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1996 - Mr Major’s Comments on the East Midlands

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on the East Midlands, made during an interview held in London on Thursday 25th July 1996.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if the East Midlands was the fastest growing UK region because of Government policy or local efforts].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it is a bit of both, to be honest. Certainly the East Midlands had a very difficult time and many people have used their initiative, invested a good deal of self-employment, a good deal of small employment. There has also of course been a great deal of assistance to that with the nature of the economy and a certain degree of inward investment. I was for example at Burniston recently where there is a very substantial increased investment. So I think it is both. But I certainly pay tribute to the initiative of local businessmen.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked about the areas of high unemployment that still existed in some parts of the region].

PRIME MINISTER:

There are problems in places like Mansfield, the former coal sites which are no longer operating, and we do wish to see what we can do to get more work back. We have provided, I think, through the European Union, something like 60 - 70 million pounds, I forget the exact figure, for the regeneration of those coalfields. Though I say that is European money, it is actually British money that goes to Europe and is then recycled. And I think we need to encourage more people to go to those areas. It can be done.

If I can give you an illustration, not from the East Midlands. But you will recall Ravenscraig closing and that was an absolute disaster for the area at that stage but there was no market for the steel. And now of course all those jobs have been replaced with inward investment and regeneration within the area, and that is what I hope we will be able to achieve. The East Midlands generally is beginning to do very well, but there are still some blackspots that we must concentrate on.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked how he was helping the East Midlands].

PRIME MINISTER:

The enterprise zones are there and they are delivering. They do take a time and maybe they haven't created as many jobs in the short term as people might have anticipated.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked about Sherwood Park, which had meant to provide 4,000 new jobs, but had so far created 200 new jobs].

PRIME MINISTER:

It has promised 4,000 jobs and it will deliver 4,000 jobs. These sites have to be cleared, there needs to be planning consent, you need actually to build, you need to get the inward investment, you need to find the businesses to operate it. What actually happened was the collapse of a structural employment in an area. That is very serious. What we are replacing it with, and what we are determined to replace it with, is not a structural imbalance with a single big employer, and the difficulty for the area if that collapses, but a wide range of employment. And it does, I am afraid, take more time than is immediately comfortable.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked about the impression being that it would have a much faster impact on creating employment].

PRIME MINISTER:

You must forgive me if I can't be responsible for the impressions that you might have got 4 years ago. We have sought to move forward and to assist as much as we can, both with the funding that has been put in there, the establishment of the enterprise zones and the measures that we have taken to encourage people to invest in the whole of the area. In much of the area, as the survey showed earlier this week that you mentioned a moment ago, the prospects for the East Midlands are as bright as anywhere in the United Kingdom and brighter than the East Midlands has known in the past. What we have to focus on now, and I agree with you that it is important to focus upon them, are a small number of black spots where there was an almost complete collapse of employment because what was happening there before was no longer required. That takes a while, but it is happening, it will be comprehensive and it will provide a much better future for those areas than they have had for many years in the past.