HC Deb 25 February 1970 vol 796 cc1182-3
12. Mr. J. H. Osborn

asked the President of the Board of Trade what was the annual average increase in the volume and value, respectively, of imports of electrical and non-electrical machinery for the years 1965 to 1969.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody

The value of these imports increased at an annual rate of about 18 per cent. between 1965 and 1969; volume figures are not available but prices probably account for about one-third of the increase.

Mr. Osborn

This is an incredible state of affairs. Is the hon. Lady satisfied with this trend? Does she believe that there is enough replacement from home sources of manufacture?

Mrs. Dunwoody

Obviously, if the Government were satisfied we would not have made the efforts that we have made to suggest possible lines of import substitution. That is what we have been doing. It is true that this is a trend which appears to be rather worrying on the surface, but I do not think that one should underestimate the difficulties that have undoubtedly been caused as a result of the increasing specialisation of machinery, so that there are pieces of equipment that are not available in this country but are needed to improve our productivity.

Mr. Ridley

While welcoming an increase in trade in advanced manufactures, may I ask the hon. Lady to say why, before he became responsible for the matter, the Prime Minister used to rant and rave about the level of imports of machinery?

Mrs. Dunwoody

I have never noticed the Prime Minister either ranting or raving. He is a man with a fine appreciation of detailed facts and statistics, If the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends had been nearly as efficient as we have been in dealing with the problems of the machine tool industry, we would not have found ourselves in the situation which we faced when we came to power.