It is an absolute pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Chope. May I begin by congratulating my hon. Friend Wendy Morton on securing this excellent debate and everybody who has contributed to it? It is indeed a fascinating subject. Such is my interest in all the sectors in my brief—especially ceramics, because of the breadth and depth of the sector—I am getting to the stage now where I could bore for Britain on the different technologies and techniques and how exciting it is. Yes, it relies on many traditional methods. I am helpfully reminded that brick making is some 5,000 years old, but it pretty much has not changed over those years.
I always have to pay tribute to my excellent Parliamentary Private Secretary, my hon. Friend Mark Pawsey, who, within his constituency has Morgan Advanced Ceramics—actually, this is a serious point. I quickly looked at its website, and when we see the astonishing high value products it makes, it is almost difficult to believe that they all fall within the wonderful broad category of ceramics, which, of course, includes clay pipes.
As I said, brick has been used by people for building for at least 5,000 years for good reason: it is a durable and it is energy efficient. It is to be commended and, if I may say, it should be used at every opportunity. The sector is very diverse, including electronics, aerospace, automotive and healthcare.
After a prolonged and painful restructuring in recent decades, some parts of the brick and ceramic sector have seen a revival in past years. Strong demand from house builders has meant that previously mothballed brick factories have reopened and substantial investment has been made in others, such as the Ibstock Brick Ltd facilities at Chesterton and Ibstock in Leicestershire. Unfortunately there is nobody here from Leicestershire, but that is an outstanding company. In ceramics there has been new investment in both technology and factories, with distinguished names such as Waterford, Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Wade and Steelite leading the way.
In response to Ruth Smeeth, I want to put the record straight. I do eat when I can—I enjoy eating, in fact. However, I think her point was in relation to the fact that in BIS, apparently, we do not use crockery that has been made in this country.