HC Deb 14 June 1995 vol 261 cc791-2
16. Mr. Turner

To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many manufacturing companies existed in the west midlands in 1979; and how many of these were trading in 1993. [26819]

Mr. Page

VAT-registered businesses in the production sector, which includes manufacturing, mining, quarrying and public utilities in the west midlands region, increased from 14,445 in 1979 to 17,579 at the end of 1993.

Mr. Turner

How does the volume of output in 1979 compare with that in 1993, and what was the value of that output? May I remind the Minister that, between 1980 and 1983, we saw the destruction of manufacturing industry in the west midlands, when one third of capacity was lost? That was due to the calamitous policies of Lord Howe, who should be tried for industrial treason.

Mr. Page

There is no doubt that the productivity, output and exports of this country are all increasing. It is all good news, and the only thing that is going down is unemployment. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman did not refer to the fact that his constituency was changed from intermediate to assisted area status in 1993. Regional selective assistance produced some £6.5 million, leading to £65 million being invested in his area. Companies such as Sun Valley Foods, Canon Processing Equipment and Bilstone and Battersea Enamels are all creating and safeguarding more than 1,000 jobs in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. Why is he not grateful?

Mr. Anthony Coombs

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Engineering Employers Federation has issued figures which show that £160 billion worth of goods have been sold by the engineering industry in the past year, that exports since 1980 have doubled and that manufacturing output is at a near-record level for the engineering industry? Do not those statistics compare significantly with the efforts of the previous Labour Government, when manufacturing output fell?

Mr. Page

I can only agree with my hon. Friend. It is significant that the amount of employment in manufacturing has gone up by 31,000 in the past year. It is interesting to note that unemployment in the west midlands is now 8.4 per cent. That is lower than the national average, and it is dropping quicker than the national average.

Madam Speaker

Mr. Andrew Faulds.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Faulds

Louder, louder!

Some of my older colleagues—there are a few left—may remember that when Baroness Thatcher first stood at that Dispatch Box in 1979, I warned that she would create of Britain a disaster area. Where could that be truer than in the west midlands?

Mr. Page

Unfortunately, while the hon. Gentleman's rhetoric is strong, his facts are remarkably weak.