HC Deb 14 June 1982 vol 25 cc602-3
12. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what is the index of industrial production at present; and how this compares with the comparable figure for the same month in 1974.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

In the first quarter of 1982 the index of industrial production is provisionally estimated to have been 100.0, taking 1975 as 100, compared with 102.1 in the first quarter of 1974.

Mr. Knox

Does my right hon. Friend agree that those figures tell a story of eight wasted years in industrial production, which applies as much to the Labour Government as to the Conservatives? What steps do the Government intend to take to increase demand for the products of British industry so that we may return to the increases in production achieved in the 30 years after the war?

Mr. Jenkin

The secret of increasing industrial production must be that industry becomes competitive and thus recaptures more of the home market and makes greater inroads into export markets. The Government's policy to reduce inflation, which is now having signal success, is the most important single step to increase companies' productivity. My hon. Friend the Minister of State referred to the signs. We are now through the worst of the recession. As industries become more competitive, we expect that they will increase their market share and that this will result in lower unemployment.

Mr. Foster

Does the Minister agree that the reduction in industrial output has been greater since 1979, and that it has been greater in this country than anywhere else in the Western world? Does he further agree that this has had a devastating affect on the real public of the North of England? Does he realise that more jobs have been lost since 1979 than were created in 15 years of regional policy before that?

Mr. Jenkin

I should be more inclined to listen to the hon. Gentleman if he showed some contrition for the part played by the Labour Party in the steady debilitation and decline of the competitiveness of British industry. As a result of three years of our policy, British industry has begun to regain competitiveness, we are getting on top of inflation and British industry will win a greater share in world markets. That is how to get the people about whom the hon. Gentleman is concerned back to work.

Mr. Orme

If that is so, why are there more than 3 million unemployed and why are firms still closing? Where are the signs of recovery? The CBI and other organisations say that there is no recovery and no indication of any, so will the Minister please give us some indication?

Mr. Jenkin

Recovering jobs will be a matter of recovering competitiveness, which the right hon. Gentleman's question does not acknowledge. My hon. Friend the Minister of State cited a whole range of indicators showing that we are through the worst of the recession and that the signs are now for an increase in output, albeit a modest one, and an increase in investment—a little this year and a faster increase next year. That is how we shall achieve recovery in the growth of GDP and the reduction of unemployment. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that if the policies that he has repeatedly stated from the Opposition Dispatch Box ever came into effect they would put paid to any prospect of industrial recovery in this country.