HC Deb 03 November 1992 vol 213 cc135-6
7. Mr. Pike

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what the change has been both in numbers and percentage terms of those employed in the manufacturing sector in the north-west from 1979 to the latest date for which figures are available.

Mr. McLoughlin

Between June 1979 and June 1992, the number of employees in manufacturing in the north-west region has fallen by 399,000.

Mr. Pike

Does the Minister accept that that figure must be set against the many people who were involved in manufacturing industry? Is he aware that there have been similar falls of over 30 per cent. in output and investment? These statistics show why manufacturing industries are being destroyed in the north-west and underline why the economy is in such a mess and the pound so weak in comparison with the deutschmark.

Mr. McLoughlin

Not at all. The number of employees in manufacturing industry has been falling since 1966. There is nothing new about a reduction in the number of employees in the industry. In the United Kingdom there is a higher percentage of the work force in this sector than in Australia, Canada, Denmark, the United States, the Netherlands and Spain.

Mr. Nigel Evans

Will my hon. Friend confirm that more than 600 firms from abroad are now based in the north-west for the British market and the Common Market? It is bizarre that Opposition Members speak up in the Chamber for jobs but tomorrow they will vote against jobs.

Mr. McLoughlin

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He is perfectly right. We have been successful in attracting jobs as a result of inward investment because overseas companies have found the United Kingdom the most attractive place in which to invest and create jobs. These are jobs that the Labour party's sidekick—the TUC—describes as alien to our culture, but that is not how we describe them: we describe them as extremely important and recognise that they make an important contribution to the United Kingdom generally and to manufacturing industry particularly.

Mrs. Wise

Is the Minister aware that in Preston 2,000 jobs that depend on the manufacture of trains hang by a thread? Those jobs could be saved if the Government were to go ahead with the extension of the Jubilee line. Will the Department be pressing for the extension?

Mr. McLoughlin

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.

Mr. Dickens

Will my hon. Friend accept that, since time immemorial, the bulk of the wealth of the United Kingdom was created in the north-west, and that companies in the north-west are in very good shape and have a great deal of capacity available? If the GATT rounds are successful and if other things are put in place —for example, the vote on the Maastricht motion tomorrow night—the region can once again start to shine and create wealth.

Mr. McLoughlin

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I think that he is entirely right.

Mr. Bryan Davies

In the light of the disgraceful figures that the Minister has revealed, is there one body concerned with manufacturing industry in the north-west, or one industrialist, who endorses the Government's industrial policies?

Mr. McLoughlin

We have set up a number of training and enterprise councils, which are designed specifically to adapt to local circumstances to answer the needs of local industries. I will not take any lectures from the Opposition, who regard inward investment as something alien. We certainly do not.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Does my hon. Friend rejoice with me that it would appear that we have saved the European fighter aircraft, the finest aircraft since the TSR2, which Harold Wilson destroyed? If that is the case, it will assure a great many jobs in the north-west and elsewhere.

Mr. McLoughlin

I realise that my hon. Friend follows this subject closely. I am grateful for her comments.