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Economic Growth (North-East)

Volume 301: debated on Thursday 27 November 1997

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10.

When he next plans to meet the north-east regional Chamber of Commerce to discuss economic growth. [16594]

I am touched by the support shown by Opposition Members.

My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary was recently in the north-east to give the Darlington economics lecture to the local employers forum. Although there are no immediate plans for a meeting with the regional chamber, Treasury Ministers regularly meet business representatives, and pay careful attention to what they have to say.

I thank my hon. Friend for her reply. Does she accept that we have very few fat cats in the north-east? With our colleagues in Wales and Northern Ireland, we are last in and first out of any recovery. We understand that the Government have had to make tough choices to secure stability, but does she accept that high interest rates, the strong pound and our exposure due to links with south-east Asia have given us special and particular problems? Is she willing to meet some of us involved in business and some of my hon. Friends from the north-east to work out how we could match the tough patience that we shall need with the tough choices that the Government have had to make?

Recent business surveys indicate that the north-east economy is performing well. In particular, north-east manufacturing industry is growing at a reasonable pace. My hon. Friend has made important points. The Government's policies on regional development agencies and the consultation document that will be released shortly reinforce our determination to ensure prosperity in our regions. I should be happy to discuss with him how those policies can be developed further in the north-east.

Has the Financial Secretary had the opportunity to consider the impact on the local economy in North Yorkshire of the collapse of the Samsung plant at Flaxby moor? Will the Government review the effect that the collapse of south-east Asian economies may have on job prospects and economic development in north Yorkshire generally?

The Government are vigilant on all matters, especially jobs. We need to ensure that the economic framework is sound, so that business can invest, grow and survive in our communities.