HL Deb 19 June 1967 vol 283 cc1171-4

3.0 p.m.

THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD SHACKLETON) rose to move, That the Draft Iron Casting Industry (Scientific Research Levy) Order 1967, laid before the House on May 11, 1967, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this Order, which my right honourable friend the Minister of Power proposes to make, is to impose levies on the iron casting industry to finance scientific research to be carried out on behalf of the industry by the British Cast Iron Research Association. If I may, I will give a brief explanation, and if there are any questions I shall be pleased to answer them. I stress that this is entirely a non-controversial Order.

The Association is a grant-aided research association financed in part by income derived from the industry which it serves and in part by Government grant, like so many of the research associations which have served industry so well. From its inception in 1921 until July, 1966, that part of the income provided by the industry was contributed on a voluntary basis. But since that date it has been provided by a statutory levy imposed on those engaged in the industry, under a scheme made by the Iron and Steel Board under Section 13 of the Iron and Steel Act 1953. This statutory levy was introduced only after prolonged consultation had convinced the Board that an adequate income for the British Cast Iron Research Association could not be covered on the basis of voluntary contributions. The Iron and Steel Act 1967 provides for the Iron and Steel Board to be effectively deprived of any functions, and that the greater part of the Iron and Steel Act 1953 shall be repealed on vesting day, which is to be July 28. It is in order to ensure that sums will continue to be made available for research in the iron casting industry, that my right honourable friend proposes to make the Order which we are debating to-day.

The Order, which is to be made under Section 9 of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act 1947, will impose levies on the industry. These will be calculated, as they were under the Iron and Steel Board's scheme, by reference to the production of iron casting and the number of persons employed in such production. The rates are the same as those charged under the Board's scheme; namely 7½d. for every ton of leviable iron casting produced in a "relevant production quarter", and 6s. for every leviable worker employed in the last week of any such quarter. Perhaps I might add that the definition of "leviable worker" has been altered to make it clear that it includes persons employed wholly or mainly in the maintenance of premises, plant or machinery for the production of iron castings.

It is expected that the levies will yield something in the region of £200,000 a year, and this sum will enable the Research Association to continue to qualify for a grant from the Ministry of Technology, which is usually awarded on a quinquennial basis and at present amounts to £80,000 a year. The Draft Order is acceptable to the bodies with whom it has been discussed in accordance with the requirements of the 1947 Act.

It may be helpful if I conclude by saying a little about the British Cast Iron Research Association, which was established in 1921 as an incorporated body limited by guarantee. Its purposes are to find means of improving the quality of cast iron, facilitating its manufacture and extending its uses. For example, the Association initiated the research which led to the production of spheroidal graphite cast iron, a material now widely used for components requiring good strength and ductility. Further economic advantages are expected to arise from increased efficiency rather than from innovation, and accordingly the Association's interests cover melting, moulding materials, methods of automatic control and improvement to the working conditions in foundries. I have outlined only the essentials of the scheme which is, in effect, a successor to the Iron and Steel Board's scheme, but if noble Lords desire to ask any questions I shall be pleased to try to answer them. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Draft Iron Casting Industry (Scientific Research Levy) Order 1967, laid before the House on May 11, 1967, be approved.—(Lord Shackleton.)


My Lords, on behalf of noble Lords in all parts of the House, may I express thanks and appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for having explained to us so lucidly the purposes of this Draft Order, and what lies behind it, particularly at a time when he has a number of other preoccupations, including the Statement to be made later this afternoon. As a result of what he has said I think we are quite clear what a leviable iron casting is and what a leviable worker is, including even the tea boys who are an essential part of a hot place like an iron foundry.

The work which the Association does is of value to the whole industry, and it is only fair that all should contribute since all can benefit. I hope that as British industry becomes more enlightened it will be unnecessary to have Statutory Instruments to secure payments which will otherwise not be made by the more backward members of the industry. Until that stage is reached, it is obviously right and fair that a levy should be statutory, so that all contribute and all may benefit. May I thank the noble Lord for introducing this Draft Order to us this afternoon, and express the hope that we shall be able to secure its passage with the minimum of delay.


My Lords, as one who has been engaged in this industry for many years, I should like to take this opportunity of giving the heartiest support possible to this Motion.


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Erroll of Hale, and the noble Marquess, who is certainly the oldest apprentice engineer in this House, and to whom we always listen very carefully. Perhaps I ought to say that there is a possibility that those most concerned with this Draft Order may ask for the basis of the levy to be changed in a year or two. It has been suggested that there might be a different system from the present one; that is, that the levy should be based on output and wages. But that does not arise at the moment and, of course, it would have to come before your Lordships' House if there were to be a change.

On Question, Motion agreed to.