`North Will Get Its Fair Share'

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Byline: By Ross Smith and Andrew Hamilton

The Liberal Democrats yesterday waged a war with Labour over how to revive the North-East as they unveiled their election manifesto.

The party's candidates in the region scoffed at Labour's promise to ensure full employment in the area within five years.

And they produced their own pledge to change the way money was divided between regions.

Under their policy, a commission would be set up to overhaul funding arrangements which discriminate against the North-East.

Berwick candidate Alan Beith said: "It's absolutely clear that the North-East falls behind in so many of the statistics.

"We need to attract more funding under a fair formula. Scotland has been able to invest in its future in a way the North-East hasn't."

The Liberal Democrats also said they would go further and act quicker in bringing civil service jobs out of London to the regions.

Labour was yesterday insisting it could hit its full employment target, which would mean an increase of nearly 10pc in jobs in the North-East.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw hailed the party's success on jobs in the past eight years as he visited microchip manufacturer Atmel at Silverlink, North Tyneside.

The firm took over the Siemens plant when it closed down in 2000, shedding 1,100 jobs. But with the help of a pounds 19m selected regional assistance grant from the Government and continued support for training, it now employs 850 people.

Mr Straw said: "We can see in this plant just what a difference a Labour industrial policy has made to an area which has been through hard times. …