HC Deb 18 April 1995 vol 258 cc9-10
8. Mr. Amess

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what was the total level of exports secured in the latest year for which figures are available by pharmaceutical companies based in Britain. [17560]

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

The latest year for which complete figures are available is 1993, when total pharmaceutical exports from the United Kingdom were £3,685 million. That was an increase of nearly a quarter over the previous year. Provisional figures suggest that pharmaceutical exports continued to rise steadily in 1994.

Mr. Amess

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, when it comes to the pharmaceutical industry, Britain is best? In the light of that, in our own strong industry, together with the international excellence of the research industry in the NHS, does my right hon. Friend agree that we could benefit further from inward investment? In that context, is there anything further that she can add about her recent trade visit to Japan?

Mrs. Bottomley

I support my hon. Friend. The pharmaceutical industry is one of our strongest industries. Britain is a magnet for inward investment, not least because of the strength of our research base; not least because of our comprehensive health service; not least because English is the international language of business; and not least because we have now secured the European Medicines Evaluation Agency.

My recent visit to Japan was extremely productive, not only in further developing Japan as the second largest market for pharmaceutical exports but, above all, for encouraging Japanese inward investment in the pharmaceutical industry here, which I hope soon will be as commonplace as it is in the motor or electrical industries.

Mr. Bayley

Does the Secretary of State agree that the main reason why the British pharmaceutical industry does so well is that the pharmaceutical price regulation scheme guarantees a 20 per cent. return for pharmaceutical companies, which they may invest in research? Will she guarantee that she will reject the siren voices of her Back-Bench colleagues who want free market prices for pharmaceutical products in the United Kingdom, and stick by regulation through the pharmaceutical price regulation scheme?

Mrs. Bottomley

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the PPRS has served the NHS and the industry well. We have 3.5 per cent. of the world market. We have 5 per cent. of the production but 8 per cent. of the research and development. We continue to review the PPRS. The hon. Gentleman will know that we cut prices by 2.5 per cent. on the previous review. Before taking any further steps, we will make sure that we continue to balance the interests of good-value products for the NHS and recognition of an industry which has created jobs, employment and exports for this country.

Mr. John Marshall

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one reason that exports rose so markedly in 1993 was that we had adopted a competitive exchange rate? Will she remind our right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that interest rate policy should be designed to ensure that that competitive exchange rate remains, rather than to please the Bundesbank?

Mrs. Bottomley

My hon. Friend will know that I have frequent discussions with the Chancellor on many subjects. I will bear my hon. Friend's suggestion in mind in my next discussion, but I will also remind my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor—and, indeed, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary that one reason that Britain is so successful in terms of inward investment is because we have a deregulatory culture and that we have not adopted the social chapter. Therefore, firms that invest here have the advantage of being part of the European Union without all the burdens on industry and employment that are so common elsewhere.