§ 2. Mr. Michael J. Foster (Worcester)
What assessment he has made of the impact of his macro-economic policies on levels of employment and unemployment in the west midlands. 
§ The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Andrew Smith)
In the west midlands region, as in the rest of the United Kingdom, we have created a sound and credible platform of economic stability that will help us attain our objective of high and stable levels of growth and employment. Since the election, employment in the west midlands has risen by 53,000 and unemployment has fallen by 14,000, both broadly in line with UK trends.
§ Mr. Foster
I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Is he aware that, in Worcester, unemployment has fallen by 38 per cent. since April 1997? Would he put that down solely to the stability brought about by giving the Bank of England independence, or would he, like me, agree that positive contributions have also been made by the national minimum wage, the working families tax credit, the new deal for the unemployed and the £40 billion extra money to be spent on our schools and hospitals?
§ Mr. Smith
Yes indeed. On the platform of stability that we have created by the decision to which my hon. Friend refers, 193,000 people in the west midlands have benefited from the national minimum wage, 125,000 families have benefited from the working families tax credit, and 36,000 young people have been helped off the dole and into jobs thanks to the new deal. Let us also applaud the businesses in the west midlands and their work forces for making a success of that region's crucially important economy.
§ Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire)
Table B9 of the pre-Budget report shows that, despite recent reassurances, the take from fuel duty will increase dramatically from £21.6 billion this year to a massive £23.5 billion—
§ Madam Speaker
Order. I do not have the material before me, but is it related to the west midlands?
§ Madam Speaker
As a west midlands Member, I know where the boundaries are, and I wanted to make quite sure.
§ Mr. Paterson
I am delighted to share the same region as you, Madam Speaker. Can the Minister name one business in the west midlands that the Government's vicious attack on all road users has made more competitive; and will he cite the number of people who have been made unemployed in the west midlands haulage industry?
§ Mr. Smith
Last month, Johnson Automotive announced another 500 jobs and a new manufacturing plant in the west midlands to produce parts for the new Mini. That is only one of many firms that have extra confidence in the west midlands. I am sure that the 383 hon. Gentleman's constituents, like others in the region, will welcome my right hon. Friend the Chancellor's decision to end the fuel duty escalator that the hon. Gentleman's party introduced, and to ensure that any increases above inflation will be dedicated to public transport and road building, for the benefit of his constituents and the success of a critically important economy.