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Departmental Expenditure

Volume 176: debated on Wednesday 18 July 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much his Department spent in 1989–90, expressed as a percentage of gross domestic product; and what information he has on the comparable figure for the Japanese Ministry of International Trade.

Expenditure by the DTI last year was one quarter per cent. of GDP whereas general expenditure by Japan's Ministry of International Trade proportionate to GDP was one third lower, even though its responsibilities are wider.

May I add my voice to those welcoming my right hon. Friend to his new office of state? Do not the figures that he has just given give the lie to the frequent claims by the Opposition and the academics so beloved of the Opposition that the Government do not do sufficient to help British industry? Will he reaffirm the Government's principle that the best way to assist British industry is to leave it to get on with its business unfettered by bureaucrats?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is highly significant that the only evidence that the Opposition can adduce to support their policies is the claim that a distant and rather inscrutable economy is run on the lines that they advocate. On closer inspection, the evidence refutes that, as does the experience of Labour Governments.

Does the Secretary of State recognise that the Japanese Government are clever and sophisticated in their handling of industry, and no one in his right mind could accuse the British Government of that? Does he realise that in one city in Japan there are 86 research clubs that are organised by the Ministry of International Trade in Japan, and that that cost the Ministry nothing more than the paper to call the meetings? That is an example of co-operation and leadership between Government and industry which costs nothing and which the British Government should follow.

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman, unlike the Opposition Front Bench, is in favour of a low level of Government expenditure. Japan spends a lower proportion of its GDP on public expenditure than Britain and most European countries; it has a lower level of tax and fewer nationalised industries. As a result of its free enterprise economy, it has harnessed the great skills of the Japanese people very successfully. We have released the energies of the British people by employing the same free market methods.

Has my right hon. Friend been able to compare the Japanese Government's policies for industry with the proposals in the Labour party's new policy document and the British Government's policies? Does not he consider that the policies of the British Government and of the Japanese Government, in promoting privatisation, competition and free enterprise, are far more successful?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Our policies and those of the Japanese Government have much in common. They are flatly contrary to the socialist policies still advocated by the Opposition, although in a new language and in a new guise. I note that Opposition Members do not seek to object to the fact that their policies remain socialistic in their latest policy document.