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Manufacturing Capacity

Volume 628: debated on Tuesday 12 September 2017

I am delighted that my hon. Friend has asked that question, as we often hear that Britain does not make things anymore. In fact, Britain is the ninth largest manufacturing nation. The sector contributes £168 billion to the national economy and employs more than 2.5 million people directly, and its output has grown by 3.2% in real terms since 2010.

I thank the Minister for that very upbeat response. I, too, get frustrated when I hear people say that we do not make things in this country anymore. My constituency is living testimony to the fact that we do. We have world-leading, cutting-edge companies, particularly in the aerospace and defence industries, but also in other areas of engineering. Should we not paint a rosier picture, not least to help people who are leaving school decide to follow careers in manufacturing? We often forget that many valuable, excellent careers are available in manufacturing, and if we put forward a more rosy picture, people might be attracted into the industry.

I agree entirely. My hon. Friend makes a good case for manufacturers such as GE Aviation and Moog Industrial in his constituency. Productivity, which is the way we drive up earning power across the country, has increased three times faster in manufacturing than in the rest of the economy in the past 10 years. There is much more to do, which is why we have committed to the biggest increase in public science and innovation funding for nearly 40 years; invested nearly £300 million in the high-value manufacturing Catapult; brought forward almost 3 million apprenticeship starts, many of which are in these valuable industries; and increased the permanent level of the annual investment allowance almost tenfold, starting on 1 January last year. We want to help businesses export and thrive across the world, and to support them every step of the way.

The truth is that UK manufacturing capacity has languished at too low a level for many years. However, the depreciation of sterling to a more sensible parity has seen a number of companies, including Rolls-Royce and Nissan, boost their investment. Now that we are leaving the EU, will the Government look to use state aid and public procurement programmes to further boost British manufacturing?

The hon. Gentleman points to one of the impacts of the referendum result, which is that many industries have had a substantial currency tailwind, which has helped sectors such as aerospace and steel to deliver rather impressive results this year. He is right that we need to keep those sectors thriving. We need not only to get the most frictionless and wide-ranging trade deal that we can with the EU, but to export right across the world, where British goods and products are very well regarded.

Minister, 3,500 people in my constituency are employed in the manufacturing sector. Does she welcome the investment in Winsford by Tiger Trailers, a company with 200 employees that started three years ago, which plans to invest £22 million in a new building, doubling the size of its workforce, and exporting to Europe and elsewhere?

I am delighted to welcome, and indeed celebrate, that investment. There has been a series of such announcements in the automotive manufacturing sector—it has been confirmed that the electric Mini will be built in the UK. It is clear that British industry is investing, growing and thriving in the UK. We will do all we can to ensure that that continues.

Given the importance of the aerospace sector in manufacturing capacity and the rather non-committal reply to the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), will the Government commit themselves to standing very firmly, alongside the Canadian Government, behind Bombardier and its workers in resisting bullying from Boeing and its friends in the United States Administration?

I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would agree that it is vital the dispute is settled, and that we create the environment for many manufacturers in this vital sector to thrive and grow.