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Mr. Redwood: The hon. Gentleman should look at the real interest rate and understand that we inherited very high inflation from the outgoing Labour Government in 1979. Interest rates in nominal terms had to stay high for quite a time to cure that, but, in the 1980s, with much help from the private sector, the Conservative Government rebuilt, for example, the motor industry, which had been gravely damaged in the 1970s by the Labour Government. Now a new Labour Government, after only just over a year in office, are beginning to do the same sort of damage to those industries that they did in the 1970s--back to the past; back to the problems. There have been more job losses in all the crucial industries and in manufacturing heartlands throughout the country.

Meanwhile, where the Government can make a difference--where the Board of Trade could do something to help business--business is left in doubt about the Government's intentions, as the Government prove unable to make up their mind. We need to know: are the Government willing and able to save the pits, or will coal jobs go the way of those many other jobs in exporting industries that are being lost?

We need to know why we were treated to a non-statement on energy, with all the detail left out and left over for a later date. Why have we been drifting without an energy policy for a whole year? Does the President of the Board of Trade plan to announce a proper policy to the House before it rises? [Interruption.] The Minister for Science, Energy and Industry comes in on cue, saying, "Not again." I will go on asking those questions until there is a proper energy policy that we can understand and that the country can either support or criticise.

Does the President of the Board of Trade plan to announce this proper policy before the House rises, or is the intention to leak it to the press during the recess, when we are not able to scrutinise it properly in the House? The right hon. Lady has had over a year to produce a sensible policy and there is still nothing: no detail, no reassurance for coal or for gas, everyone left in the dark. At least the lights are still on, because we have a privatised industry; if Labour was running it, I doubt whether that would be true.

When will the President of the Board of Trade have a policy for the nuclear industry? Has she yet decided how to phase the rundown of Dounreay? Will she tell us if she is satisfied that all the other nuclear facilities that are currently working are safe and have a safe future under her stewardship at the Department of Trade and Industry? How long is she going to hold up gas power station applications? Is she sure that it is legal to do so? When will she realise that, if she wishes to be greener, she has to be friendly to gas?

When will the DTI have a policy for the Post Office? The Royal Mail is being held up by Government delays. The management would like to do some deals with private

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sector companies throughout the world. The Post Office understands that it is a fast-moving global marketplace and wishes to join in, but, obviously, it cannot do so with a full Treasury guarantee and the current ownership structure. Will the President of the Board of Trade let the Post Office develop as a global corporation doing well for Britain? Is she brave enough to convert the Post Office into a public limited company and introduce private capital?

Mr. Ian Bruce: I wonder whether my right hon. Friend is being somewhat unfair to the President of the Board of Trade. Surely, all those issues are going to be decided by No. 10, the Treasury and the magic circle--and we all know that she is not part of that.

Mr. Redwood: It is true that some lobbyists have put around that slur on the reputation of the President of the Board of Trade, but, for once, I am being fairer to her than my hon. Friend. I am assuming that, in future, she will have some influence on these matters and will at some point use her high office of state to try to do some good for British industry. I confess--my hon. Friend is right--that there is no evidence so far, but I live in hope that she will one day come up with a policy and that that policy may do a little good. Why will we have to wait for a year and a half before the Government can answer simple questions on the future of the Post Office?

I ask the President of the Board of Trade--if she has finished talking to her colleagues on the Treasury Bench--why the Chancellor is lecturing us all on the need to keep wage increases down if we wish to preserve jobs while she is busily legislating to put wages up.

Has the right hon. Lady had any more thoughts about her minimum wage legislation? Does she not understand that our worry about it is primarily that it will lead to all sorts of pay rises for those on rather higher pay who wish to keep their differentials? I have heard no convincing argument from her that that is unlikely to happen. I also find it extraordinary that her Department--in this time of open government, which we know and love so well--is not prepared to give us the figures and forecasts and tell us the truth about how many jobs will be lost and by how much wages will rise as a result of her policy, which is pulling in exactly the opposite direction to that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. MacShane: The right hon. Gentleman is being generous in giving way. As he is dealing with the wages problem, would he care to tell the House how much he is being paid as a consultant by Murray Financial to undermine building societies and mutual insurance firms?

Mr. Redwood: I am a director of that company, which is not out to undermine building societies. Although I do not wish to spend the debate answering for that company rather than dealing with matters of public policy, I am quite happy to declare that I receive from that company a director's fee of £12,000 a year, which is a modest one. The company has no intention of raiding building societies that do not wish to talk to it.

I do wish that Labour Members would get away from trying to cast slurs on those who are pursuing a decent occupation, and would get on with understanding the grave problems that the Government face and the

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Government's relationships with lobby companies. When we come to the real issues at the bottom of this debate, I doubt whether I will receive from Labour Members any answers as straight and honest as the one that I have just given.

Why is the Chancellor of the Exchequer for ever lecturing us on the need for prudence, only then to announce a rapid expansion of public spending? I wonder whether we will even have to come to the House to hear an announcement, as I am sure that we will read all about it in the newspapers well in advance of the event.

Why is so much of the spending to go on welfare when the Government, when in opposition, said that they would spend less on what they then called "economic failure".

Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet): I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way before he moves too far away from the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane). The right hon. Gentleman has said that he wants to encourage saving and to keep inflation and interest rates down. Does he not understand that windfalls for the few were one of the main inflationary pressures that led to interest rate rises; that the windfalls were already affecting the economy when the Government came to power; and that he--by joining Murray Financial--will continue them in future?

Mr. Redwood: I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman thinks that Murray will be so successful that--from being such a small company--it will have an impact on the United Kingdom money supply. However, I think that it is better if I speak for the Opposition and not for the company, which he is dragging me into doing.

When will the President of the Board of Trade get around to making some decisions on how the new competition policy is meant to work? Does she not realise that the Competition Bill--her Bill--is weak on monopolies and services of general economic interest? Does she not worry that it is so badly drafted that pubs and brewers, newsagents and publishers, oil companies and filling stations still do not know where they will stand when it comes into effect?

It has been a very wet June, and July has been even wetter. The weather has been cold enough to leave people diving for pullovers rather than swimsuits. England was ejected from the world cup competition amid controversy about the conduct of one of the star players, and with relief that a small band of hooligan supporters would return home early. The cricket team has not done well in the tests. I remember Labour saying that things would be better if it was elected. It has not worked out like that this summer.

I do not blame the Government for the deterioration in the weather or for the sporting disasters--although doubtless they would have claimed credit if things had turned out differently--but I do blame them for changing the business climate for the worse. I do hold them responsible for playing the economy so badly that manufacturing is already in recession. I do hold them responsible for disrupting our hard-won trade union settlement with their half-baked reforms. Let us make no mistake about it--Labour is taking us back to the bad old days and the bad old ways of the 1960s and 1970s.

The Government inherited the best strike record of any country in Europe. Last week, there was a firefighters' strike in Essex, today there is a tube strike, and soon there

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will be rail strikes. I fear that other public service workers will also go on strike as they watch the private sector wage explosion that the Government have triggered while their own pay falls far behind.

The Government inherited low business taxes. They have already increased them by £25 billion during this Parliament and are planning more tax raids on success and enterprise. It would be helpful to the oil industry if the President of the Board of Trade could tell us something about the Government's intention to raid the oil companies, but I expect that that will be another issue that they will leave until the recess, when Parliament is not here to cross-examine them on another set of tax increases.

The Government inherited low inflation. Wages are now rising at a rate of 5.9 per cent. a year in the private sector, and inflation is well above the outgoing Government's target or the current Government's target. It is not just City bonuses; wage inflation is setting in thanks to Government policies. They inherited a respectable level of savings and they said that the country needed to save more. I agree. That would have been the right response to the gathering momentum in the economy. Instead, according to Red Book figures, the country will save 1 per cent, less of our national income this year--around £8.5 billion less savings--thanks primarily to the taxes that the Government imposed on pension funds and the replacement of personal equity plans and tax-exempt savings accounts with something less generous.

The Government inherited low interest rates. Now, six rate rises later, and with more threatened and likely, things are not nearly so easy for business borrowers. Perhaps the Government foolishly believed one of Labour's five promises: that interest rates would be kept as low as possible. Perhaps the Government will have the gall to say that they honoured their promise, since for them it is not possible to keep rates very low.

The Government inherited a high, but just manageable, level of sterling. They have increased it to a level at which exporting is either impossible or unprofitable for many firms. In place of the success that we were generating, Labour offers strikes, more laws and higher taxes. In place of financial prudence, Labour offers higher public spending.


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