asked the Minister of Technology what percentage of the machine tools in use by British industry is less than 10 years old; and what, according to information available to him from international sources, is the comparable percentage in West Germany and in Japan.
A census of metal working machine tools, published by " Metal Working Production " in 1966, showed that 38 per cent. of all machine tools in this country were less than 10 years old. There is no comparable information for West Germany and Japan.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Question did not relate only to metal-working machine tools? Is it not a fact that fewer than 40 per cent. of all machine tools in this country are less than 10 years old, compared with more than 50 per cent. in Germany, and 64 per cent. in Japan? Does not that show that the Government's policy towards industry is putting us at a grave disadvantage in world markets?
I am sure that the report of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the House on Budget day is sufficient answer to the hon. Gentleman's question about our general economic strength. It is generally understood that the term machine tools applies to metal working. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to have information on all manufacturing machinery, I refer him to the Answer given by my right hon. Friend to the hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Speed) on 26th January.
The average annual increase in investment in machine tools in the United Kingdom between 1964 and 1969 was at the rate of 4½ per cent., which in money terms is £5½ million per annum at current prices.
Is the Minister aware that that is nearly the same proportion of the gross domestic product and that there has been no real increase in what has been put into machine tools? Why was the Minister of Technology so complacent about the machine tool industry when he made his speech in the debate on the Address?
In putting that point, the hon. Member leaves completely out of account the fact that what we are interested in is increasing the productivity of machine tools and that simply to consider the matter in money values is not sufficient. We have to look at the rapidly increasing proportion of machines that are numerically controlled and have an output from four to ten times greater than conventional ones.