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Manufacturing

Volume 637: debated on Thursday 15 March 2018

10. What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the effect of the UK leaving the EU on the manufacturing sector; and if he will make a statement. (904387)

The manufacturing sector is of course a frequent topic of discussion among Cabinet members and colleagues across the Government. As the Prime Minister set out in her Mansion House speech, the UK will seek the broadest and deepest possible agreement with the EU, covering more sectors and co-operating more fully than in any free trade agreement anywhere in the world today. I am especially encouraged by the Chancellor’s spring statement, which confirmed that the manufacturing sector is enjoying its longest unbroken run of growth for 50 years.

Why, every time there is a manufacturing question, does the Secretary of State hide behind his junior team? That is the fact of the matter: he does not want to confront manufacturing. Is it not the truth that there is a secret document in the Business Department that shows that, post Brexit, London will survive and thrive but the rest of the country—the north of England, manufacturing—will be in dire straits? That is the truth. Why does the Secretary of State not stand at the Dispatch Box and defend manufacturing?

I lament the hon. Gentleman’s continual determination to talk down this country. I am happy to tell him that Unilever has today shown its long-term commitment to the UK by choosing to locate its two fastest-growing global business divisions in this country, safeguarding 7,300 jobs and £1 billion a year of investment. As the company has made clear, its decision to transfer a small number of jobs to a corporate headquarters in the Netherlands is part of its long-term restructuring and is not connected to the UK’s departure from the EU.

On the basis that it is subject to negotiation, the Government have refused to implement the agreed replacement to the regime for the inadequate 2004 clinical trial directive. This is essential for our pharmaceutical trade, because we face going off a cliff edge and not being able to participate in collaborative clinical trials with EU research institutions, so when is the Minister going to implement that replacement directive?

As part of exit negotiations, the Government will discuss with the EU and member states how best to continue co-operation in the field of clinical trials. The UK has been working towards implementation of the new European clinical trials regulation since it was agreed in 2014. The application date of the CTR across the EU will be set by the European Commission, and if it is after our exit from the EU, it will not be part of the withdrawal Bill.