Mr Ernest Davies: 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.
Mr Ernest Davies: 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...
Mr Ernest Davies: 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.
Mr Ernest Davies: 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...
Mr Ernest Davies: I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a table showing the United Kingdom share of world orders in terms of gross tonnage. The percentages quoted in Question No. 24 arise as follows. Over the period 1960–64 world orders averaged 9·5 million tons gross per annum, of which United Kingdom yards secured orders averaging 1 million tons gross per annum, whereas over the five year period...
Mr Ernest Davies: First, the hon. Gentleman should get his percentage figures in agreement with those of his hon. Friend. The basic answer is that in the last year when the party opposite was in office British yards secured only 0·95 million tons gross of orders compared with 2·07 million tons in the last year of the present period. That is a sufficient answer.
Mr Ernest Davies: United Kingdom shipyards have benefited greatly from the measures, put into effect by this Government under the Shipbuilding Industry Act 1967, as a result of which the industry has been able to double its orders as compared with the position when the party opposite was in office.
Mr Ernest Davies: The Shipbuilding Industry Board is available under the Shipbuilding Industry Act, 1967 to help the shipbuilding industry. It has taken considerable measures to that end. There have been some suspicions of the inability of some companies to follow their busi- nesses—in the way referred to by my hon. Friend—but we hope that this situation has now been remedied.
Mr Ernest Davies: I have already given the reason why the percentage has fallen. Hon. Members opposite and the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken cannot wrap up the success that has been achieved over the last five years by hiding the facts behind percentages. The plain fact is that the United Kingdom industry has now doubled its orders as compared with the period when the party opposite was in office.
Mr Ernest Davies: It has been decided with the concurrence of the N.R.D.C. to end the scheme, primarily because industry has made little use of it during the four years—and particularly in the last twelve months—that it has been operating.
Mr Ernest Davies: Without prior notice, I cannot give detailed figures of the ordering over a period of four years. One of the reasons why the scheme has now fallen into disuse is that normal commercial channels have taken over, and that numerically controlled tools are being increasingly purchased in the normal way.
Mr Ernest Davies: Quarterly values of the deliveries of numerically controlled machine tools are available to the third quarter of 1969 and, with permission, I will circulate a detailed table in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Deliveries in the first three quarters of 1969 are 20 per cent. up on the corresponding period in 1968. No figures for the first quarter of 1970 are yet available.
Mr Ernest Davies: I could not go the whole way with the hon. Gentleman's observations, but certainly there has been some change in the level of ordering. It is well known that machine tool ordering has a cyclical element. However, if one tries to put the matter in its proper perspective and considers the longer-term trends, one sees that the numerically controlled population, as it were, is growing at the...
Mr Ernest Davies: For 1967 this is estimated at £19 million and for 1968 and 1969 £78 million and £150 million respectively. This calculation excludes naval vessels.
Mr Ernest Davies: The hon. Member is drawing this comparison between imports and exports no doubt with the balance of payments benefit in mind. I want to make one or two points in that connection. First, the operation of a ship has also to be taken into account, which means that the hon. Member's kind of simple comparison is not entirely valid. Secondly, many ships purchased by United Kingdom companies abroad...
Mr Ernest Davies: I must correct the hon. Gentleman; I did not say that it was a balance of payments benefit.
Mr Ernest Davies: I said that the hon. Member asking the supplementary question no doubt asked it with a balance of payments benefit in mind. I pointed out that ship operation comes into the question. As for the trends—the trend for 1970 is to show an improvement, in the sense that more ships for United Kingdom registration will be ordered in this country.
Mr Ernest Davies: The Government have already taken substantial steps to encourage the industry to be more effective, and the industry is responding to that. It is a great pity that hon. Members opposite seem to choose this period to attack the efforts of the Government in encouraging the shipbuilding industry.
Mr Ernest Davies: With permission, I will circulate estimates of the value of ships completed in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Mr Ernest Davies: It would take rather a long time to read out the table. I will see that it is put in the OFFICIAL REPORT.