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South Yorkshire

Volume 12: debated on Monday 9 November 1981

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will take steps further to assist industry in South Yorkshire.

I am well aware of the problems facing industry in South Yorkshire, most of which is to remain an assisted area. The Government's policies, aimed at reducing inflation and restoring competitiveness, are beginning to show success.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that since the Government came to power the number of jobs available in South Yorkshire has fallen lower and lower while unemployment has become greater and greater? Will he bear in mind that the Government's policies did not stop the Manvers coking plant, from closing? What help will he render to the Wombwell foundry, which is supposed to be a viable plant, but which is in the hands of the receiver? Unless the Government do something, unemployment in Dearne Valley will be greater still.

The Government have done quite a lot to help industry in South Yorkshire. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the 20,000 sq ft factory built for Photo Trade Processing Ltd. at Goldthorpe, the Midland Bank financing of 13 advance factory nursery units, which are being put up at Barnsley, the section 7 grant offered to the Midland Bank computer centre in Barnsley, the improvement of the South Yorkshire navigation canal at a cost of £15·6 million and many other projects. As regards Wombwell, the hon. Gentleman received an excellent letter from the Minister, who made it clear that if a firm wishes to put the foundry back in production—Government help and private money will be essential in that case—we shall be ready to look at an application for help under section 7 of the Industry Act.

Does the Secretary of State realise that the area represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) and myself, as well as by others, is the industrial heartland of Britain? Does he further realise that the Government's failure to assist our part of the country has resulted in the recent announcements to close firms such as Redfearns National Glass, Star Paper Mills at Barnsley and many others? While the right hon. Gentleman sits fiddling around and fails to give assistance where it is needed, he is destroying Britain's industrial base.

People are beginning to realise that the future of Britain's industry depends upon our ability as a nation to sell our products to the markets of the world with designs and at prices that the customer is prepared to pay. We never pretended that to get back to competitiveness and to eradicate inflation from our economy would be easy. The road has certainly been painful. Ultimately, it is by being competitive that we shall help industry and provide jobs. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that South Yorkshire is part of Britain's industrial heartland and stands to gain most from the success of that policy.