I beg to move,
That this House
has considered the ceramic and brick industries.
It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship today, Mr Chope, and to see Members from both sides of the Chamber here in Westminster Hall. As vice-chairman of the all-party group on ceramics, and because the brick industry is in my constituency, I felt that it was important to raise this issue with the Minister.
The ceramics industry employs around 20,000 people in the UK, generating £2 billion in sales and exporting products all over the world. It is undoubtedly an industry of huge importance to our country.
In my constituency of Aldridge-Brownhills, there has been a large ceramics presence in the area since the early 19th century, when clay and coal mining boomed in the district. The availability of jobs in mining resulted in a population surge in Aldridge, to 2,478 by 1901, and by 1906 two of the mines—known locally as Drybread, which is near Coppice Road, and Bare Bones, at Leighswood—employed nearly 1,500 people between them. There is also the Brownhills Miner. If anyone is travelling through Brownhills or is on the A5, please make a detour to see Jigger, a 40-foot statue standing at the end of Brownhills High Street. It is a wonderful reflection of a proud industrial heritage.
Aldridge-Brownhills is now home to four companies working in the ceramics industry, which directly employ around 300 people across five sites. Some of the most famous clay products in the world originate in Aldridge, from the beautifully hand-crafted Imperial Bathrooms products, which are exported all over the world, to the bricks made at the Ibstock and Wienerberger sites, which are used to build new housing stock in the UK. Recently, some of the clay for the stunning art installation by Paul Cummins called “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red”—the poppies, as many will know, that were installed at the Tower of London—came from the Potclays quarry in Brownhills.