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Onshoring Manufacturing and Production

Volume 703: debated on Tuesday 16 November 2021

The Government are committed to a strong, vibrant and diverse manufacturing sector in the United Kingdom. The west midlands—and the UK as a whole—is already a great place to do business. The Government will continue to focus on encouraging businesses, improving the long-term competitiveness and productivity of manufacturing via initiatives such as Help to Grow, the Made Smarter programme, the Catapult programme and others.

For this country’s manufacturing base to prosper and succeed, it requires a firm commitment from Government to support the making and buying of goods manufactured in Britain. The Minister will be familiar with the shameful decision by Melrose to shut a factory in Chester Road, Erdington with 70 years of history; those manufacturing jobs were instead exported to Poland. What steps will he take to recoup the £67 million of taxpayers’ money given to Melrose to export jobs to Poland? Will he send an unmistakeable message to Melrose that it will get not one penny more of taxpayers’ support unless it works with the workforce and all the key stakeholders to find an alternative manufacturing use for its site in one of the most deprived communities in Britain?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the question. We were disappointed, as he was, by GKN Melrose’s decision. Ultimately, such decisions are for individual companies, but we realise the significant impact on his community and are working with the local community to try to find alternative ways to support employees in the area.

The Minister knows that one of the best ways to promote the onshoring of manufacturing jobs and production to the UK is to shape regulation to support enterprise. What steps has his Department made to take forward the recommendations of the Prime Minister’s taskforce on innovation, growth and regulatory reform?

We know regulation has a critical part to play in ensuring that we get the frameworks right for long-term investment and support. My hon. Friend will know that one of my colleagues who was appointed alongside me was an author of that report, and the Secretary of State and I, and all Ministers, will continue to review what we can do to improve regulation over the long term.

When it comes to manufacturing, the first thought on the mind of all Scotland fans this morning is quite how Steve Clarke and his team continue to manufacture so many brilliant wins.

Notwithstanding my necessary gloating, I have a serious question for the Minister. Does he agree and accept that to harness, safeguard and expand manufacturing jobs in Scotland’s tidal energy sector, his Government must deliver the £71 million that the industry has asked for?

We know there is a substantial amount of work to do to decarbonise the UK economy, including the energy sector. We are doing that in a range of ways, and I will continue to co-ordinate with the Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea and Fulham (Greg Hands), to support that activity.

I am afraid that answer simply does not cut it. This is a world-leading industry based in Scotland, and it has the capacity to provide 11% of the entire UK’s electricity. The Minister will be aware that the likes of Canada, France and Japan have put in place financial mechanisms to capitalise on tidal energy. Is he seriously saying that his Government would rather see jobs offshored to those countries than see them in Scotland?

I apologise if the hon. Gentleman did not hear my first answer. I said that the Department will continue to look at all opportunities to decarbonise the electricity grid and to ensure that, over the long term, energy can support that decarbonisation. We will continue to look at tidal, and we will bring forward the opportunities that we are able to bring forward.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Chancellor’s capital investment tax relief of 130% is leading to a sharp increase in manufacturing investment, demonstrated by Alpro at its superb manufacturing site in Burton Latimer in the Kettering constituency?

My hon. Friend gives a brilliant example of where the support that is being provided by the Treasury and the Chancellor can, over the long term, ensure investment in plant and machinery and improvement in productivity across the country.