HC Deb 28 February 1977 vol 927 cc15-7
13. Mr. Jessel

asked the Secretary of State for Industry by what percentage industrial production has risen since 28th February 1974.

The Under-Secretary of State for Industry (Mr. Les Huckfield)

Adjusting for the effects of stock changes, it is estimated that industrial production was at much the same level in December of last year as in February 1974.

Mr. Jessel

How can the Labour Government expect to find the resources for their schemes for social improvement if in three years in office they have failed so pathetically to promote industrial production?

Mr. Huckfield

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman recognises that it is a bit more detailed and a bit more significant than that. Most countries in the Western world have been going through some sort of recession. As he also knows, it is the Government's policy to switch resources into manufacturing industry, and under the Industry Act alone the Government have channelled some £425 million into industry.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

In considering the ways in which the Government might improve the disappointing statistics of industrial production, will the hon. Gentleman consider the analysis in the Financial Times this morning of Government expenditure on assistance to industry, part of which the hon. Gentleman has just quoted with pride? The analysis breaks down the figures. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that it shows that far too great a proportion of Government expenditure continues to go on a few rescue operations for large ailing companies that are quite unlikely significantly to contribute to improved production or productivity in the next few years?

Mr. Huckfield

I think that the hon. Gentleman has failed to appreciate the full range and significance of each of the Government's industry aid schemes. If he considers the accelerated project scheme, he will find that of the £84 million that the Government have injected about £640 million of investment has in the end been generated. The hon. Gentleman should look at the Government's assistance to industry in totality.

Mr. Rost

As the Labour Party conned the electors into voting for it three years ago with the slogan "Back to work with Labour", will the hon. Gentleman now give his definition of what was meant by that promise?

Mr. Huckfield

The only way in which one can answer such a question is to say that if the previous Administration had ensured that investment was in factories rather than in office blocks, we might all have had a far better industrial base on which to expand.

Mr. Heffer

Does my hon. Friend agree that investment in industry by private concerns has been absolutely pathetic over the years and that the private concerns that have recently been mentioned were precisely those that were suffering and that had to be rescued by the Government? Is it not clear that we cannot tolerate such a position any longer and that the Government will have to rethink their industrial strategy and take it one stage further by bringing in a system of compulsory planning agreements to get the investment where we need it at the right time and in the right amount?

Mr. Huckfield

I take careful note of what my hon. Friend says. I recognise that there is a great deal of feeling in the trade union and Labour movement along the lines that he has expressed. I hope that my hon. Friend will recognise that the Conservative Prime Minister, despite everything that his party says it has done for industry, despite all the claims made by Conservative Members, was reduced to complaining about the low level of investment by private industry.

Mr. Jessel

In view of the highly unsatisfactory nature of that reply, Mr. Speaker, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

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