Guy Opperman makes plea for dedicated minister and bank law changes

A DEDICATED Government minister for manufacturing should be appointed to help boost British industry, a North MP last night said.

Guy Opperman

A DEDICATED Government minister for manufacturing should be appointed to help boost British industry, a North MP last night said.

Hexham’s Conservative MP Guy Opperman claimed exporters needed “a go-to guy” for business advice and direction.

He said: “Such a minister would genuinely provide a co-ordinated response to concerns of the manufacturing businesses and would send out a statement that this really matters.”

Opening a backbench-led Commons debate on the future of manufacturing, Mr Opperman said firms needed a figurehead in Government – and demanded help to tackle the “chronic problem” of banks failing to lend money to businesses.

He said: “Manufacturing should be at the heart of any long-term plan for economic growth.

“It is a sleeping giant which, if revived, would become the backbone of a strong UK economy.”

Mr Opperman called on the coalition to offer greater flexibility and pro-business policies.

He said one route to boosting lending to small firms would be for the City watchdog, the Financial Services Authority, to lower the minimum amount of money needed to launch a bank in a bid to spark competition.

He believed the current £110m threshold could fall to £10m

He said: “Then you would be in a position where a prominent local businessman or a business itself in a community could set-up a local bank. Traditionally the problem has always been those banks have gone bust because they over-borrowed and over-lent.

“If there was a restriction so they could not in any way exceed the money held on deposit with the Bank of England, they would be in a position that the only loss they could sustain would be their own funds put into that particular bank. The effect would be true localism.”

Labour former business minister Pat McFadden said globalisation had fundamentally changed manufacturing in the UK under successive governments.

He said: “Nobody can underestimate the importance to every developed economy, including ours, of the opening up of China as the factory of the world.

“To try to pin that on any single government is to miss the point. No country is immune from those effects.”

Advances in technology also meant that it took fewer people to make any product, he added. But he insisted the state of British manufacturing was better than many appreciated.

“We make less than we used to, the figures clearly show that, but I also believe we make more than we think and more than is sometimes given credit for,” he said.

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