HC Deb 19 October 1993 vol 230 cc130-1
2. Mr. Matthew Taylor

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many people were employed in manufacturing industry in Somerset, Wiltshire, Devon and Cornwall, respectively, in 1983 and at the latest available date.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. David Hunt)

The information is not available in the form requested, but I am happy to be able to tell the hon. Gentleman that the number employed in the civilian work force in the south-west between 1983 and 1993 rose by 279,000—the highest increase of any region in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Taylor

But if the Minister had answered the question that he was asked, he would have accepted that manufacturing employment had fallen dramatically in those areas, most of all in Cornwall, and that many local businesses associate that with the Government policies that have given us the highest gas, electricity and water prices in the country, yet lower levels of support than other deprived areas such as Scotland and Wales. Does the Secretary of State accept the case of the business men who feel that it is time that the south-west was given a fair deal by the Government?

Mr. Hunt

I cannot quite follow the hon. Gentleman's question—[interruption.] I know that he is only a Liberal, I shall take the Liberals seriously when they take politics and decision making seriously. I hoped that the hon. Gentleman would pay tribute to the substantial rise in the number of self-employed people in the south-west, which has risen from 215,000 in 1983 to almost 300,000 now. That bodes well for the future of the south-west.

Mr. Nicholls

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Liberal party is the most federalist party in the House of Commons and has called, throughout, for the full cost of the social chapter to be dumped on British employers? How many jobs would have been destroyed in the west country if the social charter had been implemented in full?

Mr. Hunt

Undoubtedly, thousands of jobs would be destroyed if we were to implement the policies proposed by the official Opposition and the Liberal party. I recall that the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) was once a defence spokesman for the Liberal party.

Mr. Matthew Taylor

indicated dissent.

Mr. Hunt

The musical chairs stopped in that direction at one stage. Of course, the Liberal party's defence policies would destroy many defence jobs in the south-west, which would be bad news.