HC Deb 08 February 1995 vol 254 cc337-8
14. Mr. Orme

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what assessment he has made of future prospects for manufacturing in the north-west region.

Mr. Jonathan Evans

In the competitive international market, a wide range of north-west manufacturing companies continue to win major orders. The latest economic survey by the north-west chambers of commerce provides evidence that the manufacturing and the service sectors in the region are experiencing good levels of business and are showing confidence about their prospects for 1995.

Mr. Orme

Is the Minister aware that the drastic reduction in the engineering industry in the north-west has had a catastrophic effect on the north-west as a whole, and that further redundancies are being announced at British Aerospace? What action will the Government take to offset that problem? Has the Minister considered the proposals made by the Engineering Employers Federation, which has suggested a policy of development, investment and expansion in the engineering industry?

Mr. Evans

The Government continue to engage in a wide range of steps to help the north-western economy. That economy would be helped if more hon. Members representing constituencies in the north-west spoke up for the north-west and drew attention to the fact that, even in a climate in which unemployment has decreased consistently for the past two years, the north-west has played its part, with unemployment decreasing by more than 40,000 in the past 12 months. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the number of people employed in his constituency has increased by more than 1,000 in the past two years.

Mr. Thurnham

Is my hon. Friend aware of the recent Lloyds bank survey, showing that north-west businesses are enjoying a record surge on order books and in profits? Does that not augur well for the future of manufacturing industry in the north-west?

Mr. Evans

I am well aware of the information to which my hon. Friend refers. Undoubtedly, he is one of the hon. Members who portrays a positive view of the north-west, which is so important for winning new inward investment to Britain and to the north-west region.

Mr. Eastham

The Minister has boasted about what he has done for the north-west. I bring to his notice the fact that, in the past 15 years, Trafford Park industrial estate, which was one of the biggest engineering estates in Europe, has become almost a ghost town. We are closing down all the rolling stock companies, cuts are being made in aerospace and the place is a complete disaster, because of the effects of the Government's policies.

Mr. Evans

I am aware of the Trafford Park manufacturing institute and its specific initiative in that district, and officials from the Department are in contact about the initiative in relation to developments in Trafford Park. Let me tell the hon. Gentleman something to set against the image that he chose to give of the north-west: manufacturing investment in the north-west in the five years between 1988 and 1992 amounted to £9.4 billion. The hon. Gentleman would do better to talk up the region than to talk it down.