I congratulate the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Gerrard) on introducing this important debate. However, Londoners will make their own judgment on Labour's continuing support for strikes and hankering for the return of the Greater London council.
It may be helpful if we look at some realities. London and the south-east have always been central to Britain's economic vitality. The region provides employment for about 7 million people and home to more than 600,000 businesses accounting for some 40 per cent. of our nation's gross domestic product. London itself is a world class financial centre and accounts for some three quarters of the financial and business activity in the country.
In recent years, as the world recession has impacted, the economic pre-eminence of the south-east region has been challenged and the legendary resilience of its economy has been considerably tested. The recession has had a considerable impact on London and the south-east, but we should not forget that this setback developed from a very high starting point. London and the south-east benefited hugely from the 1980s expansion. I firmly believe that the region's infrastructure, industry and economy are now well positioned for London and the south-east once again to take advantage of recovery, which all the signs indicate is imminent.
We are committed to rebuilding confidence in the south-east and London and to restoring their position as the powerhouse of the United Kingdom economy. A return to growth in London and the south-east will be the trigger for growth nation wide.
Our policies for economic growth provide the framework to ensure sustained recovery. They contain many elements which will be of particular benefit to London and the south-east. The autumn statement made clear our determination to give the highest possible priority to capital programmes; that will promote recovery and long-term economic prosperity.
The Budget reinforced our commitment to growth and the revival of enterprise. We now have an economic environment of low inflation and low interest rates and a tax regime which favours recovery. The south-east and London should be exceptionally able to benefit from these policies. London in particular, as a world capital and key international centre for business, culture and tourism, should be able to take advantage of them and enhance its position in future. We are committed to seeing that London maintains its pre-eminence, and that our policies continue to foster its international standing in all those areas in which it so clearly excels. My right hon. Friend, the Chancellor's Budget will ensure lasting recovery. It will boost business this year and tackle Government borrowing in the years ahead. Infrastructure projects in London and the south-east featured prominently in the Budget and fiscal measures such as the boost for export credits will see British business leading the way to recovery.