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Manufacturing Output

Volume 201: debated on Wednesday 15 January 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations he has recently received about manufacturing output.

I have received the recent excellent report by the CBI's manufacturing advisory group which showed that there has been a transformation in manufacturing performance during the 1980s.

Has the Minister no shame about the fact that his Government have committed industrial genocide against Scottish manufacturing? Is he aware that, in addition to what is happening at Ravenscraig, the Paisley postcode area lost 76 per cent. of its manufacturing jobs between 1979 and 1989 and that a further 3,600 redundancies have been announced since then? Does he agree with the Prime Minister who told me in a letter this week that even that does not justify a special economic initiative or does he agree with local industry which is crying out for a partnership with Government to take Britain out of recession?

As the hon. Gentleman well knows, we are in the midst of a world recession. Even in the engine rooms of the world's manufacturing market place, such as Japan and the United States, output is falling. The first important point, however, is that compared with the same point on the economic cycle 10 years ago, manufacturing volume is up three quarters, productivity is up half and output is up one third. The second point is what I call the "two Ks" point. If one is in the midst of a worldwide tempest of economic recession, whom does one want on the bridge—my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary or their shadows, the two Ks?

Will my hon. Friend remind Opposition Members that under this Government manufacturing output has increased by a quarter whereas it fell under the last Labour Government? Will he also remind them that we now have a surplus on steel products of £1 billion per year compared with a deficit of £1 billion per year under Labour? If the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown), has the guts and really cares about Ravenscraig, will my hon. Friend ask him to stand up now and commit a future Labour Government to keeping Ravenscraig open?

We shall wait to see whether the hon. Gentleman does precisely that. My hon. Friend is right to point to the transformation of British industry. For proof of that, one need only read the CBI's report which, among other things, stated that recent years have seen

"a transformation of Britain's manufacturing base … there is now a solid base on which to build. The performance of UK manufacturing over the last decade shows what can be achieved … Companies based in Britain are able to compete sucessfully in some of the toughtest technology-intensive markets in the world"
That is what this issue is about—making British industry competitive, and that is what we have done.