Michael Heseltine – 1993 Speech on Trade, Industry and Deregulation

The speech made by Michael Heseltine, the then Secretary of State for Trade, in the House of Commons on 24 November 1993.

When I returned to the House not many weeks ago—I thank the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) for his kind remarks—someone asked me, “How’s life?” I replied, “A great deal better than the alternative.” As I listened to the hon. Member for Livingston today, I wondered whether I had been a little rash in my judgment.

The Gracious Speech made clear the importance that the Government attach to a successful outcome to the present general agreement on tariffs and trade round. It was fascinating that not a word was said about that, although it is perhaps the single biggest opportunity facing the entire world, to improve living standards and trading opportunities—not a word about that from the hon. Member for Livingston. However, Conservative Members will welcome the boost which the passage of the north American free trade agreement has already given to the Uruguay round. There must be no doubt that no country will work harder than we will for a successful conclusion to that round.

The calculations show the excitement of the possibilities. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development claims that a successful outcome could raise annual world income by about $270 billion during a decade. That estimate could well prove to be on the cautious side, once the effects of trade in services and the dynamic benefits of trade liberalisation are taken into account.

We all realise that the timetable is perilously tight and, frankly, all the Governments of the world must face the understandable criticism that it has taken seven years of negotiation, yet we now face trying to conclude the deals on so many issues with just three weeks to go.

It is also important to remember that a successful outcome to the GAIT round would not only be welcomed on trade grounds, important though they are; the less-developed and poorer countries in particular stand to gain far more in extra trade and investment than they could ever expect in extra aid from the more prosperous countries.

Within a more open trading environment, our policy is to enable and assist British-based companies to gain the largest possible share of world trade.

On any detached analysis, there are growing signs today of success. We heard virtually not a word from the Opposition about the direction in which the economy is moving or about the news, which is more encouraging by the day. Inflation is at its lowest level for 30 years. Headline inflation has been below 2 per cent. for 10 months—the best performance since the 1960s. With the base rate now cut to 5.5 per cent., since October 1990 interest rate reductions have added about £12 billion a year of benefit to business. Investment is rising; manufacturing investment in the third quarter of this year was up by 2 per cent. on a year earlier, a point which also seems to have passed the hon. Member for Livingston by—it certainly passed his colleagues by when they drafted the amendment on the Order Paper.

Our GDP has been rising for 18 months. It was 1.9 per cent. higher in the third quarter of this year than a year earlier. Perhaps most excitingly of all, exports are at record levels. The volume of manufactured exports going outside the EC was up by 16 per cent. on a year earlier. Characteristically, the hon. Member for Livingston sought to diminish the world trade that this country has achieved by claiming that our share of it had risen under the Labour Government. The only way he can do that is by talking about cash and ignoring exchange rate calculations. In fact, persistently and under all Governments, since the war we have lost our volume share of world trade. Our share has now stabilised, however. The task is to ensure that we build up our export success, to make sure that it increases in the right direction.

It is particularly encouraging to realise that this is now beginning to happen, given the depth of the recession affecting our principal markets in the European Community. Within the single market, it is this country’s economy that is leading the recovery. There are clear background signs now that we can look forward to persistent growth. Our prime task, which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has spelt out with great clarity, is to enhance the competitiveness of our economy.

Opening the debate on the Gracious Speech, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister covered many of the essential ingredients of this enhanced competitiveness when he set out our central strategies for education, training, research and development, infrastructure and macro-economic management—to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor will return tomorrow.

In the Gracious Speech, my Department, as the hon. Member for Livingston rightly said, has three Bills: the deregulation Bill, the trade marks Bill and the Bill to privatise the coal industry, and the House would expect me to comment on each of them. I wish to make it clear that the deregulation Bill will not be about destroying the environment, imperilling safety or exposing the unsuspecting to fraud and cheating. We believe it is vital to keep red tape to a minimum. I expected that phrase to provoke a response from the Labour party—I thought that its members might have welcomed it. Why? Because those were the words of the Leader of the Opposition to a small firms conference that he held the other day.

It is all very well for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to come out with these wonderfully ringing words—with which I agree—when he is away from the House and away from the parliamentary Labour party—and when he is not being listened to by his supporters. But when he comes here, he dismisses deregulation, as he did in his remarks on the Queen’s Speech, as almost irrelevant to our national recovery.

The truth is that the only thing that is marginal, in the context of a party that has lost four elections in a row, is the policy of that party on deregulation. We want to make sure when we regulate that we protect the vulnerable, protect the public, protect our heritage and protect the countryside, but in such a way as to deal best with the real risks and to put the fewest obstacles in the way of wealth creation. We must keep paperwork to a minimum and keep the intrusive nature of bureaucracy under the tightest possible control.

There are three thrusts to the policy that we intend to introduce. The first is the new regulations; we will ensure that regulators count the cost of their proposals before they publish them. Secondly, there is no point in taming domestic regulators in Whitehall if European directives keep piling on the burden. Last year, we persuaded our European colleagues to put the cost of business into account and to publish it when new European measures are proposed.

Thirdly, there is the subject matter of the Bill. We are reviewing existing regulations. Under the guidance of Lord Sainsbury, eight task forces from business and the voluntary sector have been examining regulations on the statute book to see whether they can be scrapped, modified or improved.

Even then, primary legislation can stand in the way of reform. That is why we are introducing a deregulation Bill to cut the red tape and open up the opportunities for business. The Bill will include specific deregulation measures, as well as a means to deregulate in the future. [HON. MEMBERS: “Ah.”] The hon. Member for Livingston was deeply immersed in creating fear, at which he is a past master. A parliamentary process will be involved in our proposals.

In the same Bill, we will be removing statutory obstacles to market-testing and contracting-out programmes of both Government and local authorities because we want to see better value for money for the taxpayer in all our policies.

Mr. Bill Etherington (Sunderland, North)

I am pleased to welcome back the President of the Board of Trade after his illness. He seems to fail completely to comprehend that some Labour Members do not correlate cutting red tape and minimising death and injury in the industry. Why does he fail to comprehend that?

Mr. Heseltine

I do so for precisely the same reason that the Leader of the Opposition made it absolutely clear that he wanted to cut red tape to a minimum as well. The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Etherington) and other Labour Members cannot understand that in a competitive world we have no choice but to make absolutely sure that every avoidable cost is avoided in our legislative programme.

It must be recognised that deregulation is not simply about the letter of the law. The law gives rise to a plethora of guidance notes, circulars, inspectors and forms—all the familiar trappings of bureaucracy. Our review covers the impedimenta of legislation, as well as the legislation itself.

Mr. Anthony Steen (South Hams)

Conservative Members are finding this speech extremely invigorating, and I hope that we will hear a little more of this wonderful stuff. I wonder whether my right hon. Friend will bear in mind that it is not simply about deregulation—it is about the over-zealous interpretation by officials not only in Whitehall but at local level. It is an attitude problem which we must address from the top.

Mr. Heseltine

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and that is why I referred to the impedimenta of legislation and all the practices that flow from it. We are well aware that many of the changes that we hope to see will not require legislation; they will require changing practices in a new changed culture. The House will have an opportunity to examine our detailed proposals when we introduce the Bill.

The speech of the hon. Member for Livingston was anticipated, but he is not the only one. Labour Members are already in full cry and, if I may say so, in characteristic vein. This is not the first time that the hon. Gentleman has had an opportunity to indulge in what might be called slightly exaggerated versions of the truth. Indeed, he has a technique. He is a sort of chill factor in the body politic. We are well aware of how he does it because the record is there. He was shadow spokesman for the health service.

Mr. Robin Cook

I was very good.

Mr. Heseltine

Let me remind the hon. Gentleman, if he needs any reminding, of what he said before the election about Conservatives seeking a health service where organisations were put on the second floor of buildings to discourage people who were disabled and therefore expensive to treat from enrolling, or where casualty patients died because no one could pay for them. The hon. Gentleman knew that that was not true; it was a great distortion of anything that we had in mind, but if he could find people to frighten, frighten them he would, regardless of the facts.

The Leader of the Opposition had an even more brazen charge. He said that it is all the Government’s fault—we heard that again from the hon. Member for Livingston — because we are simply reviewing our own regulations. Nothing so reveals the fossilised inherent approach of the socialist in practice as that allegation.

A communications revolution can sweep the world. The globalisation of markets can overwhelm national boundaries. The Asian-Pacific rim can transform the competitive threat. Industry and commerce must change. The one thing that must never change is the good old British regulation. Like the pint and the good old British banger—once a regulation, always a regulation. What a battle cry for the modernised Labour party.

But who can be surprised? The Labour party is the regulator’s natural ally. About the only things left of the trade union movement are the white collar affiliates of the Trades Union Congress who dream up the regulations, inspect the regulated, regulate the regulators and drown the rest of us under the weight of the burden. That is typical of those socialists in their approach, with their ideas frozen in time and practices set solid in concrete. That is the image that one would think they wanted to portray—no change; and when it is done, leave it there.

Hon. Members will want to consider carefully whether that argument is applied as consistently by Labour Members as they would have us believe. They may not be prepared to change one dot or comma of the most outdated regulation. Not a hair on the head of the most lowly inspector must be subjected to the wind of change, but when it comes to their fundamental socialist beliefs, which have cost them four consecutive elections, they want us to believe that the whole lot have been flung out the window. They fought against Europe for 30 years. Now they take every nugget of Euro-speak before the red ink is dry on the paper. Nationalisation was once the essence of their industrial strategy. Now it has become the word that dare not speak its name.

I shall give one example of what can be achieved when the yoke on nationalisation is removed. In 1983, we privatised the ports. In 1989, we abolished the dock labour scheme. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) doubtless reacted with a characteristically moderate and balanced judgment. The modesty of his language was exceeded only by the energy with which he rushed around the docks spreading the news of impending disaster.

I took the liberty of doing a little research. In 1980, less than 4,000 tonnes of cargo went through Hull. In 1992, it was nearly 9,000 tonnes. The figure had more than doubled. The only other difference that I have detected over the years of Hull’s growing success is the absence of the hon. Gentleman, who, I am told, has not visited the thriving new dock company since its inception. Like the scarlet pimpernel, they seek him here, they seek him there. But the first sign of real success in his constituency brings forth in the hon. Gentleman a unique contribution to the political debate—absolute silence.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) rose—

Mr. Heseltine

There is someone who has never known what absolute silence is.

I can only say that when the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East describes my deregulation proposals as a return to the killing fields, nothing persuades me more that I have got them more or less right.

Mr. Skinner

Give way.

Mr. Heseltine

Yes, why not?

Mr. Skinner

I have a little tablet here that the President can put under his tongue. Is he aware that when he talks about imports into Hull, he is talking about the massive increase in coal imports which have enabled him 475and his fellow Ministers to encourage pit closures? As a result, the 31 pits that he said he would save now look as if they will be closed. He should be ashamed of himself for putting all those workers on the dole.

Mr. Heseltine

The hon. Gentleman gives the game away. In the real world, employment in the docks is the preoccupation. He cannot understand that there has been a container revolution and that the efficiency of the ports today makes them competitive. What he would really like to see are the days of old when thousands of men carried the loads in sacks on their backs. Then he could have a national union of sack carriers. Doubtless we would have Members of Parliament sponsored by the national union of sack carriers, paying their funds into the Labour party and shackling the competitive instinct of this country, at which the hon. Gentleman is one of the greatest experts.

I should be the last person to wish to do the Labour party any sort of injustice. I have said that it would regulate everything. I am prepared to believe that every rule has an exception. I have missed out one area where no doubt the deregulating zeal of the Labour party would be at the forefront of its political agenda: the trade unions would be deregulated. Here we would find a veritable bonfire of controls: strikes, go-slows, no-gos, Labour in power, socialism in practice—all back to an agenda that we drove from the country 14 years ago. The painful sacrifices accumulated over 20 years that have given the country the best industrial relations for a century would be thrown away in a single Act of Parliament.

On this issue at least let me accuse the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East of no silence. He has made it absolutely clear that Labour would repeal all our trade union legislation. There is nothing to keep. It all has to go. The House will want to contrast that with the charge made by the hon. Member for Livingston that, because we talk to leaders in the construction industry, with a view modestly to changing the regulations to lighten the load on our system, we are indulging in corruption. Yet the Labour party is prepared to sweep from the statute book all our trade union legislation to satisfy its paymasters. What are we supposed to call that? So we shall press on with our deregulation programme as part of our determination to help British industry compete.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)

The President of the Board of Trade is making an entertaining speech. Will he tell the House specifically how the regulations will be introduced? Will the House be presented with a detailed Bill that includes the specific regulations, which can be debated, amended and voted on; or will we be presented with an enabling Bill in which each individual regulation will be determined by statutory instrument? If the latter is the case, that is not the way to deal with deregulation.

Mr. Heseltine

The good old Liberals are at it again. They want it all ways. Whatever we do, it will be wrong. The hon. Gentleman must contain himself. We will have a Second Reading of the Bill, when he can examine it in great detail. Doubtless he will table some amendments, the scrutiny of which we shall be forced to subject ourselves to. Nevertheless, in the proper, democratic exercise of our duty, the Liberals must have their turn, however small it may turn out to be.

Mr. Richard Caborn (Sheffield, Central)

It is good to see the President of the Board of Trade back on form. His speech is entertaining, if in no way factual. I remind him that a great deal of research was done by the Select Committee on Trade and Industry for its report on Europe. Does he recall that the report pointed out clearly to Ministers that the burden of many European Community regulations had been increased by his own civil servants? That was a strong criticism.

My hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) has referred to the increase in regulation. That has arisen directly from the inability of Ministers, particularly those in the Department of Trade and Industry, to control their civil servants, who are adding extensively to EC regulations. Ministers rode on the back of EC regulations that would not have passed through the House had the turnkey of the European Community not been used.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members present that interventions are supposed to be brief. They are not supposed to be mini-speeches.

Mr. Heseltine

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point and I thank him for his generous words to me personally. If he wants to help me to a full recovery, he will avoid inviting me to appear before his Select Committee again.

I now want to say something about the privatisation of the coal industry. The hon. Member for Livingston treated us to a general denunciation of the issues of privatisation, so it may be helpful if first we spend a moment or two looking at the record of privatisation over this decade. We have absolutely no doubt that privatisation drives up standards of efficiency and management, ensures that investment decisions are taken by customers, not Government, leads to increased efficiency and lower costs and encourages innovation, all of which help the privatised companies to get out and become world class players on the international stage.

Just one sobering statistic—a single sentence—will show why we believe that we have brought about a fundamental and important shift. In 1979, taxpayers paid £50 million a week to subsidise the losses of the nationalised industries. The privatized industries are now paying £60 million a week in taxes to the Exchequer on the profits that they are making. There is no clearer vindication than that of the privatisation policies of the past decade.

British Steel is now one of the most efficient in the whole world. PowerGen, National Power and the National Grid are international companies. We have a major extension and modernisation of our water and sewerage infrastructure, with a £30 billion investment programme. British Telecom’s prices are down by more than 27 per cent. in real terms since 1984. Domestic and small business prices for gas have fallen by 20 per cent. in real terms since privatisation. British Gas now operates in more than 45 overseas markets.

The hon. Member for Livingston describes that as the grotesque irrelevance of privatisation. There has been a dramatic transformation of the commanding heights of our economy precisely because they have been privatised. This is the remarkable transformation of great parts of the previously nationalised industries. It is against that background that we believe that the best future for coal is in the private sector. I have no need to repeat the concern shared by everyone in the House for the difficulties experienced by those in the industry.

Mr. Terry Lewis (Worsley)

Bloody hypocrisy.

Mr. Heseltine

The hon. Gentleman talks of hypocrisy. The Opposition have presided over the run-down of the coal industry every time they have been in office. The figures are startling. In 1948, when the industry was brought into public ownership, there were 958 collieries and 700,000 workers; by 1970, it was down to 300 collieries and 375,000 workers. Everybody knows that the market for coal has been declining persistently for the past half century.

Another matter has been proved beyond peradventure. Energy markets are too volatile for any kind of central planning system to make sensible decisions for the future. A salient feature of Government forecasts on energy is that they have always turned out to be wrong. It was forecast that oil and gas would become rare and expensive towards the new millennium. In practice, new discoveries are taking place all the time. Production is at a high level and reserves are mounting. As a result, prices are low and look set to remain that way.

We plan to bring before the House as soon as possible this Session a Bill to privatise British Coal. That would free the industry from the dead hand of state control and allow it to compete within the wider energy market. The Opposition do not see it that way. They have not seen it that way whenever we have privatised an industry and they have always been wrong.

The hon. Member for Livingston is up to his old tricks and trying to suggest that privatisation will threaten the safety of miners. It is despicable how the hon. Gentleman always finds the most vulnerable sectors of society and cynically exploits their legitimate fears for narrow party purposes. When I became President of the Board of Trade, at my first meeting on the subject, I said that I would do nothing to prejudice safety in the mines. I have never been asked to do anything that would do that and, if I were asked, I would not do it. We have fully accepted the advice of the Health and Safety Commission which was contained in its recent report, which has been placed in the Library.

I look forward to the day when British coal companies are free to seek—and invest in—world opportunities and to export their skills and experience in the huge international market. Furthermore, looking back over the decades, I have no doubt that, had we privatised the industry earlier, British Coal would have saved more jobs and we would have had a larger and more viable industry than the market can now sustain.

Mr. Robin Cook

The President must have missed out a page of his speech. Before he leaves the issue of privatisation of the coal industry, will he answer the question put to him? If privatisation is to work such a wonderful transformation of the coal industry, how many pits will survive to be privatised?

Mr. Heseltine

It is an illusion of the Opposition. When they were in power, the pits closed month after month. They never knew, and no Minister will make such forecasts in a market condition where the customer will determine the market.

My third Bill covers trademarks, which play a critical part for business. The forthcoming trademarks Bill will deregulate procedures. It will open the door to the use of international trade mark registration systems under the Madrid protocol, thereby allowing businesses to protect trade marks overseas in all contracting states by a single application. That will achieve substantial savings for other businesses.

The Gracious Speech debate and the Opposition’s amendment go wider than the specific legislation that I propose to introduce. I should like to update the House on the position of Leyland Daf because nothing so illustrates the difference in policy as the differing approaches of the Government and the hon. Member for Livingston on that issue.

The House will remember that the company went into receivership in February this year. The hon. Member for Livingston was on his feet demanding instant intervention. “Bail the company out” was the instant policy. I refused, not least because, having put £3.5 billion into Leyland, we did not seem to have succeeded in doing the trick by bailing the company out with taxpayers’ money. Instead, we backed the entrepreneurial skills of the management, receivers, banks and financial houses to let them find a commercial market solution. The van and truck businesses were able to set themselves up as two independently run companies. Half the jobs were saved, as was the supply and distribution chain. The cost to the British taxpayer was £5 million in regional assistance.

While my Department was encouraging and helping all that intricate, detailed work to save half the jobs at minimum cost to the taxpayer, the hon. Member for Livingston was not idle. He was leaping about, flying to the continent, and climbing on any old soap box urging me to do what the Belgian and Dutch Governments were doing. It all made good headlines at the time, and nudged the hon. Member up the shadow Cabinet pecking order a bit. But, as always, when the facts come out, they do not fit the scare stories in which the hon. Gentleman trades.

The Dutch and Belgian work forces were reduced! by virtually the same proportions as ours, but the poor old European taxpayers were £100 million worse off as a result of their Governments’ hasty involvement. That is what the hon. Gentleman really believes in—spend money first and then try to find solutions. That is what the last Labour Government tried, but it costs money and it does not work.

The news for us is even better. Both Leyland DAF Vans and Leyland Trucks have recovered well. The vans business is maintaining its production volume and has recently announced an £8 million development programme. Leyland Trucks has been able to increase civilian volumes by 30 per cent. and win export markets, and is discussing joint development of a new medium weight truck.

However, to the hon. Member for Livingston, all that was grist to the mill. Some of my hon. Friends, who do not need to concern themselves with the details of those matters, may have missed a little press release that he put out at the time. It was in characteristic language and was headed: Labour reveals the threatened ‘dossier of disaster’ if Leyland Daf closes”. The hon. Gentleman had identified 6,000 firms that would be pushed into closure by the loss of business. He produced a “dossier of disaster”. Are my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Government in whose constituencies a Leyland van had ever been seen were listed for that hideous impending disaster—6,000 fingers stretched out in blame, reaching to tear the throat from the hapless President of the Board of Trade.

My poor old right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was up to his eyes in it simply because the Rover car company in his constituency had supplied parts to Leyland Daf. Rover would be hit, we were warned. What happened? Rover is selling cars like there was no tomorrow, recruiting extra employees and setting world quality standards.

It was not just the big fish. Even the junior Ministers were not to be spared the ruthless scourge of the hon. Gentleman’s searing foresight. He said that my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor), the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor’s Department, was about to see Land Rover knocked off its perch. What happened? Land Rover has taken on 300 extra staff, and sales of the Discovery have doubled in Japan and Australia.

What has happened to those 6,000 fingers? They are stuck in the dykes of Labour’s crumbling allegations, as every day the recovery reveals the bankruptcy of its statements. If the hon. Member for Livingston is searching around for another press release, why does he not put out one containing good news stories from the constituencies of his colleagues in the shadow Cabinet? I do not want to impose any unnecessary burden or strain on him. Let us have just a press release of good news stories from his constituency—£20 million investment in NEC semiconductors by 1994; 300 new jobs at VRG International in the next four years; 200 new jobs at Mitsubishi in the next two years; 300 new jobs at Marshall Food Group in the next three years; 400 new jobs at David Hall in the next four years; 400 new jobs at IMTEC. I could continue with the list in his constituency alone.

So why are there no press releases about all that? Where are all those menacing fingers? They are itching to get to work in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, with the new technologies, new factories and new British opportunities. What else? [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Livingston said that it was a gross misrepresentation.

Mr. Robin Cook

The President of the Board of Trade must not run away with a mishearing. What I said was that it was an excellent representation of Livingston.

Mr. Heseltine

That is interesting. It brings me conveniently to the next argument. Why are all those companies in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency? What is it that brings them there? They are all seeking a base in Europe and they are choosing Britain because we are competitive and attractive and they are welcome here. Under this Government, Britain will stay that way, but not under a Labour Government.

I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition is not here; he is probably looking after some of his new friends in the boardrooms of England. He is famed for his flirtation and carrying-on with the leaders of our great companies—last week, he was at the Confederation of British Industry conference and, week by week, he is among the thick pile and hushed atmosphere of the City dining rooms. I must make it clear to the leaders of our great companies that it is not their smoked salmon that he is after. He has a different agenda. He has a manifesto of Euro-socialism. Of course, he says that it does not mean all that it says, but it has got his name on it, he is a lawyer and it is printed in English.

The manifesto may not mean much to the Leader of the Opposition or his hon. Friends, but if one asks the directors in the boardrooms of the international companies deciding whether to invest in our country or not, they have no doubt about what it all means. What is the agenda that we have from the Euro-socialists? The manifesto supports a substantial cut in working time including the prospect of a 35-hour or four-day week. to breathe life into the European social Chapter. It supports European works councils, consultations of workings in multi-national businesses and European sectoral collective agreements … a guaranteed minimum wage and Community measures … to avoid a tax-cutting competition between member states”. We shall not even be allowed to cut the taxes to bring the investment to create the jobs in the constituency of the hon. Member for Livingston.

There is one other little nugget tucked away in the manifesto for Euro-socialism. It supports a European policy on waste”. Let us start by ripping up the manifesto itself. To what does it actually add up? Every competitive advantage that this country possesses will be thrown away. To pursue the international brotherhood of man is one thing, but to sell the dear old country down the river to get it is another.

The Leader of the Opposition made much play—[Interruption.] There were a great many more people at the Tory party conference than there are Labour Members present today. The Leader of the Opposition made much play of the need for evidence. He asked, “What is it about the Tories? They make all the decisions and announcements—the only thing that is ever missing is evidence.” He accused us of designing policies, against the facts, without regard for evidence, and as a mere reaction to events. I reject that charge absolutely. We are determined to steer the country to a new competitiveness and a sustained recovery.

If the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) wants evidence, I shall give it to him. We have the highest proportion of our population at work among the major Community countries. Unemployment has fallen by 137,000 this year. Inflation is persistently lower than at any time since 1960. Exports are at record levels. Interest rates are among the Community’s lowest. Industrial relations are excellent. That is the evidence upon which a sustained recovery can be based and on which I invite my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote for the motion.