HC Deb 06 April 1981 vol 2 cc676-7
12. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he next expects to meet the Confederation of British Industry to discuss the Government's industrial strategy.

Sir Keith Joseph

I hope to meet the CBI in the near future to discuss industrial policy matters arising from its paper "The Will to Win".

Mr. Douglas

When the Secretary of State meets the CBI, will he discuss the phenomenon of the disagreement over whether or when the recession has bottomed out and particularly give a view on why other nations at the bottom of the recession, such as Japan, are making substantial investment in their industry, while we are not making any real investment?

Sir Keith Joseph

There can be honourable disagreement between observers and participants on the exact point at which the recession bottoms out, but there seems to be strong evidence that we are in the bottoming-out phase, or very closely approaching it. On the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I must emphasise that Japan's share of national revenue taken by public spending is very much less than the share here. In addition, the rate of profit in Japan is far higher in proportion to national revenue.

Mr. Michael Morris

When my right hon. Friend responds to the CBI report "The Will to Win", will he be able to give any encouragement to British industry? Is he aware that the report, in the section dealing with public purchasing, points out that, for example, lift specifications that are set centrally by the DHSS are not followed in the regions, and that the same applies to the PSA?

Sir Keith Joseph

An immense effort is being made throughout Government to raise awareness of the value of enlightened public purchasing by all public agencies. I certainly take seriously the point made by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Spriggs

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a deep and growing suspicion throughout the country of Government policy and private industrial policy? Is he aware that I learnt on Saturday night that BICC at Prescot in Lancashire has just completed its own telecommunications department, giving it private facilities to speak to sister firms all over the world, and that it completed that department by buying all its cable from Taiwan, while cable workers in St. Helens and elsewhere are being put on the dole?

Sir Keith Joseph

The hon. Gentleman's indignation cannot remove the reality that we live in a competitive world. People will have to survive by being competitive. The hon. Gentleman's constituents choose to buy the best value in the high streets of the towns in which they live. We have to become competitive in order to survive.

Mr. Forman

Will my right hon. Friend take every available opportunity to reassure the CBI and anyone else who needs reassuring that the Government have an industrial policy?

Sir Keith Joseph

I am tempted to inflict on my hon. Friend the 33-page speech that I made on that subject last Thursday.

Mr. Orme

Will the right hon. Gentleman publish, before he meets the CBI, a considered reply to its document "The Will to Win", which contradicts basic Government policy? We are entitled to know where the Government disagree with the CBI and the TUC. May we not have the Government's attitude in writing before the right hon. Gentleman meets Sir Terence Beckett and his friends?

Sir Keith Joseph

Is there really the disagreement to which the right hon. Gentleman refers? We await with interest the CBI's identification of the savings in public spending that it believes the Government should be able to make. Its purpose is the same as the Government's—to enable a fall in interest rates and a fall in inflation, because those are the prime conditions for industrial prosperity.