HC Deb 05 February 1968 vol 758 cc33-4
54. Mr. Edelman

asked the Minister of Technology, in view of the rise in the imports of foreign machine tools by a third last year over the previous year, what action he is taking to encourage the replacement of types of machine tools hitherto imported from abroad by British-made machine tools.

Mr. Benn

My Department's £6 million preproduction order scheme is encouraging the development and production of advanced types of British machine tools. In addition, the Government are now making available to the Machine Tool Economic Development Committee, certain Customs and Excise information relating to substantial machine tools imports to help identify the reasons for them and the prospects of supply from Britain.

Mr. Edelman

But is not one of the reasons for the startling rise in imports of machine tools last year, at a time when exports went up by only 10 per cent., the deplorable practice inside the machine tool industry of certain manufacturers acting as factors and agents for foreign firms? Is that not a major reason for this rise in the imports of machine tools?

Mr. Benn

It is a fact that the machine tool industry has operated on that basis. In some cases, the manufacture of machine tools has arisen from those who began importing them. But the dangers of a double interest here are well known to the industry, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing attention to them.