HC Deb 11 January 1996 vol 269 cc325-6
9. Mr. Jim Marshall

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations have been made to him by industry on his Budget. [7084]

Mr. Waldegrave

Industry has welcomed the Budget because it recognises that it gives Britain the best chance of steady growth with low inflation.

Mr. Marshall

That is a typically bullish reply by the Chief Secretary. How does he square that bullish response with a real economic indicator such as manufacturing output, which has shown an increase of less than 1 per cent. over the past 12 months?

Mr. Waldegrave

Manufacturing output is up, as is manufacturing investment. The hon. Gentleman asked me what the response from industry was to the Budget, so I gave it. The director general of the CBI said: We welcome the fact that Government has broadly stuck to the prudent economic line we recommended". Sir John Banham of Tarmac said: The Chancellor is on the right track". I could give the hon. Gentleman a dozen other quotations. He asked a question, he got an answer and he did not like it.

Mr. Gallie

Has my hon. Friend considered what an income tax increase of 3p in the pound for people in Scotland would do to industry? What effect would such an increase have on wage bills and on industrial development?

Mr. Waldegrave

I think that the answer is obvious: jobs would be lost in Scotland and the high road from Scotland to England would have many more Scots on it, to the great benefit of England. It would prove very destructive to the Scottish economy and it would benefit all Scotland's neighbours.

Mr. McAvoy

Can the Minister answer the complaint by the Federation of Small Businesses about the absence of any measures to tackle the problems of late payment which affects British industry? If he has received any representations from that organisation, will he ensure that his Department—which has a disgraceful record of late payments—increases its efficiency in paying its bills?

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. My Department's performance was not good enough about a year ago. I am happy to say that since August last year it has improved and it is now making just under 90 per cent. of payments within the time allowed. My Department's performance was not satisfactory a year ago and we shall see that it improves.