HC Deb 22 June 1994 vol 245 cc225-7
10. Mr. Richards

To ask the President of the Board of Trade when he next proposes to meet representatives from the Confederation of British Industry to discuss the White Paper on competitiveness.

Mr. McLoughlin

My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and other DTI Ministers maintain close contact with the CBI on a wide range of issues.

Mr. Richards

Will my hon. Friend confirm that improving the competitiveness of the Post Office is a major objective of Government policy? Was he aware that last Monday I opened a new post office at Colwyn Heights in my constituency? Does not this enterprise by my constituents, Mr. and Mrs. Jones, signify a new future for the Post Office?

Mr. McLoughlin

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I wish Mr. and Mrs. Jones well in their venture of opening a post office. I hope to be able to provide them with new services which will produce more profitability for their business venture.

Mr. Barry Jones

Why do the Government not adopt a strategy for British manufacturing? Is not the reason for the total lack of convincing measures in the recent White Paper the fact that the Prime Minister will not let the President of the Board of Trade have a strategy for British manufacturing industry?

Mr. McLoughlin

That is rather at odds with the usual approach of the party that normally sings the TUC's song. So far, John Monks of the TUC has said: This White Paper is a welcome shift in the Government's approach to competitiveness". The latest training and enterprise councils newsletter also stated: The Government's White Paper on Competitiveness has received a broad welcome by the TEC leaders". I therefore reject what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Mr. Ward

Will my hon. Friend join me in approving the emphasis on small firms in the White Paper? Will he listen to their concern about the difficulty in collecting debts from some of their bigger brethren?

Mr. McLoughlin

I am grateful for what my hon. Friend has said on that point which, as he knows, was dealt with in the White Paper. We intend to introduce several measures to tackle late payment of debt. There have already been some welcome improvements in this country compared with other countries, but we will deal with the issue again if sufficient progress is not made.

Mr. Fatchett

Is it not a simple fact that the glossy, expensive, £600 per page White Paper contains no new ideas on investment, research and development on training, and no strategy to restore the strength of Britain's manufacturing industry? Does the Minister agree that the sheer bankruptcy of ideas in the White Paper is the reason why so many people feel that the President of the Board of Trade would make such a good chairman of the Conservative party?

Mr. McLoughlin

The White Paper deals with some of the issues of concern to Britain. There is no doubt that the policies advocated by the Opposition, such as the imposition of the social chapter on British industry, would do nothing to improve competitiveness.

Mr. Quentin Davies

Has not Britain's improvement in competitiveness been well shown this afternoon, for example in earlier answers about the automotive industry and industrial prospects? The very last thing that we need is the restoration of the destructive trade union practices of the past—including secondary picketing, which the Labour party is pledged to restore.

Mr. McLoughlin

I can assure my hon. Friend that there is no way in which the Government will backtrack on any of the trade union legislation that we have introduced, but the same cannot be said for the Opposition. More than 40 per cent. of the value of Japanese investment stock has come to the United Kingdom in inward investment and, in 1992, some 39 per cent. of the value of United States investment stock in the European Community came to Britain. Other countries look to the United Kingdom as a place to invest because we have created the right climate for investment.

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