We provide a comprehensive single market information service through our Europe Open for Business campaign, which is regularly updated and expanded. The practical assistance available through our enterprise initiative is also particularly relevant to firms preparing for the single market. In the private sector an increasing level of information and advice is being provided to help business to adapt to the liberalised European trading conditions.
Is the Secretary of State aware that although other European countries have been forging ahead for some time with their preparations for 1992, his Department has been so dilatory that the television advertising campaign aimed at assisting British industry was arranged so late that the British taxpayer has been landed with a bill £300,000 higher than it need have been, for which the hon. Gentleman has been severely criticised by the National Audit Office? Is the hon. Gentleman further aware that if a local councillor took a similar decision he would be liable to surcharge and disqualification from office for gross negligence?
British industry is singularly well equipped to go into the 1992 market. The developments in the hon. Gentleman's own constituency demonstrate that.
Unemployment in the hon. Gentleman's constituency has fallen in the past 12 months from 12·1 to 9·8 per cent. and there are two extremely exciting developments there—the Newcastle business park, which will create 2,000 jobs by 1991 and the Gateshead Metro centre, which will create 6,500 jobs by 1991. That shows how well the economy is equipped for 1992.
The Minister will be aware of the comments of Sir John Harvey-Jones, a former chairman of ICI, who said that only half Europe's businesses will survive and that over the next five to seven years the rest will disappear, by acquisition, by mergers or by going bust. Since the implications for big businesses and for small firms are profound, will the Minister turn his attention to the hidden agenda—or is he prepared simply to accept that in areas such as my own in Scotland small businesses on the periphery will disappear because they will be sacrificed on the altar of the Government's twisted approach to 1992?
Yet another hon. Gentleman is allowing his imagination to run riot. As the hon. Gentleman mentioned his own area, let us look at that aspect. I am glad to say that in the past 12 months unemployment in his constituency has fallen from 15·9 to 12·6 per cent. The hon. Gentleman will be pleased, I hope, to know that in the next five years the Scottish Development Agency is planning to spend £10 million in the Leven valley, which is close to the hon. Gentleman's area. That is precisely the kind of commitment that the hon. Gentleman has urged upon us.
I congratulate the Government on the help that they are giving to companies in the run-up to 1992, but does my hon. Friend agree that companies should also be gearing up to meet the opportunities presenting themselves in the eastern bloc and the Soviet Union? Is his Department underwriting the future on the Export Credits Guarantee Department so as to help companies in that new area?
I certainly think that the opportunities offered by the changing situation in the eastern part of Europe are exciting and that British industry should be considering how best it can respond to the investment and trading opportunities in that part of Europe.
My hon. Friend is quite right to address his remarks to that question. It is a material part of the programme and, generally speaking, we encourage the Commission to produce flat playing fields wherever possible.
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is of the utmost importance to construct high-speed links to the Channel tunnel as soon as possible? Can he tell the House why the two Labour members of the King's Cross inquiry Committee did not turn up the other day, at enormous cost—