Fresh from his tour of India and the Middle East, during which he helped clinch deals worth an estimated pounds 5.25bn for the British Aerospace Tornado fighter, Vickers' Challenger II tanks, and a natural gas supply package, the Prime Minister told a Scottish Tory meeting in Glasgow that one thing always struck him when he returned home - 'We really do have a genius for running ourselves down.'
He said that it was time to start selling Britain abroad, and stop selling the country short. The conditions were ripe for expansion, the 1990s would be the most competitive decade business had seen, and Mr Major warned: 'Either we invest and thrive, or we stagnate and simply survive. The circumstances are right, and the need is obvious. We need merchant venturers, not merchants of gloom.'
Earlier, Lord Wakeham, the Lord Privy Seal, said in a speech to the Leeds chamber of commerce that the Prime Minister attached 'particular importance to manufacturing, partly because of its key role in Britain's exports'.
'During the 1980s,' Lord Wakeham said, 'the UK's share of world trade in manufacturing stabilised after decades of decline. This is an impressive record, and the Government is determined to help British manufacturers build on that record.'
Mr Major said in his speech: 'In just the final three months of last year, our exports of manufactured goods rose 5 per cent in real terms. We must build on that success. Manufacturing is not an optional add-on extra. It is a vital part of our economy.'
He said the Chancellor of the Exchequer had helped one of the greatest manufacturers with last year's abolition of the 'millstone' car tax, and ministers would meet at No 10 next week to clear out 'fussy rules and restrictions that serve no purpose but to hold British business back'.
Mr Major said that he also wanted to work with business to break down the workplace divisions and prejudices 'against manufacturing and engineering that have hampered our performance ever since the time of the Industrial Revolution'.Reuse content