§ 15. Mr. Biffen
asked the Minister of Technology to what extent the recent increase in investment grants is estimated to result in a higher value of home orders and dispatches for machine tools during 1967 than in 1966.
§ Mr. Biffen
Does not the Joint Parliamentary Secretary recall that there was a time when he and his hon. Friends were not so coy about making forward forecasts? Is it not now quite clear that home orders and dispatches for machine tools in 1967 are likely to fall below the level of 1966?
§ Mr. David Price
Does the Joint Parliamentary Secretary still adhere to the National Plan forecast of an annual average increase from 1964 to 1970 of 250 7.8 per cent. a year; and, if so, how is it to be achieved?
§ Mr. Edwin Wainwright
Has my hon. Friend taken into account the fact that there cannot be a viable machine tool industry unless private industry takes up new designs and new machinery as they are brought into being? What is being done to ensure that private industry takes up these machines from time to time?
§ 16. Mr. Biffen
asked the Minister of Technology if he is aware of the declining profitability of many machine tool companies; to what factors he attributes this decline; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Biffen
Is the Joint Parliamentary Secretary aware that that is the most extraordinarily unsatisfactory Answer? If he will bother to acquaint himself with the announcements of all the major machine tool firms—for example, Coventry Gauge and Tool, Alfred Herbert, Newall Machine Tool, to mention only three—he will find that all indicate a decline in profitability. Is he aware that this results from the Government's economic policy having had a disastrous effect upon the level of private industrial investment? Will the hon. Gentleman be apprised of the fact that private investtrial investment is likely to recover only when the Government show a much more generous attitude towards industrial profits?
§ Dr. Bray
The hon. Gentleman has been very selective in his quotations. He did not mention Kearney and Trecker, or Elliotts. Looking at the industry as a whole, I am sure that he will agree that the position is not yet what he describes. 251 We are taking steps to maintain the level of orders and we are convinced that those steps will be adequate.