Orders of the Day — The Economy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:50 pm on 28th November 1989.

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Photo of Mr Michael Grylls Mr Michael Grylls , Surrey North West 5:50 pm, 28th November 1989

The right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) was a very distinguished and charming Labour Minister. He has made a very interesting speech, as we would have expected; he has been a friend of mine in the House for some time and I hope that he always will be. Although his historical analysis was right when he referred to the British disease of the 1970s, he was on dangerous ground when he carried his analysis through to the present day.

Some Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen, including the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) today and the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) in the debate on industry last week, have tried to decry what some people, although not I, have described as the British miracle. It was foolish to do that, and inaccurate.

It would be more accurate to refer to the changes that we can contrast today with the scene described by the right hon. Member for Swansea, West. Those changes have occurred not as a result of a miracle, but thanks to sensible and practical policies. Those policies have been followed in many other countries with great success over the years. However, somehow Britain failed to follow them in the decades before the 1980s.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House. When he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, he laid the foundation for the first conquering of inflation and for the many tax changes that he introduced on the supply side. Those have been important factors in strengthening the British economy.

I know that this is a partisan debate; that is normal, and probably right. However, it does not do the debate any good for the Opposition to decry any or all of the Government's achievements. Perhaps people do not want to give the Government credit, because that is not within the partisan mood, but they should at least give credit to British industry, which has changed itself beyond recognition within the past 10 years. That does not mean that everything has been done, because there is plenty more to do. Perhaps there should be almost a bipartisan view about what needs to be done in future.

The right hon. Member for Swansea, West tried to accuse my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, of squandering an inheritance. That is lunacy. The right hon. Gentleman is normally a very good debater, but such accusations do him no good.

We must consider the fact that British industry has quadrupled its productivity. It has doubled its profits, and 1,500 new firms are starting up every week. Before, we were losing small firms. There was a net loss, but there is now a net gain. That is the sign of a very successful economy.

No doubt Opposition Members would say that that is not enough, and I would agree. I want to see British industry double and treble those figures. However, if we continue the policies that we have pursued over the past 10 years, we are entitled to state that those figures will rise. Those figures have been achieved because the economy has been growing and we have made important supply side changes. There have been changes in taxation and unnecessary regulations have been removed to encourage entrepreneurs to get up and start new businesses.