HC Deb 03 July 1991 vol 194 cc305-6
7. Mr. Geoffrey Robinson

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to boost manufacturing output in the west midlands.

Mr. Lilley

Manufacturing output in the west midlands, as elsewhere, will be helped by our policies of fostering a competitive environment, encouraging innovation, restoring incentives and, above all, defeating inflation.

Mr. Robinson

Is the Secretary of State aware that every answer that we have heard from him today on manufacturing industry shows him to be totally out of touch with the difficult and deteriorating circumstances under which it must operate? Is not he aware that he is embarked no longer on the defeat of inflation but on the annihilation of British industry? Since the Government came to power, we in the west midlands have lost 33 per cent. of our capacity and 32,000 jobs in manufacturing and, according to the CBI, 80 per cent. of the plants in the west midlands are working below capacity. In those circumstances, what does the right hon. Gentleman intend to do to dispel the clear impression of total incompetence and suspended inactivity on the part of his Department?

Mr. Lilley

That is a bit of a cheek from someone who has played his distinguished part in undermining British industry. The fact is that in the west midlands, which is heavily dependent on the motor car industry, the motor car industry has increased production. In the past few months Rover's production has risen by 4 per cent. and Land-Rover's by 8 per cent. They are exporting a record proportion of their output. I recently visited firms in the west midlands, one of which was exporting 95 per cent. and capturing the world market in its areas. The future for the west midlands, which is a great source of entrepreneurship in Britain, is rosy so long as we pursue the policies that the Government advocate and do not return to policies of nationalisation, intervention and high taxation which the hon. Gentleman advocates.

Mr. Roger King

My right hon. Friend is well known for his open mind in discussing and considering future aspects of policy. Has he heard one single policy from the Opposition which he thinks would help west midlands industry boost its productive capacity?

Mr. Lilley

I must say, having considered the matter with an open mind, that I have not heard a single proposal that is in any way constructive. Indeed, to hide their intellectual vacuum, the Opposition simply retail bad news with relish.

Mr. Henderson

With car sales down 25 per cent., truck sales down 40 per cent. and bus sales down 40 per cent., I do not know who the Secretary of State has been talking to when he visits the west midlands and the car industry. Does not he agree with Mr. Colin Hope, the president of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, that the British motor car industry has been seriously damaged by the recession and that it cannot operate sensibly in the boom or bust environment created by the Government?

Mr. Lilley

The hon. Gentleman exemplifies exactly what I was referring to. He takes an industry which has increased its output and investment and tries to find statistics suggesting its decline. Longbridge in the west midlands has the most advanced manufacturing assembly line in the motor car industry in the world and the highest efficiency in Europe, yet he has nothing but ill to say of it.