HC Deb 16 October 1991 vol 196 cc301-2
8. Mr. Clelland

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he will next meet representatives of the north-east regional Confederation of British Industry to discuss industrial policy.

Mr. Lilley

I visited the north-east in August and again in September 1991 when I met a wide cross-section of business people. I expect to meet CBI representatives from all regions when I attend their national conference.

Mr. Clelland

Is the Secretary of State aware that in this first year of office of his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister business failures in the north have risen by 50 per cent. and mortgage repossessions by 60 per cent., and that unemployment is now running at 200,000? When the only major political initiative—pardon the pun—in the region has been taken within the region by the trade unions, local authorities and the CBI in setting up the Northern Development company, how can the Secretary of State convince the CBI that business as usual at No. 10 is good for business in the north?

Mr. Lilley

The north-east is doing much better than it has done previously at this stage of the economic cycle, although Members like the hon. Gentleman talk it down and ignore the progress made even in their own constituencies. He did not mention the Newcastle business park, which by the end of this year is creating 5,000 jobs in his constituency, or the Vickers order, which will go to the Vickers Defence Systems tank factory in his constituency, or British Airways taking 700 jobs by 1994 to his constituency, or the Gateshead Metrocentre, which is the largest in Europe and has created 6,500 jobs in his constituency.

Mr. Amos

Does my right hon. Friend accept that what he has just said proves why the north-east is doing so well and has been able to weather the recession better than most regions? If a Labour Government ever took office, they would impose a devolved assembly with higher taxes and more bureaucracy, which would drive industry from the region. It is about time Labour Members spoke up for the north-east instead of running it down.

Mr. Lilley

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. During my visits to the north-east, not a single business man has expressed the least desire for the sort of regional assembly to which he refers. A reason why the region is doing particularly well is that it has been outstandingly successful in attracting inward investment, notably from Japan. The threat to that posed by the TUC motion condemning Japanese investment as alien would be even more damaging to the north-east than to the rest of the British economy. People there are well aware of that and are appalled that no Labour Front-Bench spokesman has been prepared to disown it.

Mr. Gordon Brown

When the Secretary of State visited the north-east was not he condemned by the very business men he visited in Gateshead? Does he now accept that, despite the complacency that he exhibits, those in the north-east and elsewhere expect that another 90,000 jobs will go in engineering, another 40,000 jobs will go in the car industry and that another 100,000 jobs are still to go in the construction industry? What does the Secretary of State say to the 40,000 businesses that are going under in the north-east this year? What does he say to manufacturers who, having faced an 18 per cent. fall in manufacturing investment this year, will, according to the CBI, face another 9 per cent. fall in 1992? If the Secretary of State is so proud of his record, as he told the Conservative conference, why does he not put his record and that of the Government to the electorate?

Mr. Lilley

On the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, the answer is no, they do not, he should not believe everything that he reads in the newspapers. On the second part of his question, I note that the hon. Gentleman failed to take the opportunity to dissociate the Labour party from the TUC motion that condemned Japanese investment. That investment has been one of the most important sources of jobs, new investment and higher incomes in the north-east. The hon. Gentleman discredits the Labour party.

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