HC Deb 02 April 1979 vol 965 cc923-5
9. Mr. Whitehead

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he expects next to meet the chairman of the National Enterprise Board.

11. Mr. Budgen

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he expects to meet the chairman of the Nationtal Enterprise Board.

24. Mr. Madden

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he expects next to meet the chairman of the National Enterprise Board.

Mr. Kaufman

My right hon. Friend met the chairman on 20 March.

Mr. Whitehead

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that all aspects of the public funding of the RR-535 engine are publicly accountable? Will he also give an estimate of the extent of that public funding up to this moment and of the profitability of the project, given the hostility of the Conservative Party and of the recent Treasury memorandum?

Mr. Kaufman

We hope to be in a position before the Dissolution to provide more of the detailed information requested by my hon. Friend. However, it is important for all workers in Rolls-Royce areas to know that their employment would be placed in jeopardy if the Conservative Party were to gain control of the NEB and its investment policies.

Mr. Budgen

When the Minister of State—or one of the junior Ministers—meets the chairman of the National Enterprise Board, will he advise him that no new investment, apart from the immediate needs of British Leyland and Rolls-Royce, should be made until after the outcome of the general election?

Mr. Kaufman

I shall tell the chairman of the NEB that if the Conservative Party gets its hands on Fairey Engineering, ICL and Ferranti the employment of thousands of my constituents, who know that their jobs are safeguarded by the NEB, would be placed in jeopardy. I shall be making continual reference to these matters during the next five weeks.

Mr. Madden

Will my right hon. Friend press the NEB to intensify its activities in West Yorkshire, especially having regard to the forecast of anticipated job losses in the Yorkshire woollen industry over the next few years? Secondly, will he undertake that the nine sites in Yorkshire which have been suggested for the Inmos installation, including one in Elland in my constituency, will be visited and examined urgently by both Inmos and NEB officials?

Mr. Kaufman

My hon. Friend has approached the Department about possible involvement in a company in his area which has problems. It will be recognised that the policy of the Conservative Party is not only to abolish the National Enterprise Board but, in the words of the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), to do away with grants and subsidies. Therefore, my hon. Friend's constituents could say goodbye to any possibility of the NEB saving that company.

As regards Inmos, we need the Tory Party not only to reinforce what my hon. Friend said but to tell us today whether, if it were in charge, it would allow Inmos to go ahead. Not only would the assisted areas which need production facilities be disappointed if it were not to take place, but the people of Bristol, which has the technology centre, would be deprived of that.

Mr. Arnold

When the Minister of State next sees the chairman of the NEB, will he try to find out the exact product range of Inmos? The Under-Secretary of State did not seem to know.

Mr. Kaufman

Announcements have been made about the product range of Inmos. It will make 64K standard silicon chips. If the Conservative Party has its way, the product range of Inmos will be nil because it will do away with it.

Mr. Hooley

Will my right hon. Friend ask the chairman of the NEB to take an interest in the special steels industry in Sheffield, which is getting into a worse mess because of the incompetence of private enterprise?

Mr. Kaufman

This is an exceptionally serious problem, and I discussed it with Commissioner Davignon last week. My hon. Friend may be sure that we are looking after the interests of the steel industry. At the ministerial council meeting in Brussels this week we shall be standing up to prevent the Commission getting its hands on Britain's steel aids.

Mr. Brooke

Will the Minister of State congratulate the chairman of the National Enterprise Board on the decision of Rolls-Royce to invest in North America as being a considerable guarantee for that company's future and for all those who work in it?

Mr. Kaufman

I shall certainly do that. It is yet another of the merits of public enterprise in the NEB, which the public will come to realise even more during the next few weeks.

Mr. Rooker

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Birmingham city council has put in a bid for one of the Inmos sites? Will he assure the House that NEB and Inmos officials will at least visit the two sites in Birmingham which were put forward, with all-party support, by the Tory-controlled Birmingham city council?

Mr. Kaufman

I shall certainly ask the NEB if it will do that. If the Conservative Party were to come to power, Birmingham would qualify because its problems would be such that it would have to be made an assisted area.