HC Deb 22 March 2001 vol 365 cc289-90W
Mr. Luff

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the performance of the West Midlands Regional Development Agency.[153631]

Ms Beverley Hughes

All the RDA's, including Advantage West Midlands, have made good progress. Advantage West Midlands (AWM) has engaged with all sectors of the local economy to produce a strategy for the region and has agreed with key partners the 60 main actions required to take it forward.

AWM has achieved significant successes. So far this financial year (to February), some 28 companies from abroad have invested in the west midlands, creating 2,100 jobs and safeguarding a further 745. Marconi is moving to a site at Ansty near Coventry and jobs are beginning to emerge at BMW at Hams Hall near Birmingham. AWM has introduced a Regional Venture Capital Fund, the first RDA to do so. It is progressing innovation issues with a very good team of regional partners. It has very clearly defined the region's priority business sectors and is increasingly dovetailing all its activities to support them: the food and drink sector is an excellent example.

In addition, AWM has led the creation of six Regeneration Zones which will focus resources on the areas of greatest need and opportunity—including for the first time, a Rural Regeneration Zone encompassing the Marches.

It has successfully led two emergency Task Forces set up at the behest of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to address crises which have arisen in the region's automotive and ceramics industries. Key recommendations involve the creation of three high-technology corridors along the region's main feeder routes.