Thank you, Mr Speaker—not least for putting me higher up the list than you intended to yesterday.
I am grateful for the opportunity to support the Queen’s Speech, and, in particular, the measures that will build on the work done in the last Parliament to secure the continued growth of our economy. Whether we are talking about big manufacturing brands and household names such as Aga Rangemaster, Dennis Eagle and National Grid, or the new and exciting creative industries and companies such as Freestyle Games and Radiant Worlds, Warwick and Leamington is clearly a good place in which to do business. I also welcome Tata Technologies, which has unveiled plans to build its new European headquarters in my constituency next year.
I am delighted that the Government have announced plans to continue our economic growth by supporting business and encouraging job creation, with the ambition of achieving full employment. We have a fantastic record, on which we continue to build. In Warwick and Leamington, for example, the number of jobseeker’s allowance claimants has fallen by 74% over the last five years, and the number of youth claimants has fallen by an astonishing 82%. Tribute must be paid to employers and employees for that achievement..
Warwick and Leamington is part of a region that has a tremendous manufacturing heritage. During the last Parliament, we saw a renewed and extremely welcome focus on manufacturing and the re-shoring of that vital sector of the economy—in the words of the Chancellor,
“the march of the makers”.
Manufacturing is growing in the United Kingdom, and in the midlands in particular. It makes up 54% of UK exports, and directly employs 2.6 million people. Growth has been positive in recent years. In 2014, sales in the UK car industry in the UK were the best for nearly 10 years, which was a particularly encouraging development. In manufacturing overall, there is an average productivity increase of 3.6% a year.
I believe that the Government must ensure that the United Kingdom continues to be a place where things are designed and made. That means supporting businesses, large and small, particularly those in the supply chains. We must also address the skills shortage, and focus on training young people to be equipped for the workforce. One way of supporting businesses is to create an environment in which we can foster collaboration and support between businesses. We are already seeing examples of that in the establishment of local enterprise partnerships and the growth of city deals throughout the country. The all-party parliamentary manufacturing group, of which I am co-chair, recently published a report about skills I am delighted to see that the other co-chair, Mr Sheerman, is in the Chamber.