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Column 449Wallace), who is from the extemities of our nation--the north-west provides the best work force in the United Kingdom, if they are properly guided.
The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to the importance of 1992, which provides a challenge as well as an opportunity. We are well placed to meet that challenge in the north-west, for various reasons that have been discussed this evening and on earlier occasions. I believe that the British economy and our regional economy are fundamentally strong, and that the challenge of facing up to what will effectively be a domestic market of some 320 million people--with all the opportunities that that provides--can be met. I use the word "challenge" because, if we do not recognise the opportunity by the region's great manufacturing, service and professional industries, other companies and organisations on the mainland of Europe will seek the opportunity to come to us and beat us at our own game. Any area within the region that hon. Members care to name--Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, Accrington, even Penrith--has many virtues, developed over decades or perhaps centuries. Perhaps occasionally we are a little too complacent and smug about the fact that the world can pass it by and somehow, if we carry on as we are, we shall be all right. We can do that no longer, for 1992 will present a challenge that we ignore at out peril.
It has been the task of my Department, first, to ensure that industries are aware of exactly what 1992 means.
Column 450When we started our successful campaign, about one in two companies--that includes our region--were aware of what was going on, which meant that 70 or 80 per cent. were not. As a result of our campaign, the figure is nearly 100 per cent. Not all companies, however, know that they must make the decision to face up to the opportunity. It is a message that I invite the hon. Member for Mossley Hill and my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn to convey to the companies and the people in their constituencies. It is simply, as Winston Churchill said all those years ago, that action is needed "this day", to make sure that one knows what needs to be done and gets on with it.
I am quite convinced that the hon. Member for Mossley Hill and my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn are fully aware of the strengths of our region and recognise the challenges that have been presented to it, of which the Channel tunnel is one. I do not wish to be drawn as yet as to where the location of investment should be. Many of my constituents take one view ; many of the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn may take another. I am content to leave it to my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley), who is responsible for transport matters, but I shall put to him that view and that concern.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Mossley Hill for raising in his own inimitable way the interest and the concern of our region, which the Government share. He is right to say that it is a cross-party matter. Representatives of the three major parties are here tonight. I shall do my best, as a Minister with responsibility for the regions and industry, to ensure that our region gets the best that is available to it.
Question put and agreed to.
Adjourned accordingly at fifteen minutes past One o'clock.
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