Karen Lumley is MP for Redditch
During the great days of British manufacturing, the Midlands and, in particular, Birmingham was one of the great industrial engines not just in Britain, but the entire world. Entrepreneurs flocked to the Midlands trading, exporting and ultimately producing a wide range of goods to be bought and used by the rest of the world. But the post-war industrial decline across Britain hit Birmingham hard. The closure of the Longbridge Plant in 2005 symbolised the loss of British manufacturing in a hyper-competitive, globalised world.
However, fast forward eight years, and today Britain’s manufacturing, and the success of the West Midlands, is very much back. In the first months of 2012, Britain became a net exporter of cars for the first time since 1976, with much of that rise coming from selling more products to the fastest growing countries of the world, notably China, Brazil, Thailand, South Korea, Australia, India and Russia.
The latest results of foreign direct investment show that over 1550 projects came to the UK in 2012/13 – up 11 per cent from the year before. Those projects resulted in an estimated 170,000 jobs being created or safeguarded. This is not simply good news in terms of re-balancing the economy after years of economic mismanagement and over spending under Labour. For unless Britain continues increasing production, it will find its future prosperity is not guaranteed.
The West Midlands is leading the nation in this great manufacturing revival. This year alone, the region’s manufacturers have created 1,500 jobs, and attracted over £1 billion of new investment. It is a record of which we should be proud. Since the beginning of 2011, exports from the West Midlands have increased by a staggering 30 per cent, in stark contrast to the rest of England, whose exports have grown on average by 2 per cent.
Jaguar Land Rover is one of the businesses at the front of this revival, with a 9 month waiting list for its Range Rover Sport range, resulting in the recent announcement of 1,700 new jobs, combined with a £1.5 billion investment in new technology. Visiting this factory, it comes as no surprise that it is performing so well. It is an excellent example of British manufacturing ,and shows that we can very successfully compete with any other economy in the world. Other car manufacturers are performing well, and those car companies based here feel valued. JLR’s Defender and Discovery, Aston Martin’s Rapide S model, Nissan’s Leaf and Toyota’s Segment Hatchback will all be manufactured in Britain. The Mini, of which I am a proud owner, was made and built in BMW’s Mini plant in Oxford.
The Regional Growth Fund has played a vitally important role. The West Midlands alone has benefited from £123 million of investment from the RGF. Furthermore, the RGF is a multi-million pound statement that the Government will support those businesses looking to grow, take risks, increase exports, create new jobs and win new contracts. Britain is becoming bold again, getting to grips with the new dynamics of the globalised world. Britain, just like the West Midlands, has nothing to fear. Despite industrial decline, it has remained a place of great thinkers and innovative entrepreneurs. It is the job of the Government to support these people and help propel a future of industrial renaissance.