HC Deb 22 May 1957 vol 570 cc1197-9
2. Miss Barton

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware of the concern felt in Coventry at the projected cuts in orders given by his Department to the General Electric Company, Coventry; and if he will make a statement about the future position of such orders apart from the one connected with telephone instruments.

The Assistant Postmaster-General (Mr. Kenneth Thompson)

The level of orders with all our contractors is at present under review in the light of available capital resources and of stock holdings. Negotiations with the General Electric Company and other Post Office contractors are in progress, and I regret that I am not at present able to make a statement about the future.

Miss Burton

Is the Minister aware that that sounds rather like another death knell to Coventry, which has already suffered a great deal in the matter of contracts in other directions? Is he aware, furthermore, that the G.E.C. in Coventry is dependent on the General Post Office and on the export market for its orders? If the General Post Office cuts down its orders, the position will be very serious.

Mr. Thompson

Of course we try to avoid undue disruption in the flow of orders. We will bear in mind the remarks which the hon. Lady has made about this company.

6. Miss Burton

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that the order for telephone instruments given by his Department to the General Electric Company, Coventry, last December for completion within twelve months has now had this completion period extended to 2½ years; and if he will give the reasons for this change.

Mr. K. Thompson

A recent review of the stock position made it clear that the projected level of purchases of telephone instruments would be in excess of Post Office needs to meet current demand and estimated future requirements. Much as I regret this, extension of the period of delivery from all our contractors has been unavoidable.

Miss Burton

While accepting the hon. Member's regrets, may I ask him whether he realises that whichever end of the stick it is, Coventry is obviously the loser? Is he aware that this firm employs many thousands of people, and that the fact that this order has been extended to 2½ years means that they will be redundant? Is he further aware —and he may not be—that workers at G.E.C. are unlikely to be easily absorbed into other industries in Coventry?

Mr. Thompson

We should regret any serious consequences, such as those to which the hon. Lady refers, flowing from any action on our part, but I am sure she will agree that it is wiser for us to spread these orders over a period rather than to indulge in staccato cancellations of orders.

Miss Burton

May I ask the Postmaster-General, through the hon. Member, whether, with other Ministers, he has noticed that the position in Coventry is serious? It concerns the motor car industry, the aircraft industry and now the Post Office. If the Govern- ment mean to make this country worth living in for the workpeople, they must do something about it.