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Investment Growth (Ec)

Volume 173: debated on Thursday 7 June 1990

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To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the total investment growth in the 1980s across European Community countries.

Since 1980 growth of total investment has averaged 2·1 per cent. a year across EC countries.

Do not those figures confirm that Britain and our European partners are preparing well for 1992? Does not that provide a sound basis for future export performance? Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the confidence recently shown by business men in Norwich about future export performance?

I agree with my hon. Friend. Our investment performance compares well with that of other countries. The average for the European Community is 2·1 per cent., whereas total investment in this country between 1980 and 1989 has gone up by an average of about 4½ per cent. a year. That is an extremely impressive record.

Is not the Minister rather easily impressed? He should look at the answer given to me by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Tuesday in which he suggested that had we achieved a rate of increase in manufacturing investment during the lifetime of the Government comparable to that achieved by France and West Germany we would have had £18 billion more investment and, according to the Chancellor's figures given in that answer, had we achieved the rate attained under the previous Labour Government, we would have had an extra £30,000 million of manufacturing investment. Does not that explain why we are unprepared for 1992?

Opposition Members do not like it when we give some of the good facts about the British economy. That is why the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) chose to make a press announcement this morning to celebrate the opening of the World Cup by saying that British economic performance compares badly with that of Italy. During the 1980s, however, we have grown faster than Italy; our investment and manufacturing output has been better and our unemployment rate is lower. Our rate of inflation, based on a comparable measure, is also lower. I fear that the hon. Lady has scored an own goal, and it is a pity. Like Bobby Robson, she ought to play for England.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the figures are encouraging even if they do not meet the needs of the Opposition? Does he also agree, however, that one of the most important things that we must do is to encourage manufacturing industry to invest in new plant and machinery? When we come to consider new concessions they should be given to manufacturing industry, not to private individuals through individual taxation.

I note my hon. Friend's suggestion; perhaps he is making an early Budget representation. He will also have noticed that in the past couple of years manufacturing investment has grown strongly. I am sure that my hon. Friend, with his concern for manufacturing industry in his constituency, will have welcomed that strong growth.