May I suggest that the Secretary of State arranges an urgent meeting with the CBI to discuss the disastrous fall in manufacturing employment in the north-west? After two Tory-inspired recessions, manufacturing employment has fallen by an appalling 301,000, which is a colossal 31 per cent. When he has that urgent meeting with the CBI, will the right hon. Gentleman tell the CBI that the Government have abandoned their prejudice against manufacturing industry, and will he join the Labour party in giving hope to thousands of unemployed people in the north-west by saying in future that manufacturing industry matters to the regions?
I have recently made a number of visits to the north-west, where I visited businesses in Bolton, Bury, Clitheroe, Ellesmere Port, Liverpool, Manchester, Skelmersdale and Warrington. I was impressed by the progress that has been made in diversification and modernisation over the past decade. Most impressive of all was the Ellesmere Port Vauxhall works, which started exporting cars for the first time for 11 years last September and which now exports 40 per cent. of its output and takes on a new foreign market every fortnight.
The principal constituency employer of the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Bradley), is the health service, but no less than 55 per cent. of employment in Pendle is in manufacturing. Although trading conditions are not easy at present, may I advise my right hon. Friend that the vast majority of manufacturing employers are keeping their nerve and fully support the Government's policy of steadily bringing down interest rates and inflation?
I am glad to hear that from my hon. Friend. When I was in the region, I was impressed by the fact that the number of firms trading in the area has increased over the past decade by nearly one fifth, and that the number of manufacturing firms has increased by one quarter. That is very good, and shows a strength and ability to resist the downturn and to diversify away from traditional industries.