DTI Questions


Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the manufacturing skills and tenacity of people in the west midlands have a great deal to offer in regard to future UK competitiveness, as he saw a couple of weeks ago at Rimstock plc in West Bromwich? That company is being assisted by the Rover taskforce to cope with the collapse of MG Rover, and is now winning new markets in different parts of the world. Many people in and around south-west Birmingham also have those skills and that tenacity.

Will my right hon. Friend and his colleagues look with favour at projects such as the proposal for a nanotechnology centre at the Longbridge site? Will he also work with his ministerial colleagues in other Departments to ensure that regeneration programmes are put in place to back up such projects and to provide real opportunities for local people?

Alan Johnson: I congratulate my hon. Friend on all the work that he has done around Longbridge in very difficult circumstances. He and I attended an extremely impressive presentation by the taskforce—one of whose members, incidentally, is the Conservative leader of Birmingham city council. The taskforce also comprises representatives of the regional development agencies, the learning and skills councils and Jobcentre Plus—all organisations that we have developed since 1997. The way they have dealt with the dreadful situation in which they found themselves has been a lesson to us all; they deserve our wholehearted congratulations.

With regard to the problems that the taskforce is still dealing with, and the nanotechnology centre at Longbridge that my hon. Friend mentioned, we need to work together with the taskforce to bring about that regeneration. I should just mention, however, that of the 500,000 job offers that came in to Jobcentre Plus in that area after the collapse of MG Rover, about 1,600 of the vacancies were in high-value manufacturing. I believe that the important skills of the people in the area will eventually be picked up, and that is a tribute to everyone involved in the taskforce.


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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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You can reach me by email at richard@richardburden.com or use the form on the Contact page to send me a message.