Below is the text of Mr Major’s response on Investment, made on 26th January 1989 in the House of Commons.
Mr. Cran To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the total level of investment in the United Kingdom in 1988 and 1987; and what was the change in the level of consumption over the same period.
The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. John Major) Between 1987 and 1988 investment is expected to have grown by at least 12 per cent., twice as fast as consumption.
Mr. Cran Does my right hon. Friend agree that business investment in the years 1986–88 rose by the almost unprecedented figure of 20 per cent. in real terms, and exceeded that of the United States, Germany and France? Does he agree that that massive investment programme confirms the economic well-being of the United Kingdom, even in terms that the economic illiterates of the Opposition can understand?
Mr. Major I am not sure about my hon. Friend’s last point, but I can certainly confirm his first point. Since 1981, business investment in the United Kingdom has grown faster than in any other major industrialised country and any country in the European Community.
Mr. Foulkes Will the Chief Secretary come down to earth? Is he aware that the National Savings Bank has introduced regulations so that the minimum investment is now £5? That is causing great concern among pensioners and Age Concern Scotland as many pensioners invest £1, £2 or £3 regularly and will be unable to do so when the regulation comes into force. Will the Chief Secretary intervene and see whether some action can be taken to reverse that regrettable decision?
Mr. Major I hear and understand what the hon. Gentleman says. I have no direct response to his point except that he needs to bear in mind that throughout the economy as a whole investment is growing and that in our judgment, and in the judgment of the independent surveys, it will continue to grow. That is thoroughly desirable.
Sir William Clark Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Opposition’s criticism of the economic handling of our country is rather hypocritical when one bears in mind that under their regime we were at the bottom of every economic league not only in Europe but in the world and now we are at the top?
Mr. Major As usual, my hon. Friend is entirely right. These are painful waters for the Opposition and I hesitate to dwell on them any longer.