HC Deb 12 July 1984 vol 63 cc1348-9
8. Ms. Clare Short

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the decline in manufacturing output since 1979.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. John Moore)

Output in the economy as a whole is at an all-time high. In the three months to April manufacturing output is estimated to have been 10¾ per cent. below its average level in 1979. But this is more than compensated by the fact that output in the rest of the economy is well above its 1979 level.

Ms. Short

Will the Financial Secretary admit that a disastrous consequence of his Goverment's policies since 1979 is that manufacturing output in Britain is still below its 1979 level, and that there can be no real recovery in the British economy without a recovery in manufacturing industry? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the levels of investment and of imports and exports of manufactures show that the decline is continuing?

Mr. Moore

I am sure that the hon. Lady will recognise that a relative decline in manufacturing is nothing new in the United Kingdom or in the OECD as a whole. I am sure that, in fairness, she would accept that manufacturing employment as a percentage of employment in the United Kingdom was 35 per cent. in 1974 as against 31 per cent. in 1979 and 27 per cent. today. The relative decline in output and employment has continued over a long period.

Mr. Stokes

Is my hon. Friend aware that the decline in manufacturing industry is in part due to strikes—of which there are some at present—which are invariably supported by Opposition Members?

Mr. Moore

My hon. Friend is right to remind the House of one of our basic competitive weaknesses. The tragedy is that since 1975 United Kingdom unit labour costs have risen more than twice as fast as those of our competitors.