HC Deb 15 February 1966 vol 724 cc1088-9
10. Mr. Orme

asked the Minister of Technology what estimates exist of the number of men it would be possible to replace by the use of numerically controlled machine tools; and how many men it is estimated have been displaced in 1965.

Mr. Marsh

For a considerable time to come, numerically controlled machine tools, so far from replacing men, will be required to enable industry to meet the essential need for increased production in the face of serious shortages of skilled manpower, and to achieve the increased efficiency necessary to make this country competitive in world markets.

Mr. Orme

What assessment has my hon. Friend's Department made of the need for numerically controlled machine tools in this country and what recommendations is it making to the machine tool industry in this regard?

Mr. Marsh

It is difficult to arrive at a precise assessment of the need. There is clearly a great deal more room for an increase in the use of numerically controlled machine tools. One of the important things to get across, as I said in my original Answer, is that the introduction of numerically controlled machine tools and other automated systems does not endanger the employment of men. In fact, this will not involve any redundancies.

Mr. Woodnutt

Would the Minister also make it clear that numerically controlled machines are useful in only about 5 per cent. of cases? Is it not the case that for long, high productivity runs numerically controlled machine tools have no use at all? Would he not also draw attention to the fact that the British machine tool industry has more numerically controlled machine tools in use pro rata than the United States' machine tool industry? Will he also inform his hon. Friends that the British machine tool industry has organised an exhibition of numerically controlled machine tools at Olympia from 2nd to 9th May, which they should visit?

Mr. Marsh

The last point made by the hon. Gentleman is quite true. An exhibition is to take place and my Ministry is assisting in it. It would be a mistake to believe that numerically controlled machine tools or any other such method will provide the answer to our problems. However, it is certainly a major factor which we must get used on a much wider scale than has been the case in the past.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. We must improve our productivity on technology Questions.