We continue to receive representations and views from the manufacturing sector. Like every sector in the economy, manufacturing is being affected by rising oil prices and by the global credit crunch. However, recent reports from the Engineering Employers Federation show continued strength and resilience in the manufacturing sector.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to refer to the EEF's recent report, which shows that manufacturing is now in a far better position in relation to economic pressures than it was under previous Conservative Governments, for example, when manufacturing bore the brunt of such problems. As she says, however, the credit crunch and rising energy costs will have an impact on manufacturing. Will she ensure that she sticks closely not only to the employers but to the trade unions in manufacturing, to ensure that the sector comes out of this time of economic pressure maintaining as many manufacturing jobs as possible?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. We want to work closely with all those involved in manufacturing—employers, trade unions and others—to ensure that we can support people through what will be a tougher time for businesses as a result of the challenges from the world economy. Many areas of manufacturing are particularly affected by rising oil prices and rising commodity prices, for example. However, my hon. Friend is right to say that manufacturing productivity has grown by almost 50 per cent. since 1997. The manufacturing sector has strengthened, and that puts it in a considerably stronger position to withstand global pressures than it was in the early 1990s and the early 1980s, when we saw devastation across the manufacturing industry.
I am sure that we can all agree that the pharmaceutical sector is one of the most successful industrial sectors in this country. Has my right hon. Friend noticed, however, that the sector has lost 8,000 jobs in the past three years? The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and the CBI have recently reported on that fact. Will she be having discussions with either of those organisations?
We have regular meetings and discussions, and I think that I am due to meet representatives of the ABPI to discuss the pharmaceutical industry. That sector has invested £3.2 billion in research and development, and my hon. Friend is right to say that it is a world leader. It is important that we work with all our manufacturers to ensure that they get through the difficult period ahead.