§ 8. Mr. Milburn
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was (a) the growth in gross domestic product since 1979 for the United Kingdom and (b) the OECD average.
§ Mr. Nelson
Average annual growth between 1979 and 1991 was 1.8 per cent. in the United Kingdom and 2.8 per cent. on average in OECD countries respectively; but between 1981 and 1991, of the G7 countries only Japan had a substantially higher average annual rate of growth than the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Milburn
Is the Economic Secretary aware that, if economic growth in this country had matched the performance of our leading industrial competitors, the United Kingdom's output since 1979 would have been some £245 billion higher than it was under his Government? Does he not recognise that his failure to ensure long-term investment in British industry means that, day by day, the gap between Britain and other industrialised nations is widening rather than narrowing? Is not that £245 billion growth shortfall a simple indication that the Government have failed this country?
§ Mr. Nelson
Like so many Opposition Members, the hon. Gentleman seems to enjoy talking down the United Kingdom's economic performance. Let me tell him that, during the 1980s, this country grew faster than France, Italy or Germany, and took the lion's share of inward investment from the United States and Japan. They have confidence in this country's economic future, even if the hon. Gentleman does not.
§ Mr. Butterfill
Does my hon. Friend agree that the surest way to ensure that we did not have good economic growth would be to adopt Labour's policies, have the Government choose where we invested and pile tax increase on tax increase, as was so enthusiastically espoused by the Labour party in the last election?
§ Mr. Andrew Smith
Is not the truth that it is not us talking Britain down but the Government who have been doing Britain down? The failure of their policies for growth are evident in the wrecked businesses, wrecked industries and wrecked lives up and down the land. We need action for investment, action for training, action for research and development, and an emergency programme for jobs. If the Government will not give us that programme, are they not accepting that unemployment will carry on rising?
§ Mr. Nelson
I assert again that we never hear any good news from the Opposition. The facts of the matter—[Interruption.] I shall give some facts. Industrial production is up; retail sales have not been higher for more than two years; interest rates have come down; and inflation is falling. The hon. Gentleman should recognise that Britain is well set for growth.
§ Mr. Ian Taylor
Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the most important facts of the past five years has been the level of inward investment in Britain, compared with the lack of it in other countries? That was recently recognised by Germany, which tried to increase tax incentives. Some 989 250,000 jobs have been created by that inward investment. Does he agree there are two potential threats to its continuation? One, earlier this year, was the possible election of a Labour Government; the second is the possibility that we might be sidelined by not ratifying the Maastricht treaty.
§ Mr. Nelson
My hon. Friend is right: the level of inward investment, which is precious and important, has been a tremendous vote of confidence in Britain's future economy and industrial performance. The extent to which inward investment in the car industry has been translated into jobs in some of the most important regions of this country is remarkable. That must be succoured and encouraged.