HC Deb 10 June 1992 vol 209 cc297-8
11. Mr. Kilfoyle

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what representations he has received from businesses in the north-west concerning the effects of the recession on industry.

Mr. Heseltine

Ministers and officials of my Department receive considerable correspondence about the state of business in the north-west.

Mr. Kilfoyle

Given that two Tory recessions have cost a third of a million manufacturing jobs in the north-west and that last year 4,130 businesses in the north-west went bust—a 54 per cent. increase on the previous year—would not Ministers be better served by changing their approach and policies rather than the title of their Department?

Mr. Heseltine

It is curious that the hon. Gentleman should ask me that question when, if his party had been elected to government, it would by now have refused to order the fourth Trident submarine and be threatening the nuclear industry in the north-west and slaughtering the defence budget on which so many companies there depend.

Mrs. Peacock

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the importance of the GATT negotiations not only to the textile industry in the north-west, but to Yorkshire. Can he assure the House that the Government will retain their robust position on the GATT round in the hope of a successful outcome for textiles as well as agriculture?

Mr. Heseltine

My hon. Friend raises perhaps the most important opportunity facing our companies. We are committed to doing everything in our power to press our colleagues to reach an early conclusion to the GATT round, and I assure my hon. Friend that we shall continue to do so.

Mr. Hoyle

As the President of the Board of Trade has taken that rather pompous title, does it mean that he is no longer bothered about industry and energy, or can he tell the people of the north-west what he intends to do about all the industry that has been destroyed by the Government and about the last remaining pit which is hanging on by a thread?

Mr. Heseltine

The fact that the hon. Gentleman somehow thinks that trade has nothing to do with industry or the price of energy is a devastating revelation of the ignorance of the attitudes of the Labour party.

Mr. Sumberg

Does my right hon. Friend recall that before the election the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Kilfoyle) came to the House to forecast doom and gloom for the north-west, saying that there would not be one Conservative seat left and that we should be completely decimated in that area? Should we not therefore take his forecasts with a large pinch of salt?

Mr. Heseltine

I have not kept such a beady eye on the hon. Gentleman as my hon. Friend has. Perhaps I shall do so in the future, although on mature reflection I very much doubt whether I shall.