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Manufacturing Output

Volume 663: debated on Tuesday 16 July 2019

15. What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on trends in the level of manufacturing output. (911965)

We have regular discussions with Treasury Ministers on a range of subjects, including the importance of the manufacturing sector to the UK economy—it is the fourth largest in the EU and supports 2.7 million jobs. We are taking several measures to support manufacturing growth, including £141 million for the Made Smarter industrial digitalisation programme and £600 million for the high-value manufacturing catapult.

Notwithstanding the welcome news from Jaguar Land Rover, overall manufacturing production is contracting, export and domestic orders are down, investment is paralysed and employment is dropping. This has huge implications for the public finances. What discussions is the Minister having with the Treasury on the implications of all that for the delivery of the Tory leadership contenders’ tax and spending plans?

The latest Office for National Statistics index of production figures show that, despite strong fluctuations in recent months, the level of manufacturing output in May 2019 was the same as it was in May the previous year, and the level of the three months to May 2019 was actually higher than it was in the same period in 2018. That stands in stark contrast to the situation under the Labour Government, when we saw more than 35,000 manufacturing businesses cease to exist and 1.7 million manufacturing jobs lost.

MetalMin is a manufacturing business in my constituency and part of the British Steel supply chain. Will the Secretary of State meet the directors of the company to discuss what specific support the Department is providing to British Steel suppliers to ensure that they can stay in business?

I thank my hon. Friend for her question. She will know that the Secretary of State and I are actively involved in the British Steel support group, which meets weekly. We will raise the concerns of her local business at that support group and I will come back to her.

The Minister will know that last month’s statistics on foreign direct investment show that new projects are down by 14%, new jobs are down by 24% and existing jobs safeguarded by new investment are down by 54%. That is an 80% drop in FDI over the past five years. What discussions has he had with the Chancellor about the effect of that on manufacturing output?

I am proud that we remain one of the most attractive destinations in the world for foreign direct investment. UK unemployment has now fallen below 3.8% for the first time since 1974, average wages are growing twice as fast as inflation and by the fastest rate in over a decade, and all while we borrow half as much as Labour did in the five years before the crash.

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. As he will know, that is in the hands of the official receiver. I am seeking to keep him and other local Members of Parliament updated regularly with what is going on, but I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has left no stone unturned and is meeting with various bidders and other people to secure the long-term future of steelmaking in his region.