HC Deb 31 January 1977 vol 925 cc19-20
13. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he plans to increase the amount of financial aid available under the Ferrous Foundry Scheme; and whether he intends any amendments to the terms of the scheme.

Mr. Alan Williams

I shall be considering in due course whether to increase the financial allocation to the scheme. The scheme closed for applications on 31st December and I have no plans to amend its terms.

Mr. Canavan

Why is there so much secrecy about the amount of financial aid that is given out to individual companies when surely the general public and the workers within the industry are entitled to know how much public money is going to the employers? Will the Government also consider lowering the scheme's minimum investment from its present level of £25,000 in order to try to help employment prospects of workers in small foundries in places such as Denny and Dunipace, where most of the foundry workers are on short time?

Mr. Williams

I can reassure my hon. Friend that there is no question of secrecy concerning public funds. We are following the general practice in this as in all industry schemes of making the names available in the first quarter after the first payment is made. That is standard procedure, so the information will be available.

As to the lower limit, I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his concern lest small firms should be excluded, but the £31 million which has already been allocated goes to 165 foundries, 94 of which employ fewer than 200 workers and 29 employ fewer than 50 workers. Therefore, I hope my hon. Friend will appreciate that in its present form the scheme is getting through to the small end of the industry as well as to the large end. There have been about 500 applications. I think that it has been one of the most successful of all schemes, and, as I say, the small firms have benefited as well.

Mrs. Bain

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware how appreciative most of the foundries are that have benefited under the scheme and that an early statement of the projections would be much appreciated by everyone? Does he also agree that one of the most important aspects in helping ferrous industries would be for the Government to reverse their policy on public expenditure cuts whereby orders coming through the construction industry and bodies such as the Post Office have affected the foundries in my constituency, for one area?

Mr. Williams

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her initial comments. I am sure that in Scotland the scheme has been of considerable benefit. £5 million of the £31 million already allocated has gone to Scotland. The hon. Lady will appreciate that the ferrous foundry industry will benefit most from our getting the economy generally on to a sound footing. Indeed, it was indicative at the time of the last upturn that this was one of the industries that was earliest to show its shortage of capacity. We believe that the scheme will enable it to take full advantage of any upturn that takes place.