HC Deb 01 May 1991 vol 190 cc308-9
11. Mr. Corbett

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

Mr. Redwood

The hon. Gentleman asks about the policies of the Department of Trade and Industry. They were recently set out by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on the question of helping manufacturing industry. [Interruption.] I thought that we were on Question 11.

Mr. Speaker

Correct. Is the Minister not answering Question 11?

Mr. Redwood

I am answering Question 11.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State set out the policies for supporting and helping manufacturing industry. The west midlands is a region which did extremely well in the 1980s, reaching record levels of output, investment and productivity. Our policies of promoting inward investment and assisting business and our budget for business will facilitate that progress in the 1990s.

Mr. Corbett

That confusing reply will send shivers down the spine of most manufacturers in Birmingham and the west midlands. Does not the Minister know or care that manufacturing investment is set to fall by 17 per cent. this year and that, since 1980, 370,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector in the west midlands have gone? Does he not realise that, in this second recession, the car industry in particular in the west midlands is being crippled? When will he start doing something to assist the manufacturing sector, on which we rely for our economic success?

Mr. Redwood

That was a confusing question. The hon. Gentleman does not seem to recognise the great achievements of the 1980s or the fact that investment reached record levels by the end of that decade. The adjustment downwards in investment still leaves it well above the level of the 1970s, when the Labour party had a chance to do something for manufacturing industry but let it down so badly. All the Government's economic policies are geared to creating the conditions in which enterprise can flourish. Healthy industry depends on competitive markets, low taxation, the attraction of inward investment and the proposals set out by my right hon. Friend in his statement yesterday, which clearly showed all that the Government are doing through the DTI to assist manufacturing industry. The hon. Gentleman should look at the facts and see that many overseas countries and companies are now investing here, because they know that the climate is good for manufacturing investment.

Mr. Sayeed

When my hon. Friend has met manufacturers in the west midlands and elsewhere, has he found that they understand that, during the past decade under a Conservative Government, manufacturing investment and output increased by 20 per cent., manufacturing productivity by 60 per cent. and manufacturing profitability by 250 per cent?

Mr. Redwood

What my hon. Friend says about the success of the nation as a whole is right. If Opposition Members claim to speak for the west midlands, they should start to recognise how much success there was in that region in the 1980s, and how that success will continue in the 1990s if we stick to the right policies for manufacturing industry. The fact that so many firms are investing in the area—only the other day Brose announced a major investment in car-related supplies—shows that international investors know something that the Labour party does not know: that Britain is getting it right and will be a major manufacturing centre in the 1990s.