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Manufacturing Industry (Competitiveness)

Volume 167: debated on Wednesday 14 February 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations he has received on the competitiveness of British manufacturing industry.

Most contacts that my Department has with industry and commerce involve matters having a bearing on United Kingdom competitiveness.

Has the Minister had any direct representations on the lack of skill training in the British economy, especially in those areas where the major steel and coal industries have been running down? The lack of skill training has been well highlighted by my hon. Friends in relation to the Labour party campaign, "Industry 2000". Why has there been deskilling in many major industries that, according to EEC reports, lack skilled people for the jobs that we hope will exist in the future?

That was a surprisingly uninformed question, even for the hon. Gentleman. He seems unaware that we have put the training councils in place. On a broader point, British industry is in infinitely better shape than it was 10 years ago. I should have thought that the Labour party would welcome the fact that the volume of exports is 15 per cent. higher than it was 12 months ago—a volume increase unprecedented since 1973. Incidentally, Labour Members would be well advised to tell their union friends not to pursue inflationary policies.

I do not speak French, Sir. I should like to present to the House the report, in English, to which the Minister for Industry referred when he accused the Opposition of not being able to speak French. It is evident that the hon. Gentleman has read the wrong report, that he cannot read French and that he has reached the wrong conclusion.

Further to the point of order, M r. Speaker. I am prepared to accept that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn) may have glanced at the document and to that extent I withdraw my observation. A more interesting question is whether he understood it and whether he is prepared to submit himself for examination, and I shall report to the House on that.