Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on unemployment in Kent, made on 24th March 1993.
[The Prime Minister was asked about unemployment in Kent in advance of a regional visit to the county]
This has been a different recession from any we have ever seen before. Typically in the past recessions have hit manufacturing industry in the Midlands, the North and the West, Scotland and Wales, the old very high labour intensive industries. This has been a different recession because the root of the recession was the huge increase in property and other prices, mostly in the South and East, and then suddenly the fact that in order to damp down inflation interest rates rose and there was great funding difficulties in areas of high property cost. So it meant that the areas that faced greatest difficulties were the South and the East, not at all typical.
Now I have to say that it has always been a fallacy that there are not unemployment difficulties in parts of London, the South and the East, that has always been the case, it is just generally in the prosperity it has been more masked than it has, and on this occasion because the North and the West have not had the same difficulties with the recession it has thrown up the South and Eastern problems. So yes I do know there are particular problems in Kent and indeed in other South-East or South-West counties as well.
What is really going to get those people back to work? I think we have to ask ourselves what it is that will recreate jobs in those areas. I think the East Kent Initiative, that is a private sector led initiative, I think it is very welcome. I think some of the other action the government has taken is very welcome, one can run through a myriad series of particular schemes, all of which I think have a part to play. But what is really going to put the people of Kent back to work is growth in the economy and the right circumstances for people actually to begin creating businesses again and begin to employ. Last year in the depth of the recession how many new firms do you think actually registered for Value Added Tax – not something you would do unless you had to? The answer is 400,000 last year. The opening up of Kent with the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and the prospects of the East Thames Corridor will make Kent, with that tremendous market in Europe of 340 million people, the biggest free trade market the world has ever dreamed of, will make Kent an absolute magnet for fresh investment and for fresh jobs. And you may be coming here in five years time and saying to me: we are a bit worried about all this investment, it is very good, but what about the environment?