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Manufactured Imports

Volume 167: debated on Wednesday 14 February 1990

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17.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what has been the growth in imports of manufactured goods from the European Community since 1979.

Imports of manufactured goods from the European Community have risen from £16 billion in 1979 to £52·5 billion in 1989, and exports have virtually trebled, as I mentioned earlier.

Is not a deficit of £14·5 billion a serious matter? Is not that why the Confederation of British Industry is concerned about the impact of high interest rates and the uniform business rate on fixed investment in 1991? Does that not worry the Minister as we approach 1992?

Investment has been running at record levels and we have been enjoying an investment boom. I am sure that that will strengthen our industrial base for the early 1990s and will continue the improvements to which I referred earlier.

Has my hon. Friend had a chance to read the Labour party document "Industry 2000"? Does it contain anything that would indicate—[Interruption.]

Order. The hon. Gentleman should be careful how his question is framed.

Has my hon. Friend read the document and has he found anything in it to help our import-export balance, or does it propose a return to state intervention and central control? Is he surprised—

I think that my hon. Friend asked about Government policy. He asked whether there were helpful ideas in a particular document. Having read the document carefully, I notice that a policy gap is developing as the document refers to very few of the ideas in the original Labour policy review. Apart from schemes that the Government are already pursuing, such as training and enterprise schemes, the document contains nothing that would help and many proposals which might be illegal under the European Community regime.