Annual Report on the Operation of Capital Allowances

Part of New Clause 2 – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th July 1971.

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Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , West Lothian 12:00 am, 5th July 1971

It struck me, when some of my hon. Friends were speaking, that there was an uncharacteristically petulant reaction from the Minister of State at the Treasury when he intervened merely to ask why we wanted all these statistics anyway. I may have misinterpreted him, but that was the impression created in my mind.

The first reason, of course, was given admirably by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Dell). How can we operate a regional policy without this kind of information? But there is, in my view, a second reason, namely, that there are a great many people who want to know where substantial sums of taxpayers' money have gone. Here is an example. With the recent closure of Plessey in Alexandria, there are a great many of our fellow-countrymen, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Douglas) knows, who simply want to know how it can happen that so much money goes into creating jobs and then—lo and behold—one Friday afternoon we are told that the whole operation is coming to an end. In a democracy, this sort of legitimate curiosity should be satisfied, and this is a good reason, apart from all the other points raised by my right hon. Friend, for having a report of the kind proposed.

I realise that time is short, and I shall briefly state three separate issues. First, there is the question of the low-profit industry. It must be remembered that in development areas it is precisely the low-profit industries which provide many of the male jobs, if not of the female jobs. On this count alone, therefore, they are entitled to some help. But the low-profit industries now, unfortunately, include some of the key growth industries. I think, in particular, of electronics and machine tools. When one is told by Mr. De Barr of the Machine Tool Research Association that orders are now running at under 40 per cent. of what they were 18 months ago, one sees the seriousness of the situation.

How are the Government's new benefits, so called, helping the current low-profit industries such as machine tools or—dare I say—the electronics industry, which is in considerable crisis at the moment, not just in the West of Scotland, as evidenced by the Plessey problem, but far more generally? How does the Minister of State think that the new system will help the likes of the electronics industry in Scotland? Why should we not have a fairly full analysis in the kind of report which we have proposed of what the Government are doing in respect of these job-creating industries?

The second issue is that of the long-gestation industry. I have shipbuilding particularly in mind here. The sub-contractors of the Upper Clyde, or, for that matter, in this case, of the Lower Clyde, are anxious people now. They are dependent on the shipbuilding industry far more than even the sub-contractors of Rolls-Royce are dependent on Rolls-Royce.