HC Deb 25 February 1987 vol 111 c266
13. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is the most recent figure for output in manufacturing industry; and what was the comparable figure for the same month seven years ago.

Mr. Pattie

The hon. Member will appreciate that monthly data can be erratic. However, since the trough of the recession in 1981 manufacturing output has increased by 14 per cent. to reach a level of 106.0 in December 1986, based on 1980 equal to 100. This was some 5 per cent. lower than the level of output in December 1979. Productivity, however, is now 31 per cent. higher than the 1979 figure.

Mr. Knox

Does my right hon. Friend consider that the present figure and that for seven years ago show that manufacturing industry has made satisfactory progress in the past seven years?

Mr. Pattie

The recent trends show that it is doing so. For the past eight months up to and including December 1986 we have seen consecutive growth in each month in manufacturing output. Indeed, if the forecast in the autumn statement of 4 per cent. growth, which has been confirmed as a forecast by many outside observers, is achieved in 1987 it will be the best year for manufacturing output and growth since 1973.

Mr. Hoyle

Does the Minister agree that he should compare the figure with that of 1979? Is not productivity still below that year's figure? Indeed, if we had an economic recovery, we could not meet the output needed in the steel industry and other basic industries. Is it not once more a case of measuring from a small base, the decline of which must be attributed to the Government?

Mr. Pattie

I said in my first answer, which I am sure the hon. Gentleman heard, that the figures I gave were 5 per cent. lower than the level of output in December 1979. It is somewhat disingenuous of the hon. Gentleman to suggest that what happened in the 18-month period from May 1979 was anything other than the consequence of the Labour Government.

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the companies which have come through the trauma of the recession are now more competitive and have better prospects than before? In particular, the companies which have kept themselves to the forefront of technology have prospered. In Lincoln, in the past seven years Marconi has doubled its employment and has more than doubled the value of its output.

Mr. Pattie

There are many examples, like those that my hon. Friend adduced. We can all express satisfaction about GEC's record in Lincoln.