HC Deb 20 March 1991 vol 188 cc280-1
16. Mr. John Hughes

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

Mr. Redwood

We have just had a Budget which sets out many favourable things for business which will help those in the west midlands, as elsewhere. The November 1990 survey by the CBI showed that 80 per cent. of all respondents thought that the prospects for the west midlands were good or very good. So do the Government, and we shall give every sensible support that we can.

Mr. Hughes

Does the Minister accept that the Budget was an insult to the 107,000 unemployed men and women in the west midlands? Is he aware that this week production has plummeted once more and that since the spring of 1990 it has fallen in terms of value by £20 billion? That has cost the west midlands 306,000 jobs. Is not it time that the Government, and especially the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget, took manufacturing industry seriously?

Mr. Redwood

The Government take manufacturing industry extremely seriously. There were many measures in the Budget that showed just that. Industry has welcomed the cut in corporation tax and the change in bad debt relief. It has welcomed many other measures in the Budget that will be of great assistance to business in terms of the tax structure and in the way in which taxes are computed. This is a most welcome Budget for business. As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has already said, a large amount of money is being given back to the business sector through the Budget as proposed by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and that will be welcome in the west midlands as elsewhere.

Mr. Gerald Howarth

Does not my hon. Friend agree that manufacturing industry in the west midlands has been transformed for the better by the Government over the past 12 years and is infinitely better placed to meet the present difficulties? Does he further agree that yesterday's Budget paves the way for further interest rate cuts, which will be even more beneficial to British industry, particularly the manufacturing industries in the west midlands which are so capital-intensive?

Mr. Redwood

I know that industry has widely welcomed the interest rate cuts so far and we wish to see more progress on inflation and on the development of the recovery that the Chancellor outlined in his Budget statement. It is also true that there has been a recent letter to a leading national newspaper, commenting on how refreshing it is to hear that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is such a strong supporter of manufacturing and understands its importance in the modern economy.

I endorse the views expressed in that national newspaper by the director general of the Engineering Council.

Dr. Moonie

Will the Minister tell us the forecast for fixed investment in manufacturing industry next year?

Mr. Redwood

A forecast has been published and has already been mentioned during this Question Time. Investment in manufacturing has declined in recent months, but we look forward to a recovery, as the Chancellor outlined in his Budget speech, as the economy improves.

Forward to