Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:14 pm on 14th April 2003.

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Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo Shadow Secretary of State (Trade and Industry) 6:14 pm, 14th April 2003

I recommend that the hon. Gentleman consult bodies representing small business, such as the Federation of Small Businesses, to find out what they think.

Matthew Taylor referred to business investment. The fall in business investment last year was the worst since 1991 and the second worst since that series of statistics was first collected in 1966. The Chancellor likes to compare the British economy's performance with that of our competitors abroad, but, as the hon. Gentleman pointed out, the fall in business investment in Britain in the past two years has been sharper than in America, Germany, Japan, France, Italy, Canada and Spain. Even the Chancellor himself now admits that business investment will fall again in 2003.

Last year, productivity in Britain rose at only half the rate at which it was rising when the Conservative Government left office. More days were lost through strikes last year than in any year since 1991. On average, more than 2,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost every week over the six years of Labour government—a total of more than 600,000 manufacturing jobs lost in the past six years. We did not hear much in last Wednesday's Budget statement or in the Secretary of State's speech this afternoon about deteriorating trade, falling investment, slower productivity growth, worsening industrial relations, or haemorrhaging manufacturing jobs. Is it not time the Chancellor and the Secretary of State put away their rose-tinted spectacles and started to admit what is really happening?