HC Deb 15 June 1965 vol 714 cc230-2
18. Mr. Dudley Smith

asked the Minister of Technology if he will now make a statement on the future of the machine tool industry.

Mr. Cousins

I would refer the hon. Member to the statement on machine tools which I made yesterday.

Mr. Smith

The right hon. Gentleman willl be aware that this Question was short-circuited by his statement yesterday. Would he say whether he visualises the possible Government action of which he spoke as meaning possible State intervention in some of these machine tool firms, falling short of outright nationalisation?

Mr. Cousins

I said yesterday that I would not rule out anything which was necessary to improve the economic condition of the machine tool industry in the interests of both the industry and the economy of the country.

Mr. Wainwright

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the machine tool industry is as efficient as it should be? Has he received any complaints from the machine tool industry that industry as a whole is failing to encourage the ideas which stem from the machine tool industry? Will he do something to waken up industry as a whole so that further advantage can be taken of the machine tool industry's ideas?

Mr. Cousins

Certainly there have been complaints. The basis of my statement yesterday was that there was a need for an exhaustive examination of the problems in the machine tool industry. We would be prepared to do anything to assist in handling both cyclical problems, stockpiling and shortages of sophisticated machinery and to deal with any other problem in the machine tool industry.

21. Mr. Marten

asked the Minister of Technology the policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the nationalisation of the machine tool industry.

Mr. Cousins

I would refer the hon. Member to the statement on the machine tool industry which I made yesterday.

Mr. Marten

Does not the Minister recall that my right hon. Friends the Members for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) and Bexley (Mr. Heath) both asked him outright whether there was any intention to nationalise the machine tool industry? As he did not answer either of them, can he now give a clear "Yes" or "No" to that simple question?

Mr. Cousins

I thought that I answered quite fully yesterday, and have continued to do so today, that I shall take whatever steps are necessary through my Department to present to this House any views that I may hold upon the industry. If right hon. and hon. Members opposite are suggesting that I should carefully study the question of the nationalisation of the machine tool industry, I will take that into account, too.

Mr. Biffen

In the seven-month review of the machine tool industry which culminated in yesterday's statement, did the Minister consider the establishment of a State-owned machine tool company? If so, what evidence dissuaded him from putting it into effect?

Mr. Cousins

There was not a seven-month review of the machine tool industry. There is one that has been conducted to my knowledge over the last three-and-a-half years. Two-and-a-half years ago a report was issued upon which no action was taken. We have subsequently had the reports both of Sir Steuart Mitchell's committee and of the "little Neddy" on machine tools, and I have given consideration to the factors involved in those reports and have reported accordingly. There was at no time a suggestion that there should be nationalisation of a part, a company or any total section of the machine-tool industry.

Mr. Bagier

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the policy upon which he decides should be determined by the efficiency of the industry in question? Would he not agree, further, that many of us in our constituencies when visiting various firms are fed up with being shown with pride Swedish, German and American machines which could well be made in this country? Would my right hon. Friend agree that if the machine-tool industry fails in his examination, we should consider nationalising it?

Mr. Cousins

If, after the examinations have been completed and the steps which we propose have been taken, there is no improvement in the situation, I propose that I shall do as I keep saying: that is, come back to this House with any additional proposals that I may have. I, equally, have been quite disturbed to go into factory organisations and machine shops and find machine tools made by foreign manufacturers.

Mr. Marples

Does that statement by the Minister mean that the threat of nationalisation still hangs over the machine-tool industry? If it does, how can he expect the machine-tool industry to obtain capital?

Mr. Cousins

The right hon. Member may have read in some of the Press this morning that my statement on machine tools was acceptable to the Machine Tool Trades Association. I suggest that if one continues this practice of pretending that something is a danger which does not exist—[Interruption.] There is no proposal to nationalise or partly to nationalise either a firm or any section of the machine-tool industry, but I would not hesitate to bring any necessary proposals before the House.