HC Deb 27 November 1991 vol 199 cc898-9
5. Mr. Burns

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations he has received from business men about the importance of controlling inflation.

The Minister for Corporate Affairs (Mr. John Redwood)

Many business men have stressed the importance of controlling inflation. I am sure that the House will welcome the fact that it is down to 3.7 per cent. and below the EC average, as that provides the sort of background against which businesses can expand and export abroad.

Mr. Burns

Does my hon. Friend agree that, at 3.7 per cent., the rate of inflation is half the lowest level that it was under the last Labour Government? Does he accept that small business organisations are extraordinarily worried by the interview given by the Leader of the Opposition to the Evening Standard? When tackled on how the Labour party would deal with inflation, the right hon. Gentleman said, "To cut a story short, we do not know."

Mr. Redwood

That was a rare moment of honesty and brevity from the Leader of the Opposition. We all welcome his precision in noting the fact that the Opposition do not have a proper policy. How right my hon. Friend is to point out that our rate of inflation is less than half the best rate ever achieved by the 1974–79 Labour and Labour-Liberal Administration. We do not intend to repeat their experience and we have the policies to make sure that we do not.

Mr. Alton

Notwithstanding the importance of trying to reduce inflation, does the Minister agree that increasing unemployment—8,000 more jobless people in the city of Liverpool alone since January this year—and the effect on the telecommunications industry of the recent GEC announcements mean that he should look especially at ECGD funding? I commend to him early-day motion 209, tabled by the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-West (Sir A. Grant), which calls on the Government to take a more realistic view of the help that they can give to telecommunications if those important jobs are to be safeguarded.

Mr. Redwood

That information is vital to the creation of new jobs. A former Labour Prime Minister got that far in his thinking in the 1970s when he pointed out that one could not have high inflation and lots of employment and that high inflation would reduce rather than increase the number of jobs.

The best way to create jobs in the telecommunications industry is through liberalisation, our duopoly review, opening up the market, allowing the new products to come through and allowing customers to make their decisions in the marketplace. I promise the hon. Gentleman that jobs will follow from those decisions.