Will my right hon. Friend confirm that that represents a fall of 10 per cent. compared with the first quarter five years ago? When did manufacturing output last fall by that amount over five years?
It is certainly a fall, as my hon. Friend says, but I am sure he is pleased that manufacturing output is now increasing, that manufacturing exports are increasing, that trends are good and that manufacturing output is 3·5 per cent. higher than in the same quarters of 1983.
Despite the complacency with which the Minister has presided over this record fall in manufacturing output — which has been matched by a corresponding decline in investment, employment and the balance of trade—does he recognise that when North sea oil runs out we shall yet again have to rely on the output of our factories to pay our way in the world? If he recognises that, what does he and his Government propose to do about it?
I would take that lecture from the hon. Gentleman rather more easily if manufacturing output had not fallen from 1974 to 1979 when a Labour Government were in power. All the evidence is that the trend is now upwards. Confidence in industry is good, investment intentions are good, inflation is low and productivity is increasing. The economy is doing better and the Opposition can do nothing but whinge and whine as good news comes along.