HC Deb 28 February 1967 vol 742 cc242-4
10. Mr. J. H. Osborn

asked the Minister of Technology what discussions he has had with trade associations connected with industrial and chemical plant, including the Tank and Industrial Plant Association, in connection with the declining state of their order book; and if he will now take steps to ensure that industries in the public sector buy British whenever possible.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Technology (Mr. Edmund Dell)

The Ministry has had recent discussions with trade associations, including the Tank and Industrial Plant Association. Industries in the public sector base their purchasing decisions on commercial grounds, and I understand they only buy from abroad when, taking account of all the relevant considerations, it is commercially advantageous to do so.

Mr. Osborn

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that this industry is faced with contracting order books at home and overseas? Will he use his utmost pressure to ensure that the public sector, which is becoming a major customer, now buys British wherever possible?

Mr. Dell

I am sure the public sector will continue to buy British wherever possible. We have been discussing with the Association any way in which it can be assisted, and the Process Plant Working Party is further considering the implications of its report for this part of the industry.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Is the Minister aware that the drilling rigs in the North Sea, under Government licence, do not buy British and they do not send their repairs to Britain but send them to foreign countries, thereby imposing a loss upon Britain? Will he change that?

Mr. Dell

I am not responsible for the purchases of those rigs, but I am aware, as I am sure my hon. and learned Friend is aware, that some are in fact being built in British shipyards.

Mr. David Price

Would the Parliamentary Secretary feel inclined to revise the estimate given in the "Little Neddy" report on plant which said that it expected a rise of 20 per cent. to 30 per cent. in demand in 1967–68 over 1965–66? Would he be inclined to revise that downwards?

Mr. Dell

No, I would not wish to revise the estimate downwards. The Pro- cess Plant Working Party is considering the implications of its investigations for this section of the industry and this should throw light on its problems.