HC Deb 23 June 1993 vol 227 cc284-5
2. Mr. Mandelson

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what plans he has to strengthen the manufacturing base of the north-east.

The Minister for Industry (Mr. Tim Sainsbury)

My Department's policies and programmes are aimed at strengthening the manufacturing base of all regions.

Mr. Mandelson

Is the Minister aware of the high expectations among people in the north-east of the Government's new industry policy following the Chancellor's Mansion House speech last week? When the Chancellor was asked for details of that policy at Question Time last Thursday, he said that he could not pre-empt the work of the President of the Board of Trade. What would the Chancellor have been pre-empting?

Mr. Sainsbury

I hoped that the hon. Gentleman would recognise what was done for industry in the recent Budget of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Thames (Mr. Lamont), which was much appreciated by industry. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is also well aware of the initiatives that my Department has taken and is continuing to take in dialogue and partnership with industry to broaden and strengthen Britain's manufacturing base.

Mr. Bates

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the 50 north-east manufacturing firms that met in Middlesbrough on Monday of this week to launch the Teesside Manufacturing Challenge? Is he aware that that excellent initiative is a self-help initiative designed to fund manufacturing apprenticeships at the excellent Teesside Training Enterprise, Ltd., which already provides similar apprenticeships for more than 600 young people in the region? Is not that further evidence, if it were needed, of the dynamism, vitality and foresight of manufacturing industry in the north-east?

Mr. Sainsbury

It is indeed, and I am happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating the private sector on the initiative, which has the ambitious target of doubling manufacturing output and has rightly identified training as one sector which needs attention and improvement if the target is to be met.

Mr. Jack Thompson

Is the Minister aware of the vast number of skilled personnel in the northern part of the northern region who are unemployed? The result is that skills related to the shipyards, mines and heavy engineering are now decaying as there are no longer the skilled personnel to pass on their skills. That is a major problem in that part of the region along the Tyne valley and Northumberland, which is not receiving the necessary response from the Government. I accept the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), who represents a constituency in the southern part of the northern region. Instead of Ministers making a two-hour visit to the region—which the Minister and his colleagues have done—would it not be better if they visited the region, perhaps during the recess, for two or three days or even two or three weeks to discover the truth of the northern region?

Mr. Sainsbury

I know that the hon. Gentleman is concerned about such issues. He will be aware that there has been too high a level of unemployment in that region for a long time—since before the last world war. We have discussed the issue and my hon. Friend the Minister for Energy has been to look at the position on the ground, and will be visiting the district again soon. We shall continue with a range of initiatives, about which the hon. Gentleman is aware, to do all that we can to help to provide employment opportunities for those wanting jobs in his region and throughout the north-east.

Mr. Devlin

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the high concentration of manufacturing businesses in the north-east of England that have already achieved BS5750? Is that not part and parcel of the excellent initiative that the Government have pursued in bringing one third of all inward investment to the European Community into this country? The emphasis on quality, which is now moving through north-east manufacturing business at all levels, will enable them to compete much more strongly in future.

Mr. Sainsbury

My hon. Friend is right to identify the importance of quality as one way in which we can achieve success for our manufacturing industry. He is also right to recognise the contribution to jobs in the north-east made by inward investment. That contribution will continue to be made by inward investment, because the Government believe in promoting it.

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