HC Deb 17 April 1972 vol 835 cc18-9
18. Mr. Leslie Huckfield

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he will make a statement about which companies will receive increased financial assistance in the machine tool industry, as a result of the Budget proposals.

Mr. Chataway

All firms are eligible to take advantage of the recently announced £9 million-£10 million scheme for additional and accelerated public sector orders.

Mr. Huckfield

Is the Minister aware that most firms in the machine tool industry have employees who have very little confidence and very poor morale at present, particularly at Alfred Herbert's at Coventry? Can he give any indication of how much individual firms may expect to receive, and particularly Alfred Herbert's? Many of my constituents feel that it will be a case of too little too late.

Mr. Chataway

The proportion of the £9 million-£10 million that is secured by any individual firm will depend on that firm. But the hon. Gentleman will have pointed out to his constituents, I am sure, the effects that free depreciation is likely to have in due course on the machine tool industry.

Mr. Kaufman

Is the Minister aware that the Churchill Machine Tool Company in Greater Manchester remains under sentence of death, that redundancies have already begun to take place there, and that if further redundancies occur an already grave employment position in Greater Manchester will further deteriorate? What hopes are there for saving Churchill's?

Mr. Chataway

I do not wish to comment upon the position of the firm which the hon. Gentleman mentions, but I draw his attention also to the substantial steps which the Government have taken to assist the machine tool industry.

4. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Secretary of state for Trade and Industry what are the latest conveniently available figures of output for the machine-tool industry.

Mr. Chataway

Provisional delivery figures for the fourth quarter and year 1971 have been published in Business Monitor P 64, a copy of which is in the Library. This shows that the current value of deliveries declined by 5 per cent. between 1970 and 1971.

Mr. Dalyell

Is there any evidence as yet that the Government's Budget measures are working?

Mr. Chataway

Obviously it would be too soon to produce evidence of that kind. In addition to the extra orders that have come from the public sector, there has been free depreciation, which is of special importance for machine tools, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has announced that in the context of selective assistance priority study is being given to machine tools.

Mr. Maclennan

In view of the Minister's remarks about free depreciation, may I ask whether he is satisfied that this is not an opaque aid to the industry which will fall under the strictures of the EEC Commission? In any case, in view of the undesirability of constant chopping and changing in aid measures of this kind, can he give any indication of how long this measure is likely to survive?

Mr. Chataway

We are satisfied that all these measures are consistent with the obligations that we shall assume as members of the Community. The hon. Gentleman's second question is clearly one for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

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