HC Deb 11 May 1988 vol 133 cc307-8
6. Mr. Anthony Coombs

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what are the figures for manufacturing investment in the west midlands for the years 1983 and 1987.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Industry (Mr. Robert Atkins

Regional investment data for 1987 are not yet available. Net capital expenditure, at 1980 prices, by manufacturing industry in the west midlands in 1983 and 1986 was £489 million and £603 million respectively.

Mr. Coombs

Does my hon. Friend agree that those excellent figures show that the west midlands manufacturing industry has been enabled to increase its productivity by 7 per cent. last year, to increase market share and thereby to increase employment in the industry? Will he confirm that any further improvements in competitiveness depend crucially on further improvements in productivity, which depend on wage settlements reflecting increasing productivity, but not exceeding it?

Mr. Atkins

My hon. Friend has made the case exactly.

Mr. Nellist

Is not the figure that really matters the assets per worker in factories in the west midlands, which is still at a historically low level in real terms, because companies in the west midlands prefer to take the wealth that workers create in short-term profits rather than invest for the future? Is that not the real reason why under this Government the west midlands and the rest of the country are becoming the warehouse of the world, instead of what used to be known as the workshop of the world?

Mr. Atkins

The west midlands is an extremely important part of Britain. Many of my hon. Friends who represent constituencies in the area will vouchsafe what we know to be true, which is that many of the workers in the west midlands are doing extremely well and tend to vote Conservative in greater numbers as a result of their prosperity.

Mr. Gould

Does the Minister recall that in a debate last week of great importance to investment in the west midlands I questioned the assertion of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that Rover had recorded record exports last year? Will the Minister ask his right hon. and learned Friend whether he has now confirmed, as my researchers have, that Rover's exports last year of 165,000 cars fell well short of the 200,000 that it exported in 1979? Will he now admit the error to the House and set the record straight?

Mr. Atkins

They were record exports in value, not volume.

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