HC Deb 20 February 1991 vol 186 cc269-70
14. Mrs. Mahon

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he intends to visit West Yorkshire during the next three months to discuss industrial and regional development.

Mr. Leigh

My right hon. Friend has no current plans to do so.

Mrs. Mahon

That is a disgraceful answer. Calderdale has lost 3,000 jobs in the past 12 months, most of them in manufacturing. We get no outside aid and one area in my constituency, Sowerby Bridge, has been particularly devastated by the Government's economic policies. We were promised help by another Department, but it pulled out at the last minute. Is not it time that the Government developed a regional policy to help towns such as mine which are suffering badly because of the Government's disastrous economic policies?

Mr. Leigh

As one might expect, the hon. Lady does not give the whole picture about what is happening in Yorkshire. Perhaps she missed last week's Yorkshire Post, which I have here. It says: Business confidence in Yorkshire, although falling, is more buoyant than anywhere else in the nation, the Confederation of British Industry claimed last night. The 'not having it quite as bad' evidence, backed up by yesterday's small cut in interest rates, bolstered beliefs that the region might be nearing the bottom of its recession. Unemployment in Calderdale has fallen by 5,000 in the past five years. The hon. Lady, who always strikes me as having the charm of a tricoteuse in the French revolution, should, for once, give the good news about Calderdale, which is well placed.

Mrs. Peacock

When my hon. Friend visits West Yorkshire, as well as looking at what the hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) mentioned, will he examine some of the successful companies that have been investing, are investing and are planning to invest in the future?

Mr. Leigh

Yes, of course. The hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) did not say that 20,000 new companies have set up in Yorkshire. She did not explain all the advantages that Yorkshire and Humberside have in the single market in attracting inward investment. She did not mention, in her strictures about regional policy, that in the current public expenditure survey round, we are planning to spend £600 million on regional policy.

Ms. Quin

If the Minister decides to have discussions with people in West Yorkshire or elsewhere on regional policy, will he take the opportunity of disowning the views that he gave in the No Turning Back group publication on regional policy, in which he claimed that European regional policy and the European regional development fund served no purpose? Will he make it clear to the House that the views of that group are not the views of the Department of Trade and Industry?

Mr. Leigh

There seem to be three phases in the life of a parliamentarian—angry young man, angry old man and Minister in the middle. As a Minister, I fully support Government policy.

Mr. Michael Brown

Speaking as a member of the No Turning Back group to another member of the group, may I again draw my hon. Friend's attention to the Yorkshire Post from which he just quoted and refer him to its business section last Thursday where the headline was: Yorkshire industry lifts its head above the gloom. May I draw his attention, for the occasion when he visits Yorkshire and Humberside, to an article referring to the growth in the docks industry in the Yorkshire and Humberside region which it says is a result of the removal of the restrictive practices that characterised the industry? Will my hon. Friend tell the hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) that the message is that Yorkshire and Humberside benefit every time restrictive practices are lifted?

Mr. Leigh

I have to tell Opposition Members that I could hardly fail to visit Yorkshire and Humberside. I do so every Saturday when I go across the Humber bridge to do my shopping in one of the supermarkets of my hon. Friend the Minister for Trade. My hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) speaks out well for Humberside. He led the fight for the port and we congratulate him.

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