Manufacturing Output

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 1:45 pm on 19 June 1996.

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Photo of Bill Olner Bill Olner , Nuneaton 1:45, 19 June 1996

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the output of manufactured goods in (a) the United Kingdom and (b) the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries (i) in 1979 and (ii) at present [32120]

Photo of Mr Philip Oppenheim Mr Philip Oppenheim , Amber Valley

Since 1979, the share of manufacturing in total output has fallen by a quarter in both the OECD as a whole and the United Kingdom.

Photo of Bill Olner Bill Olner , Nuneaton

The Under-Secretary has obviously put the best spin he possibly can on those figures. Will he confirm that, since 1979, 2.76 million jobs have been lost in manufacturing industry, and during that period this country slipped from 13th to 18th place in the world prosperity league?

Photo of Mr Philip Oppenheim Mr Philip Oppenheim , Amber Valley

In the unlikely event that the hon. Gentleman finds himself standing in the position I am in now, I suspect that he would also try to put a good spin on whatever figures are fed to him. I suspected that he might quote the Institute of Management Development report rather than the World Economic Forum report, which showed Britain's position rising from 18th to 15th place. In a totally non-partisan spirit, however, I am happy to stick to the IMD report that he quoted and point out that the countries that it shows have made the most improvement over the past decade are Hong Kong—the free market capital of Asia—and Chile and New Zealand, which perhaps have made even more progress over the past decade than this country in deregulating and opening markets. That is hardly an endorsement of Labour policies, whatever they may be today.

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr

Does my hon. Friend agree that the aerostructure industry plays an important part in our manufacturing output? On that basis, does he agree that overseas success is dependent on a strong home base? Will he make representations to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence to ensure that, when the Nimrod replacement or refurbishment programme is determined, British Aerospace at Prestwick gets a fair look in?

Photo of Mr Philip Oppenheim Mr Philip Oppenheim , Amber Valley

My hon. Friend is, as ever, a good advocate for his own constituency. He is right to point out that two high-tech industries that have done well in Britain over the past 17 years are pharmaceuticals and aerospace. Close to my own constituency is Rolls-Royce plc, which was almost written off as a basket case in the 1970s but which has since trebled its share of commercial aero-engines and is now a successful, profitable company.

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon , Ashfield

Does the Minister agree that, notwithstanding the Government's extravagant claims about the current state of the British economy, the 0.3 per cent. decline in manufacturing output in April compared to March and the fall in manufacturing output in each of the previous two quarters means that the British economy is in recession?

Photo of Mr Philip Oppenheim Mr Philip Oppenheim , Amber Valley

No, I do not agree, not surprisingly. I must point out to the hon. Gentleman that, in the past quarter, manufacturing in Britain rose at a time when it is stagnant or falling in the rest of Europe. I ask him, because I know that he has an expansive mind, to look at the big picture. During the 1980s and 1990s, Britain's manufacturing productivity growth was the fastest of all the major economies in the world. Our manufacturing output has grown faster than that in all the other major European Union countries. I also remind him that, when his party was last in power, our manufacturing productivity growth was bottom of the league of major nations and our manufacturing productivity output actually fell.

Photo of Mr Michael Grylls Mr Michael Grylls , Surrey North West

Does my hon. Friend agree that the biggest contribution that any Government can make to help manufacturing industry is to maintain a stable economic climate and, above all, keep inflation down? The Government have been very successful at that. I really wonder how the Opposition, with their appalling record on inflation, which destroyed jobs in manufacturing industry, have the impertinence even to question this.

Photo of Mr Philip Oppenheim Mr Philip Oppenheim , Amber Valley

My hon. Friend is right. Not only was the record of the great macho men of manufacturing on the Opposition Benches one of falling manufacturing output and stagnant bottom-of-the-league manufacturing productivity, but hundreds of thousands of jobs in manufacturing were lost every year under the previous Labour Government. Perhaps that is why the report that the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Olner) quoted showed Britain's competitiveness above that of France and Italy, while the World Economic Forum report showed it above that of Germany as well.