Is the Minister aware that, since 1979, import penetration in manufacturing industry has increased by 10 per cent., in chemicals by 12 per cent., in electronics by 21 per cent. and in computer and office equipment by 92 per cent? When will the Minister stop giving bland answers and support manufactures and manufacturing industry? Does he agree that on Friday our balance of payments deficit will be in excess of £15 billion?
Is my hon. Friend aware that I represent a seat which is thoroughly concerned with manufacturing industry and that the vast majority of my constituents agree with me that the only way to beat import penetration is for British industry to make products that can be sold successfully throughout the world?
As so often, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. I congratulate British manufacturing industry on the great increase in productivity and exports that it achieved in the 1980s.
Is the Minister aware that a United Kingdom company that has supplied a proven product to United Kingdom ambulance services for the past four years has been excluded from a contract valued at £3·8 million? That contract was awarded in favour of an overseas competitor. Does the Minister agree that all Government Departments and those who spend public money must support our manufacturing industry and, when possible, award contracts to British companies? Will he seek the support of the Secretary of State for Health and hold an inquiry into how that contract has been awarded and, if possible, have it suspended during reappraisal?
I am glad to be able to reasure the hon. Gentleman that more than 90 per cent. of the goods and services bought by the Government are from United Kingdom sources. Of course, the Government, as a purchaser, are looking to give the best possible value to the taxpayer.
The contract to which the hon. Gentleman refers is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to write to him about it.
As a manufacturer involved in the manufacturing of consumer goods, does my hon. Friend agree that the bottom line is that the consumer should want to buy English or British produce because it is more attractive in terms of price and design? At the end of the day that is what manufacturing industry in this country must achieve if we are to reverse import penetration.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am glad that he mentions design as an important feature for a successful manufacturer and, of course, good service to the customer is also important. Being close to the market can be a great advantage to British manufacturers.