HC Deb 06 November 1996 vol 284 cc1228-9
7. Mr. Campbell-Savours

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what proposals he has for the further review of regional policy and industrial incentives. [531]

Mr. Greg Knight

There are no plans at present to review regional policy and industrial incentives.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Ministers know that the designation of assisted area status is directly linked to the level of unemployment as shown in the statistics. I do not believe the official published statistics for unemployment in my constituency. I believe that they are fiddled, false and untrue, and that they grossly misrepresent the situation in Workington. Will Ministers sponsor a house-to-house survey in my constituency to establish precisely the real level of unemployment so that, the next time there is a review of assisted area status, real data can be taken into account?

Mr. Knight

The hon. Gentleman is being ridiculously downbeat about the situation in his constituency. West Cumbria has objective 2 area status, which means that it is eligible for investment funds for business support measures. [HON. MEMBERS: "Reading."] I am not reading. On house-to-house surveys, I suggest that he does some canvassing. He will find that many of his constituents have seen the improvement in our economy, the continuing fall in unemployment and continuing inward investment.

Mr. Jacques Arnold

Is not the greatest industrial incentive a sound economy such as the Government have created here, and the absence of the social chapter which the Opposition would impose on this economy?

Mr. Knight

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. One reason why we are not reviewing this policy is that it has been and is a great success.

Mr. Pearson

Is the Minister aware that regions such as Baden-WÖCrttemberg in Germany and Emilia Romagna in Italy, whose manufacturing sectors compete directly with those in the west midlands, enjoy living standards that are, on average, 40 per cent. higher than those in that region? When will the Government instigate a real regional policy and provide the amount of industrial support that our competitors enjoy?

Mr. Knight

The other day, I saw a reference to a German report that praised the British economy and said that its strength explained why we were winning the lion's share of inward investment—not just in the west midlands but in the east midlands and other areas, too.

Mr. Atkins

Is my hon. Friend aware that the north-west region, where my constituency is, is doing extremely well in terms of the incentives that it offers to the rest of the world? That is why, for instance, that great Japanese company, Isuzu, decided to build trucks at Leyland in my constituency—it was the most profitable option on offer compared with anywhere else in the world. Does that not confirm the view that the President and my hon. Friend have expressed, that the only incentive needed is a continuation of a Conservative Government?

Mr. Knight

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The motor industry is a good example. In the 1960s and 1970s, companies such as General Motors were looking to get out of Britain. Today, they are increasing their investment here. Only three weeks ago, Vauxhall announced a new £200 million investment in Ellesmere Port. General Motors is moving investment into Britain under our current arrangements.