Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech at the North East Businessman of the Year Award Dinner in Newcastle on Tuesday 7th January 1992.
Today I have been able to see at first hand the continuing strength and the enormous diversity of the North East economy. This morning I visited Vickers -
Everyone who went through the Gulf War knows of the efforts made by the Vickers Gulf team. Their ingenuity, their persistence and their sheer hard work ensured our tanks, guns and equipment were ready for action at all times. It made a vital contribution to the war effort -
At Newcastle Business Park, I opened the new British Airways flight reservation centre. BA is, of course, just one of many enterprises attracted to the new Newcastle Business Park. With some £140 million in private investment, it is already 95 per cent sold or let. And by companies that read like a Who's-
That demonstrates another vital feature of this region. An understanding of the need to diversify: an eagerness to use both the public and the private sector to create new facilities; and a determination to attract new enterprise and new firms that will ensure the future growth of the North East.
Finally, at Amec Offshore, or Press Offshore as many of you will know it, I had the opportunity to see the oil rig fabrication yard. In 7 years, the company's turnover has increased 10 fold and its workforce by a factor of 4. Today, it has announced a further contract which will create 200 new jobs at Sunderland. Amec Offshore is surely a classic example of the way forward: building on our traditional engineering-
This combination of enterprising incoming firms and traditional strong businesses has given the North East greater resilience in recent years. I know times are hard. I don't pretend otherwise. But in many ways the North East has proved more robust than other areas in recent months; it has built on its long-
And increasingly the North-
Perhaps that success is best demonstrated by the attraction of well-
But the future for the North-
With such a record of innovation, diversification and growth, you may well wonder why this Government is sometimes accused of having no industrial strategy. Well it's partly politics of course. But also, if by industrial strategy, you mean an obsession with regulation, with intervention, with Government interference, with excessive taxation, then certainly we have no such strategy. What we have is quite different and, I believe, better for our longer term interests.
Our industrial strategy is clear. It is based on creating the framework in which business and industry can flourish in a decade that will be more competitive than any we have previously known.
Mr. Chairman, we have no intention of adding £1,000 to the annual tax burden on the average family; or of setting a 59 per cent top tax rate.
And we have:
That is also why I was not prepared to sign up to the new Social Chapter at Maastricht. We could not see decisions taken in Brussels that would have reversed the better balance between the two sides of industry that we have achieved.
Of course, that does not mean we are seeking lower standards for our workers; indeed, people know that in many areas standards in this country are higher than in other European countries. These are matters to be settled between individual employers and their employees -
We are a trading nation. We cannot flourish unless we can compete on level terms with other countries. That is why we consider a successful outcome to the current GATT negotiations so vital. It is why we are working so hard for the successful completion of the Single Market. And it is why I fought at Maastricht to make sure that in future countries which sign up to Directives implement them in full -
Mr. Chairman, I recognise that for many sectors in our economy times are hard -
But let us not get these matters out of perspective. We are at a different stage of the economic cycle than many of our competitors. For while Germany and Japan will continue to slow in 1992, I do not doubt that we will see recovery here in Britain.
I know there is much speculation about the date of the turning point in the UK. Some economic pundits talk of little else. Yet in reality, there is no magic moment, no precise point when recession lies clearly in the past, while recovery stretches out into a better future. Inevitably economic data will show ups and downs and irregular patterns as recession ends and recovery begins.
Recent economic figures certainly do not support the sudden swing into pessimism which has overcome certain commentators. Of course, there is no point in excessive optimism or trying to talk up the economy. But there is equally a risk in going too far the other way. And I certainly believe that the recent pessimism has been overdone.
There are plenty of encouraging developments. If you listen to some of the dismal Johnnies you might never realise what has been achieved in the last year.
We have reduced inflation from almost 11 per cent to around 4 per cent; it is now firmly under control.
And real incomes are rising.
Too many people seem to be losing sight of the issues that really matter. Governments cannot -
I believe we can look forward to 1992 with confidence. It is not just the Government but virtually every international, City and academic body that expects a return to growth. For we are getting the fundamentals of the British economy right. We have made clear our commitment to exchange rate stability through membership of the ERM. We have brought inflation down and will keep it down. We can look forward to growth founded on economic stability and low inflation.
But, while we can create the right climate for future growth, it is up to business to seize the opportunities and build our future prosperity.
What does that mean in present circumstances? Ultimately, at its very heart, business seizing opportunities is about the behaviour of individuals. About how they act. How they decide on their actions. About their skill; their foresight; their knowledge; and the sheer hard work, that they bring to decision-
And it is also often about an independence of thought -
And that of course is what tonight's Businessman of the Year Award is all about. We are here to celebrate successful risk-
I am confident about our prospects for the 1990s. In the last decade the Government and business -
If we build on that; if we ignore siren voices offering quack remedies; if we turn aside from re-
That must be our objective for the 1990s.