HC Deb 09 July 1969 vol 786 cc1335-7
3. Mr. Hooley

asked the Minister of Technology if he will use his powers under the Industrial Expansion Act to secure rapid development under public ownership of carbon fibre technology.

Mr. Benn

As my hon. Friend knows, discussions are already in hand on the possibility of expanding production. No proposal involving the use of public funds has arisen.

Mr. Hooley

My hon. Friend will know that the major break-through in this technology occurred in two publicly-owned and publicly-financed research institutions of international reputation. Would it not be appropriate, since in the opinion of those qualified to know this could be a very fast growth industry, that the taxpayer should now make an investment in something which could pay off handsomely?

Mr. Benn

The provisions of the various Acts, including the Industrial Expansion Act, are available if required, but the success that we shall achieve with carbon fibre depends on our finding a market for it, and applying it in areas in which, of course, a number of firms have expertise, and it would be wrong to exclude them from the exploitation of something which would be of benefit to the economy and, indeed, to the taxpayer through royalty payments.

34. Mr. Neave

asked the Minister of Technology what is his policy for the future of carbon fibre technology; and if he will make a statement.

47. Mr. Brian Parkyn

asked the Minister of Technology when he plans to make a statement on the Report on Carbon Fibres, House of Commons Paper No. 157.

Mr. Benn

Discussions are already in hand between I.C.I. and N.R.D.C. on the possibility of I.C.I. building a large carbon fibre plant.

I expect very shortly to reply officially to the Select Committee, outlining my policy for carbon fibre technology in the light of its report.

Mr. Neave

While welcoming the right hon. Gentleman's reply on the progress, may I ask what the rôle of the N.R.D.C. will be in this matter? Is he not averse to having too many middlemen in such a negotiation? Does not he appreciate the urgency of building this plant?

Mr. Benn

I would not regard the N.R.D.C. as a middleman for this purpose. It has great experience of handling licences of this kind. It was set up in 1948 to do this kind of job. I am reluctant to undertake tasks best undertaken by others with experience in the field concerned. It is better to leave it to them.

Mr. Parkyn

In view of the report that a Japanese firm is to build a carbon fibre plant with a capacity of about 150 tons a year, is my right hon. Friend aware that we are particularly delighted to know that he is going to support very fully the policy of putting up a major plant early in this country?

Mr. Benn

My hon. Friend knows our interest and also that the development of applications for carbon fibre plays a very large part in this matter. But, as in many other areas, this is a question not just of being in advance with the latest technology but of having a market intelligent enough to use it to its fullest opportunity.

Mr. Lubbock

What issues are to be left to the negotiations between N.R.D.C. and I.C.I.? Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that, in accordance with the Report of the Select Committee, this is a matter of urgency? Will he guarantee to make a statement before the House rises for the recess?

Mr. Benn

I cannot guarantee to make a statement before I have one to make. Clearly, in the discussions there are many commercial considerations which the firm itself has to take into account, as does the N.R.D.C. I will keep the House informed, as it is reasonable to do.

Mr. Tinn

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the existing I.C.I. industrial complex on Tees-side provides ample space for such a plant?

Mr. Benn

I will bear that in mind, along with all the many telephone calls I received on the day the Select Committee's Report came out from people who have similar ideas about other parts of the country.

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