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Manufacturing Industry

Volume 87: debated on Wednesday 27 November 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he proposes to take to stabilise and improve the future of manufacturing industries in Lancashire.

The best prospects for industrial growth in Lancashire lie in the Government's wider economic policies, which are creating conditions for a sustainable growth in jobs and output.

Does the Minister accept that for the people of Lancashire that answer means nowt? Have not Government policies shown consistently that the Government have no interest in the regions or in manufacturing industry? When will they do something about getting industries on the move again and about looking after the regions?

The hon. Gentleman is comprehensively wrong about regional policy and about the role of manufacturing industry. Since November 1984, about £8 million has been deployed in regional aid assistance to Lancashire.

Does my hon. Friend accept that Lancaster city council, while making the best possible use of such grants as are available, believes that it is the duty of local people to attract industry? Is he aware that, in conjunction with the city council, moderate trade unions and the chambers of commerce, the area is attracting industry and has achieved the best job vacancy ratio in the county? Why do other councils not do likewise?

Inward investors in particular look hard at the calibre, quality and motivation of local authorities and at the attitude in the local community to enterprise when they make their location decisions. The job creation programme, which is home grown and self-induced by local dynamism, does not, perhaps, receive enough attention.

Is it not a fact that the manufacturing sector in the north-west region, which includes Lancashire, has lost more than 300,000 jobs, and has continued to lose jobs every year since the Government took office in 1979? Last year it lost more than 10,000 jobs. Is it not also a fact that the north-west region relies heavily on manufacturing for its economic base, its employment base and for income support, and that it is being crucified by the Government's policies, which are indifferent to manufacturing industry and have done nothing to increase output, which has continued to diminish in real terms since 1979?

I reject entirely the assertion that the Government are indifferent to the interests of the manufacturing sector. The phenomenon that the hon. Gentleman describes of a loss of the share of employment in manufacturing industry within various economies around the world is a common one, and the United Kingdom is not unique in that respect.