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Industrial Performance

Volume 115: debated on Wednesday 29 April 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what are the latest figures for the annual turnover of British industry.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
(Mr. John Butcher)

The output index for manufacturing industry, excluding the energy and the service sector, was 104·6 in 1986, based on 1980 equal to 100. Since the trough of the recession in 1981, manufacturing output has grown impressively and is now over 15 per cent. higher. The turnover of manufacturing industry in 1985 was £225 billion in current prices.

Does my hon. Friend agree that those good figures, together with the CBI report that we have just received, is a tribute not only to the framework and background that the Government have provided for the industrial sector, but to management and work force within our industry, which have combined to bring Britain to the position where it can now compete right across the industrial sector with the best that the world can offer? Does that not give us enormous hope for the future in terms of the profitability of British industry and secure jobs for our work people?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am sure that he will celebrate with me the fact Britain is now enjoying a top position in productivity and competitiveness—the best position that we have been in for two decades. As he is a west midlands Member, I am sure that he will also celebrate with me the fact that the manufacturing sector is now spearheading our industrial recovery and that the projected 4 per cent. growth in manufacturing will be the fastest rate of growth since 1973.

Instead of celebrating, will the Minister look at the CBI survey, in which he will find that only 15 per cent. of the companies in that survey regarded their fixed plant as adequate to the demands on them, and that 25 per cent. of companies were unable to meet demand because of a lack of fixed capacity? Is that not an inevitable consequence of the destruction that occurred in manufacturing industry during the early years of the Government's period of office, and does it not reflect on the lack of investment in fixed plant in recent years?

Alliance spokesmen should get involved in a different form of research. Industrialists tell me, day in and day out, that the worst possible outcome in business and industrial terms with regard to confidence, exchange rates and interest rates would be a hung Parliament. To that extent one can say that alliance spokesmen are arguing for uncertainty and the undermining of our economy.

Following the Budget and three cuts in interest rates since early March, are not all the jigsaw pieces now in place for the sustained growth of British industry? Should not any lingering political uncertainties have been satisfactorily dispelled by the middle of June?

If we can keep current trends going into the 1990s, talk of a British industrial renaissance would not be an exaggeration. We have a magnificent opportunity and I am sure that the electorate will not throw it away.