Orders of the Day — Industry and Transport

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:36 am on 9th November 1990.

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Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Secretary of State for Trade 9:36 am, 9th November 1990

Although Friday is not the most crowded day in the House, in my experience it is a day when those hon. Members who attend are among the most perspicacious, assiduous and discriminating. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] So Friday debates are occasions for greater frankness and concentration on the key issues than is perhaps possible on some other days of the week.

The Gracious Speech makes it clear that the key issue facing the world economy is the success or failure of the Uruguay round. The world economy is clearly slowing down, and the normal trade cycle is exacerbated by the Gulf crisis and higher oil prices. So what the world needs, above all, is a non-inflationary stimulus, and only a successful GATT round could provide that.

Lower tariffs and the removal of barriers to trade would simultaneously put downward pressure on prices and encourage increased trade and activity. So the failure of the Community to table any offer on agriculture by the agreed date threatened to derail the whole Uruguay round. That would have had incalculable consequences for world prosperity.

We must all feel relieved that Farm and Trade Ministers averted disaster when they finally reached agreement on Tuesday. That outcome owes much to the insistence of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary that Heads of Government should consider the matter at Rome, and to the tenacious insistence in Brussels by my right hon. and hon. Friends the Agriculture and Trade Ministers that the matter be pursued to a successful conclusion.