HC Deb 02 April 1979 vol 965 cc930-1
15. Mr. Hoyle

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will list the number of applications for aid from companies, and the industries in which these companies are engaged, by the National Enterprise Board in 1977 and 1978.

Mr. Les Huckfield

This is a matter for for the National Enterprise Board, whose investments are made on commercial terms. I am, however, glad to be able to tell my hon. Friend that the NEB informs me that many hundreds of companies have realised the possible advantages of a loan or equity investment by the NEB. It is not possible for the Board to provide a precise number, as inquiries will range from those which are not pursued beyond the first contact to those which culminate in an NEB investment. The NEB has in fact so far spent over £600 million in about 60 companies on some 90 separate occasions.

Mr. Hoyle

In the light of that reply, does my hon. Friend agree that if by some mischance the Opposition were returned to power and the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) were to rise like Dracula and get his fangs in the jugular vein of the NEB, that would lead to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, particularly in my constituency, affecting companies such as Rolls-Royce, and in the North-West, affecting ICL and Ferranti?

Mr. Huckfield

My lion. Friend is absolutely right to express those fears. There are up and down the country about 350,000 workers who work for NEB companies. In Coventry, one person in every five works for an NEB holding. If the Opposition cannot clarify their policies towards what they think about the NEB by 3 May, my constituents and many others can only come to the worst possible conclusion.

Mr. James Lamond

Is it not a fact that the applications that my hon. Friend has mentioned also mean that there are many hundreds of thousands of workers who are looking to the NEB to provide the same assistance as it did in my constituency, where it saved hundreds of jobs at Ferranti and turned that firm from an ailing concern into a prosperous one which is now expanding and which will provide 1,000 new jobs within the next two years? Is it not that sort of success that attracts many applications carrying the hopes of very many workers in Britain?

Mr. Huckfield

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is a basic fact that many industries in Britain today would not exist were it not for the NEB. That is why the workers in those industries want to know exactly where they stand.