In the past three years, the Government have managed to destroy 600,000 jobs in manufacturing industry, thanks to their policy of high exchange rates and high interest rates. Now that they have been forced out of that deflationary bunker and have a chance to do something different, what proposals does the Minister have to encourage import substitution, so that British industry can win back more of its own market?
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the best job creation programme that his Department could pursue is to ensure that we get a successful outcome in the GATT—general agreement on tariffs and trade—negotiations? Does he agree that the situation is now very serious and poses an immense threat to the traded goods sector of manufacturing in this country? How is it that 2·5 per cent. of Europe's population—the French farmers—have apparently hijacked the pan-European negotiating position? What is going on?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of a successful outcome in the Uruguay round of the GATT negotiations. Clearly, it would provide a non-inflationary stimulus to the world economy at a time when it is much needed. He will be aware of the great difficulties in arriving at a successful outcome and of the efforts that have been made. My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the President of the Board of Trade have been at the forefront of those efforts, but great difficulties remain.
Is the Minister aware that even the pathetic efforts of his Department to aid British industry are being effectively undermined by policies that have been established by the Treasury, which seeks to impose a further VAT burden on industry by requiring it to pay VAT on account rather than in arrears? In my constituency, that is causing an additional serious burden, which is costing jobs. What does the Minister intend to do about that?
I hope that the hon. Gentleman recognises that one of the most important ways to create an environment that encourages business is to improve the tax environment. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the rates of corporation tax and personal tax now, as opposed to those that we inherited from the Labour Government in 1979, he will see that we have made immense progress.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that new jobs will be generated by the creation of new, and the development of existing, small businesses? Is he aware that many small businesses complain bitterly about the red tape and regulation that 2 million of them have to face? What progress has his Deepartment made in tackling that serious problem?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend about the important role of small businesses in job creation, not only directly through the jobs that they provide but indirectly through the service that they provide as suppliers to larger companies. I agree also with my hon. Friend about the importance of deregulation. We have had a drive to remove the burdens of bureaucracy from small businesses. We have not yet achieved enough, but I am happy to say that my hon. Friend the Minister for Energy is renewing that drive and is determined that we shall make real progress. I fear that the Opposition remain committed to imposing just the sort of regulatory burdens on business that destroy jobs.
With 600,000 manufacturing jobs lost in the past two years, with job losses in manufacturing industry now running at 50,000 a month and with the Engineering Employers Federation predicting 100,000 job losses in the next 12 months, is it not clear that the Government have totally failed manufacturing industry? Now that one President in the United States has lost his job, would not the best policy for this country be for the President of the Board of Trade to lose his job as well?
I constantly hope that one day I will hear someone from the Opposition Front Bench say something complimentary about the achievements of British industry. I remind the hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.] My comment is not confined to the Opposition Front Bench. It would be nice to hear something in favour of British industry said from anywhere on the Opposition Benches. I remind Opposition Members that one of the most remarkable achievements has been the increase of more than 50 per cent. in the productivity of manufacturing industry under the Government.