Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:17 pm on 23rd March 2011.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham 2:17 pm, 23rd March 2011

It is a good point. We have heard figures from the Government indicating that we export less to the BRIC countries combined than we do to Ireland, but we have a close relationship with Ireland and we are close neighbours. It is understandable that we export a lot to Ireland and it to us. That figure conceals one important point, which is that British business has probably been a little more active than it suggests, but for various reasons the larger British companies tend to go into India, Brazil and China and set up joint ventures or factories of their own there to service the local market. It is easier to service those markets in that way, for reasons that we need not go into in detail today, but I agree that it would be good if we exported more, and it would be good if we helped small and medium-sized enterprises that do not have the capability to set up factories on the other side of the world to export in their turn.

The devaluation that happened more than a year ago has given us one nasty result, which is a much higher inflation rate than comparable economies, but it has given us one pleasant result, which is that it is very easy to export out of a British base now because British industry is so much more competitive at the current level of the pound. We should have that on our side. Paradoxically, quite a bit of British business in the manufacturing sector is close to capacity, and those businesses are tending to put the prices up a bit to collect a little more revenue and improve their balance sheets because it is not that easy to expand turnover. That is where the things that the Chancellor is talking about are vital and need to be done speedily.

Britain needs to be able to put up factories more quickly and get them into use more quickly. It needs to define the skilled engineers and the other skilled individuals who want to work in an industrial setting rather than in an advisory or City setting, and then expand the capability of their companies as a result. Modern manufacturing requires a very high degree of skills input, talented people and good management. It does not require so many people to operate machines because really good manufacturing now is highly automated. It needs the precision of expensive machinery. Indeed, the easiest way to compete out of a German or a British base is to have highly automated plant, so labour costs are a rather unimportant part of the total cost. The intellectual property content, the skill content and the plant and equipment content are much higher, but they are affordable with a quality product.