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Volume 167: debated on Wednesday 14 February 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is the current trade deficit with Japan; and how much of the deficit is accounted for by manufactured goods.

In 1989 the deficit in total visible trade with Japan was £4·8 billion. In the same period, the deficit for manufactured goods was £5 billion. Last year United Kingdom exports to Japan increased by £525 million to £2·3 billion, an increase of 30 per cent. over 1988.

Now that the Secretary of State accepts that we have a deficit with Japan, Germany, Italy and the United States, and an ever-increasing deficit with other EC countries, does he accept that he ought to be doing something about it? The announcement today of an upturn in output of 4·3 per cent. in 1989, compared with 7·1 per cent. in 1988, is another indication of the devastating effect on the British economy of the Government's so-called economic miracle.

The hon. Gentleman scoffs too much when he derides the increase in output. He is talking about years of unprecedented growth in the United Kingdom economy. There has been strength in manufacturing, in invisibles and in all sectors of the economy. As I have told the House already, the trade position has been improving in recent months and there is every indication that more progress will be made in the current year.

Are not the areas in which our trade with Japan and Germany weakest the very areas in which Socialism applied in the 1960s and 1970s—motor cars, semi-conductors and all the other areas in which the Labour party tried to reorganise British industry?

My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. It is noticeable that the output and performance of those industries are improving by the day as the Government cease to intervene and cease to pursue the policies that the Labour party pursued when in office. The more the Government continue their enterprise-loving policies, the more industry will strengthen.

Will the Minister cast his enterprise-loving mind over the problem of computer manufacture? Can he name one major computer component in which we are in positive balance with Japan'? If not, can he tell us of one thing that he intends to do in the coming year to improve the situation?

I do not have detailed information about all component manufacturers and I would not wish to mislead the House, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that our trade is strengthening and a great deal of inward investment is coming from Japan which is very welcome here. The hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Buckley) will presumably not be telling the House today that near his constituency, Pioneer Electronics is to make a major investment, creating about 1,200 jobs in a very important sector.

Will my hon. Friend remind the Opposition that a nation that has never suffered any significant nationalisation, that has had low taxation and public spending and a superb education system and that, above all, has never suffered from a Socialist Goverment is always likely to be in better shape economically than one that has suffered from Socialism?

That is so very true. Evidence from the other end of the spectrum can be seen in the way in which the Socialist economies of eastern Europe and the Soviet Union are trying to get information from the West about how to run a proper enterprise economy so to enjoy the fruits of prosperity that we in the West have enjoyed for so many years.