HC Deb 08 February 1995 vol 254 cc338-9
16. Mr. Mc William

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what proposals he has to increase industrial activity in the north-east region.

Mr. Ian Taylor

Overall Government assistance has created 35,000 jobs since 1986. The Department of Trade and Industry will continue to encourage local business through the business links system, through support for inward investment, and through measures set out in the competitiveness White Paper.

Mr. McWilliam

What steps does the Minister propose to take specifically to protect the manufacturing of ammunition in the north-east of England given the talks that are taking place between British Aerospace and GIAT of France, a wholly owned French Government company? That poses a threat to the royal ordnance factory at Birtley and to the jobs and the excellent work that the men do.

Mr. Taylor

I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman is greatly concerned for his constituency and his constituents who work at British Aerospace. It would be inappropriate for me, as a Minister, to intervene in discussions with a private sector company, but I hope that all companies, including British Aerospace, understand the importance of maintaining a presence in a vibrant north-east region. I visit the north-east regularly as sponsor Minister and have excellent meetings with Gateshead metropolitan borough council. There is an influx of inward investment and there is no sign that companies around the world have anything other than the highest regard for the north-east. That may have a determining influence on the discussions to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

Mr. Knapman

Would I be right in thinking that if a British-owned firm, such as an engineering firm in Gloucester, wished to expand its production or perhaps even export its production to Japan, no such subsidies would be available to it, but if a Japanese-owned firm wanted to set up in the north-east, several thousand pounds per job would be available for it? Is that wholly satisfactory?

Mr. Taylor

It is wholly satisfactory for those people employed by the Japanese company in the north-east. There is a constant flow of companies wishing to invest in the north-east-the most obvious recent example was the Korean company, Samsung, which is itself creating 3,000 jobs and to which another 3,000 jobs will be connected through local suppliers. That is extremely good news for the north-east of England and for Government assistance to inward investment. The north-east has benefited particularly from that, which is why the region's vibrancy is now the most striking feature I see when I visit it. I hope that when other north-east Members come to the House, they will talk up and praise what is happening in the north-east so that more and more people in the House appreciate the region.