HC Deb 18 April 1983 vol 41 cc12-4
15. Mr. Ioan Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what is the estimated value of manufacturing output in the United Kingdom for each year from 1978 to 1982 at constant prices.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

Such figures as are available will be placed in the Official Report.

The United Kingdom's performance in 1982 compares favourably with that of other industrialised countries, notably France, Germany and the United States of America.

Mr. Evans

Has the hon. Gentleman seen the most recent CBI quarterly trend survey, which predicts that 90,000 more manufacturing jobs will be lost in the following four months? When he talks about a Thatcher recovery, does he realise that last year, for the first time since the industrial revolution, we imported more manufacturing goods than we exported? Is that the sort of recovery that we can expect?

Mr. Baker

The fact that the figures for industrial manufacturing production have declined is a phenomenon that is not peculiar to this country. In fact, in the three countries that I mentioned, they declined significantly more than in Britain in 1982. The decline in America was 8.5 per cent.; in France, 1.75 per cent.; in Germany, 2.5 per cent.; but in Britain only 0.75 per cent. Again, that is clear evidence that we are pulling out of the recession ahead of our European partners.

Mr. John Grant

If the Minister is so sure of the economic upturn and June is busting out all over on the Government Benches, why did Ministers find it necessary to try to suppress the recent report of the National Economic Development Council, which showed a rather different picture, particularly with regard to employment prospects?

Mr. Baker

There was no attempt to suppress that report. In fact, it was a report on long-term employment forecasts over the next decade.

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle

Is my hon. Friend aware that industry wants a commitment that the Government will continue to control inflation, as lower price rises make its products more competitive and give hope that interest rates will fall? Is he further aware that industry is terrified of Labour's plan to let Government expenditure get out of control because it knows that that will again fuel inflation, make its products more expensive and cost jobs?

Mr. Baker

I have no doubt that if the policies outlined in Labour's policy document are implemented inflation will double from 5 to 10 per cent. within a matter of months, and probably go up to 15 or 20 per cent. thereafter. We are proud of the fact that we have reduced inflation to 5 per cent. There can be no long-term economic recovery in Britain without a low rate of inflation. We set out to achieve that in 1979, and that is what we have achieved.

Mr. John Garrett

Is the Minister aware that business failures were at an all-time record high in the first quarter of this year? They are currently running at 88 a month compared with 25 a month when Labour was last in power in 1979. The fact is that the Government have simply wiped out a fifth of British manufacturing capacity since they came to office. Why does the Minister not face that fact and explain why it has happened?

Mr. Baker

The hon. Gentleman could not have seen the figures published last week by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State. Those figures show that in 1982 business births exceeded buiness deaths by more than 7,000. I know that Labour Members have a vested interest in gloom and doom, but I remind them that on Saturday The Guardian said: There can now be little doubt that the United Kingdom is experiencing a revival from the recession of two and a half years ago. At least The Guardian has recognised that, and by doing so I cannot help recalling Lord Macaulay's words: And even the ranks of Tuscany could scarce forbear to cheer".

The following is the information:

Index of Manufacturing Output
Year Index
1978 104.5
1979 104.6
1980 95.1
1981 89.0
1982 88.4


Some indicators within the index of production are based on sales data which may overstate or understate the levels of output. the index numbers above allow for this by adjusting for changes in the level of stocks for these sectors.