Lang argues for rethink on regions

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The Independent Online
Ian Lang, President of the Board of Trade, will today flesh out another key strand of policy by rejecting central government intervention in the regions in favour of locally co-ordinated action schemes.

The minister is expected to argue that Britain's regions have undergone huge changes in the last 15 years which requires a shift in policy away from large public subventions for once-depressed areas of the country.

Mr Lang will use a keynote speech to the annual conference of the British Chambers of Commerce in Birmingham to highlight the way in which regional disparities have narrowed since the early 1980s.

In 1984, for instance, unemployment was 7.5 per cent higher in the North than the South while there was also a large gulf in relative levels of pay. Now, however, the unemployment gap has narrowed to 2.5 per cent while Scotland ranks second only to the South-east in the earnings league.

Mr Lang is expected to argue that it is no longer true to claim that large areas of the country are uniformly depressed and that Government, regional and inward investment policy over the years has helped revitalise areas such as south Wales which now has a dominant electronics sector. He will say that locally co-ordinated schemes to provide funding for pockets of deprivation or economic disadvantage within regions are more suitable than massive state subvention organised from Whitehall.

He will also argue that the decoupling of the North from the South in terms of prosperity that threatened to happen in the early 1980s has not materialised and indeed that there has been much greater convergence through, for instance,the relocation of head offices of major industries to the regions.

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