HC Deb 04 March 1996 vol 273 cc12-3
13. Mr. Simon Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what progress has been made towards implementing the proposals in "Competing with the Best". [16363]

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

We have made excellent progress towards achieving the two main objectives of "Competing with the Best"—improved quality and more effective marketing. We are continuing the drive to increase competitiveness by undertaking a major investigation into how well the industry uses and invests in its most important resource—its people.

Mr. Coombs

Has my right hon. Friend had an opportunity to study the speech made last week by the chairman of Bass about the remarkable competitive advantage of this country in the matter of non-wage labour costs as compared with countries such as France, Italy and Spain? Given that the Spanish have just thrown out their labour party after far too long in power, would this be the right moment for this country to consider introducing socialist measures such as the national minimum wage and the social chapter, at a time, when other countries may well be considering how damaging to their tourism industries such measures are?

Mrs. Bottomley

My hon. Friend is exactly right. Sir Ian Prosser identified the non-wage costs, which go from 10 per cent. in the United Kingdom to 43 per cent. in Italy. He said in his speech last week that Europe and the European Union are at a crossroads, and asked: Is it going to be a deregulated, business friendly, high growth region—or … a tradition-led, inward-looking region concentrating on attaining long-term political objectives without regard for the short-term consequences for business or employment? The Government are quite clear about the answer—deregulation and low labour costs are the way to more employment and greater wealth for Britain.