HC Deb 02 March 2000 vol 345 cc542-3
9. Mr. Colin Pickthall (West Lancashire)

What assessment he has made of the impact of industries set up in the north-west with the help of his Department on similar enterprises in the same area. [111538]

The Minister for Energy and Competitiveness in Europe (Mrs. Helen Liddell)

A key element in determining regional selective assistance is an assessment of the impact of the investment on national and regional economies and on relevant industrial and commercial sectors.

Mr. Pickthall

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the case of Europanel in Skelmersdale? It was a thriving manufacturing concern until a foreign firm opened up in a neighbouring town with the help of the DTI and of DTI grants. Does she agree that we must be much more thorough in assessing the impact on neighbouring firms when we put public money into supporting much needed inward investment in the north-west? Does she further agree that it is unacceptable that the taxpayers of Skelmersdale should, ironically, contribute to the removal of jobs from the town?

Mrs. Liddell

I agree with my hon. Friend that it is important to ensure that no displacement occurs as a consequence of regional selective assistance. I am aware of the case to which he refers. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade met the company in October last year. Should the company want to consult the Government office of the north-west about the possibility of further assistance, officials are ready to hold discussions and will do everything that they can to help the company.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West)

Does the Minister agree that the Government too can take important decisions? Does she agree that the Synchrotron project in Daresbury has given a massive boost both to business and to the academic community in the area? Does she understand the importance of allocating the Diamond project to Daresbury and that it should not go to Oxfordshire? People throughout the north-west—of all parties—want to see that. When shall we have a decision?

Mrs. Liddell

When I visited Runcorn a few weeks ago, the point about Daresbury was powerfully made to me. I realise the strength of local opinion—not least on the part of my hon. Friends who have fought well for the Synchrotron project. A decision has not yet been made, but it should be made shortly.

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