HC Deb 19 December 1967 vol 756 cc1065-6
9. Mr. Biffen

asked the Minister of Technology what is the percentage change in total value of net new home orders for United Kingdom machine tools during the current year to date compared with the corresponding figures for 1966 and 1965; what is the expected level of net new orders during the coming year; and if he will make a statement.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Technology (Dr. Jeremy Bray)

It is estimated that net new home orders for the first 10 months of 1967 were, respectively, about 24 per cent, and 17½ per cent, below those for the equivalent period in 1965 and 1966. It is not practicable to forecast net new orders, but I would expect some rise in home demand for machine tools during next year.

Mr. Biffen

In view of the importance of the home trade in machine tool manufacture, are not those figures the most eloquent testimony to the fate of the machine tool industry since it acquired the sponsorship of the Ministry of Technology?

Dr. Bray

No. I am sure that the hon. Member has observed that export orders this year are up 34 per cent, on last year. The industry is much to be congratulated on this splendid achievement.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the statement he has made this afternoon shows that all that the Minister's predecessor said at the Exhibition of the Machine Tool Trades Association at Olympia in May, 1966, has completely failed to achieve its object? What steps are being taken to ensure that real encouragement is given to the industry?

Dr. Bray

A great many steps: pre-production orders, risk insurance for the stock-piling of machine tools, help with development of machine tools by research contracts, and increased investment grants, buyer credit scheme for the industry, and to this very wide range of stimuli the industry is responding well by bringing in new capacity, and continuing to do so.