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West Midlands

Volume 888: debated on Monday 10 March 1975

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2.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what steps he is taking to reduce unemployment in the West Midlands and to increase investment in the region ; and if he will make a statement.

:I am aware of the concern expressed recently about the economic situation in the West Midlands. When the National Enterprise Board and the planning agreements system come into operation, we shall be in a position to do more to encourage industry to raise the level of investment.

:I appreciate that reply, but cannot my hon. Friend take emergency action now to increase investment and reduce unemployment until the board becomes fully operative? Is he aware that the North Staffordshire area, which is within the West Midlands region, has special problems? Will he undertake to consider those problems and take them into account in any moves he makes to attract new, modern industry into the region?

:With regard to my hon. Friend's first point, it would be wrong for me to anticipate the Budget of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. My Department is aware of the problems in the West Midlands and of the similar problems in other parts of the country. We are examining them, but it would be wrong for me to suggest that we could take emergency action.

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what proposals he has to revitalise industry in the West Midlands in order to end short-time working in subsidiaries to the motor industry.

:The West Midlands and the motor industry are going through a very difficult period and we shall continue to keep a close watch on the situation.

:Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Goodyear tyre plant, which is the largest employer in my constituency, has been on short time for several weeks and that several hundred redundancies have now been declared? Does he appreciate that that is a very serious situation? Further, is he aware that the industrial building industry is in difficulty and that the future completion of a Government skillcentre is in jeopardy? Does he not think it necessary to take urgent steps to see that that matter is remedied?

I suggest to my hon. Friend that when individual firms run into difficulties there should be talks between the unions and the management concerned, and that an approach should be made to my Department. Something can be done in some of these cases. Beyond that, as my hon. Friend will realise, the world situation is a difficult one against which to resolve these problems rapidly.

:Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many people in the West Midlands work in small businesses and that the very existence of those businesses is being put in jeopardy by the Chancellor's capital transfer tax proposals? Will he have discussions with his right hon. Friend to ensure that his good endeavours on one front are not sabotaged by his right hon. Friend on another?

:I take the point that the hon. Gentleman is making, but it would be wrong to suppose that the current difficulties facing small firms in the Midlands, which may be making components or supplying to the large motor firms, are currently affected by the Budget proposals to which he refers. That is a separate point, which I have no doubt the hon. Gentleman is taking up with my right hon. Friend.