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East Midlands

Volume 35: debated on Monday 17 January 1983

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry what steps he is taking to improve the industrial position of the east midlands; and what increase in activity he expects thereby.

In a difficult world-wide economic climate our policies are helping industry in the east midlands and elsewhere by reducing inflation, acting on industrial costs which are outside the control of industry and encouraging innovation and the use of new technology. Appropriate areas of the east midlands also receive assistance through assisted area and enterprise zone status, derelict land clearance designation and inner city policy. Between 1982 and 1983 total output in the economy is expected to increase by 1½ per cent.

Is the Minister aware that managements and work forces in the east midlands regard the Government's efforts to help them as puny and useless? The devasting decline in industrial production in this once so prosperous area is continuing, not least in the city of Leicester, with awful effects on employment. When will the Government produce something other than the sort of platitudes that the Minister has just placed before the House?

The Government have produced a great deal more than platitudes. I mentioned specific areas of assistance. The hon. and learned Gentleman will know that since May 1979, under sections 7 and 8 of the Industry Act 1972 and the support for innovation schemes, nearly £38 million has gone to assist the east midlands. I strongly question the initial general remark of the hon. and learned Gentleman, because I find wide support in industry for the Government's main strategy of reducing inflation and other industrial costs.

Is my hon. Friend aware that in reality industry in the east midlands welcomes many of the Government's measures, especially the reduction of inflation, the cut in the national insurance surcharge and the many measures to help small businesses? Is he also aware that in a recession industry cannot cope with increased public sector costs? Therefore, will he impress upon nationalised industries and other public sector enterprises that they simply must not raise their prices this year?

I know that that is the response of many in industry. As my hon. Friend will know, unemployment in the east midlands is below the national average as a result of the efforts that have been made by industries and their work forces.

My hon. Friend will also know that, as a result of the success in solving some of the nationalised industries' problems, there will be a standstill on both gas and electricity prices this year. That is widely welcomed by industry.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory reply to my question, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment as soon as possible.