HC Deb 08 March 1966 vol 725 cc1909-10
Q6. Mr. Peyton

asked the Prime Minister if he will transfer responsibility for the heavy electrical plant industry from the Minister of Technology to the Minister of Power.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Mr. Peyton

May I ask the Prime Minister why on earth he chooses to put upon the shoulders of this rather odd Department responsibility for an industry in which it has little interest and no knowledge? If on this occasion the Prime Minister can give me both a straight and civil answer I should be as obliged as I would be astounded.

The Prime Minister

My answer will be more civil than the question. I agree that there is a problem here. I have thought a great deal about it. There is a strong case for having the responsibility for heavy electrical plant in the same Ministry as the one which is responsible for the users of that plant. That was very carefully considered. It had never been done before. It used to be the responsibility of the Board of Trade, until recently. In the end, I was convinced by the arguments that the difficulties of demarcation between the heavy electrical plant industry and other branches of the industry such as electronics research and the many common interests—and, indeed, the firms covering heavy and light plant—were such that they ought to be in one Ministry. Previously it was the Board of Trade. Now it is the Ministry of Technology. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will feel that that is a civil answer.

Mr. Palmer

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that such a change will be much disliked by the heavy electrical plant manufacturing industry itself? Does not the question show how much out of touch the Opposition are these days with industrial opinion?

The Prime Minister

I would not go as far as that because, as I have said, I think that there is a case for it, though on balance I felt that the arguments went the other way. If the hon. Gentleman thinks of some of the firms which are responsible for heavy electrical plant manufacture in the country—some of the very big electrical giants—he will realise that they will also cover some of the most miniature products in the field of computers and things of that kind. It would be quite impossible to decide, for example, that A.E.I., General Electric and the rest should not be in one Ministry.

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