HC Deb 13 February 1996 vol 271 c804
Q3. Mr. Fabricant

To ask the Prime Minister what recent analysis he has made of economic indicators and their effect on Lichfield; and if he will make a statement. [13335]

The Prime Minister

Lichfield has benefited fully from the Government's policies, which have given this country the lowest mortgage rates for 30 years, the lowest basic rate of tax for 50 years and the longest period of low inflation for 50 years. Unemployment in my hon. Friend's constituency has now fallen by some 40 per cent. from its peak.

Mr. Fabricant

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Lichfield is not only a beautiful cathedral town but a centre for light industry? Is he further aware that people in Lichfield will be heartened by the report in The Times today which showed that the average net take-home pay of production workers in France, Italy and Germany is now less than that in the United Kingdom? Is that not because we have consistently refused to enter into an agreement on the social chapter? Does my right hon. Friend agree that, under a Labour Government, workers would suffer, because the Labour party's idea of negotiating in Europe is rather like the Trustee Savings bank—it is the party that likes to say yes?

The Prime Minister

They certainly were very startling figures to set out what net take-home pay will purchase, which was the basis on which they were done. That stands in stark contrast to the claims of a sweatshop economy about which we so often hear from the Labour party. It is no coincidence that those figures were achieved. Business is attracted by flexible working practice and low cost—precisely the benefits that would be wrecked by the social chapter as it is and by the social chapter as it would be if any Government were to sign up to it in this country. This Government will not.