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Industry and Education

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:14 pm on 21st November 1994.

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Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins , Blackpool South 5:14 pm, 21st November 1994

Judging by the speeches of Labour Members, including that of the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), they are experts in trying to rewrite history. They have forgotten all the disastrous results of the policies that they pursued every time they were in government, but especially, as I remember, between 1974 and 1979. We constantly hear Labour Members talking about the 1970s and what has happened to British manufacturing industry since then, but they never mention that it was trade union militancy that destroyed that industry throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and especially when Labour Governments were in power.

I also recall that every Labour Government that there have ever been left office with unemployment higher than it was at the beginning of their term in office. I am sure that that would again be the result if this country were ever foolish enough to elect another Labour Government. I lived in the midlands throughout the 1970s and I suffered with the rest of the British people from the effects of a Labour Government. Labour Members should remember that then there was inflation in the high 20 per cents. and compare that with this Government's success in bringing down inflation to low single figures. They should also remember the mistake made by the shadow Chancellor, who predicted that unemployment would rise month after month, yet since then unemployment has fallen month after month.

Labour Members, especially those in the shadow Cabinet, usually have one or two faults. First, they have had no experience at any time in their lives of working in industry. If the press were to investigate the jobs many of them had before coming to the House they would find many social workers and university lecturers, but few with any experience of working in industry, in any capacity. Secondly, those who speak about industry are frequently motivated by an unfortunate combination of ignorance and prejudice—ignorance because of their lack of experience of the sharp end of industry, which I have been lucky enough to have, and prejudice because they believe that profit is a dirty word.

When Labour Members talk about investment, they usually mean Government subsidy. They do not realise that companies raise the money for investment by making profits. To hear many of their speeches, one would think that they all believe that profit is a dirty word, yet it is profit that allows a company to invest. They throw around cheap insults about senior company officials and their pay while failing to recognise that companies must pay the rate for the job. While I would not defend every pay rise that directors vote for themselves, sometimes companies seek to recruit in the international market, and to get the right people with the right leadership for British industry they must outbid United States, Japanese and European competitors, all of whom pay very high salaries. Those factors are often forgotten by the opposition parties.

Both of the main opposition parties constantly call for the implementation of the social chapter and the minimum wage. I had the good fortune to visit some factories in Germany during the summer recess, where I met senior works managers at the sharp end of industry. They said, "Make sure that you do not make the mistake in Britain that we made in the 1960s and 1970s." German manufacturing industry today has precisely the problems that we had in the 1960s and 1970s, when I recall that management at places like Longbridge had lost the right to manage. In German companies, particularly those in which the IG Metall union has great power, managers do not have the right even to chose to move a machine on the production line 5 ft to the right without consulting the works council. A thick book of rules, closely typed with small print, entitled the "Bevertriebsrad", insists that the works council must be consulted on everything.

The senior works manager who used to manage a plant for his previous company in south Wales as part of massive German investment there said that it was a joy to work in Britain because we have not saddled ourselves with the stupid bureaucracy under which German companies labour. That manager told me, "Make sure that you don't go down the road that we did. Don't have a minimum wage or saddle yourselves with social chapter regulations, because you will strangle your industry the way that German industry is now being strangled."

Labour Members who claim that the social chapter works fine for Germany should ask those who work at the sharp end of German manufacturing industry. They say that it is a disaster, which is why German companies are losing out right, left and centre to Japanese and other far east manufacturers, and why companies such as Bosch, which is in south Wales, are closing their plants on the mainland of continental Europe and relocating to Britain. Britain enjoys 40 per cent. or more of all inward investment to the European Union.

The debate is about both industry and education, which are closely linked. If British industry has a well-educated work force and well-trained managers, it will have a successful future. I was delighted to hear last week's announcement of the new national curriculum, which will bring a return to the high educational policy standards that were so sadly lacking over many years because of the trendy socialist ideas peddled through teacher training colleges since the 1960s.

The new English curriculum will make increased demands on pupils. There will be greater emphasis on grammar, spelling and punctuation—the traditional values that parents want and children need, but about which the Opposition parties have forgotten. There will be more emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic—particularly in the primary years, and on the need for pupils to be taught written and spoken standard English. There will be greater emphasis on high-quality English literature and, for the first time ever, more attention will be paid to correct English across the curriculum.

In mathematics there will be more emphasis on arithmetic, particularly during the primary years. The use of calculators by five to seven-year-olds will be restricted so that children will learn mental arithmetic. Calculators cannot be a substitute for arithmetical skills. As someone who has taught and is the son of a university lecturer and mathematics teacher, I know that those things matter.