HC Deb 01 November 1989 vol 159 cc305-6
4. Mr. Allan Roberts

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry why he has ceased publication of British Business.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Industry and Consumer Affairs (Mr. Eric Forth)

Following the decision that responsibility for the statistical series with which the Department of Trade and Industry was previously concerned should transfer to the Central Statistical Office, British Business magazine lost much of its market and was no longer viable.

I understand that the CSO is about to launch a series of business bulletins containing most of the new data previously published in British Business.

Mr. Roberts

Will the Minister admit that British Business, which was an information exercise by the Department of Trade and Industry, was cancelled as part of the Secretary of State's policy to turn the Department into a Trappist order? It is similar to the Secretary of State being barred from the Conservative party conference so that he could not make a speech about the £20 billion trade deficit. Will the Minister give an undertaking on behalf of himself and the Secretary of State that when the Chancellor increases taxes, which would be against the policies of the Secretary of State, he and his hon. Friend will both resign?

Mr. Forth

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State may be saintly, but I hope that he will not become a Trappist. The hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) did not listen to my answer, which was very straightforward. There has been a perfectly sensible reordering of activities within Government, with the result that figures which were previously available through the vehicle of British Businesswill now be available in an alternative way. There is nothing particularly sinister or difficult about that.

Mr. Marlow

How would British business, which has been publicised quite frequently by the publication British Business, be affected by the social charter or, as it has been called, the strikers' charter which some Greek lady is trying to impose on Britain?

Mr. Forth

I share my hon. Friend's concern, but I believe that our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has done a magnificent job so far in drawing to the attention of the people of this country and of Europe the patent shortcomings of the social charter. I am sure that all Conservative Members will continue to do that so that people may be clear in their minds that the kind of principles enshrined in the social charter will damage employment throughout the European Community and also the Community's competitive trading position in the world. That is why we are against it and that is why we shall continue to be against it.

Mr. Austin Mitchell

Putting the Department of Trade and Industry in the charge of the hon. Gentleman, his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the collection of freebooting free-marketers sitting alongside him at a time when all our competitor countries are engaged in close collusion between industry and government is an act equivalent to putting King Herod in charge of a day nursery. Is not the particular act of vandalism in closing down British Business symptomatic of an approach which will send British industry naked into the Euro/chamber?

Mr. Forth

Even allowing for the hon. Gentleman's tendency to hyperbole, that was a bit over the top. We are talking about a publication which, excellent though it was, was attracting only about 5,000 subscribers towards the end of its life.

Mr. Mitchell

I was one of them.

Mr. Forth

One could hardly say that that made it a major British institution. Nor, however excellent it may have been, was it the main or only vehicle of communication between the Government and business. I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that the figures which created most interest in the business community will be available in very much the same format through Central Statistical Office publications which will fully replace what is no longer available through British Business.

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