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Volume 602: debated on Tuesday 10 November 2015

The best way the Government can support manufacturers is by sticking to their long-term economic plan. That includes cutting red tape by a further £10 billion, creating 3 million apprenticeships, lowering corporation tax and devolving budgets and powers to local leaders.

My constituency of Carlisle in north Cumbria has a strong and healthy manufacturing sector. I helped to promote the industry locally by organising a skills fair, which the Minister for Skills will hopefully attend next year. However, what assistance can the Government give to Cumbria to attract skilled workers not just from Cumbria, but from other areas to help complete large infrastructure projects such as the nuclear new build at Moorside?

I commend my hon. Friend on his annual skills fair, which I know is already making a big difference to his constituents. He will be pleased to learn that the advanced manufacturing centre at Carlisle college will begin construction in 2016-17 with growth deal funding. There is no doubt that that will help to boost local skills.

Does the Secretary of State accept that although it is important that employers have a leading role in the development of skills, it is also necessary that skills are transferable? Unless the FE sector is involved in the process of training people and giving them those skills, those skills will not necessarily be transferable.

I agree about the importance of transferable skills. Our local area review of the FE sector up and down the country will look very closely at local needs, and at ensuring that skills are transferable.

What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to protect British manufacturing from dumping on our market and maximising the effect of existing international rules?

My hon. Friend knows that, when it comes to trade measures, action has to be taken by the European Union. I know that he has a particular interest in steel, and this is a hugely important issue about dealing with unfair trade. We discussed that at the emergency Council that I attended yesterday in Brussels. One thing that was agreed in the presidency conclusions was that the Commission should prioritise certain cases, and that certainly includes the steel industry.

Last week in my constituency, the Mahle Group announced the loss of up to 200 highly skilled jobs in the manufacturing sector. The Scottish Government, devolved agencies and local authorities are already involved, but this is a classic example of a European-wide company shipping the process and jobs to another plant in the EU. What support can the UK Government provide, and what can they do both to stop such moves in the future and to encourage long-term investment in technology here?

We can continue to make the UK as attractive as possible for manufacturers. What we have seen in the past five years is that output is up for the manufacturing sector, exports are up and jobs are up, and that is because of our long-term economic plan, which is bringing in tax cuts, investing in skills, cutting red tape and boosting exports.

Will the Secretary of State bring forward details of the package of support that will be put in place to help those workers in the black country affected by the collapse of Caparo, including 54 in my constituency, so that the skills can be retained within the black country engineering sector?

My hon. Friend is right to raise the issue. It is hugely important that workers who are affected by the crisis in the steel industry get whatever help can be provided. We have rolled out plans for support across the country, and we are talking to local leaders to see what more we can do.

The official Opposition have had to drag the Government, kicking and screaming, to the House time after time to get them to stand up for British steelmaking. It is now almost two weeks since the Business Secretary finally went to Brussels to hurry along the European Commission on state aid approval, and yesterday he attended the EU Competitive Council. Although there were welcome pledges for the future, no action was agreed that will make a material difference to our steel industry now. How long must the industry continue to wait for the compensation package promised by the Prime Minister in 2011 to be paid in full? When will the Business Secretary get a grip, stop hiding behind the EU and do more to tackle the root causes of this crisis?

It is a shame that the hon. Lady has to take that attitude. It would be better if she were a lot more constructive on this issue. I could point out that under 13 years of Labour we saw a 45% collapse in steel production and jobs halved—cut by more than 10,000—because of her Government’s policies. This Government are taking the issue seriously. This Government called for, and were granted, an emergency Council meeting at which we agreed on a number of actions. They will be published today and there will be further information in my written statement, which the hon. Lady can read.