HC Deb 16 December 1986 vol 107 cc436-9W
Mr. Pawsey

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list the principal achievements of his Department since 1983.

Mr. Channon

Since 1983 the Department of Trade and Industry has contributed by its support for industry and commerce to the substantial improvement in the operating environment for United Kingdom companies. This environment has enabled manufacturing output in the third quarter of 1986 to rise by over 7 per cent., investment in business to rise by 23 per cent. and non-oil exports by 16 per cent., all as compared with the third quarter of 1983. Over the same period output per head in manufacturing rose by over 9 per cent. Company profitability in 1985 was significantly higher than in 1983—in manufacturing it rose from 4.9 to 7.2 per cent.

The Department has played a major role in the liberalisation of the financial services markets, notably through the passage of the Financial Services Act in 1986, designed to enhance investor protection and to ensure that the United Kingdom remains a world financial centre. The Department has reached a memorandum of understanding with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to exchange regulatory information on a confidential basis to strengthen investor protection against fraud and market malpractice. Other memoranda of understanding are under discussion. The Department has also hosted an informal meeting of the regulators of the world's most important securities markets to discuss ways of improving co-operation amongst them.

Since 1983 the Department has completed the massive task of consolidating the Companies Acts and also the passage of the insolvency Act 1985 and the subsequent consolidation of the law on insolvency and disqualification of directors. By May 1985 all regulations bringing into operation the provisions of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 were in place.

Within the European Community, the Department has pressed for the completion of the internal market and for greater European industrial co-operation. Making and accelerating progress towards the completion of the internal market has been a major objective of the United Kingdom presidency. In this we have been successful. Thirty six internal market measures have been agreed to date and we hope that further decisions can be taken before the end of the year.

Non-oil export volume has grown since 1983 by 16 per cent. and for manufactures by 15 per cent. The Department has helped industry to achieve this through a wide range of ministerial visits, trade policy work and, under the guidance of the British Overseas Trade Board, a programme of export promotion and services. The Department has continued to support British companies pursuing major project business overseas. Since June 1983 contracts worth £5½ billion with a United Kingdom content of £3½ billion have been won. The aid and trade provision was used to help obtain contracts with a United Kingdom content worth in excess of £700 million.

In 1986 a successful start was made to the new GATT round of trade negotiations with agreement at the September ministerial meeting in Uruguay on the inclusion of trade in agriculture and services in the discussion. The Department pursues a policy of reducing barriers to trade while working through the EC to see that our GATT rights against traded goods damaging to British producers are exercised in full.

The Department has been active in pursuing the Government's policy of transferring state owned businesses to the private sector. The sale of British Shipbuilders' warship building interests was completed in 1986, following the major privatisations in 1984 of Jaguar and British Telecom. Where businesses remain in the public sector the Department aims to ensure that they are efficiently managed on a commerical basis. 1986 saw the return of British Steel to profitability after over 10 years. The Post Office has maintained its good record on profitability and continued to improve productivity.

Technological innovation has been shown to be an important contribution to competitiveness and since 1983 approximately £1 billion has been spent by the Department to stimulate industrial research and development. Since 1985 the Department has placed emphasis on awareness and advisory services and has paid special attention to areas of technology with widespread applications across many industrial sectors such as microelectronics, information technology and advanced manufacturing technology. Special awareness programmes have also been mounted in the areas of quality and design. Under the £350 million Alvey programme of collaborative research into advanced information technology some 200 projects are now in place bringing academic researchers into collaboration with industry. The new £210 million LINK initiative just announced provides support for projects designed to enable industry to exploit the results of academic research.

The Department has encouraged industry to participate in international, and especially European, collaborative research and development programmes which it has ensured are of real benefit to industry. The EUREKA programme is now, following the United Kingdom chairmanship during the first six months of 1986, firmly established as a European industrial collaboration programme with 32 United Kingdom companies collaborating in projects with a total value approaching £1 billion.

A White Paper was published in 1986 with proposals to make the system of patents, designs and trade marks more relevant to industrial needs and a new service mark registration system has been introduced.

The British National Space Centre was established in November 1985 to provide a focus for United Kingdom space policy both nationally and internationally and to administer the United Kingdom contribution to the European Space Agency. The centre operates with a mix of staff drawn from the DTI, MOD, SERC and NERC.

Following the publication of a White Paper on regional industrial development in December 1983, decisions on the revised structure of regional industrial incentives were announced on 28 November 1984. The major changes from the previous structure affect the assisted areas map and regional development grants, and are designed to concentrate the Department's regional assistance where it can be most effective in creating new jobs.

The Department has played an increasing role in attracting a growing volume of inward investment to the United Kingdom. Since 1983, 1,025 investment decisions have been made by companies locating or expanding in the United Kingdom with nearly 140,000 jobs created or safeguarded. Among the significant individual investments was that of the Nissan Motor Company of Japan, which announced in 1983 its intention to locate its European manufacturing operation in the United Kingdom. In 1986 the plant was opened at Washington, Tyne and Wear with the Nissan announcement that it was moving to phase 2 in 1988, two years ahead of schedule, representing a total investment of just under £400 million and the eventual creation of 2,700 jobs.

The Department has pursued a wide range of matters of concern to consumers. The Consumer Protection Bill published last month will implement the EC directive on liability for defective products and introduce a general duty to supply only consumer goods that meet sound modern standards of safety. These measures, together with new safety regulations, such as those requiring child resistant packaging for dangerous household chemicals and continuing activities on updating safety standards and on home safety research, education and publicity are helping to reduce the sale of dangerous goods to the public. The Consumer Protection Bill will also make the law on misleading price indications clearer and fairer, thereby providing people with better information about the prices of consumer goods.

The Department has also acted as a national focus to spread industrial and technological awareness in schools and to devise new ways of meeting the technology skills shortage. The micros in schools programme has been successfully completed and the Department has strongly supported the 1986 "Industry Year" initiative.

Further progress has been made in implementing the financial management initiative in my Department.

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