HC Deb 30 January 1985 vol 72 cc268-9
7. Mr. John M. Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made in his Department's west midlands initiative.

Mr. Butcher

The primary object of the Department's west midlands initiative was to increase the application of new technologies and new production techniques in the industries of the region, and that was achieved. Much of the region has now been granted intermediate area status, and hence the emphasis of the Department's work there has shifted to regional assistance.

Mr. Taylor

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply, but will he tell the House what hard results he has to show for his efforts for innovation, new products and new processes in companies in the west midlands?

Mr. Butcher

I am delighted to report to my hon. Friend some of the excellent results achieved during that period. More than 1,200 companies received grants to introduce new techniques and machinery into their existing manufacturing processes, support under section 8 and under support for innovation totalled £70 million, and levered a total spend of £200 million in a cost-effective market-driven manner.

Mr. Park

How does the Minister reconcile his reply to his hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor) with the fact that money available for technology has been reduced, as he knows? The two do not add up.

Mr. Butcher

The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. If he is referring to the support for innovation programme, he will know that it was significantly increased for the current financial year. The moratorium, to which I think he is referring, was invoked because awareness of the programme arrived like an express train and the application rate consequently increased. During the first few months of this year we therefore spent what had hitherto been a total year's allocation.

Sir Dudley Smith

Is my hon. Friend aware that his original reply is most encouraging? Will he make further efforts and do everything that he can to encourage and help the car components industry, which in its way is even more important than the car industry?

Mr. Butcher

The car components industry was one of the major recipients of expenditure under section 8 and, indeed, under support for innovation. I hope that my hon. Friend will join me in commending the excellent work that is going on, for example, at Warwick university with BL Systems and two other key companies, which are trying to spread best practice in innovative manufacture of components throughout the British motor industry.

Mr. Geoffrey Robinson

Is the Minister aware that for most industries in the west midlands his so-called initiative was either stillborn or died of paralysis? Is he also aware that since the Government came to power we have lost one third of industrial manufacturing capacity in the west midlands and one third of jobs in manufacturing totalling 225,000? Is he further aware that in the west midlands the phasing out of capital allowances, the massive hike in interest rates and the moratorium on regional aid amounts to nothing more than a further prolonged period of disaster for that region?

Mr. Butcher

The Labour research department has fouled up again. The hon. Gentleman should know that section 7 assistance, the type of assistance that applies in the west midlands, is still being used in that region. There is no moratorium on that.

The hon. Gentleman should also know from discussions on the subject that the prejudice of Government against the west midlands emanated directly from Labour Government activity, not least on industrial development certificates. They encouraged industry to leave that region wholesale. We have ended that and have produced much more equality of treatment for each of the assisted areas.