HC Deb 12 January 1994 vol 235 cc174-6
14. Ms Coffey

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what monitoring his Department undertakes of the performance and effectiveness of managers in the United Kingdom manufacturing industry.

Mr. Sainsbury

My Department is continually monitoring the performance of British industry. Management skills are one of the many factors influencing that performance.

Ms Coffey

The Minister will be aware that much concern has been expressed to the Trade and Industry Select Committee by witnesses in relation to the quality and standard of British managers. I understand that those concerns were also expressed in the report prepared by the Department of Trade and Industry competitiveness unit, which has not been published. In view of the crucial importance of good management in ensuring that people work to the best of their ability, achieve job satisfaction and increase the competitiveness of British industry, and in view of the fact that the British worker has been much abused for the industrial ills of this country, what positive steps does the Minister intend to take to ensure that British management is of the highest quality and pulls its finger out?

Mr. Sainsbury

I share the hon. Lady's belief that management has a major contribution to make to the competitiveness of British industry in every sector and in every size of industry. That is why I welcome the fact that the level of management training in the United Kingdom is increasing. One statistic that demonstrates that fact is that in 1992 almost 6,000 students graduated with the qualification of master of business administration, compared with just over 1,000 in 1980.

Mr. John Marshall

Does my right hon. Friend accept that those sectors of British industry that have seen the greatest increases in productivity and investment are those that have been privatised by the Government? Does that not illustrate the fact that we are helping manufacturing industry while the Opposition parties are seeking to depress it?

Mr. Sainsbury

I agree with my hon. Friend wholeheartedly. One of the damping effects of public ownership has been to deter management from the sort of initiatives that improve competitiveness and identify export opportunities for their businesses. The success of privatised industry, not only in improving its competitiveness and the service given to customers, but in improving its exports, demonstrates the value of that programme.

Mr. Purchase

Notwithstanding the welcome increase in the number of graduates from the MBA programme, is the Minister aware that a little time ago John Harvey-Jones remarked that, never mind our managers achieving MBAs, it would be welcome if many of them could even read a simple balance sheet? That was from someone who is seen as an expert in business in this country. It is a reflection of the poor professional level of management in British industry over the past 20 years and there is room for much improvement.

Mr. Sainsbury

Indeed, my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade recently drew it to the attention of the Institute of Directors that perhaps British managers have rather too fulsome an opinion of their own performance. He said that that was a challenge—one to which I am happy to say that British management is broadly responding. The management charter initiative shows that that response is to be found in small companies as well as in the larger ones.

Mr. Heald

Will my right hon. Friend pay tribute to the work of the Chemical Industries Association and other bodies in that industry which have done a great deal in terms of management training? Does he agree that the results can be seen in the fact that the industry's exports have risen by 25 per cent. in the past five years? Does he agree that training for management is the future?

Mr. Sainsbury

I am happy to agree with my hon. Friend that that industry has been remarkably successful and that its trade association has made a major contribution to that success. Indeed, I repeat what my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has said many times—trade associations have an important role to play in encouraging competitiveness and improving management in their member companies.

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