According to the Prime Minister's office, Mr Major has set his sights on a revival of manufacturing in sectors - such as electronic goods - that are dominated by foreign imports.
The Prime Minister was said to be keen to see manufacturers follow the lead set by the motor industry over recent years, and bounce back to the point at which exports could overtake imports.
But John Smith, the Labour leader, accused Mr Major last night of neglecting manufacturing. He said: 'The Prime Minister is keeping his fingers crossed and hoping something will happen. There is no plan, no action, no drive to tackle Britain's overriding problem, which in 1993 is unemployment.'
Mr Smith told the BBC radio PM programme that real unemployment was in the region of four million, a quarter of those people being out of work for more than a year. 'There is no determination on the part of the Prime Minister to make the conquering of unemployment Britain's number one priority.
'We are determined to run a campaign to make sure that the maximum pressure is put on the Government to make the next Budget a Budget for jobs and economic recovery,' he said.
Interviewed earlier by BBC radio's The World at One, Mr Major said: 'What I wish to see is this country back into growth, see us actually create new jobs, and I point back to what has been done before to show you that it can be done again. I think there are some areas we are clearly going to have to tackle . . . . There are many parts of our manufacturing industry that are doing very well; there are other parts that can do a good deal
He then said: 'There are areas of manufacturing where I think we can begin to re-enter, where perhaps it has fallen away in recent years. And that is not just a question of investment, it is partly a question of attitude.'
While the Prime Minister did not say so, the negative attitude of Margaret Thatcher's administration towards manufacturing industry is now being gently reversed.
Setting out his goals for this year, Mr Major said: 'We need to build a much closer relationship with industry and commerce and perhaps manufacturing industry than we have had in the past.' A No 10 source said last night that there was no question of a return to interventionist policies. But the Prime Minister appears ready to join Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, in setting up a more co-operative, problem-solving partnership with industry.
As for the past year, the Prime Minister recognised that it had been 'miserable' for many people, and he said: 'There were moments when I found the world generally a very sour place, economically and politically.'
However, he said that recovery would become clear this year. 'I don't predict a sudden, bounding, huge recovery. What I want is sound, steady, stable recovery that we can build on in the years ahead.'Reuse content