Government Economic Policies

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 4:55 pm on 20th January 1987.

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Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook 4:55 pm, 20th January 1987

I beg to move, That this House condemns Government economic policies, which have divided the nation, induced a collapse in the manufacturing base, created mass unemployment, led to a serious loss in world trade and an impending balance of payments crisis, and permitted a destructive merger mania to imperil British manufacturing industry, as typified by the lamentable decision of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry not to refer the BTR bid for Pilkingtons to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission; and demands that the Government now use all available resources on investment in the people of the United Kingdom, in jobs, in public services, in manufacturing and in training, so that the nation can once more compete effectively and pay its way in the world. The Government are now embarked on a campaign of calculated deception. It is a campaign of deception about the state of the economy, about the impending crisis and about their own responsibility for bringing it about. The Government's friends in Fleet street are accessories to that fraud. This week The Daily Telegraph, the Daily Express and the Daily Mail all paraded sets of phoney figures, clearly taken down at dictation speed from the Chancellor's spokesman. I propose to give three examples of what those newspapers said and to look at the examples in some detail, leaving aside for a moment their repetition of the old deceits about job creation and reduction in unemployment. The Daily Express said: The latest retail figures confirm the strength of the consumer boom. In the fourth quarter of 1986 retail sales were 2·5 per cent. up on the previous three months and 7 per cent. up on the previous year. It did not go on to say that while consumer spending rose by 7 per cent. the production of consumer goods in Britain rose by only 2 per cent. To have added that would have demonstrated not the strength but the weakness of an economy about to slump into a £7·5 billion balance of trade deficit. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish."] It is not rubbish, because the figure of £7·5 billion is the Chancellor's and not mine. [Interruption.] I thought he read the statistics about this. The Daily Telegraph tells us that manufacturing output was at its highest level since 1980, but did not add that manufacturing output is still 4 per cent. below its 1979 level. Even on the Chancellor's own statistics and estimate, manufacturing output will not be at 1979 general election level by the time of the next general election. To have added such figures would have demonstrated not industry's success but the Government's abject failure.

My third example is from the Daily Mail, which tells us that the outlook for exports is bright. It cited motor cars as an example but did not give any figures. It did not add that motor vehicle output fell by 5·1 per cent. in the last recorded year, and that it is now 29 per cent. lower than it was in 1979. If those figures had been given, they would have revealed the damage done to the motor industry by the medium-term financial strategy and by the total absence of any Government industrial strategy.