§ 1. Mr. Kennedy
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what is the current level of United Kingdom manufacturing output; what it was on the same date in 1979 and 1981; and if he will make a statement.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Robert Atkins)
In the three months to May 1989, the output of the manufacturing industry averaged 118, based on 1985 equal to 100. The comparable figures for the same three months in 1979 and 1981 were 108 and 89.6 respectively. Manufacturing output during 1989 has been at record levels, and in the three months to May was 9 per cent. and 32 per cent. higher than in the same periods in 1979 and 1981 respectively.
§ Mr. Kennedy
The Minister's civil servants, although not the Minister, are to be congratulated on their ingenuity in trying to make a good story out of a disastrous one. Those figures confirm that following the deep recessionary policies of the Government between 1979 and 1981, our manufacturing base has still not recovered to the level that it was when the Government came to office 10 years ago. Is that not a savage indictment of the Government's economic policies and of the damage that those policies have caused to our manufacturing base?
§ Mr. Atkins
The hon. Gentleman has asked this question in almost the same terms before, and he received a robust answer from my hon. Friend the Minister for Trade. The hon. Gentleman may recall, although he was not here at the time, that we experienced a substantial recession, which also affected the rest of the world, since when manufacturing output has increased to a level that it has never reached before. It is a very good story.
§ Mr. Atkins
The hon. Gentleman should be aware that there has been a recession. Growth is now 5 per cent. higher than the previous all-time peak growth in manufacturing output. The hon. Gentleman should remember that if he asks a question once and gets the right answer, it is not worth asking it again.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton
Although there is some good news in my hon. Friend's answer, does he accept that the news could be even better if industries such as textiles and clothing were faced with fair competition rather than 326 diabolically unfair competition? There has been considerable investment in those two industries in particular, and they have excellent management and have sought to market their goods internationally, yet they are being undermined by unfair competition. Does my hon. Friend agree that if the Government came into the real world and examined the position of manufacturing industry, the picture could be even better than the one that he has presented to the House this afternoon?
§ Mr. Atkins
My hon. Friend always speaks vehemently and articulately for the industries in his constituency. As he knows, my hon. Friend the Minister of Trade. who cannot be here today, fights long and hard for the interests of the textile industry in Europe. My hon. Friend makes a fair point, although it is worth drawing to his attention the fact that since the peak of 1979, there has been an 11 per cent. increase in production in textile consumer products. That shows how successful at least part of the textile industry has been.