HC Deb 16 May 1991 vol 191 cc419-20
10. Mr. McAvoy

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer in which of the last 10 calendar years total fixed investment fell by more than 9.75 per cent.

Mr. Mellor

None. Total fixed investment in 1990 at constant prices was higher than in any year other than the past three.

Mr. McAvoy

In an earlier answer the Minister confirmed that the level of manufactured investment had fallen by 20 per cent. in the past year. Will he also confirm that the level of manufacturing investment as a proportion of fixed investment is now lower than when the Government took office? For the sake of British industry, why does not the Treasury Bench resign and let Labour do the job?

Mr. Mellor

The key statistic is total investment in business in this country, which has shown a dramatic increase. I have given the figures. The House might be interested to know that in the 1980s total investment growth was higher in the United Kingdom than in any other country in the Group of Seven, bar one. Needless to say, between 1970 and 1980 Britain was at the bottom of that investment growth league.

Mr. Butterfill

Is it not true that our growth during the three-year period to which my right hon. and learned Friend referred was 43 per cent., which was faster than in Germany, France or Italy?

Mr. Mellor

Indeed, it was. The changes that my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) made in 1984 in corporation tax rates, and other benefits which resulted from the Government's policies, led to an unprecedented explosion in business investment. It is inevitable that if industrial development slows, the level of investment cannot be sustained every year. However, it is clear that even this year the investment rate will be well above that which prevailed for business generally in the 1970s in real terms. That is the key statistic.

Mrs. Fyfe

Looking to 1991 and beyond, does the Minister accept that the International Monetary Fund report predicts a fall in investment for 1991 and that the Confederation of British Industry is even more pessimistic in its forecasts? Is it not true, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. McAvoy) said, that that bunch on the other side of the House ought to resign? Indeed, many people with considerably less important failures to record have shot themselves in despair

Mr. Mellor

It is astonishing that Labour Members think that they are on to a good point about investment when the only way they can jeer at the Government's achievements is to compare this 12 months with the record levels established under the Government in the late 1980s. On the question of business investment, any comparison with Labour years will make only too clear how much of an advance there has been since then. In the 1970s, business investment in this country was stagnant. That is the key point which everyone should bear in mind.