HC Deb 16 May 1990 vol 172 cc882-3
15. Mr. Bellingham

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent representations he has received from engineering firms in the west midlands.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State regularly receives representations on a range of issues from engineering firms operating in the west midlands.

Mr. Bellingham

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that many companies in King's Lynn and west Norfolk have done well as subcontractors for some of the great firms in the west midlands and, as a result, unemployment has come down sharply? What has happened to the employment picture in the west midlands over the past two years?

Mr. Hogg

Most people would say that that was a planted question, but it is not. However, the answer is extremely cheering. I chanced to have an analysis done of west midlands constituencies and I will share the results with the House. Between March 1989 and March 1990 a sample result showed unemployment in Sutton Coldfield down 29 per cent., in Solihull down 28 per cent., in Halesowen down 26 per cent., in Dudley, West down 21 per cent., in Dudley, East down 19 per cent., in Birmingham, Yardley down 19 per cent., in Birmingham, Hodge Hill down 21 per cent., in Birmingham, Hall Green down 18 per cent. and in Aldridge-Brownhills down 18 per cent.—dramatic falls in unemployment right across the west midlands.

Mr. Grocott

Can the Minister confirm that substantially fewer engineering firms in the west midlands are now in a position to make representations to him than when the Government came to power in 1979?

Mr. Hogg

That is the sort of dreary question that we have got used to hearing from Labour Members. Let us look at the facts. Productivity in the engineering industry in the west midlands has gone up hugely in the past two years, profitability in the west midlands has gone up hugely, exports have gone up very much and inward investment has been extraordinarily successful. The opportunities for the west midlands are huge, and if the hon. Gentleman asks for figures, I will give him them.

Mr. Conway

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that the engineering companies in Shropshire, which is part of the west midlands, are doing well under revitalised mangement? How would they progress if we had an inflation rate of 27 per cent. and the highest corporation tax in the industrialised world—both were legacies of the last Labour Government—if we were ever stupid enough to have another Labour Government?

Mr. Hogg

The plain truth is that the Labour party's policies would be a disaster for the west midlands. Let us examine just two of them. First, by their very nature, Labour's economic policies would cause inflation to escalate fast. Then there is the party's taxation policy. We have not heard much from the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott) about a payroll tax, but it unquestionably features in Labour party policy. A payroll tax which would cost industry about £3 billion would be disastrous.

Mr. Speaker

indicated dissent.

Mr. Hogg

You shake your head, Mr. Speaker, as perhaps you should. [Interruption.] I can take a hint as well as the next man.