HC Deb 27 October 1994 vol 248 c1000
10. Mr. Byers

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the latest figure he has for the level of manufacturing investment in this country; and what this figure was in 1979.

Mr. Aitken

Total business investment is up by more than 30 per cent. since 1979, totalling about £60 billion in the past year, of which investment in manufacturing is currently running at £11 billion a year compared to £13.6 billion in 1979.

Mr. Byers

Will the Chief Secretary assure us that next time he visits the Ritz in Paris he will consider why manufacturing jobs in this country have been lost at twice the rate of those in France? Will he confirm that, in real terms, manufacturing investment in the United Kingdom has declined by 13 per cent. since 1979? Does he agree that those figures clearly show the Government's failure to assist the manufacturing sector?

Mr. Aitken

The hon. Gentleman is being very selective in the investment figures that he quotes. Britain is doing well in terms of investment, particularly inward investment from other countries. We are attracting the lion's share of foreign investment into the European Union—far more than France and Germany combined. If the French could see how well we are doing in that way, they would be grateful to have our good record.

Mr. Forman

In considering manufacturing investment, will my right hon. Friend always give due weight to the argument that it is much better that those decisions be taken by management and firms themselves, than distorted by tax relief, such as the 100 per cent. first year allowances, which would be a bad idea?

Mr. Aitken

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that the Government's real priority in trying to attract investment is not to produce all sorts of Government-created advantages but to create a framework like the one that we have now, of low inflation, a flexible labour force, low costs, and a stable and prosperous economic environment in which growth is occurring. Those conditions encourage manufacturers both here and abroad to invest in Britain.

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