HC Deb 08 November 1976 vol 919 cc12-4
8. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will publish each month a list of the recent successes and achievements of both private and public sectors of British industry.

The Under-Secretary of State for Industry (Mr. Les Huckfield)

My Department's weekly magazine Trade and Industry regularly publishes details of industrial successes of British firms both at home and overseas. There are sections devoted to new products and technology developed by both private and public sectors of British industry, and I understand that the editor is always pleased to hear of new developments. Copies of Trade and Industry are available in the Library.

Mr. Hardy

In view of the obsession with damaging despondency cultivated by the Opposition and displayed by many sections of the national, if not the local, media, is it not time in the national interest for firmer emphasis to be placed on the frequent and continuing achievements of British industry than is currently to be found in the details given in the Department's literature? Is it not desirable to see some spoon-feeding so that there can be recognition of success?

Mr. Huckfield

I note my hon. Friend's useful suggestion, and I agree with him that many of the contents of the Department's documents make a far more worthwhile contribution to the image of our country abroad than do certain sections of the British Press and certain speeches made by the Opposition. I assure him that Ministers in my Department and in other Departments will continue to do their best to stress the achievements of British industry. I hope that in laying stress on those achievements we shall be emulated by a similar effort on the part of the Opposition.

Mr. Nelson

If the Under-Secretary will not confirm the success of the public and private sectors of industry, will he comment on some of the worst aspects of the failures in the public sector, particularly on the findings of the special report by the British Steel Corporation last week on absenteeism which discovered that absenteeism figures had reached 28 days per annum among manual workers and at one plant in Scotland 42 days per annum? What action will the hon. Gentleman take in conjunction with the Corporation to try to reduce days lost in this way?

Mr. Huckfield

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not inviting the House to look a little more carefully at the record of absenteeism on his Benches. As I have said—[HON. MEMBERS: " Did you vote last time?"]—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I did not vote—which answers the question interjected. We are going very slowly. Let us try to move more quickly.

Mr. Huckfield

As I have said, the continued denigration, running down and knocking of the achievements of British industrial performance pursued by the Opposition does not help this country abroad at all.

Mr. Madden

What will be the likely impact on British manufacturing industry of the handing over of information to the Germans and Americans about a new British tank development, which looks as though it will result in a number of orders going to overseas companies, as was revealed yesterday in the Sunday Times?

Mr. Huckfield

That is an interesting question, but it is not one for my Department. I can only suggest that my hon. Friend puts down a Question to the appropriate Minister.

Mr. Tom King

The Under-Secretary talks about praising the successes of British industry. Has he noted the contrast between the warm and vigorous way in which he himself plays a part in that endeavour and the rather more enthusiastic approach which might be helpful towards that very important topic? Since the Secretary of State has agreed that there is an investment strike in British industry, as he tacitly did in reply to his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), has the Under-Secretary of State noted that Lucas has just announced a £100 million investment programme and ICI has announced a £400 million programme—an act of real courage in the present economic situation and against the current borrowing requirement? A little more enthusiasm from the Government for the achievements of the private sector would not come amiss, would it?

Mr. Huckfield

I hope that the hon. gentleman will not exclude from the catalogue some of the very large public sector investments which also are planned. If he studies the plans of the British Steel Corporation and of other public sector enterprises, especially the National Enterprise Board which he want to wind up, he will see that in very many areas it is the public sector which takes the lead and sets the pace