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Business Confidence

Volume 626: debated on Tuesday 27 June 2017

The industrial strategy Green Paper was launched on 23 January and has been warmly received across the country. We have received over 1,900 responses to the consultation, with respondents from every part of the United Kingdom. I look forward to taking our modern industrial strategy forward, with the involvement of all Members of this House, in the months ahead.

In a damaging blow to business confidence and the wider economy in Renfrewshire, Chivas Brothers announced that it was moving operations from Paisley in 2019. The workforce have voted to strike over a pay offer that Chivas Brothers itself admits does not meet commitments it made to the workforce. Will the Secretary of State join me in urging Chivas to offer a deal that prevents industrial action and recognises the contribution the Paisley workforce have given to Chivas over many, many years?

Of course we want to avoid industrial action. I am not aware of the particular circumstances, but I am very happy to meet the hon. Gentleman so he can inform me of them in more detail.

Does the Secretary of State agree with the Secretary of State for Defence, who spoke this morning about the need to provide extra investment in those areas that are left behind—even if the bill comes to something like £1.5 billion? When is he going to open talks with other hon. Members about the needs of their areas, so we can ensure that those left-behind regions are not left behind and left out?

I am very surprised to hear that question from the right hon. Gentleman. Of all the people in this House, he was a great proponent of a city deal and a devolution deal for Birmingham and the west midlands, the value of which is over £1 billion. Looking around the Chamber, there are many Opposition Members who have made precisely such a case that we should invest in areas of the country, outside of national programmes. It seems to me to be reasonable to continue that programme.

I took soundings from small businesses in Rugby at a small business expo run by the Federation of Small Businesses on Friday. Their single biggest concern related to the recruitment of staff, in that the skills they are looking for often are not available among local jobseekers. Given those instances, will the Secretary of State reassure us about the training of young people and the ability to recruit staff from the EU moving forward?

I will indeed. One of the big findings, which has been reinforced by the consultation on the industrial strategy, is that we need to ramp up the level of skills and technical education and training in this country. We will respond to the consultation in the weeks ahead, but my hon. Friend can rest assured that that will be one of its key pillars.

The Kingswood Lakeside business park in Cannock is home to many leading businesses, and the new developments there will create hundreds of new jobs. Does my right hon. Friend agree that those developments are evidence of business confidence, and show that Cannock Chase is well and truly open for business and is a great place to do business?

I do indeed. Having visited Cannock Chase with my hon. Friend, I know that she is a great champion of the businesses there. It is fair to reflect that the confidence of manufacturers and employers in other sectors is high. As the CBI attested this week, it is high across the country, including in Cannock Chase.