. It is no bad thing to pay particular attention to special problems from time to time, and we have heard of many of them in the debate. I regret that it will not be possible in 12 minutes to cover all the points that have been made, but I assure hon. Members that I shall pass on to other Departments those matters that have been drawn to my attention.
I hope that none of us believes that the answers to our regional problems are distinctive to the extent that they are different from the rest of the United Kingdom. We make our contribution as a region to the well-being of the whole nation. We do not seek isolation. The problems of the region are real enough, but they are part of the national and international problems of our day and of our generation.
We are a trading nation—what region emphasises that better than our own?—and we shall succeed or fail to the extent that we are competitive at home and overseas. Artificial restrictions and subsidies are no good. For too long we have sought to put off the evil day by administering temporary palliatives.
My verdict is that Yorkshire is much sounder than some hon. Members have suggested. There is an underlying strength in the economy of the region and we have certain advantages in the medium and long term that will more than offset any disadvantages, which I do not underestimate, that we see at present.
Our central position, our communications set-up and a determined work force, which is largely adaptable, will, I am sure, bring us through. We can only hope that 160 the self-inflicted wounds of the past few years will not be repeated. We shall all have to pay more attention to the need for adaptability in accepting change.
There may be some criticisms of the city of Sheffield—I leave these to others—but Leeds and Sheffield are accepted not just as regional centres for business but as national and even European centres.
I do not wish to minimise the problems, but they are not all that different from those in any other part of the country. The Government are committed to winning the battle against the inflation that is the major deterrent to the sort of progress that hon. Members seek. We are determined to encourage enterprise and to become competitive in world markets. The Government cannot do that on their own, but if we, as a nation, do not become competitive in world markets, everything that we seek in terms of a higher standard of living will be unattainable.
The Government will help by creating the right climate, which means reducing public expenditure and Government intervention. The hon. Member for Rotherham asked for more public expenditure. In the light of the experience of the previous Labour Government, I do not understand how he can make such a request. The burden of public expenditure and the interest charges on the borrowings of the previous Administration are the biggest problems that we have to face.
The hon. Member claimed that Conservatives see Government help to industry as original sin, but his constituency is receiving better treatment than most other parts of Yorkshire, It is still in a development area.
§ Mr. Fox
No. I was surprised to hear the criticisms of the hon. Member for Rotherham of the enterprise zones scheme. I am glad to note that those in other areas are not as reluctant to seek that help. I should have thought that the people of Rotherham could easily travel the short distance to Sheffield to gain employment.
§ Mr. Fox
I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Northwest (Sir D. Kaberry) drew attention to 161 the traditional industries that have been operating in Leeds for a long time. Unlike some Labour Members, my hon. Friend pointed out that we could not depend on those industries for our future. He talked about the leadership that is necessary in business and in politics to bring about the sort of changes that are necessary. I accept what he said about dumping—a subject that was mentioned by many other hon. Members. I shall draw it to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade, who has already made representations on the matter.
With regard to origin marking, the Department is considering this very point, particularly as it affects textiles. I assure the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) that a statement will be made as soon as possible on whether marking can be made compulsory.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) is having a meeting with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and will be able to repeat to her the many strong arguments on the question of fishing in particular. He will no doubt bear in mind that the Government have already given some millions of pounds of help to try to overcome the problem. The urgent need is to ensure that a settlement is reached with our partners in Europe. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) was quite right to draw attention to the fact that the problem has existed for many years—long before the present Government came into office. The cod war in 1976, of course, had something to do with it.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) expressed his concern for the growers, and this was emphasised by other hon. Members from the area. Their remarks will be drawn to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Ginsburg) has not stayed to hear my comments on what he had to say. [Interruption.] If the right hon. Member for Don-caster (Mr. Walker) will listen, he will hear that I am trying to answer the point made by the hon. Member for Dewsbury. When the present Government took office, 40 per cent. of the country was covered by aid of some kind or another. As my 162 hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Industry said in the earlier debate, if we had allowed that position to continue, by now more than 50 per cent. of the country would have been covered.
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. BernaruWeatherill)
Order. We cannot have three hon. Members on their feet at one time.
§ Mr. Cryer rose——
§ Mr. Fox
I welcome the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Thompson) on import controls. He is right, when talking about textiles, to make clear that the Government have done far more than the previous Labour Government did to tackle the problem. Ninety-five per cent. of low-cost imports are subject to actual or potential restraint, and 21 new quotas have been imposed since May of last year.
Are Labour Members serious in their call for import restrictions? If they think for one minute, they will realise the damage that that would do to our export trade.
§ Mr. Cryer rose——
§ Mr. Fox
Immediately these decisions were taken prices on the home market would increase, because there would be a guaranteed market for our goods, whether or not they were produced efficiently. In the long term, the greatest damage would be done to our exports. [Interruption.] I realise that this is unacceptable to Labour Members—
§ Mr. Russell Kerr
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the Minister to go grinding on regardless, when he is misleading the House on a number of points and when a number of hon. Members are prepared to put him right, at no expense?
§ Mr. Fox
Those hon. Members who have been in the Chamber for the past three hours, rather than hon. Members who intervene, are entitled to an answer.
The hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) very fairly asked me about derelict land and help for assisted areas. It is a matter of some concern to us, and in due course I shall write to the hon. Gentleman. I shall refer to 164 my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor the financial matters to which he drew my attention.
The smaller firms in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Brig- house and Spenborough (Mr. Waller)
It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.