Birmingham

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th February 1972.

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Photo of Mr Raymond Carter Mr Raymond Carter , Birmingham, Northfield 12:00 am, 7th February 1972

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he is satisfied with the level of industrial activity in Birmingham; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

No, but I am confident that industry in Birmingham as elsewhere will see the benefit of the measures taken by the Government to expand the economy.

Photo of Mr Raymond Carter Mr Raymond Carter , Birmingham, Northfield

In spite of his confident reply, is not the hon. Gentleman aware that unemployment in Birmingham continues to rise and is now at its highest level for 35 years? Apart from the many suggestions which have been made today about the West Midlands, will the hon. Gentleman seriously consider expanding the ordering programme of the public sector for capital goods which could rapidly stimulate the economy of the engineering industry in the West Midlands?

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I share the hon. Gentleman's concern about the figures for the West Midlands, but I point out that they include nearly 8,000 temporarily stopped, of whom half are on strike, which is rather a different matter. The Government have already brought forward a considerable amount of nationalised industry investment which, I hope, will have the desired effect.

Photo of Mr Joseph Kinsey Mr Joseph Kinsey , Birmingham, Perry Barr

I appreciate what my hon. Friend has said, but does he not recognise that part of the argument about Government interference in industry is that moving industry into other areas only depresses Birmingham? Would he consider improving the position of small businesses, which are Birmingham's backbone? When will he move in that direction?

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I agree that there is a great potential in the small business sector, and we have already announced many measures which are helping to allow small firms to expand. We are considering the remaining recommendations of the Bolton Committee to that end.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Worcestershire South

Is my hon. Friend aware that notwithstanding the 45 per cent. increase in sales of motor cars—and the motor industry is based fundamentally on Birmingham—since the July measures by the Chancellor of the Exchequer unemployment has gone up? How does my hon. Friend explain this extraordinary paradox?

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

There are many factors at work. I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that the recession in the engineering industry is not confined to Birmingham, or even to the country as a whole.