My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has frequent discussions with representatives of manufacturing industry. Many of these cover long-term finance. The Government can best encourage investment in manufacturing industry by providing a stable macro-economic environment based on low inflation and sound public finances.
Is the Minister aware that I was talking the other day to a member of the northern branch of the Engineering Employers Federation? He said that the greatest obstacles to the expansion of his business were the greed, myopia and excessive short-termism of British banks. Does the Minister's Department have plans to do anything about that, or is his party too deeply in hock to the bankers?
There is no more ludicrous a spectacle of new Labour than the hon. Gentleman presenting himself as the champion of manufacturing industry. May I point out to the hon. Gentleman that, during the 1980s, business investment in this country grew faster than in any other Group of Seven countries except Japan? Opposition Members may shout about it, but that is a fact.
Does my hon. Friend agree that many manufacturing industries, particularly in west Yorkshire—and in my own constituency since 1984—have been investing money since the early 1980s? Does he further agree that a slightly more sympathetic venture and help from banks would now be a great advantage to all those industries?
I think that my hon. Friend will be aware of the loan guarantee scheme, which is run through the Department of Trade and Industry. Changes were introduced in the Budget, to do with capital gains tax reinvestment, single company personal equity plan schemes and employee share schemes. A number of measures were taken to help investment, but I very much take on board the point that my hon. Friend makes. We are looking to the banks to make their contribution as well.