HC Deb 04 February 1965 vol 705 cc1296-8
The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will make a statement.

With the approval of Her Majesty the Queen, Her Majesty's Government propose to introduce appropriate arrangements for making awards to industry which would provide means of recognising outstanding achievement by particular industrial units either in increasing exports or in technological innovation. These awards would be made by the Sovereign, on the advice of the Prime Minister. A scheme will be worked out under the guidance of a committee including representatives of industry.

I am glad to be able to inform the House that His Royal Highness the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, has consented to act as chairman of this committee.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

We are grateful to the Prime Minister for telling the House about this new idea. We are particularly happy that Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, is to be chairman of the committee. We will await with great interest the proposals which are to be made.

Mr. Grimond

May I ask the Prime Minister two questions? First, what exactly is an industrial unit? Does this mean that the award will be made to firms, to departments within firms, or to individuals? Secondly, would the Prime Minister consider broadening the award a little? As I understand, it is to be for increasing exports or technological innovation; but firms which greatly improve their general efficiency, which perhaps achieve agreements by which all sorts of restrictive practice are given up, in return, say, for higher remuneration, have surely played a very important part indeed in improving the country's economy. Should not they, too, be eligible for these awards?

The Prime Minister

These will be matters for the committee which I mentioned to go into. While the emphasis will be on export achievement or technological advance, in appropriate circumstances the terms of reference might be taken a little wider.

On the right hon. Gentleman's first point, the House will understand that there are precedents for collective awards in the case of regiments and military units, and, of course, there is the famous case of Malta G.C. It was felt that it would be an incentive to still greater efforts in exports or technological advance if a firm, or, in the case of a very large firm, an individual factory or unit, could be honoured in this way in respect of meritorious performance.

I believe, also, that the knowledge that the Queen's award had been made in this way would help that firm in its further efforts to establish itself in export markets. The exact way in which this would be done and the form of the award are matters for further consideration by the committee which is to be presided over by the Duke of Edinburgh.

Mr. McInnes

Will my right hon. Friend say whether or not these awards mill be extended to firms who reduce prices and so bring down the cost of living?

The Prime Minister

I should require notice of that question. I am sure that the whole House would desire to do anything to encourage such public-spirited firms in every possible way.

Sir W. Anstruther-Gray

Will the Prime Minister consider extending this a ward to agricultural units? It might be for signal services in the exporting of particularly good animals, which might be bulls to the Argentine or America for many thousands of pounds. It would be well worth it.

The Prime Minister

Without wanting to specify any particular export or any particular animal, it is well recognised that a great job is being done in that respect. Certainly, the intention to make awards to industry would include appropriate cases in agriculture and horticulture.

Mr. Allaun

May I welcome this suggestion and also ask my right hon. Friend whether it is not equally important to give recognition to the workers' side of the firms concerned?

The Prime Minister

It is intended in these cases to provide a joint recognition to all who have made the effort possible. In many cases, particularly where there is a new technological application, it could have been possible only by the co-operation of both sides in the new methods. Where there is success in creating a new export product, or developing a market, this, again, almost certainly would be a joint operation. There would be some cases where this might stimulate a more aggressive salesmanship than we have seen by some firms. Exactly as the flying of the National Coal Board flag at collieries where there has been a great effort is welcomed and accepted as a tribute to both management and workers at a particular colliery, so I hope that it will be the same here.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

I cannot help but feel that we must get on.