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Manufacturing Industry Investment

Volume 513: debated on Thursday 8 July 2010

4. What recent assessment he has made of trends in levels of investment by manufacturing industry; and if he will make a statement. (6681)

In 2009, the volume of manufacturing investment in the UK declined by 21%, the largest annual fall on record, and it declined in 10 of the last 11 years. This Government believe that that trend can be reversed. In developing our plans to rebalance the economy, we are keen to ensure that we provide the best long-term environment in which manufacturing can grow.

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply, but will he reflect on the comments from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the manufacturers’ organisation the Engineering Employers Federation that the biggest beneficiaries of the Government’s changes to capital and investment allowances and corporation tax are low-investment and high-profit firms—

“Banks and supermarkets rather than manufacturers”,

as the IFS put it? What practical help can the Minister offer to manufacturing industry today?

I must correct the hon. Gentleman and give him the facts. We have had to reduce capital allowances to enable us to fund the corporate tax cuts, but the net result of the changes is that manufacturing—and not the industries to which he referred—will still be better off. Indeed, by 2014-15, it will be better off by £250 million per annum. I think that that is a very good policy, although I detect that the Labour party may now be opposed to it.

We accept that the coalition Government have put many good things in place to help industry generally, but I have a specific question about manufacturing. Will the Minister say whether the Government are planning any particular help for manufacturing to restore it to its rightful place, which is leading the world?

Indeed we are, and our plans include the changes to corporation tax that mean that manufacturing industry is better off by £250 million, the reduction of the burden of red tape and the removal of many regulators, and the £150 million that has been set aside to fund up to 50,000 more apprentices. The Government’s stronger long-term approach contrasts with the pick ‘n’ mix tactics and the tinkering and meddling that we had from the last Labour Government.

I remind the House that manufacturing investment declined in 10 of the last 11 years. That is the record of the Labour Government, and Labour Members should be ashamed of it.

I want to return to the issue of capital allowances. The Minister and the Secretary of State have said that they want to rebalance the economy, but the Budget proceeded with plans to cut £3.1 billion from capital allowances and the investment allowance by 2013. The IFS has said that

“cutting capital allowances is not a good way to raise money because they are an efficient way to promote investment”.

In addition, the Engineering Employers Federation has said that the cuts

“make the investment needed to rebalance the economy more expensive”.

Labour’s Budget in March doubled the investment allowance for manufacturers, but this Government have cut that by 75%. We are all saying that we want to rebalance the economy, so how can the Minister justify these cuts of £3 billion a year in our support for manufacturers?

As I told the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Bain) earlier, the net balance is that manufacturing will be £250 million better off. That is the point. The right hon. Gentleman refers to the annual investment allowances but, even after these reforms take effect, the vast majority of businesses—over 90%—will still have all their investment costs covered by the Association of International Accountants. The key point is that the record of the Labour party is one in which manufacturing investment declined in 10 years of 11. We are changing that environment by taking the long-term approach. Is the hon. Gentleman proud of his record of investment down and jobs cut? Is he proud of that?