HC Deb 28 June 1976 vol 914 cc17-8
16. Mr. Wigley

asked the Secretary of State for Industry in what way the powers conferred on him by the Industry Act 1975 have been used to date to establish new manufacturing industries; and how many new jobs can be attributed to the use of the powers of this Act.

Mr. Les Huckfield

My right hon. Friend has used his powers to provide substantial funds for the National Enterprise Board. These will create and sustain a large number of jobs in new and existing industry.

Mr. Wigley

Does the Minister appreciate that there will be great regret that he is unable to give any specific number for the jobs so far created by these steps? Will he accept that if there is to be order in the industrial world it will require economic planning? Are his Government still committed to economic planning?

Mr. Heffer

The hon. Gentleman will have a chance to vote for it tomorrow night.

Mr. Huckfield

As my hon. Friend says, tomorrow night the hon. Gentleman will have a first-class opportunity for bringing more planning into at least one section of our industry. He ought to be aware that the NEB has within its holdings about 750,000 jobs and is responsible for firms with a turnover of about £3,000 million. I should not have thought that that was a bad way to start and, further, I should have thought that the board was making a significant contribution to saving jobs.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Can my hon. Friend confirm that as well as the National Enterprise Board we have the Welsh Development Agency and the Scottish Development Agency, and that what we want for economic planning is to maintain the economic and political unity of Britain rather than to talk about splitting it into separate parts?

Mr. Huckfield

My hon. Friend is right. The Welsh Development Agency has primary responsibility for industrial developments in Wales, and having been in Wales on Friday night I know the great concern that there is about some of the issues that my hon. Friend has been stressing.

Mr. Gow

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the best way to secure the regeneration of British industry that he wants to see is to allow the free market to operate in British industry?

Mr. Mellish

Shut up. The hon. Gentleman knows nothing about it.

Mr. Gow

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the free market is a far better guide to profitable industry than arbitrary decisions of the NEB?

Mr. Huckfield

I did not think that it would be long before Selsdon man appeared on the Tory Benches. The hon. Gentleman ought to realise that it has been the crushing failure of British private industry to invest in significant redevelopment that has made it essential for the Government to put money into British industry to get some regeneration and restructuring.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

Before the myth that the Government provide money that is manufactured in a building on the other side of Whitehall is carried too far, will the Minister say what proportion of the money reinvested by the board is derived from the general body of taxation, which in turn is derived from British private industry? What effect has this had on general employment levels in the rest of private industry?

Mr. Huckfield

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has such touching faith in the ability of the private sector to produce the industrial regeneration that this country vitally needs. I only wish that it had been matched by the performance of the private sector.