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Industrial Progress

Volume 979: debated on Monday 25 February 1980

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11.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he is satisfied with industrial progress.

Of course we are not satisfied with industrial progress. Whilst the Government have made a good start on getting the right climate for economic growth, it will take time for their policies to be fully implemented and to take effect.

In view of the appalling industrial problems that face all parts of the country, including the Northern region, and in view of growing evidence that the Government's policies are irrelevant, is it not time for the Government to change their policies, or to resign?

The hon. Gentleman has fallen back on a standard party political line today. He usually takes a serious interest in these matters. He must recognise that there is a time Ian between the creation of the right economic policies and the new investment that we expect.

Does my hon. Friend agree that although many of the heavy engineering industries are declining, parts of the communications industry—from large computers to microprocessors —are growing and expanding? In some cases we lead the world. Will he press his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to accede to the request on the Order Paper for an early debate? The industry will provide many job opportunities. It will also provide growth and wealth for the future.

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend's general analysis. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will no doubt wish to consider that question very carefully.

Will the Minister kindly tell us what industrial progress the Government have made during the past nine months

I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's attempt to be helpful. We have reduced controls on prices, dividends and foreign exchange. We have begun a shift from public to private opportunities, in order to create growth. Those factors take time. However, the framework has been established.

Would not our industrial progress be greatly advanced if the hapless Mr. Len Murray and the rest of the TUC were persuaded that, whatever else we need to impress the outside world, a one-day strike on 14 May can only do harm?

I am sure that my hon. Friend is right. We all share the view that that strike will do no good to the industrial cause of this country.

Will the Minister look at the profits that banks make as a result of Government policies? Will he also ask the banks where they are investing that money? It is a windfall from the present Government.

I am willing to look at that issue, if the hon. Gentleman is willing to look at the return on capital that banks are now obtaining. In general banking terms, those returns are not excessive. As long as that money comes back into the system—as it will increasingly do—it will have been usefully earned and spent.