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Wednesday, October 21, 1998 Published at 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK


UK Politics

Blair accused of 'complacency'

Tony Blair: Accused William Hague of "idiotic hysteria"

Conservative leader William Hague has accused the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, of "extraordinary complacency" over the government's attitude to the economy.


William Hague: "If you think there is not a serious economic problem, you are not living in the real world"
In the first Prime Minister's Questions since MPs returned from their summer recess, Mr Hague attacked the government's record.

Mr Hague accused Mr Blair of complacency towards the economy.

Later, the Tory's Shadow Trade Secretary, John Redwood, said the government was both "patronising" and "complacent" in its approach to the troubled Rover car company.

In a bitter exchange with the prime minister, Mr Hague described the period of recess as a "summer in which one job has been lost every ten minutes, in which manufacturing was taken to the brink of recession, in which agriculture was deep in the recession."

Mr Hague told him: "If you think there is not a serious economic problem, you are not living in the real world."


[ image: Hague: Golden legacy has been squandered]
Hague: Golden legacy has been squandered
Mr Blair replied by saying the government had created one new job every two minutes since it came to power 18 months ago.

The prime minister's reply showed "extraordinary complacency" for an MP whose constituency had been particularly hard hit, said the leader of the opposition.

The government had squandered the "golden legacy" left to it by the previous government, he went on.

On Rover's Longbridge plant, which is facing job losses, the prime minister said the government would work with management, unions and workers to deal with the issue.

Mr Blair said: "However, that problem is a problem mainly of productivity, which we have to tackle if we are to make our industry competitive."

Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Mandelson, answering a question by his Tory opposite John Redwood, made an emergency statement to the Commons on the Rover plant.


[ image: Mandelson: Made an emergency statement on Rover]
Mandelson: Made an emergency statement on Rover
His statement follows a warning from management that the firm's position was "extremely serious" and further job losses and cost cutting measures were needed.

Rover has a long way to go to match the best world standards in productivity and competitiveness, said Mr Mandelson, who has visited the Midlands twice this week.

He told MPs: "The company and its workforce need to focus very clearly on the raised performance it needs to become commercially successful."

The solution to the company's difficulties needed to be found by the end of November.

There was a role for government to make sure parties came together to negotiate its future but ultimately it was the company's role to take responsibility.

Mr Redwood described the trade secretary's reply as "patronising as it was complacent".

He said: "How can the Rover employees compete when this government has made it so difficult for business?"

He called for the secretary of state to shoulder some of the responsibility.

Mr Redwood said: "This is a recession made in Downing Street and they must awaken soon before much more is lost."



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