HC Deb 20 February 1991 vol 186 cc265-6
10. Mr. Hoyle

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the effects of the recession on industry in the north-west.

Mr. Leigh

The defeat of inflation is the only sure way to achieve sustainable economic growth. Business in the north-west is well placed to weather the current downturn and to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the 1990s.

Mr. Hoyle

That was a very complacent reply. In British Rail Engineering Ltd. and Rolls-Royce alone, 1,000 jobs will be lost; 30 per cent. of manufacturing industry has been destroyed by the Government since they came to office; one in three manufacturing jobs in the north-west has been lost; Lewis's, the retail giant, is going into bankruptcy; bankruptcies are running at record levels; and investment is falling. Even though the Minister may have been a car-boot salesman in the past, will he visit the north-west, get out of his limousine and meet real people, who will explain the position there to him? Does he realise that they will tell him that it is time this fag-end Government of weary Willies and tired Tims resigned?

Mr. Leigh

In that long litany the hon. Gentleman wholly failed, as one might expect, to give us any good news about his constituency. Perhaps I can help the good people of Warrington by announcing that recently, Digital Equipment Company, one of the largest computer manufacturers in the world, revealed plans for a £20 million investment in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. It is a pity that he does not speak up more for Warrington, where unemployment is below the national average. But it is not nearly as low as in Clitheroe, in the Ribble Valley constituency, where it is 2.8 per cent.

Mr. Dover

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the official figures for employment in the north-west show an increase of 60,000 in the past 18 months?

Mr. Leigh

My hon. Friend is right. We all know that there has been an increase in employment in the north-west, although we should see it in the context of the fact that more people are in work nationwide than ever before—and in all sectors of the economy. We should also recognise, as I said in my original answer, that the only way to get rid of unemployment in the long run and to ensure that British industry is competitive is to lick inflation. That is the purpose of our policies.

Mr. Henderson

As 25,000 jobs have been lost in recent months in the textile industry, many of them in the north-west, and now that the GATT talks have been resumed and there is an understanding in Europe that no conclusion will be reached before July this year, by when the multi-fibre arrangement will have run out, will the Minister assure the House today that the Government will, without delay, discuss the multi-fibre arrangement at the Council of Ministers and seek its renewal after July, at least for an interim period until the GATT talks are concluded?

Mr. Leigh

The arrangements will continue to the end of the year and there will be a transitional arrangement. It is particularly in the interests of industry, including industry in the north-west, that we obtain a settlement in the GATT negotiations and we intend to do so. If a settlement is achieved the considerable benefit to consumers has been calculated at about £1 billion.