HC Deb 23 June 1993 vol 227 cc291-3
8. Mr. Nicholas Winterton

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to prevent the erosion of the United Kingdom's manufacturing base.

Mr. Sainsbury

The success of United Kingdom industry is the primary concern of my Department and all the policies of the Department are directed towards that end.

Mr. Winterton

Although I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend's response to my question, is he aware that the United Kingdom continues to export its manufacturing base, whether in traditional industries or even in high-tech ones'? If he wants chapter and verse, I will give it to him. Does my right hon. Friend accept that the way in which the Government can improve the position of United Kingdom manufacturing industries, which are the only real source of genuine economic growth in this country, is to achieve a further modest reduction in interest rates, introduce 100 per cent. capital allowances and give my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer every encouragement in his Mansion House speech to have a Budget in November for economic growth'?

Mr. Sainsbury

I know that my hon. Friend has great enthusiasm for manufacturing industry, but I hope that he will not entirely neglect the contributions made to employment and, indeed, exports by other aspects of British business. He made suggestions which are, as he knows, matters for my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor. My hon. Friend referred to exporting our manufacturing base. I am not sure to what he is referring, but I hope that he will join me in congratulating British manufacturing exporters on their achievement in increasing exports by 6.5 per cent. last year in extremely difficult world trade conditions.

Mr. Robert Ainsworth

Will the Minister accept that the Under-Secretary of State for Technology has a selective recognition of trade figures, because the deficit grew in April and May, with imports growing by 0.6 per cent. and exports falling? The basic cause of that is the size of our manufacturing base. When will the Government have some underlying strategy to improve the situation?

Mr. Sainsbury

May we be clear about exports? Total exports, excluding oil and erratics—which is the most sensible way of looking at them—were at a record level in the first quarter of this year and 6.5 per cent. higher than a year earlier. Having said that, of course we all share the objective of broadening our manufacturing base and enabling British manufacturing industry not only to increase exports but to gain a larger share of the home market.

Mr. Knapman

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that our manufacturing base will be helped by the initiative introduced by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to cut red tape and bureaucracy? Is my right hon. Friend the Minister aware that, according to the Library, 265 new rules, regulations and directives will come from Brussels in the near future? Can we help my right hon. Friend best by supporting or by opposing those directives?

Mr. Sainsbury

My hon. Friend is right to identify excessive regulation and over-zealous application of bureaucratic rules as damaging to all industry, but particularly to small industry. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Corporate Affairs is doing a magnificent job. We all wish him the greatest success in wielding the axe against regulations that are unnecessary, excessive or over-bureaucratic, from whatever direction they come—Whitehall or Brussels.

Mr. Bennett

Does the Minister agree that one of the most successful parts of manufacturing industry in Britain is our mining engineering equipment industry? Does he realise that it faces devastation of the home market as a result of so many rapid closures of pits? What does he intend to do to help it to win export orders, especially in eastern Europe where there is clearly a major need for mining engineering equipment?

Mr. Sainsbury

I recognise that our mining engineering industry has considerable skills. My hon. Friend the Minister for Energy has met representatives of the industry and is working closely with the industry to help it at a time when obviously there has been a reduction in demand for deep-mining equipment in Britain and internationally.

Mr. Clappison

Will my right hon. Friend join me in acknowledging the warm welcome that has been given by exporters of manufactured goods to the improvements in the Export Credits Guarantee Department scheme announced in the autumn statement and the Budget? Does he agree that those exporters who benefit from the scheme have a vital role to play in developing and sustaining our improving export trend?

Mr. Sainsbury

I am happy to agree with my hon. Friend. As he knows, the announcement in the Budget of additional ECGD support followed earlier announcements at the end of last year and a reduction in rates by the Department earlier last year. There have been successive moves to improve the service provided by ECGD to our exporters. I am glad to say that our exporters have responded magnificently to that encouragement.