HC Deb 28 May 1963 vol 678 cc1107-9
25. Mr. Dempsey

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research is doing to develop more extensive research into the field of industrial machine design, with a view to countering foreign competition.

Mr. Denzil Freeth

The Department has increased its research work at the National Engineering Laboratory, its support of research associations and grants to university graduates and research workers, as well as instituting development contracts. Last July, it set up the Feilden Committee on engineering design.

Mr. Dempsey

Is the Minister aware that the Department is not doing sufficient to stop the flooding of our workshops by German machines, some of which I inspected in Coatbridge only a few weeks ago? Does he realise that we have the material and the ingenuity, but not the design? Is it not time that we faced this situation realistically by competing in industrial design with foreign competitors?

Mr. Freeth

I agree that our industrial design position is not all it might be. It is for that reason that the D.S.I.R., at the instigation of my noble Friend, set up the Feilden Committee, whose Report we hope to have soon. I would remind the hon. Gentleman of the grant of £140,000 made recently by the D.S.I.R. to the Institute for Advanced Studies in Engineering Sciences at Birmingham University for research into an interdisciplinary approach to the machine design problem. We are doing quite a lot.

Sir C. Osborne

Why is Scotland such a backward country?

Miss Herbison

Is the Minister aware that this Question applies to the whole of Britain? Is the hon. Gentleman really satisfied that sufficient research is being made into industrial design? Is he also satisfied that the machine tool industry in Britain—which includes England—is doing enough research into machine tools? Has he not had complaints time and time again from hon. Members who visit our factories, and find that the plant is made in Western Germany, made in Japan, made in Italy—the factories of a nation that once led the world in machine tool making?

Mr. Freeth

I fully agree that Britain includes both Scotland and England—

Mr. Bence

And Wales.

Mr. Freeth

—and Wales. While one has to recognise that one cannot expect every single variety of machine tool to be made in this country, I agree with the hon. Lady that research in the machine tool industry has not in the past been all that could be desired. The hon. Lady will remember that the Machine Tool Research Association was recently set up because of representations by the D.S.I.R. to the industry, and enjoys specially favourable grant terms.

Mr. Woodnutt

Would not my hon. Friend agree that the British machine tool industry is increasing its exports every year; and that if hon. Members go round foreign factories they will find many with British machine tools and plant?

Mr. Freeth

I fully agree with my hon. Friend. We have a very fine industry, but the fact remains that an enormous amount of research has to be undertaken, if we are to continue to be ahead and build on the excellent record that the industry has hitherto had.