HC Deb 22 June 1994 vol 245 cc227-8
12. Mr. Nicholas Winterton

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what has been the level of investment by United Kingdom manufacturing industry in the last year for which figures are available; and what is the comparable figure in real terms for 10 years previously.

Mr. McLoughlin

In 1993, manufacturing investment was £12.8 billion, compared with £6.9 billion in 1983. This was a welcome increase in real terms of 25 per cent.

Mr. Winterton

I welcome my hon. Friend's response, but does he accept that manufacturing industry is the sole provider of non-inflationary, sustainable growth in this country and as such requires a better deal from Government? If we are to reduce unemployment, we must regenerate our manufacturing base. Will he consider making appropriate representations within the Department and to the Cabinet through our right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to ensure that the Cabinet, through our right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, introduces capital allowances to enable British industry to invest to the level necessary to create jobs and genuine wealth?

Mr. McLoughlin

My hon. Friend should not be so critical. Ours is one of the few countries in Europe seeing a reduction in unemployment. I am sure that my hon. Friend welcomes that. Manufacturing industry invested a greater proportion of its output in the 1980s than it did in the 1970s. Of real importance is a stable economic background, with low inflation and low interest rates. They are the most important influences on investment.

Mr. Burden

Is the Minister aware that Britain invests less of its national income in industry than virtually any other major industrial country and is he happy with that state of affairs?

Mr. McLoughlin

Of course one would like more investment, and that will be achieved by making Britain an attractive place in which to invest. Government policies have gone a long way to that end. Labour relations in this country are far better now than ever they were when Labour had anything to do with the government of this country. That is an important factor when companies decide where to invest.

Mr. Dickens

Does my hon. Friend agree that British industry is responding? It knows that if it designs products that the rest of the world wants to buy, manufactures them to a high quality, sells them at competitive prices and gives good after-sales service, it will lead the world. British industry is doing that now, which is why it is leading the world. If one buys from the United Kingdom, one travels first class.

Mr. McLoughlin

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am not sure that there is much that I can add to his comments.

Mr. Robin Cook

So that the House will not be misled, will the Minister admit that the 1993 investment figure in which he just took such pride is 13 per cent. down on 1979? On present industrial trends, it will be 1999 before manufacturing investment returns to the level of 20 years before, under Labour. Is that not a more honest measure of the deep damage that the Government have done to British industry? Does the Minister have the courage to admit that?

Mr. McLoughlin

I realise that I cannot ask questions, Madam Speaker, but the damage being done to this country is the support that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues continue to give strikers. If Britain has a reputation for strikes, it will not attract the kind of investment that both the hon. Gentleman and I want.