HC Deb 17 April 1996 vol 275 cc708-9
17. Mr. Win Griffiths

To ask the President of the Board of Trade when he next plans to meet his European Union counterparts to discuss manufacturing industry. [23933]

Mr. Lang

My colleagues and I meet our European Union counterparts regularly to discuss a range of industrial issues.

Mr. Griffiths

Will the Secretary of State confirm that, out of the 15 members of the European Union, Britain ranks 11th in manufacturing output and that, since his party has been in power, more than 40 per cent. of manufacturing jobs have been lost? What lessons does he think he can learn from all those countries whose manufacturing output is higher than that of the UK?

Mr. Lang

I do not know where the hon. Gentleman got his figures from, but he might like to know that the British economy grew faster than the Group of Seven average in 1993–94, and is expected to be ahead of the pack, along with Germany, in 1996. If he looks at investment, he will see that under this Government it has risen six times faster than it did under Labour. Indeed, alone among our main EU competitors, British companies' investment in research and development rose again last year for the fifth successive year. I simply do not recognise the picture that the hon. Gentleman is trying to paint.

Mr. Hoon

Why do the Government claim to have made Britain the enterprise centre of Europe when, according to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development figures, only four out of the 15 EU countries have lower levels of manufacturing output, Britain is in 11th place in the EU in investment per head of population, and in trade with other European countries Britain has the worst trade deficit of every country except Greece?

Mr. Lang

I have already given the House the investment figures. On the competitiveness of the British economy, the hon. Gentleman will be aware—if he is not, he ought to be—that the British productivity growth rate was bottom of the league under the Labour party and is now at the top.