Orders of the Day — Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:51 pm on 10th March 1999.

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Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry 4:51 pm, 10th March 1999

The Secretary of State is right to say that that is the way in which the Prime Minister chooses to construct his phrase. The Prime Minister repeats it like a music hall line or a comedian's catch phrase. To those in the front line of British industry, it does not seem very funny, however. Industry has been suffering for a year. At the time of the Chancellor's first Budget, I warned of a treble whammy on profits, investment and jobs in British manufacturing … the higher exchange rate, which throttles the prospects of exporters in continental markets; the higher interest rates which have already occurred—undoubtedly there will be more …—and higher taxes".—[Official Report, 4 July 1997; Vol. 297, c. 581.] As we know, there was more. If the Opposition could foresee all that in July 1997, why could not the Government? Why did they blunder and plunder on?

Was the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry persuaded to make today's silly statement, which had no new content, in order to delay the Budget debate beyond the normal time for the early evening news and because he did not wish to hear the truth about the plight of manufacturing? Did he also wish to delay the debate so long that I might have to be torn away to the shadow Cabinet, where my right hon. and hon. Friends are now? Or was the statement simply an unfortunate slip of his memory? Had he forgotten that all that he announced today had been announced many times before?

Why does the Secretary of State not care about the string of factory closures and industrial job losses that are being left in his wake? Why will he not come to the House to make a statement about what he intends to do about that? The real issue facing us is manufacturing collapse and factory closures, not the silly, trivial matters that the right hon. Gentleman chose to mention or policies that he has announced many times before.