West Midlands

Oral Answers to Questions — Industry – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th November 1982.

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Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North 12:00 am, 29th November 1982

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what steps he is taking to improve the industrial position in the West Midlands; and what increase in industrial activity he expects thereby.

Photo of Mr Norman Lamont Mr Norman Lamont , Kingston upon Thames

Recent announcements of cuts in the national insurance surcharge, freezes on gas and electricity prices and increased local authority capital spending will provide further help to industry. In addition, as a consequence of our economic policies, lower inflation and interest rates are providing a better climate for industry. Between 1982 and 1983, total output in the economy is expected to increase by 1½ per cent.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

Facing the real situation, is the hon. Gentleman aware that, despite the reassuring noises made by Ministers, the industrial position in the West Midlands is as bleak as ever, with numerous plants closing? When is it likely that industrial activity in the West Midlands will be the same as it was when the Government took office?

Photo of Mr Norman Lamont Mr Norman Lamont , Kingston upon Thames

The Government's expectation is that GDP and output will grow this year. That is a view shared by outside forecasts. The consensus of outside forecasts is that GDP will grow by 2 per cent. in 1983 compared with 1982, and the national insurance surcharge reduction will give £1·5 billion aid to industry. Of course industry has had a difficult time. What the hon. Member has to tell the House is whether the Labour Party's plan for a 30 per cent. devaluation, higher public spending, higher inflation and higher interest rates will do other than add to unemployment. It is little wonder, therefore, that the Shadow Foreign Secretary disowned the Labour Party's plan.

Photo of Mr John Stokes Mr John Stokes , Halesowen and Stourbridge

Is my hon. Friend aware that industry in the West Midlands does not want handouts from the taxpayer, but expects parity of treatment with other regions, which it has not had in the past, and looks forward to further reductions in taxation and, we hope, in rates and all the other imposts which bear so heavily on the private manufacturing sector?

Photo of Mr Norman Lamont Mr Norman Lamont , Kingston upon Thames

I am sure that my hon. Friend speaks for many business men in the West Midlands, and that is why they support our changes in regional policy which have reduced the area of the country covered by regional policy from 44 to 27 per cent. That has lessened the comparative disadvantage that the West Midlands suffered.

Photo of Mr George Park Mr George Park , Coventry North East

Will the Minister reconsider his arm's length relationship with the further shrinkage of the machine tool industry in Coventry? I notice that the hon. Gentleman is frowning. He duck-shoved it when I wrote to him about it. In view of all the wonderful achievements of the Government, about which the Minister has told us, how does he explain the loss of 4,000 jobs in Coventry in the past month?

Photo of Mr Norman Lamont Mr Norman Lamont , Kingston upon Thames

As regards the machine tool industry, we shall consider any applications for help made under section 8 of the Industry Act. A number of firms in Coventry have been helped in this way. I repeat that firms in the hon. Gentleman's constituency will benefit from the cuts in national insurance and in the interest rate. That is what industry wants. It wants help on costs.

Photo of Mr Hilary Miller Mr Hilary Miller , Bromsgrove and Redditch

In March 1979 the chairman of the West Midlands economic planning council pointed out all the consequences that would flow unless the region adapted to new and innovative industries. In view of that, will my hon. Friend not weary of making propaganda for all the assistance available from the Government for innovation and new technology? Will he also explain why the region has made only 10 per cent. of the applications from the whole country for assistance under the microprocessor application scheme, for example?

Photo of Mr Norman Lamont Mr Norman Lamont , Kingston upon Thames

My hon. Friend has made a good point. Although applications from his area for the microprocessor application scheme have been disappointing, on other schemes, such as the small firms engineering scheme, a great deal of the aid has gone to the West Midlands. I am sure that that will be the case with other schemes put forward by the Department.