HC Deb 23 July 1979 vol 971 cc17-8
18. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement on his negotiations with ICI to retain a British titanium capacity.

Mr. Michael Marshall

The maintenance of supplies of titanium is primarily a matter for the users of this material and potential suppliers.

Mr. Dalyell

Is it Government policy to have a titanium capacity?

Mr. Marshall

I am sure that it would be valuable to have such capacity, but the best method of achieving it is a matter for discussion and discussions are proceeding.

Mr. Hooley

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the Government have no responsibility for essential raw materials for British industry? Is he aware that this is an essential raw material in high technology industries?

Mr. Marshall

The prime responsibility in this matter rests with Rolls-Royce, which must assure itself of these supplies. There are also other opportunities with other European users, and I believe that there may be scope for collaborative ventures. Certainly a wide range of options is open.

Dr. John Cunningham

Did not the Secretary of State say in his recent statement about the NEB that this was an important matter? If so, is not the Under-Secretary's answer inadequate? Apart from being industrially important, is not this material strategically important? Is there not a defence importance in particular which should not be so lightly dismissed?

Mr. Marshall

I do not believe that in any respect I have dismissed these matters. They are important issues, but, as I said, there is a wide range of possibilities which should be explored. We believe that a commercial solution is the best approach rather than looking to the NEB.

Mr. Grylls

May I congratulate my hon. Friend on his caution in this matter and urge him to continue to be cautious and not allow the Government to be rushed into providing assistance here?

Mr. Marshall

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. His enthusiasm for and interest in these matters is well known to the House.