Previous Section Index Home Page

20 Jan 2010 : Column 82WH—continued

I said that I did not want to lower the tone too much, and I do not think it is lowering the tone to refer to Leeds city council under its present management. Coincidentally, it is meeting this afternoon, and I thought I would avail myself of the agenda, to see what issues it is pondering at this important time. I am sure that as usual the Leeds Members will receive a letter from the chief executive informing us of the resolutions that bring us back into line. Some important issues are being discussed, and one of them relates to £7 billion of public expenditure in Leeds, of which £2.6 billion is spent by the city council, and the rest by the health service, the universities and the whole range of services. A motion calls for more democracy in the control of those moneys. That is probably a fair call. We could
20 Jan 2010 : Column 83WH
indeed make a start on more democracy by having the largest party on the council taking control of it. That would be a good step away from its present problematic leadership. People in the business community have told me that the Tweedledee-Tweedledum leadership arrangement in Leeds does the city no good at all.

Another motion congratulates the Leeds Labour MPs, quite correctly, on their support for the Leeds Arena. We all welcome the fact that nearly £10 million has been approved for expenditure on that. It will boost the city and is long overdue.

My hon. Friend the Member for Elmet has already referred to the green economy; I am being totally non-partisan in my approach to that matter, because the motion that most attracts my attention has been put forward by a member from a different, minority party on the council, and it calls for it to accelerate the rate at which the city cuts its carbon dioxide emissions. Leeds as a whole now emits about 6 million tonnes of carbon a year, and the motion calls for a 10 per cent. annual cut in that. That would be an enormous stimulus to the economy of Leeds. I hope we shall receive a letter from Leeds city council telling us that that is the policy approach we should adopt.

Cutting CO2 emissions always seems a great burden, but in fact it is a great generator of jobs, and Leeds is well placed to capitalise on that. Even if, as we have heard, our manufacturing sector has diminished over the years, it still employs about 40,000 people-10 per cent. of the work force. Many of those people are in engineering. We have already heard about the hoped-for boom in offshore wind in the North sea, off the Humber, and I am sure there will be other marine technologies. That is where the RDA can step in and make a big difference. We need those turbines to be manufactured in the UK, but so far all the press coverage of that great bonanza suggests that many of the jobs will go to Germany and Denmark.

John Battle: As well as the wind farms, Leeds is also developing some excellence in what are called the geo-biosciences; we might call them the clean-up technologies, for waste management and so on. There is potential there for future new green jobs in Leeds.

Colin Challen: I agree. We tend to think of climate change in terms of renewable energy, but there are many other potential solutions and other things that can improve our energy efficiency. The university of Leeds is one of the country's leading research and development universities, and earns £113 million a year in research grants. Sadly, however, because of the cuts agenda that we seem to be facing, it could lose, even on the existing estimate of proposed cuts, up to 8 per cent. of its work force-nearly 700 jobs. That will be a big blow to the university's prestige and its ability to deliver economic drivers. The university has a marvellous record of setting up new entrepreneurial, inventive businesses that are right up to speed with the new technologies. I hope we can look again at the range of proposed cuts and say that we do not need them. What we need is investment, because it will produce longer-term growth and higher tax revenues. That, and not cutting the public sector, is the way to get out of recession.

I referred in an intervention to the role of the RDA. It does a good job, but could do a lot better. It fully
20 Jan 2010 : Column 84WH
accepts the green agenda, and tried hard to ensure that Yorkshire would benefit from the carbon capture and storage competition. I think that work will continue and there will be work on CCS in Yorkshire. The whole point about Leeds as a city region, and the green economy, is that the Aire valley, which is also known as "power alley", stretching into Selby, produces about 25 per cent. of the UK's electricity generation: the green economy is an enormous opportunity and an enormous threat to the area. If we are to lose technologies because of European directives on emissions, and because manufacturing jobs go to Germany and Denmark, we could lose jobs in the old fossil fuel economy and not get the new jobs in the green economy. I urge the Minister to take that seriously. It is a big opportunity and I hope that we can review RDA strategies to ensure that they fully deliver for the area.

Unemployment in my constituency of Morley and Rothwell is still less than in 1997. By and large, it is a bit different in other constituencies. It may be similar to the rate in Pudsey. Across the city, however, unemployment has fallen dramatically since 1997. I was looking at the figures yesterday and I see that in some constituencies unemployment has dropped by many thousands. In my constituency, the reduction since 1997 is only about 4.7 per cent. One way to reverse that is by going for green-collar jobs.

I shall mention three local companies. Ravenheat, a long-established company that makes central heating equipment and so on, is looking at making efficiencies. Integrated Technological Systems Ltd installs things such as solar photovoltaic roof tiles across Europe, and not only in the locality. InfraNOMIC Energy Solutions, another innovative company, is developing low-cost energy-efficient radiators that can be used in all-electric homes. That covers a significant segment of the housing market for the fuel-poor.

Those are small local companies; the largest employs only 20 or 30 people. However, they are the building blocks for the new economy. The green economy is reckoned to be worth £106 billion in the United Kingdom, and about £3 trillion in the world. That is where we should be headed. We would like to see more incentives for new technologies and new sources of employment.

10.21 am

Mr. Paul Truswell (Pudsey) (Lab): I congratulate my constituency neighbour, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (John Battle), on securing this debate.

To a great extent, I shall follow what was said by my great friend, my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet (Colin Burgon). The pair of us sometimes feel as though we have been consigned to the Jurassic Park wing of new Labour-[Interruption]-and perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Rothwell (Colin Challen).

When my right hon. Friend secured this debate, I looked at the answers to some of the parliamentary questions that he had tabled. I realise that by its very nature, this is a wide-ranging debate, but I shall focus on a statistic in one of those answers to which reference has already been made. It is that 43,000 people in Leeds are employed in manufacturing. It sounds like a large number; indeed it is. However, for a city such as Leeds, with a proud manufacturing tradition-as was mentioned by my right hon. Friend and others, it includes tailoring, textiles, light and heavy engineering, and printing and
20 Jan 2010 : Column 85WH
pottery; a whole raft of manufacturing trades-it is an indictment of the untrammelled market forces and neo-liberal economics that have gripped the UK, sometimes by the throat, over the past 30 years.

I may be genetically programmed to support manufacturing and to recoil at such statistics. In one way or another, the whole of my family have been employed in manufacturing. My father worked in a dirty little foundry as a moulder and core-maker. When I visited it as a child, the place seemed like something from Dante's "Inferno". I do not look back on that through rose-tinted spectacles.

We hardly need rehearse at length how global recessions in the early 1980s and 1990s, compounded by Tory slash-and-burn policies, dramatically undermined our manufacturing base. One of the worst problems was the self-induced disaster of the early 1980s, inspired by the tragic and dogmatic monetarist experiment when Margaret Thatcher was seduced by the siren calls of von Hayek and Milton Friedman. It is often said, I think rightly, that between them they did more damage to the British manufacturing base than the Luftwaffe.

It was not only bloated and inefficient industries and companies that were destroyed by that failed monetarist experiment. Many fell victim to the triple pincer of high exchange rates, which made exports prohibitively expensive, high interest rates that made investment extremely difficult, and cuts in public spending that effectively destroyed demand in the economy. The Tories removed not only the fat, but the vital organs-and even the soul-of manufacturing industries.

To my mind, it was refreshing that the Labour party in Government was able until recently to point out the callous economic crime that had been perpetrated against our communities. From the lessons learned, the party was able to justify the reflationary package rightly embraced by the Government. As a result, many of us, including my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet, got the wind in our sails and were able to go out and sell it to our electors.

Why should we now be changing tack? Is it because the vacuum left by the reduction of our manufacturing industry has, as we have been told, been filled by the financial services sector, which has its own set of rules and imperatives to which we now feel obliged to genuflect? I hope that that is not the case.

I do not decry other sectors, but I wish to concentrate on manufacturing for a moment. My hon. Friends the Members for Elmet and for Morley and Rothwell cannot be caricatured as languishing in the past by harking back. My constituency still shows the vital relevance of manufacturing. I shall mention a handful of companies. Each, in its own way, is a UK, if not world, leader. There are others, but time prevents me from mentioning more.

ATB Morley, which was visited on Monday by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West, was established in 1897. It produces sparkless motors for use underground in various mining industries across the world. It is a world leader. Last year, the company was given the Queen's award for international trade.

A. W. Hainsworth, which was founded in 1783 and is one of the few textile companies remaining in my constituency, is still in the hands of the same family. It
20 Jan 2010 : Column 86WH
manufactures specialist fabrics, including flame-resistant fabric for firefighters' uniforms and baize for billiard tables; it weaves the cloth for the Woolsack-part of the furnishings in the other place; and its uniforms graced the field at Waterloo. Its most recent innovation is the wool coffin. Some have made the pun about "resting in fleece". The wool coffin has been embraced by the funeral industry, not only in the UK but across the world.

Airedale International is the largest UK manufacturer of chillers and computer room equipment in the UK. It may not be the cheapest, but because of its durability, it provides value-for-money kit-something that the Government ought to take into account in their procurement policy. We should focus not only on the bottom line but on the value for money that we could often get from UK manufactured equipment.

Those firms, the majority of them with long histories, do not want special treatment or featherbedding. However, it is not sufficient to pat them on the head and congratulate them on their resilience and innovation. My right hon. Friend was right to point out that they need the Government and their agencies not only to ride to their assistance in difficult times but to identify their value and to provide them with the support and expertise that they need to continue to prosper in difficult circumstances and beyond. For example, we should ensure that they can benefit from events such as the 2012 Olympics.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Rothwell rightly said, we need to assist those industries to expand in order to meet the green agenda. Several of those companies have started to meet that agenda and have the capacity to do even more. However, we need to remove some of the bureaucratic obstacles that they have to surmount. For example, Leeds and Bradford Boiler Company is the exclusive manufacturing partner for a new process called resomation, a more environmentally friendly alternative to cremation. That is my second mention of death and burial. Perhaps I have an obsession with them. It was Benjamin Franklin who said:

Obviously, the death part provides some commercial opportunities. Leeds and Bradford Boiler Company has been waiting 18 months for the Ministry of Justice to approve the process for use in the UK.

As my right hon. Friend rightly said, we need to provide support through training and skills, to assist manufacturing industry to get away from the greasy rag image and to promote manufacturing to young people who have left school or university.

I am aware of the time, so I will conclude by saying that I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister can give us an assurance that manufacturing industry will not play second, third or fourth fiddle to other sectors, such as the financial sector, and that it will remain at the forefront of public thinking when it comes to the development of our local economies.

10.31 am

Greg Mulholland (Leeds, North-West) (LD): I apologise for not being here at the start of the debate. I let the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (John Battle) know that I had to attend a Select Committee.

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on securing the debate and bringing us together. In his many years as an MP, he has spoken out for Leeds and shown that
20 Jan 2010 : Column 87WH
he is proud-as we all are-both of the city and its achievements. The development of Leeds' economy has been a real success story over the past 15 years. It has become a leading financial centre as well as a real driving force in the communications, marketing and advertising industry. Moreover, the online economy is now hugely important to Leeds. Despite the real and serious concerns that have been outlined by some hon. Members, we still have a strong manufacturing industry; it is the third largest in the country. None the less, there have been problems, which have been well documented.

We are also very proud of our sporting success. I am delighted to be the MP for Headingley where the current super league champions Leeds Rhinos play, as well as the premier league team Leeds Carnegie. I will be at Elland road to watch Leeds Rhinos hopefully win back the world cup challenge against Melbourne Storm on 28 January, so we could have world champions in the city again. I am sure that every single citizen of Leeds thoroughly enjoyed the battle of the Uniteds recently, which saw Leeds overturn their slightly more famous neighbours. Hopefully, that will point the way for Leeds United to return to the premier league where they so clearly belong-possibly in the season after next.

Of the five parliamentary colleagues present today from Leeds, I am the only one who will be standing at the next election. So, this is a snapshot of what the eight Leeds area MPs have achieved and championed over the course of this Parliament. It is important for the eight Leeds MPs-whoever they are-to work together. We will have some disagreements and differences, but that is democracy. None the less, despite the comments of the hon. Member for Morley and Rothwell (Colin Challen), we have shown that we can work together when we need to, and work with the Government, the council and the business community.

I have to mention the Leeds Arena. Notwithstanding the many comments that I have made both inside and outside the House, the Minister will be pleased to know that I am delighted that the project is now going ahead. I tabled an early-day motion, which I hope she has noticed, that said well done for allowing the project to go ahead. It is worth mentioning that Yorkshire Forward showed great leadership as a regional development agency, that Leeds city council consistently pushed the case for the development, and that the city's newspaper the Yorkshire Evening Post led an excellent campaign entitled "Leeds needs an Arena".

John Battle: That will get him in it.

Greg Mulholland: As the right hon. Gentleman knows, that is not a problem I have very often.

Let me remind Members why it was so important to go ahead with the development and provide the funding. The Arena will provide an estimated £28 million a year extra to the local economy as well as allowing us to have the kind of acts, bands and performances that we currently cannot have. It will really fill a gap and give us something else world class in the city to match the many other things that we have.

The hon. Member for Elmet (Colin Burgon) mentioned the contribution of our universities. I represent many of the students who live in our city, as well as the staff. The Headingley campus of the Leeds Metropolitan university is within my constituency. It is extremely important to highlight the enormous contribution that our universities
20 Jan 2010 : Column 88WH
make, and to stress the huge concern that exists over the proposed staff cuts, particularly at Leeds university. That issue must be considered carefully if we are not to damage the institution, its reputation and the excellent way in which it is able to deliver its courses and teaching.

Although it is undeniably true that the universities bring a lot to the economy, we must be aware of the impact that a very large transient population has on any one area, particularly Headingley and Hyde Park, which I share with the right hon. Member for Leeds, West. May I nudge the Minister to speak to her colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government about the use class order consultation on houses in multiple occupation, because that was supposed to have reported already? Again, many of us-including councillors, the business community, the local community and residents associations-see that as very important, because it gives local councils the power to influence the balance in communities, which is what all of us want.

I am afraid that there is a moan. The Minister would be very surprised if there was not one from me. I must return to the issue of transport. Every time I speak to people from the business community, both inside and outside Leeds, they say, "Leeds is wonderful. It's a great place and I want to be based there." The problem is, however, that public transport is inadequate. We still have an unacceptable transport gap. We did not get our supertram in 2005, which we should have done. Will the Minister ensure that we get the funding for New Generation Transport, because things have gone ominously quiet? We want to hear that we will get the funding and can go ahead with the scheme. We also need better funding for Leeds Bradford airport, which is in my constituency. We need to expand that because we cannot get a train anywhere near the airport.

I will leave my comments there. Thank you, Mr. Hancock, for allowing me to speak. I wish my four parliamentary colleagues well in whatever they do. Whoever the eight MPs are for the Leeds area, I hope they will continue to stand up for our wonderful city and area.

10. 38 pm

Lorely Burt (Solihull) (LD): I congratulate the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (John Battle) on securing this debate and on regaling us with the fascinating history of Leeds and its proud tradition of commerce and manufacturing. He talked about textiles and engineering. However, I must correct him on an historical point. The west midlands was the birthplace of industrialisation. Let me tell the hon. Member for Morley and Rothwell (Colin Challen) that Solihull is nowhere near Surrey; it is nothing like Surrey. The west midlands has a proud industrial heritage and it has a lot in common with Leeds. Leeds is rightly proud of its diversity and industrial heritage.

I agree about the comment by the Mayor of London that investment in London will stimulate Leeds and Manchester. Leeds contributes to the UK, not the other way around. It is important that we are all linked up. On that point, a number of hon. Members have mentioned rail, including high-speed rail, which is hugely important. The first stage will run up to Birmingham, but proper, fast connections are also important to the north-east, the north-west and Scotland, as is linking those connections to the continent. We are stronger linked up.

Next Section Index Home Page