Internal Market

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th December 1989.

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Photo of David Clelland David Clelland , Tyne Bridge 12:00 am, 6th December 1989

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what additional help is being given to businesses to help them to take advantage of the internal market in 1992.

Photo of John McFall John McFall , Dumbarton

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what additional help is being given to businesses to help them to take advantage of the internal market in 1992.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Minister of State (Department of Trade and Industry)

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.

Photo of David Clelland David Clelland , Tyne Bridge

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?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Minister of State (Department of Trade and Industry)

British industry is singularly well equipped to go into the 1992 market. The developments in the hon. Gentleman's own constituency demonstrate that.

Photo of David Clelland David Clelland , Tyne Bridge

What about the £300,000?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Minister of State (Department of Trade and Industry)

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.

Photo of John McFall John McFall , Dumbarton

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?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Minister of State (Department of Trade and Industry)

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.

Photo of Mr David Evans Mr David Evans , Welwyn Hatfield

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?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Minister of State (Department of Trade and Industry)

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.

Photo of Mr Tim Smith Mr Tim Smith , Beaconsfield

Will my hon. Friend encourage the European Commission to give higher priority to the creation of a genuinely single market in insurance services by 1 January 1993?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Minister of State (Department of Trade and Industry)

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.

Photo of Dr Mo Mowlam Dr Mo Mowlam , Redcar

Shall we have to wait until the arrival of the internal market in 1992 before the Minister releases for publication the ombudsman's report into the negligence of his Department in the Barlow Clowes affair?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Minister of State (Department of Trade and Industry)

That goes rather wide of the question—[Interruption.]

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Minister of State (Department of Trade and Industry)

Indeed, when one thinks about it, Mr. Speaker, it goes very wide of the question. That being so, I am not going to answer it.

Photo of Mr Anthony Favell Mr Anthony Favell , Stockport

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—

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. Proceedings in private Bill Committees are not discussed in the Chamber.

Photo of Mr Anthony Favell Mr Anthony Favell , Stockport

Can my hon. Friend confirm that the King's Cross inquiry will be conducted with maximum efficiency and speed?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Minister of State (Department of Trade and Industry)

I certainly hope so, but in view of what my hon. Friend has said, I fancy that that is not entirely in my hands.