A series of inquiries into the state of British manufacturing has been launched in the House of Commons.

MPs are to investigate the future of manufacturing industry in the UK, as unemployment continues to rise in the West Midlands.

The Trade and Industry Select Committee, chaired by Worcestershire MP Peter Luff (Con Mid Worcestershire), has announced the inquiries following job losses at Rover, Peugeot and Jaguar.

Members include Julie Kirkbride (Con Bromsgrove) and Rob Marris (Lab Wolverhampton South West).

The investigation will be split into a series of inquiries considering specific issues facing the industry.

They include Government efforts to market Britain as a country for the rest of the world to do business with, and the extent to which skills shortages are hurting manufacturers.

The committee will also look at claims that the Government is failing to support British industry by insisting services such as the police must be free to buy cars and other products from overseas. Public services in countries such as France or Germany only buy products made at home, according to trade unions.

Unemployment figures published last week showed the number of jobless in the West Midlands had shot up by more than ten per cent, from 136,000 to 150,000.

One area that continues to shed jobs is manufacturing, which saw employment in the three months to June fall by 103,000 over the year to 3.04 million. This is the lowest level since comparable records began in 1978.

A study earlier this year revealed three of the five constituencies with the highest unemployment rates were in Birmingham.

Ladywood has the highest unemployment in Britain, with Sparkbrook in second place and Hodge Hill in fourth place. Mr Luff said: "Job losses in the automotive sector are one of the factors which led to his inquiry.

"Manufacturing is hugely important to the economy of the country in all sorts of ways. The processed food industry doesn't receive much attention but it is very significant in constituencies like mine.

"The committee recently visited India, which gave us an insight into the considerable threat British manufacturing faces from countries such as India and China.

"We didn't want to have one over-arching inquiry. There will be a series of lean inquiries into specific issues. In the future we may also look at the importance of the transport infrastructure to manufacturing. We intend to involve bodies such as the TUC, CBI and Engineering Employers Federation.

"Manufacturing is important across Britain but we in the West Midlands know first hand how essential it is to the economy.

"We must continue to have first-rate competitive manufacturers in the UK in sectors such as pharmaceuticals and aerospace, but we mustn't under-estimate the continued importance of automotive and food processing."