HC Deb 14 January 1988 vol 125 cc440-1
7. Mr. Ian Taylor

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the relative benefit to British industry of (a) I per cent. off interest rates and (b) 1 per cent. off pay rises.

Mr. Lilley

A 1 per cent. moderation in pay rises would be worth roughly four times as much to British industry as a 1 per cent. reduction of interest rates, even if that were sustained for a full year.

Mr. Taylor

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those extremely interesting figures. Does he believe that industry could help itself by keeping a tighter grip on its unit pay costs and thereby ensure that inflation falls, which would lead to a decline in interest rates? Does he also believe that the statistics would be extremely helpful if those on the Opposition Front Bench understood what causes inflation?

Mr. Lilley

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the importance of industry keeping control of its pay costs. I should especially like to pay tribute to the management and employees of the export industries, because the strong rise in productivity that they have achieved has enabled them to keep their pay costs stable up to now, despite the considerable increases in the real earnings of the employees.

Mr. Grocott

On the subject of interest rates, has the Minister had a chance to see the evidence from the National Consumer Council on consumer credit, which shows that eight chain stores are charging rates of interest between 32 and 39.9 per cent.? Does he not agree that that is a swindle, and what will he do about it?

Mr. Lilley

I have not seen the figures to which the hon. Gentleman referred, but I shall examine them. It is now obligatory on those offering credit to make clear the terms on which they offer that credit. The best guarantee that people are not swindled is that they have competitive alternatives to which they can turn.