HC Deb 22 January 1973 vol 849 cc1-3
1. Mr. Leslie Huckfield

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he will make a statement about progress in administering financial assistance to the machine tool industry by his Department.

The Minister for Industrial Development (Mr. Christopher Chataway)

All orders under the special scheme for public sector purchasing of machine tools have been placed.

Mr. Huckfield

How much of this money has gone to the machine tool firm of Alfred Herbert in Coventry? How much has been spent on imported machine tools? Since this is taxpayers' money, intended to help the British industry, is it not a ridiculous practice to spend the money on imports?

Mr. Chataway

Less than 1 per cent. has been spent on imported machine tools. I am afraid that I could not, without notice, give the proportion of the total which has been spent at Alfred Herbert's.

Mr. Rost

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the orders for machine tools in this country have risen dramatically during the last few months and that one of my constituents who has recently placed an order has had to wait three times as long as he would have done if he had placed it a couple of months ago?

Mr. Chataway

My hon. Friend is right to say that there has been a substantial increase in orders for machine tools in the third quarter of the year, but it would still be the case that there is substantial spare capacity in the majority of firms.

Mr. Benn

On the broader question, may I ask when the Minister will be commenting on the general investment outlook, in view of the forecasts for 1973 which are now well below the earlier forecasts? There is an obvious crisis of confidence and a general anxiety. Will the Government now be making an authoritative statement on investment prospects, including those for machine tools?

Mr. Chataway

We had a debate about investment before the recess. All the indications are still of a substantial upturn in investment during this year.