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Industry (Government Support)

Part of Opposition Day — [1st allotted day] – in the House of Commons at 4:58 pm on 16th June 2010.

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Photo of Alan Campbell Alan Campbell Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 4:58 pm, 16th June 2010

No. The hon. Gentleman has had his chance.

One NorthEast has been a leading player in the New and Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth and along the north bank of the Tyne, in low-carbon vehicles at Nissan on Wearside, and in the Printable Electronics Technology Centre in County Durham. Every one of those developments had at their heart a level of operation between private investors and the public sector. There may be support for small businesses for local authorities to pick up, but I am concerned that without such strategic action, the big national decisions will go elsewhere. My fear is that that will be bad news for the north-east.

If the Government are getting rid of RDAs in England, as has been suggested, have they spoken to the devolved Administrations in Wales and Scotland about them getting rid of their RDAs? One of the first issues that I took up in 1997 was the case of LG Electronics. That company went to Wales because we in the north-east did not have the money, but the Welsh Development Agency did. LG did not stay there, but Wales pinched the jobs.

Cuts in the RDA budget are already affecting jobs in my constituency: the Seafood Training Centre looks as if it will close its doors. Again, a troop of Conservative spokespersons went to that training agency and said how important it was, but now it is closing its doors, which is another bitter blow for the local fishing industry. That is why the Government need to be much clearer than they have been today about their plans for RDAs.

The Business Secretary said that

"changes depend very much on the reaction of local business and local authorities."-[ Hansard, 3 June 2010; Vol. 510, c. 556.]

I can tell him that One NorthEast has the support of local authorities, five universities, the Northern Business Forum, the CBI, the chamber of commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Engineers Employers Federation, so let us see him get on and back it.

Of course, we know why there is dither: there is disagreement at the heart of the coalition. The Communities and Local Government Secretary-the man with the money-wants the money to go to local enterprise partnerships, but the Business Secretary, who is in charge of the sponsoring Department, favours regional economic enterprise partnerships, rather like RDAs. As my hon. Friend Phil Wilson said, this afternoon we have simply heard confirmation of uncertainty. That adds to confusion, and it is not good for business.

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