My right hon. Friend will be aware that many manufacturing businesses in the west midlands face an uncertain future. At a meeting with the Engineering Employers Federation this week, there was considerable concern about the impact of the climate change levy on the competitiveness of companies with high energy costs that do not qualify for negotiated agreements under current arrangements. One business faces additional costs of £1,000 per employee. Will my right hon. Friend undertake to raise with the Chancellor the possibility of a rebate for companies that undertake to reach ISO 14001 environmental standards? In that way, CO2 emissions can be reduced
I fully appreciate my hon. Friend's concern and the representation made by the Engineering Employers Federation. She will accept that taxation is always a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, but I shall ensure that her concerns and those of the industry are passed on to my right hon. Friend at the earliest opportunity.
Is the Minister aware of the CBI's view that the climate change levy favours only organisations that are going to make a change, rather than those that have already invested in change, which include Sony in south Wales—[HON. MEMBERS: "West midlands"]—and many organisations in my constituency and in that of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Dr. Jones). I am a west midlands Member of Parliament, as you know, Mr. Speaker. Has not legislation introduced by the Government destroyed industry in my constituency, including Armitage Shanks, one of the largest manufacturers of toiletware in the United Kingdom? It is all very well for the Minister for Trade to laugh, but hundreds of people were employed by Armitage Shanks, which was a major exporter—
I remind the hon. Gentleman that the director general of the CBI, Digby Jones, made clear in his speech that he was pleased that boom and bust had been removed for the first time in a long time. One of the most expensive commodities for business is uncertainty. This country now has the soundest macro-economic framework that it has had for many years. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, we also have the best employment figures for many years. We have reduced by a quarter of a million the number of young people who were unemployed when we came to power. This country's biggest impediment to growth is lack of skills and the diabolical position in which the previous Administration left the economy, which we are now struggling to put right.