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Inward Investment

Volume 406: debated on Thursday 5 June 2003

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What progress is being made with promoting inward investment in the north-west; and if she will make a statement. [116504]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
(Nigel Griffiths)

The United Kingdom attracts the lion's share of inward investment to the European Union, and we are keen to support the contribution that is made by my hon. Friend's area, the north-west. Last year, the Government and their agencies supported the attraction or retention of more than 50 firms, which secured or created almost 10,000 jobs, and we intend to continue that record.

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. He will be aware that the Omega site in my constituency is vital to the development of well-paid, highly skilled jobs in the area. Will he therefore take a personal interest in the development of the site and liaise with other Departments to ensure that we have a procedure not only for the proper development of the site but to give people the right skills and to create the right public transport links to enable people from around the area to take full advantage of the jobs that will be created?

My hon. Friend, together with the local council, local businesses and Government agencies—the regional development agency and the Small Business Service—has championed the cause of inward investment in her constituency and the surrounding area. Yesterday, I had the opportunity, on behalf of my hon. Friend, to discuss with the Minister for Transport the transport infrastructure requirements and the investment that has already been made. I have also discussed with the Minister with responsibility for skills the vital need to ensure that there continues to be a skilled work force with the appropriate skills. All in all, it is a good news story. We want to reinforce the work that is being done locally and to promote those bold new initiatives to secure jobs for the present and the future.

Is not inward investment a relative term, because the fact that other European economies have been doing so poorly does not mean that we have been doing particularly well? Is not the real problem that taxes and regulations mean that foreign non-European companies no longer wish to invest to the same extent?

If the hon. Gentleman is the only Member—I suspect that he is—who does not believe that there has been a world slowdown, especially in Europe, I shall enlighten him. The strength of our economy has allowed us to attract the lion's share of inward investment and, according to the latest figures, to increase the share of inward investment into Europe at a time when countries such as Germany have experienced a declining share. I hope that he and his Front-Bench colleagues will welcome the positive action that the Department of Trade and Industry has taken to ensure that we have as secure a base as possible for manufacturing and for the other sectors of the economy that have enabled us to ride the global downturn better than almost any other advanced country.

May I bring the Minister's attention to my part of the north-west, where in the past two years we have experienced seven major manufacturing redundancies and lost 1,000 manufacturing jobs in my constituency? Last week, Peter Miles Engineering closed overnight, leaving 160 people out of a job—without even the courtesy of a text message, which seems to be the trend these days—and owed five weeks' wages. As well as looking urgently at the need to bring new investment to the Leigh economy, may I urge the Minister to do all that he can to speed up redundancy payments for local families who have been left in such a terrible financial crisis?

I heard of that report; I understand that the company makes parts for JCB-type diggers. I have had the opportunity to apprise the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills, my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, South (Mr. Lewis) of it, and he will liaise with my hon. Friend to ensure that payments are made quickly. Obviously, I deeply regret the loss of those jobs. I understand that some restructuring might be possible, and I should be grateful if my hon. Friend kept me advised of progress on that.