HC Deb 17 January 1996 vol 269 cc726-7
4. Mr. Congdon

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the impact of the electronics industry on the British economy. [7888]

Mr. Ian Taylor

With an estimated annual output of £22 billion, the UK has the fifth largest electronics industry in the world and it is growing fast. Electronics contributes to the production of industries using computers, electronic control, multimedia and telecommunication systems. My Department has several schemes designed to provide wide-ranging support for the growth of the industry.

Mr. Congdon

Does my hon. Friend also agree that the electronics industry has been particularly successful in attracting inward investment which has benefited it? Is not the success of that industry illustrated by the fact that this country is the seventh largest supplier of silicon chips, Scotland provides 35 per cent. of the personal computers produced in the European Community and, surprisingly, this country is now a net exporter of television sets? Is that not a credit to our electronics industry, which would be flat on its back if the Government had followed the policies advocated by the Labour party?

Mr. Taylor

I am delighted to say that the Government did not listen to the Opposition and so have attracted inward investment. That investment has done a terrific job in the electronics industry, which is so crucial. In semiconductors, we are moving up the international league tables very fast. Siemens has put its massive plant in the north-east, which will transform not only work in industry, but the benefits to universities of research. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, when he was Secretary of State for Scotland, saw an enormous benefit there. Scotland now has a remarkable record—35 per cent. of all European production of personal computers is based there, which is a great tribute to the economic climate in this country and the industriousness of workers in the industry.

Mr. Ingram

If inward investment in such key sectors as the electronics industry and the selling of the United Kingdom abroad are some of the Government's main aims, can the Minister explain the outrageous and potentially damaging comments made by the Deputy Prime Minister and other senior Ministers when they attacked the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in his recent speech in Tokyo, when he promoted Britain as a place for inward investment to business leaders there? Why do Ministers persist in such cheap, party political point scoring, to the detriment of the long-term interests of British industry and the economy? When will they learn that there are more important issues at stake than papering over the cracks of the divisions and disarray that are becoming the hallmarks of the present Government?

Mr. Taylor

Nothing about this Government is cheap. Even in our criticisms of the Opposition, we indulge only in high value added jibes and taunts. I welcome the work of the Leader of the Opposition in promoting the United Kingdom in Asia. He realises, as we do, just how successful the Conservative Government have been and we are delighted with his efforts to tell the rest of the world about the success of the United Kingdom economy. I do not criticise him for that. If you, Madam Speaker, would allow it I might indulge in some discursive criticism of stakeholders, but that is not permitted now. It is crucial that Opposition Members realise the importance to the United Kingdom of investment by Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese companies, among others. The enormous investment in the electronics industry is creating jobs. There has also been investment from north America and Canada, producing terrific opportunities in the United Kingdom. And it is all thanks to the work of the Conservative Government.