Business Secretary Vince Cable has said East Lancashire firms are well positioned to be at the forefront of a ‘re-balancing’ of the economy towards manufacturing.

Dr Cable visited manufacturing plants at BAE Systems at Warton and Leyland Trucks on Thursday, praising the ‘world class’ skills base in the county.

He hailed BAE as a ‘brilliant example of British advanced manufacturing’ during the visit, which marked the recent agreement with Oman to buy 12 Typhoon and eight Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer aircraft.

The minister also revealed that business leaders had told him they were in ‘advanced negotiations’ to attract big name companies to the Lancashire Enterprise Zone based around the BAE site at Samlesbury and designed for a variety of hi-tech sectors.

He said: “There are key manufacturing industries in Lancashire, including aerospace and vehicle manufacture, which have a highly trained and motivated labour force.

“They are world class industries and manufacturing as a whole is key to the economy’s recovery. There has been too much reliance in our economy on the banking and financial sectors.

“Much of the problem is psychological, people thinking ‘we don’t make things anymore’. Well we do and we will do in the future.

“The trouble is that in the past Britain probably rather neglected exports.

“We had an overvalued exchange rate for many years and we took our eye off the ball. But the future recovery of Britain depends very heavily on our ability to export successfully.”

Dr Cable added that East Lancashire suppliers to the aerospace industry such as Burnley-based Aircelle, and Rolls Royce and Euravia, both based in Pendle, were all examples of how the sector was growing.

He said the Lancashire enterprise zone had been ‘slow to get off the ground’ but he expected ‘a few big companies’ to be attracted to Lancashire, building on the aerospace capabilities already in the region.

Companies locating in Samlesbury can get business rates relief worth up to £275,000 over a five-year period He also supported apprenticeship schemes and pledged support in that area for the ‘60 per cent of youngsters who do not go to university’.