HC Deb 19 February 1997 vol 290 c920
14. Mr. Sheerman

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on trends in the balance of trade in manufactured goods. [15035]

Mr. Greg Knight

The balance of trade in manufactured goods as a proportion of gross domestic product has remained broadly unchanged over the past four years.

Mr. Sheerman

Does the Minister not understand that we must take a longer-term view of the British economy? Any fair-minded person who examines our track record since 1983 will see that since that time we—an industrial manufacturing nation to the core of our being—have had a deficit in manufactured trade, and the Chancellor himself predicts in the Red Book that in two years we will have a £10 billion deficit. Those of us who support British manufacturing industry and want it to thrive must not listen to glib quotations from a few foreign—or European—manufacturers. At home we have a dismal record of under-investment and under-achievement, and it is about time that we had a Government who ensured that the position was reversed.

Mr. Knight

I do not recognise the picture that the hon. Gentleman paints. Under the present Government, total investment has risen six times faster than it did under the last Labour Government. Britain is and always has been a trading nation: we have about 1 per cent. of the world's population, yet we are the fifth largest trading nation in the world. Conservative Members are proud of that.

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