HC Deb 11 December 1963 vol 686 cc382-4
17. Mr. Dempsey

asked the Postmaster-General if he will state the total capital investment in the manufacture of telephones and telephone communications for the current year; and what value and percentage is being manufactured in Scotland.

18. Mr. Fernyhough

asked the Postmaster-General what percentage of the contracts, expressed in money terms, in connection with his £900 million capital investment programme during the next five years will go to firms in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Aycliffe, respectively.

Mr. Mawby

My right hon. Friend expects to spend about £80 million on supplies of this equipment during the current year. Of this, about 1½ per cent. will be spent in Scotland, and about 1¼ per cent. in Northern Ireland. He is sorry that he cannot forecast in detail how orders will be placed in future years, but at present this equipment is not produced in any great quantities in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Aycliffe. Firms in these areas get the benefit of the Government's preferential scheme for development districts, and we hope they will take increasing advantage of it.

Mr. Dempsey

Is the Assistant Postmaster-General aware that if the share-out were based on the use by Scotland of telephones Scotland would get 10 per cent. of this particular share out? Does he further realise that if it were based on Scotland's unemployed population the amount would be 20 per cent? Is it not shameful, therefore, to say to Scotland, with its 100,000 workless, its idle factories, and capable management, "All you are going to receive is 1½ per cent."? Is not this a miserable way to treat Scotland? Will the hon. Gentleman have another look at this and at least give Scotland a fair share of his Department's orders?

Mr. Mawby

While I sympathise completely with the hon. Gentleman and his constituents, the fact of the matter is that there are very few firms in Scotland which make telecommunications equipment. As I said earlier, a preferential scheme operates, and wherever a firm decides to move under the preferential treatment arrangements and decides to offer facilities to build telecommunications equipment, then naturally we will look very seriously at its application

Mr. Fernyhough

Will the hon. Gentleman draw the attention of the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs to the figures which he has just given? Does he realise that the figures he has just given are a complete contradiction of the impression which the Minister tried to convey when winding up the debate last Wednesday? In that debate his right hon. Friend—[Hon. Members: "Speech."]—tried to convey the impression that in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and in the North-East we should benefit considerably from this new investment programme. Will the hon. Gentleman draw the attention of his right hon. Friend to how he has misled the House in this respect?

Mr. Mawby

I do not see that my right hon. Friend has misled the House at all. In fact, there is no reason at all why development areas should not get a large amount in the future, providing the factories are there; but we cannot issue contracts unless there are people engaged there who are prepared to develop. For instance, there is a particular factory which is in course of construction in Aycliffe. If this particular factory decides to produce telecommunications equipment, we will obviously consider very seriously its application and whether we can give it some work, but unless it can offer such facilities we can do very little about it.