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Manufacturing Industry

Volume 35: debated on Monday 17 January 1983

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry what are the latest figures available for the output of British manufacturing industry; how these figures compare with the corresponding figures in January 1979; and if he will take steps to increase the output of British manufacturing industry.

In the three months August to October 1982 the index of production for manufacturing industry was 88·3 compared with 105 in the first half of 1979.

Recent steps taken to help industry become more competitive include the further cut in the national insurance surcharge, measures on energy prices and the ending of the deferment in the payment of regional development grants. All these measures will be of direct benefit to manufacturing industry.

Does the Minister accept that the output of manufacturing industry is a fair reflection of the state of the economy, and that the fact that output today is probably at its lowest for 15 years is a true sign that the Government are presiding over the destruction of our industrial base?

We have the deepest recession that Europe has seen for 30 years. I am not sure which solution the hon. Gentleman advocates. Is he advocating that we should now have a two-stage depreciation of sterling, as advanced by the Opposition? If so, will he tell us how that will be achieved without a rise in interest rates?

Will the Minister answer the question and tell us what the Government are going to do about the problem? Is it not a fact that manufacturing output is down by more than 20 per cent. since 1979? Is not our manufacturing output lowest when compared with the major OECD countries? It is not a matter of world recession. We want to know why Great Britain is the worst developed country with regard to manufacturing industry.

Over the past year manufacturing output has fallen in the United Kingdom by 1·5 per cent., in France by 3·5 per cent., in Germany by 4·5 per cent. and in the United States by 9·5 per cent. This country entered the recession before other countries, but, as a result of the Government's anti-inflation policies, British industry is now more competitive and efficient. We are now seeing the benefits, because we are not suffering the drop that other countries are. We are well positioned to take advantage of the world upturn when it comes.