HC Deb 03 July 1985 vol 82 cc323-5
9. Mr. Janner

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he will take steps to aid the traditional industries of Leicester.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. John Butcher)

Firms in Leicester are eligible for assistance through my Department's national schemes of support.

Mr. Janner

Does the Minister not recognise that those schemes are wholly inadequate to meet the savage burden of unemployment which afflicts a city which was once very prosperous? What is needed is a specific undertaking to aid the traditional industries of Leicester, rather than the platitudes with which pleas have been greeted during the past six years.

Mr. Butcher

I do not agree that there is any longer any such thing as a traditional industry. Even those companies making traditional products are now using new production techniques, so, to that extent, they are newer industries.

On the question of the economic health of Leicester, I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman took note of the following comment on Radio Leicester yesterday: Leicester's knitwear industry has improved to such an extent that most firms will be able to guarantee their employees full time working until the end of the year, after their return from holiday fortnight. Sec. Bill Boggen of the Knitwear Industry Association says there was confidence and optimistic atmosphere in the industry. The hon. and learned Gentleman may have a vested interest in his doom and gloom statement, but I am satisfied that the schemes — for example, support for innovation — that are available to what he calls the traditional industries of Leicester are relevant and valuable.

Mr. Richard Page

Does my hon. Friend agree that Government policies have dramatically improved investment and productivity in industries such as those in Leicester? Would he care to build on that by having a word with our right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer about bringing down interest rates whenever practicable to help the industries in Leicester?

Mr. Butcher

Interest rates are rightly a question for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. It is in the interests of industry and commerce generally that the Government should continue to reduce public expenditure so as to give my right hon. Friend as much room as possible to manoeuvre on interest rates.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels

Is my hon. Friend aware that the problems in Leicester outlined by the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) are absolute nonsense? Leicester is doing considerably better than it ever did before. Rate capping has come in and ensured that business men are now getting on with running their businesses. More jobs are appearing on the scene, and young and useful enterprise companies are now creating additional jobs. The only thing that Leicester actually needs is for the Government to get off our backs, for there to be less form-filling and for there to be continued help and advice from the small firms centre, which does so well.

Mr. Butcher

After today's exchanges, I am sure that the residents of Leicester will agree with me that it is my hon. Friend who is doing his best to protect the interests of the city of Leicester. There is no mileage in peddling doom and gloom about any city.