A House of Commons inquiry is to escape the confines of Westminster to visit the West Midlands to hear at first hand about the challenges facing local businesses.

The Commons Business and Enterprise Committee is to visit firms at the innovation centre in Longbridge, Birmingham, which was designed to attract and support technology-based business following the collapse of MG Rover and the closure of its Longbridge factory.

The committee will also meet the management of Jaguar and Land Rover, which employs thousands in Castle Bromwich, Birmingham, and in Solihull, to discuss the implications of Ford's decision to sell the businesses to Indian firm Tata.

The inquiry also includes a visit to QinetiQ, the defence technology firm in Malvern, Worcestershire.

Commons inquiries usually involve hearings in Westminster, where MPs summon senior figures such as Ministers, industrialists or union leaders to give evidence.

But the Business and Enterprise Committee, chaired by Worcestershire MP Peter Luff (Con Mid Worcestershire), chose to see for themselves how British businesses are coping with the challenges of a changing global marketplace, as they launched an inquiry into creating an "added-value" economy.

Mr Luff said: "We hear a lot of talk about India and China, but there can be a tendency to assume these countries will continue to stay at the bottom end of the market using cheap and unskilled labour.

"In fact, they are going to invest a fortune in training scientists and developing skills. We are looking at how Britain can innovate and stay ahead of the game."

Other committee members include Adrian Bailey (Lab West Bromwich West) and Julie Kirkbride (Con Bromsgrove).

The visits, tomorrow, will follow formal evidence sessions with some of the region's top academics and officials, to be held at Coventry University today.

The MPs will quiz Prof Michael Clarke, vice principal of Birmingham University, and Prof Madeleine Atkins, vice chancellor of Coventry University, as well as executives from Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency, including chief executive Mick Laverty.

The agency is expected to highlight its successes helping the region to innovate, but also to warn that the region must improve its skills base.

Mr Laverty said: "This is a rare opportunity for us to showcase to the Select Committee our region's strengths in innovation right here on home turf, rather than at Westminster and we relish the opportunity.

"We know that our region has significant challenges in innovation and increasing the value of our economy, as have been outlined in the West Midlands Economic Strategy.

"However, there are some examples of world-class research and development activity which the committee will see during their visits to the International Manufacturing Centre at Warwick University, QinetiQ and to Jaguar Land-Rover at Gaydon.

"What we really want to get across is that we have some specific challenges here in the West Midlands that require support, particularly around higher-level skills where we currently don't perform well enough, although moves are already afoot."

Mr Luff said: "The three members of the committee who represent West Midlands constituencies - Julie Kirkbride, Adrian Bailey and myself - are particularly pleased that we are making this significant visit to study local research and development facilities and higher value-added businesses."