Machine Tools

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th March 1973.

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Photo of Mr Albert Booth Mr Albert Booth , Barrow-in-Furness 12:00 am, 19th March 1973

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many orders for machine tools have been placed under the pre-production order scheme during the last 12 months for which figures are available; and what is the value of these orders.

Photo of Mr Thomas Boardman Mr Thomas Boardman , Leicester South West

No such orders have been placed in the last 12 months. One application is currently under discussion.

Photo of Mr Albert Booth Mr Albert Booth , Barrow-in-Furness

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that this is a most appalling reflection on the way in which his Department is operating the pre-production order scheme? Will he in particular examine the way in which it applies the rule requiring an advanced technical content within the machine tool? Does he agree that if this were interpreted in a more liberal manner the scheme could bring a large number of orders to the machine-tool industry, to the advantage of that industry and to the advantage of user industries in this country?

Photo of Mr Thomas Boardman Mr Thomas Boardman , Leicester South West

I am not able to agree with the hon. Gentleman. The standards are set to encourage the development and use of technically advanced machinery. I would remind him of the many aids that have been given in other ways to the machine-tool industry including the public sector additional and accelerated order scheme and the variety of research projects which were extremely helpful to the machine-tool industry and which have resulted in a strong and continuing upward trend.

Photo of Mr Leslie Huckfield Mr Leslie Huckfield , Nuneaton

Does the Minister know how much Government money is going in other forms of assistance to the machine-tool industry? Does he know what percentage of the total sum spent is used to buy imported machine tools and how much for example is going to Alfred Herbert at Coventry?

Photo of Mr Thomas Boardman Mr Thomas Boardman , Leicester South West

I cannot give the figures without notice. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that there is £15 million in the advance purchasing scheme and that a very small fraction of that has gone on imported machinery.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that the investment plans of the machine-tool industry are adequate to deal with the rate of growth which he and his colleagues confidently predict will take place in the next few years?

Photo of Mr Thomas Boardman Mr Thomas Boardman , Leicester South West

The right hon. Gentleman will agree that it would be very smug of me to say that we are ever satisfied in that way. I believe that the industry is aware of the opportunities and is planning to take advantage of them.