HC Deb 27 February 1978 vol 945 cc10-2
4. Mr. Sainsbury

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he is satisfied with the progress of the sector working parties.

11. Mr. Rooker

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a further statement on the progress of the industrial strategy.

25. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what study he has made of the recommendations relative to industrial strategy framed by the sector working parties and submitted to the National Economic Development Council; what plans he has for implementing these recommendations; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Alan Williams

Yes, Sir. The National Economic Development Council at its meeting on 1st February reaffirmed its commitment to the industrial strategy and endorsed the continuing role of sector working parties. The need now is to translate the sectoral work to positive action in individual companies.

For our part, the Government are now considering the approximately 300 recommendations addressed to Government in sector working parties' latest reports.

Mr. Sainsbury

Does the Minister accept that a number of the sector working parties have referred to the adverse effect of the compression of differentials on the supply of skilled labour? Will he say whether the end-of-year second stage reports of sector working parties repeat this point, and, if so, what the Government are proposing to do about it?

Mr. Williams

The Government are currently considering the representations proposed in the sector working party reports. Many of them repeated complaints or propositions that were put forward in the interim reports as well as containing many new recommendations. As yet we have fully to assess these recommendations before giving our response.

Mr. Roberts

Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is widespread appreciation through the bulk of industry of the development of industrial strategy under the Government? Does he realise that some industrialists suspect, perhaps rightly, that the Opposition have no industrial strategy? To go back to my right hon. Friend's first point, now that many of the working parties have made recommendations which have apparently been adopted by the National Economic Dev- elopment Council, and since we have had such documents as the Sir Frederick Warner report, what are the Government intending to do to produce positive action in those areas that need urgent attention?

Mr. Williams

As with the interim reports, it is our intention to act as rapidly as possible in response to the representations. Some of these reports are already in the Library of the House and hon. Members might be interested to study the recommendations. But inevitably, with more than 300 such recommendations to the Government and many recommendations to industry, there must be consultation and discussion with industry and the trade unions on their implementation.

Mr. Norman Lamont

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that a joint Cabinet-NEC committee has recommended that sanctions under existing legislation should be used to enforce the industrial strategy planning agreements? Does that not justify every criticism made by my party of the arbitrary use of Government sanctions, and will the right hon. Gentleman assure industry that the Government have no intention of using legislation in that way?

Mr. Williams

We are not answerable to the House for the recommendations of such committees, and therefore I have no comment to make on this matter. It remains Government policy that planning agreements should be voluntary.

Mr. John Garrett

How does my right hon. Friend propose to translate the general observations and exhortations of the sector working parties into specific action by specific companies in the interests of national objectives unless it is done with some kind of sanction?

Mr. Williams

My hon. Friend seems to misunderstand the fact that in most of these cases the recommendations for action are those that are recognised within the industry itself as being to its advantage and benefit. The sector working parties have themselves in some instances started the discussions with individual firms, and in the five priority sectors that were indicated previously Ministers have also started negotiations with individual firms in the hope of implementing the recommendations.

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