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Destroying Midlands will damage UK.

Byline: By Jonathan Walker Political Editor

The destruction of Midlands manufacturing will damage the economy of the entire country, MPs have been warned.

The closure of Peugeot's plant in Coventry was merely the latest in a long line of redundancies at firms including the Standard Motor Company, Rolls-Royce, Massey Ferguson, Rover and Jaguar, the Commons heard.

Jim Cunningham (Lab Coventry South) issued the warning as he called for greater protection for workers. But Solihull MP Lorely Burt, also speaking in the Commons, said the West Midlands should look to the future and concentrate on high technology industries.

Mr Cunningham was presenting new laws to ensure businesses consulted staff about their company's plans for the future, and how they would affect the workforce.

He said: "I applied to present this Bill some time before last week's announcement at Peugeot, because I have thought for a long time that something should be done about companies arbitrarily announcing redundancies.

"We have certainly had a spate of them doing so in the West Midlands over the past two or three years."

He warned: "The West Midlands contributed pounds 77.3 billion to our wider economy in 2003.

"Until we show our determination to protect jobs in the West Midlands and the country more widely, we will see a significant decline in one of the UK's largest regional economic contributors."

Mr Cunningham said: "Over the last 20 years, Coventry has seen the closure of the Standard Motor Company, Rolls-Royce at Parkside, Massey Ferguson and Jaguar. Coventry also had some input into Rover, and now we have Peugeot to add."

Ms Burt, in a debate about biotechnology, said the Midlands should concentrate on making the most of scientific advances.

She said: "In the West Midlands only last week, 2,300 redundancies were announced as a result of the Peugeot factory closure.

"It is clear that areas such as Coventry need to reinvent themselves.

"Marine biotechnology is a particularly fast-growing field in Coventry. I am looking forward to there being assistance through Government agencies for the development of the infrastructure to enable biotechnology to be developed in the West Midlands."

Rolls-Royce announced 1,300 redundancies in 2001. Tractor manufacturer Massey Ferguson closed in 2003 with the loss of 1,000 jobs, and Jaguar axed 1,000 jobs when it quit its Coventry site in Browns Lane.

An inquiry by the Trade and Industry Select Committee warned plants would close because EU regulations were damaging productivity.

However the British automotive industry remains a major employer and last year about 1.6 million cars were made in the UK, only slightly fewer than the numbers reached during the 1970s when the industry was at its peak.

jon_walker@mrn.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

Theresa May, the shadow Leader of the House of Commons, pictured above with Coventry Chamber chairman Darren Jones, called on the Government to do everything in its powers to help the 2,300 workers who will lose their jobs with the plant's closure. During a visit to the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, she said: "In recent years there have been a number of blows with companies closing down or moving out of the region, but there has always been an ability to bounce back. I hope the Government works closely in the Peugeot Partnership, with the local authority and other bodies to make sure people are given the support and training to help them get other jobs and also to attract other companies to this area."
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 27, 2006
Words:582
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