HC Deb 23 March 1970 vol 798 cc945-6
1. Sir B. Rhys Williams

asked the Minister of Technology how investment by manufacturing industry on machine tools in the United Kingdom compares, according to information available to him from international sources, with similar investment in France, Germany, Sweden, Japan, Canada and the United States of America.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Technology (Mr. Alan Williams)

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker) on 5th March.—[Vol. 797, c. 166.]

Sir B. Rhys Williams

Is the poor performance of one of Britain's key industries really in keeping with the Government's claim to have achieved an economic miracle?

Mr. Williams

It is difficult to draw meaningful comparisons in this matter. If the hon. Gentleman looks, for example, at the 1967 O.E.C.D. figure, at the G.N.P. and at the investment, he will draw a different conclusion. I do not want to draw invalid conclusions. I just do not support the hon. Gentleman's conclusion.

19. Mr. Hordern

asked the Minister of Technology if he is satisfied with the level of purchases of machine tools for use in domestic industry during 1969; and if he will make a statement.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Technology (Dr. Ernest A. Davies)

Machine tool investment in the United Kingdom during 1969 is estimated to be £145 million, which is about the same as the 1968 figures in current price terms. Within this figure there is rapid growth in the purchase of numerically controlled machine tools which have many times the productivity of conventional machines. Though these figures are encouraging there is room for further improvement.

Mr. Hordern

Is the Minister aware that in real terms this level of new orders at home is lower than in 1965 and 1962? Is he further aware that the level of capital investment per head was lower in the United Kingdom than in any other E.E.C. country? What measures does he propose to take to alter this situation?

Dr. Davies

It is true that in real terms there has been a levelling off and a slight fall in investment, but I remind the hon. Member that if we look at the machine capacity the very substantial increase in the proportion of numerically-controlled machine tools, with their much larger machine capabilities, remedies this situation to a large extent. As for the E.E.C. point, the latest report will show that in investment we are a little behind Japan and Germany, but in front of France. As for giving encouragement to investment, we are continually at work, through our various advisory services—through the Computer Aided Design Service, and so on—to persuade machine tool manufacturers to adopt the latest technologies and so increase their productivity.

Mr. Speaker

I remind Ministers that long answers usually mean fewer Questions.