Norfolk leading the way in manufacturing, says MP

West Norfolk businesses are playing a key role in helping the county lead the way in manufacturing, a Norfolk MP has said.

South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss has said there is now 'optimism' for Norfolk's future with the county buck the national trend in manufacturing.

It came as the deputy governor of the Bank of England Charles Bean said Norfolk's agricultural economy has made it more resilient to the downturn and the region is doing 'a little bit better than the average'.

The Conservative MP said: 'Norfolk has had 4,000 new manufacturing jobs in the last five years so where manufacturing has declined elsewhere in the country, it is increasing here.

'I've been to businesses like Herbert Engineering over in Marshland St James whose order books have never been fuller and they are exporting to Dubai and to eastern Europe and in Downham Market, we have Heygates Mill which is also exporting goods to the Middle East.

'In many ways Norfolk businesses are leading the way in manufacturing and we should be very proud of what they have done.'

Speaking at a Downham Market chamber of trade breakfast meeting on Wednesday, she continued: 'There is no doubt, however, we need to focus on what we can do to make our country more competitive and productive.

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'If you look at productivity figures of G7, we are 11pc less productive than the average and 35pc less productive than the US.'

Ms Truss said investment in infrastructure is something West Norfolk desperately needs to enable the area's economy to boom.

She continued: 'The A11 will be dualled next year and it can't happen quickly enough as far as I'm concerned but for this area the A47 is very important. Unfortunately it was downgraded in 2005 so I'm working with fellow MPs, Norfolk County Council and the borough council about getting the road upgraded again which will help to try and bring new investment in.

'We are having a meeting with transport minister shortly where this issue will be raised. The highways agency is also hopefully conducting a economic study about which sections of road will be the beneficial to dual.

'Moving onto our train services, if the government agrees to �25m improvement work on the Ely North junction that will enable half-hourly services to run on both the King's Lynn to Cambridge line and the Cambridge/Norwich line.

'I think this would have a massive economic impact on the area and I think business in Cambridge will see that stretch to King's Lynn as a good area to invest in new businesses. '

Moving onto broadband, Ms Truss added: 'The contracts for broadband in Norfolk will go out later this year. The government is investing �15m and the county council is matching that with another �15m which will mean we will see broadband going out further.

'We will also see the main exchanges in Swaffham, Thetford and Downham Market 'fibered up' , as it's known at Parliament, but I want to see it go out to our major villages as well.'

Ms Truss then told Downham business people that skills and finance are other important issues which need to be addressed quickly.

She continued: 'We are putting more resources in apprenticeships but it is vital that local businesses are able to offer apprenticeships to young people to help get them to get experience and to learn a trade.

'We need more skilled people in our industries to help drive it forward.'

Referring to finance, she added: 'The government is introducing credit easing which should make it easier for banks to lend money. I do think we have a problem with the banks and the level of competition in banks and the 'computer says no' culture about giving out loans.

'But what we have also seen is a massive shift from equity finance to debt finance of businesses which is much more than it is in other countries. What I would like to see in the long term is our tax system actually benefiting people who invest in businesses directly rather than just debt financing and I think that is one of the ways we are going to succeed in getting good finance into business.

'In summary, there are a lot of things we need to do to get the country back on track and it's not going to happen overnight but I think this area has strong opportunities going forward.

'But while we are chasing the new, I think we must remember not to forget the old.

'I met the shadow treasury minister for Australia recently and I asked him why is Australia doing so well economically at the moment and he said to me while everybody else was chasing the internet, they got on with food and farming and mining and look how they are doing now.'

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