HC Deb 29 February 1968 vol 759 cc1748-9
27. Dame Joan Vickers

asked the Minister of Overseas Development what action he has taken to assist industry to use its unused capacity to meet overseas needs.

Mr. Prentice

My Ministry tries to take account of surplus capacity when administering the aid programme. The choice of goods financed under the programme is, however, primarily governed by the development requirements of the recipient countries and it is not usually practicable to relate credits specifically to surplus capacity.

Dame Joan Vickers

What contribution was offered by private industry at the U.N.C.T.A.D. Conference which was held recently in Delhi?

Mr. Prentice

The U.N.C.T.A.D. Conference is a conference of Governments and we did not, at the last one, relay any offer from private industry.

Mr. Braine

Does not the right hon. Gentleman recall that this was one of the more imaginative proposals contained in the 1964 Labour Party manifesto? Is he now saying that it was totally impracticable?

Mr. Prentice

No, Sir, it is not totally impracticable and something is being done about it. It is difficult to operate this on a large scale because of the difficulty of relating specifically the requirements of a developing country, in terms of its development plans and so on, to surplus capacity here, particularly since there is often a time lag between the time when a plan is drawn up and the availability of goods in a particular place.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a great deal of interest is being shown in this matter on both sides of the House? Will he do his utmost to see that unused capacity in various parts of the country, including the North-East, in regard to, for example, ships and engineering, is made use of for the benefit of countries in Africa and elsewhere?

Mr. Prentice

Yes, Sir. I am aware of that, and all sections of my Department receive bulletins at regular intervals of surplus capacity in various parts of Britain of which they should take account in the planning of their programmes; but there are limitations on the effect of this, for the reasons I have given.

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