HC Deb 24 January 2002 vol 378 cc1006-8
12. Mr. Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford)

When he last met the Governor of the Bank of England to discuss prospects for manufacturing industry. [27562]

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Paul Boateng)

The Chancellor and the Governor meet regularly to discuss a wide range of issues. As I made clear in my earlier answer to the hon. Members for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett) and for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field), the Government have introduced a wide range of policies that benefit the manufacturing sector. The economic stability that our macro-economic frameworks are delivering offers the best foundation for manufacturing to thrive once global prospects strengthen.

Mr. Prisk

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Since the latest discussions to which he referred, employment in manufacturing is now at its lowest level since records began. Manufacturers in my constituency and elsewhere tell me that they are struggling under a burden of regulation; small firms, in particular, are struggling with payroll regulations. Given that the Government have had the answer to payroll regulations since September, in the form of the Carter review, can the Minister tell the House why they are dithering over that report? How many more people have to lose their jobs in manufacturing before the Government act?

Mr. Boateng

We are of course doing no such thing. The document to which the hon. Gentleman refers is a consultative document, aimed at finding out from business what it wants by way of Government action. We listen to business and we involve business. Interestingly enough, Mr. Martin Temple was good enough to acknowledge that fact yesterday in his observations about manufacturing. We are not prepared to accept any suggestion from Conservative Members that red tape is the minimum wage, that red tape is health and safety at work and that red tape is combating poverty through tax credits. We are proud to do all those things while removing burdensome regulation, much of which accumulated while the Conservatives were in charge of government.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire)

Does the Governor of the Bank of England show any concern for matters beyond overall fiscal policy when he is involved in these discussions? Is he concerned about the fact that manufacturing in certain areas faces considerable problems, such as those in north Derbyshire, where several firms have closed? At the moment, Chesterfield Cylinders is downsizing because it faces problems, yet it has Ministry of Defence contracts and it is important that those are maintained. What ideas does the Governor offer the Government to try to solve those problems?

Mr. Boateng

My hon. Friend understands that the Governor will speak for himself. He will also realise that the Governor has the benefit of the Bank's regional network, and that all relevant factors, including those that he mentioned, are taken into account by the Monetary Policy Committee.

Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh)

Does the Minister remember Labour's promise in opposition to implement an industrial policy to enable our manufacturing industries to grow again? Given that manufacturing output fell by over 5 per cent. in the last year alone, when will Labour deliver on its promises to our manufacturers?

Mr. Boateng

Not only do I remember that promise, but I am part of a team that is delivering it. The hon. Gentleman needs to understand that in 2000 manufacturing output grew at its fastest rate since 1994. That is a tribute to this Government and an indictment of his.