I welcome that encouraging performance, but has that success been matched by a growth in manufacturing investment, as is required if we are to maintain this performance in the future?
Yes. I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that the figures for 1984 show an increase in manufacturing investment of 14 per cent., which I hope will provide the basis for a sustained improvement in manufacturing exports.
Would not the Chief Secretary be more encouraged by the trade figures if they were the result of an increase in exports rather than a fall in imports? Is he not a little concerned about whether the fall in imports means that we have reached an incipient fall-off in the rate of growth, if not a recession?
Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that while the performance of British exports is excellent, the real problem facing manufacturing industry is the penetration of the home market? Can the Government provide help?
Yes we can, by creating the right climate for an improvement in our economic performance, to which the Government's economic policies have been devoted. The figures show that British industry is becoming more competitive and that it will be able to retain a share of the home market.
Surely the Chief Secretary appreciates that it is the balance of trade in manufactured goods, not the level of exports, that is most important. If the Chief Secretary is so pleased with the level of exports, will he explain why our balance of trade in manufactured goods is heading for a further deterioration—indeed, the fifth deterioration?
It is more important to recognise the overall performance, which shows that so far this year there is a current account surplus of £724 million. The forecast for this year is an increase of £3 billion.