HC Deb 22 July 1996 vol 282 cc6-7
4. Mr. Campbell-Savours

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the effects of his policies of deregulation or industrial competitiveness. [36749]

Mr. Freeman

Our policies to push forward deregulation and promote competitiveness are set out in the 1996 competitiveness White Paper, published last month. The White Paper has been widely welcomed by business, including the Confederation of British Industry, the Engineering Employers Federation and the Institute of Directors.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Is not the inevitable consequence of the failure properly to regulate the destruction of not only competitiveness but the product itself? Is not that the core message that comes through the row over bovine spongiform encephalopathy?

Mr. Freeman

If the hon. Gentleman will look back to previous Labour Governments before 1979, he will find that the proposals then for draft legislation would not have affected the development of BSE, because they were to do with preventing salmonella. Developments in the rendering industry in the 1980s came about from a decision by the industry itself, not a failure to regulate or deregulate. The hon. Gentleman cannot in any way ascribe the tragic increase in BSE, and now its solution, to a failure to regulate or deregulate.

Dr. Hampson

Does my right hon. Friend make the assessment that educational performance is basic to increasing competitiveness, and that we have a long way to go in the primary sector? May we count on the speedy and extensive expansion of the network of literacy and numeracy centres, which is one of the best initiatives that the Government have launched but which is as yet relatively unsung?

Mr. Freeman

I agree. The skills audit, which was a parallel exercise to the competitiveness White Paper, was valuable and revealing. It shows how far this country has to go in not only primary and secondary education but higher and further education. I understand my hon. Friend's point and will certainly convey it to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment.