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Industry and Education

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:58 pm on 21st November 1994.

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Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine President of the Board of Trade 3:58 pm, 21st November 1994

I am asked who stopped it. I will tell the House who stopped it. It was the Labour party year after year after year which stopped it. It is precisely because BT has proved what can be achieved by turning it into a private sector, world-class company that I want the Royal Mail to have exactly the same opportunities.

Three other areas are important to the competitiveness agenda that we will pursue. The first is the continuation of the deregulation initiative. The House will be aware of the recent enactment of legislation enabling us to propose procedures and thereafter make changes at a speed not previously available. That is an important aspect of our determination to free up the marketplace while preserving essential protections for the environment and for safety.

I am delighted to see my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton) in the Chamber and I pay tribute to his remarkable work in pursuing our deregulation initiative. As a result of his work and the leadership of Lord Sainsbury, and now Francis Maude, 900 regulations are either in the process of being repealed or are at an urgent stage of reform. We have already notified to Parliament under the new legislative procedures 55 measures that are saving business millions of pounds. That is an important aspect of our market-opening activity.

The House will be fully aware of the recent satisfactory outcome of the GATT negotiations, which we hope to see concluded by the end of this year. That will manifest one of the Government's central beliefs: that there is much gain in widening the world's marketplace and freeing up opportunities for import and export. Nowhere is that more so than in the less prosperous parts of the world, which will gain far more from increased trade than they ever will from increased aid.

The third area relates to the Government's remarkable success story of pursuing policies of inward investment. As announcement after announcement is made about the scale of inward investment to this country, and as we now have 40 per cent. of all inward investment in the European Union from America and Japan, I wish every so often that when Opposition Members see new investment, plant and factories opening in their constituencies, they would recognise that that is happening because the Government's policies have made this country the most competitive European economy in which to invest.

Let me make a clear statement on behalf of the Government: we have transformed the competitiveness of this economy and have made ourselves one of the most attractive investment bases in the European Union. The economic outlook is among the best that we have seen in recent years. We have achieved a record of low inflation, low interest rates and have restored public finance to health. We have a range of policies to enhance the competitiveness of this nation. They have required guts and determination from a Government determined to ensure that they lead to the improved performance of our national economy, and nothing will persuade us to throw those opportunities away.