HC Deb 16 October 1991 vol 196 c296
3. Mr. Roger King

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the United Kingdom's share of world trade (a) from 1974 to 1979 and (b) since 1979.

The Minister for Trade(Mr. Tim Sainsbury)

Britain's share of world exports of manufactures by volume declined between 1974 and 1979. The decline continued into the 1980s. Since 1981 our export volume has increased faster than that of any of our major competitors.

Mr. King

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Can he confirm that in the first eight months of this year manufactured exports have risen by more than 60 per cent. of the 1979 average? Does not that show, in particular, the dramatic resurgence of the British car industry, which exports an ever-growing number of its products throughout the world? Will my hon. Friend further confirm that, instead of knocking Britain's achievements, as the Labour party does, British industry is out abroad knocking on doors to get business?

Mr. Sainsbury

I am happy to confirm that my hon. Friend is absolutely right. I join him in paying tribute to the achievements of the British car industry. The achievements of British exporters are a tribute not only to the quality and competitiveness of their products, but to the quality of the Government's policies, which invite inward investment and, through low taxation, encourage productivity and entrepreneurial skills.

Mr. John Evans

Is the Minister aware that since 1979 more than 23,000 jobs have been lost in St. Helens? More than two thirds of those jobs were in the glass industry. A further 750 redundancies have been announced by Pilkington this week. Will the Minister acknowledge that the United Kingdom's share of the glass industry has fallen dramatically since 1979? When will the Department stimulate the economy to assist firms such as Pilkington to start employing people and to stop sacking them?

Mr. Sainsbury

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that to be competitive in export markets—as, indeed, in home markets—it is necessary to use the latest techniques and technology. Sadly, that sometimes means that more glass can be produced by fewer people. Any lay-off is a matter for regret, but I hope that the hon. Member will applaud companies such as Pilkington, which has improved productivity, as has British industry as a whole.