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Mr. Brown: The hon. Gentleman's speech last week was a little better than the speech that he has attempted today. I would have thought that he and Forte itself would be more concerned about the takeover bid that has been mounted. He asked about the minimum wage. Is he not interested in the fact that, of the 17 countries ahead of Britain in the world prosperity league, 15 of them have minimum wages?

Where do I get the information about how we have slipped down the world prosperity league? [An hon. Member: "A Labour party researcher."] No, not from a Labour party researcher, as the hon. Gentleman said; not from the Trades Union Congress; not from an academic buried in a university. I obtained that information from Her Majesty's Stationery Office, from an official Government publication, a White Paper with all the authority of the Cabinet, entitled "Competitiveness: Forging Ahead".

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The White Paper was

Half the Cabinet signed that White Paper.

As the Prime Minister said in an admiring introduction to that White Paper, it was

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington): For the avoidance of doubt, will the hon. Gentleman tell the House a bit more about those figures? Will he tell the House, for example, whether they are based on purchasing power parities or current exchange rates?

Mr. Brown: Not only can I tell the hon. Gentleman that those figures are based on purchasing power parities, but I can tell him that even the exchange rate measure gives exactly the same answer about the deterioration in our competitive position. I can tell him that the position was the same last year as this year and, according to all surveys that have been done, is likely to be the same in the current full financial year.

It would be worth while for the hon. Gentleman to read the report. Not only have we fallen to 18th in terms of national income per head, but we have fallen to 21st in terms of investment per head--way below Spain and Portugal.

That White Paper says that we have consistently invested a smaller proportion of national income than our competitors, that United Kingdom industrial research and development expenditure is less than that of our competitors, and that all the changes that the Conservatives say that they have brought about in the British economy come down to the fact that we have slipped, under their policies, from 13th to 18th. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Mr. Tim Yeo (South Suffolk): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Brown: I shall give way on the White Paper, which no doubt the hon. Gentleman has read.

Mr. Yeo: Will the hon. Gentleman tell me how many of the 17 countries that are ahead of us devote as large a proportion of gross domestic product to the public sector as we do?

Mr. Brown: The question, as I shall suggest to the House later, is not, "What theoretical proportion is public expenditure of national income?" but, "What is investment as a share of national income?"

Mr. Yeo: What about answering the question?

Mr. Brown: The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that in Germany, France and many other countries, public expenditure is a greater proportion of national income, and they are more prosperous than we are. He should also know that, when assessing relative prosperity, most countries would go on the direct connection between investment and gross domestic product per head.

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What has happened to the economy after 16 years? Let us remember what was said. Do Conservatives continue to boast of the "economic miracle", as they did in 1988? Remember the boast by the then Chancellor that we had become the envy of Japan, as Japan shoots ahead of us in the economic league. Remember the claim by the present Prime Minister that there was no longer a German economic miracle, but that a British economic miracle had replaced it. Remember the proclamation that the Conservatives had transformed the British economy.

Remember that other promise--indeed, assertion--that the pound was about to replace the deutschmark as the leading European currency, a characteristically prescient statement, made only a few weeks before we crashed out of the exchange rate mechanism. What do Conservative Members say of their economic transformation now that the pound has completed its passage and is worth 40 per cent. of the value of the deutschmark that it was worth in 1979?

There are no more big promises; no more weasel words. The following phrases are found in the speeches of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor now. "Conditions are right," they say; "we are poised"; "the fundamentals are in place"; "we are well placed". Surely, after 16 years being poised on the brink of laying the foundations of the essential preconditions for getting the fundamentals right for being on our way to becoming the enterprise capital of Europe, that is simply not good enough. It is time to judge them on their record, not on their promises.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Kenneth Clarke): The hon. Gentleman makes much of the one page of the White Paper on competitiveness that he appears to have read concerning the list of GDP per head figures, at the top of which comes Luxembourg. The method used to calculate the figures involves the assets of all the secondary banks in Luxembourg, which puts it at the top of the table. But those assets are not enjoyed by all the inhabitants of Luxembourg, and it is not an ideal measure of the most successful economy in the world.

The hon. Gentleman appears to want to make an absurd comparison, to try to prove that the Thatcherite revolution never happened. Is he aware of the analysis in The Wall Street Journal by Mr. Marsden, an independent economic consultant, who uses World bank figures on a number of indicators that have more to do with improvements in our position? It shows that, since 1979-80, out of 16 countries, Britain is first in the list of improvements in productivity, first in reductions of tax burden, first in the increase of private consumption and overwhelmingly first in attracting foreign investment. If the hon. Gentleman studies league tables, he should use sensible ones, not misuse casual ones.

Mr. Brown: The Chancellor now seems to think that an extract xeroxed from The Wall Street Journal is more valuable than a Government publication--a White Paper from HMSO.

Mr. Clarke rose--

Madam Speaker: Order. I cannot hear two hon. Members at once.

Mr. Brown: Perhaps the Chancellor has another report to which he wants to draw our attention. Perhaps he has an extract from a Japanese daily newspaper.

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Mr. Clarke: It is not the way the hon. Gentleman reads them, but the way he tells them. He keeps misusing our White Paper on competitiveness to show it as some sort of world prosperity table. The figures refer to investment, productivity and personal consumption. He knows that the Conservative party has transformed this country for the better since 1979. We are currently well ahead of the league in our recovery from the recession.

Mr. Brown: If the Conservatives have transformed the country, why are 2 million people unemployed? Why is there massive job insecurity throughout the country? Why are we experiencing the slowest surge of investment out of recession at any time this century? Why--in terms of the measures that the Chancellor chooses to use, such as national growth--do we have the lowest non-oil growth of any European country for the past 15 years? The Chancellor thinks that national income per head is not a measure worth using. I thought that he would throw up that subject--he has to create a smokescreen, because at no point has he denied my central figure.

I looked back over the Chancellor's publications and was surprised to find one entitled "Britain in Europe", which spoke of new hope for the regions. Its authors are given as Kenneth Clarke and Elaine Kellett-Bowman-- [Laughter.] The Chancellor chooses his co-authors well. I do not know who will take the blame or the responsibility for what I am about to say.

The Chancellor talks of how everyone should benefit and asks what action can be taken to sort out the regions of Europe. He asks how we should measure the difference between the richest and poorest regions and concludes that they are calculated in terms of gross domestic product per capita--exactly the same measure that the Chancellor now doubts when I put it to him.

Mr. Clarke rose--

Mr. Brown: I shall allow the Chancellor to intervene once more, but this is my speech and I hope that he has a speech to give.

Mr. Clarke: The hon. Gentleman is obviously lost for words for a moment and is obviously searching for policy. I wrote another pamphlet on regional government in this country, which was adopted by the Labour party for a time as its regional policy, but it, like me, has changed its mind and has now dropped the policy. When I wrote that pamphlet--

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