GORDON BIRTWISTLE MP: Let’s stage The Great Exhibition of 2012

Gordon Birtwistle
Gordon Birtwistle

Too many people believe the UK doesn’t manufacture things any more. Nothing could be further from the truth. The UK is the world’s sixth largest manufacturer and manufacturing in the UK is growing, becoming more productive and more high-value.

Figures from last month show Britain’s manufacturers maintained record growth rates, as demand grew at home and abroad, and more companies signalled they are keen to hire staff. This is excellent news. We are working hard towards a manufacturing renaissance in Britain and the creativity, productivity and innovation of Burnley and Padiham is going a long way towards making this happen.

In Parliament during the week we had our first meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Manufacturing – a group I have set up along with other MPs and Peers, to champion UK manufacturing. As part of this, I am calling on innovators and manufacturers in Burnley and Padiham to submit their design for a high profile exhibition of 21st Century manufacturing entitled the Challenge to the Commons: A Great Exhibition for 2012. The product could be anything from jam to silicone chips, from baby monitors to farming equipment. The only restriction is that the products are designed and manufactured locally. I will nominate one product manufactured in the constituency.

This is a really great opportunity to celebrate the creativity and highlight the breadth and depth of Burnley and Padiham’s manufacturing and industrial reputation. I hope it will raise the industry’s profile and image among young people. The contest closes on March 30th.

During the week I attended a number of events to promote manufacturing, with big name manufacturers there from all sectors, including aerospace, automotive and electronics – all signed up to the Government’s apprenticeship scheme. I attended a summit organised by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers to plan for the future of UK manufacturing. More than 100 people were there from major manufacturers – they agree with the Government’s view we need to rebalance the economy away from financial industries towards manufacturing. The summit was extremely positive.

A number of people have raised the issue of SureStart funding with me. Some people are concerned the funding for this has been cut. I would like to clarify this is not the case, funding for early years has been protected. What has happened is that ring-fencing has been removed, with local authorities given new powers to determine how they spend their funds. Most local authorities have prioritised spending on SureStart centres, and I hope Lancashire County Council does this too.

In the constituency, I was extremely pleased Burnley councillors voted for no rise in council tax. This is the first time this has happened in all the time I have been on the council.

On Friday, Kathleen and I visited Pendleside Hospice. We were shown round by the chairman and met the dedicated staff. The hospice is a great asset to the area and I was extremely impressed by the wonderful care provided there.

You might be aware it is Fairtrade Fortnight and on Saturday I went along to the Fairtrade Fashion Show at Burnley Mechanics, a fantastic event organised with the aid of young people from Burnley’s Blessed Trinity RC College, the Hollins School in Accrington, and Rhode Island Coffee. Music was provided by a local band and models from local schools and colleges exhibited fashions from Fairtrade stores. I would like to congratulate everyone who took part, for their outstanding effort in promoting Fairtrade, which is all about ensuring decent working conditions and fair terms for farmers and workers in the developing world.

During the show, I spoke with a number of inspirational local Fairtrade businesses including Burnley Food Links, a local company which aims to promote local, healthy and organic food in Burnley, which was at the event selling its preserves which are made from locally-grown fruit and vegetables and Fairtrade sugar. By encouraging the production and selling of Fairtrade products, the organisers and supporters of this event provide motivation to us all to buy Fairtrade products whenever we can.

During the week, I also visited Burnley’s Sainsbury’s store and met staff. I saw how the back office and shop floor works and was impressed by the commitment which the store has to its workforce, including a very high quality training programme.