HC Deb 03 August 1965 vol 717 cc1278-82
The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement.

The House will recall that on 4th February I announced the setting up of a Committee, under the chairmanship of His Royal Highness the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, to work out a scheme for making Awards by Her Majesty the Queen to industrial units for outstanding achievement in increasing exports or in technological innovation. The Committee's Report will be published and copies available in the Vote Office this afternoon.

The Committee's recommendations are accepted by the Government in full. I would like on behalf of the Government, and I am sure of the whole House, to thank His Royal Highness and the members of his Committee for undertaking this task and for their admirable Report.

The Award is to be known as "The Queen's Award to Industry", and Her Majesty has graciously consented to the Awards being announced each year on her birthday. The first Awards will, therefore, be announced on 21st April, 1966. The Committee recommends that there should be a single Award to mark industrial efficiency within the fields of export and technological achievement.

The criteria for the Award are listed in the Report. Any branch of industry, including agriculture and horticulture, will be entitled to apply. The Award is to be represented by an emblem which holders will be entitled to display in a wide variety of ways.

I shall be responsible for advising Her Majesty on Awards. In this, as the Report recommends, I shall be assisted by a small Committee composed of members from both within and outside the Government service which will draw upon advice from outside its membership as necessary.

The purpose of this new scheme is twofold: to reward and to stimulate. I hope that the Award will encourage industry in its efforts to achieve the improvements in exports and the technological advance on which our national future so much depends.

Mr. Heath

May I ask the Prime Minister to accept that we should like to associate ourselves with his thanks to His Royal Highness and the members of the Committee for the work which they have done in producing their Report?

Will this award include those who are not directly concerned in what we normally define as industry, but are concerned with exports, with agencies which are engaged in obtaining exports and with those who are financing exports? Will it be available not only in this country, but to those in any part of the world? We hope that this award will help to stimulate further activity in exports.

The Prime Minister

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for what he said. His first question raises what must have been the most difficult problem for the Com- mittee, the exact scope and coverage. They recommended, and the Government accept, that it should not apply to invisible exports, that it should apply to the activities of manufacturing and other firms who manufacture and sell the goods they make. So far as technological advance is concerned, this could apply to firms who do a good job in the home market, for example, in eliminating imports by competitively producing goods at home.

Paragraph (2) of the Report makes it clear, as he will see, that it applies only to British industrial units, which means British-registered companies resident in the United Kingdom.

The right hon. Gentleman associated himself, as, I am sure, the whole House will do, with the hope that this award will stimulate many who are capable of doing a good job in exports but who are not now doing it. Because it is unusual to have a group award, it will also enable everyone who has played his part in a particular export achievement, or has a good record in exports, to be able to have a physical symbol of what he has done for Britain.

Mr. Maxwell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in industry both management and workers will be gratified and enthused by this announcement by the Government? Is he aware that business, and exporters in particular, will be delighted in that it will be confirmation that the Government are really doing something about stimulating exports instead of, like right hon. and hon. Gentlemen of the former Administration, just talking about it and saying what a great deal of fun it was? Is my right hon. Friend further aware that this announcement will give the greatest satisfaction to people throughout the country and that it is bound to stimulate exports?

The Prime Minister

I think that this is useful, just as the creation of a new citation in the Birthday and Honours List for services to exports is useful for encouraging exports. But I would not put it very much higher than that. I think that it is valuable as a recognition; but we all recognise that far more needs to be done in the matter of export efforts.

If I had had the opportunity last night, and if I had thought that hon. Members opposite were interested, I intended to refer—perhaps they are now—to the fact that we are at present extremely hard at work trying to find—and right hon. Gentlemen opposite know the difficulties—new incentives within the field of exports and of technological modernisation. This is not easy, but we certainly intend to be able to introduce these more financial incentives which I think are essential. What has been announced this afternoon is more limited but, I believe, valuable.

Mr. George Y. Mackie

Is the Prime Minister aware that the last part of his answer to his hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell) is perhaps more relevant to the problem than the ancillary award? Is he aware that it is considered in a great many quarters that although the export rebate is valuable for established industry, it is not sufficient to entice new exporters into the business? Will he now get down to evolving awards in the way of profits which may even be unfair but which will make it clear—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The institution of awards in the Prime Minister's statement will not justify a discussion of export policy. We must be sensible about this.

Mr. George Y. Mackie

On a point of order. The Prime Minister referred to export awards in another field, through profits. Surely I am entitled to ask him about this?

Mr. Speaker

I want to stop this discussion, because we have what I think is called a long day's night before us, and a good deal of business before we get there. I rather hope that at this stage we might deal with the statement on the basis of the institution of this award. I should have intervened earlier—I concede that to the hon. Member—but my anxiety was mounting as we went along.

Mr. Peter Emery

Would the Prime Minister tell the House whether the emblem and this award may be used in a commercial way by the firms who gain it? Is it envisaged that they will be able to use it in further business? Will the firms which have this award be able to use it for business purposes?

The Prime Minister

Yes. In addition to having a flag which will be flown above the factory, and to the award itself, which I think hon. Members will feel is a rather beautiful creation, and to lapel buttons and other things for those who have contributed to exports, it is certainly intended that the firm's notepaper may carry the emblem of the Queen's Award, which may be used in any letters which the firm sends overseas or anywhere else. It will also be possible to stencil the design of the award on crates containing exports from these firms.

Mr. Snow

Is the Prime Minister aware that one of the characteristics of the past 10 or 15 years has been the inability of Governments to harness or bring within the export drive the very valuable activities of small businesses and even one-man businesses? Will he confirm that this very valuable potential export element will be recognised?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, very much so. As is stated in the Report, it is the intention not only that awards should be given to the very top exporters—those who do most in physical volume—but, also, that awards should be given to those, however small, who show the greatest improvement in their export effort, who have broken into a new and difficult market, and to small firms, even one-man firms, who have distinguished themselves in technological advance.