§ 7. Mr. Wareing
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the increase or decrease in manufacturing investment between 1990 and 1991.
§ Mr. Norman Lamont
Complete data for 1991 are not available. In the first three quarters, manufacturing investment at constant 1985 prices was 15½ per cent. below its level in the comparable period in 1990.
§ Mr. Wareing
Does the Chancellor agree that our abysmal economic growth performance since the Government took office in 1979 is due largely to the dismal performance of British manufacturing industry, and that the forecast for the year 1991 of a 15 per cent. fall in investment is a testimony to the failure of the Government's policies? Was it not sheer arrogant complacency for the right hon. Gentleman to tell the National Economic Development Council at its recent meeting that if he had known before that there would be a fall of 15 per cent. he would still have done nothing? Is it not time he retired and let somebody do something?
§ Mr. Lamont
The hon. Gentleman's question was supposed to be about investment, but he has asked about growth in general. I cannot understand why he referred to poor growth performance in the 1980s unless he thinks that it is poor to have grown faster than France and Germany. That is an extraordinary assumption. He seems unaware that our exports in manufactures have recently been increasing their share of world trade. That cannot be described as a poor performance. The hon. Gentleman should get up to date with his facts.
§ Sir William Clark
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, although the Opposition seem to delight in talking down the United Kingdom economy, the confidence of the foreigner investing in this country is great and we have the highest rate of inward investment in the EEC, despite the pessimism that the Opposition are always trying to spread?
§ Mr. Lamont
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. As he said, inward investment is one of the great success stories of the last decade. We have achieved more inward investment than any other European country. The great thing about that inward investment is that some of the most successful countries in the world have chosen this country in which to invest.
§ Mr. Beith
Will the Chancellor assist businesses in making their investment plans by telling us whether he has revised his growth forecast for this year in the light of the Prime Minister's statements in his new year interview, which seemed to cast considerable doubt on the growth forecasts given earlier? In the light of what surely must be a changed forecast, will the right hon. Gentleman review his hostility so far to careful public expenditure designed to create infrastructure improvements for the future and to get the economy moving?
§ Mr. Lamont
I note the hon. Gentleman's early Budget representation. I note that, unlike the Labour party, when the hon. Gentleman's party advocates increased public spending, it is at least honest enough to say that it will put up the basic rate of tax. However, the hon. Gentleman's position does seem a little curious. His party says that it will put up the basic rate of tax. Yet, at the same time, it 1088 said that if there were a coalition Government, it would stop the Labour party putting up the higher rate of tax. That is a curious position to occupy.