HC Deb 25 January 1982 vol 16 cc606-7
14. Dr. Mawhinney

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he is satisfied with the prospects for the diesel engine industry; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Wakeham

The industry has been suffering from the effects of the world recession, which has caused a general weakness in the market for diesels. I am, however, confident that, as demand recovers, the prospects for United Kingdom producers will be good, provided that they can be competitive.

Dr. Mawhinney

Is not the diesel engine industry strategically important to the country? Therefore, do not the Government have a responsibility to intervene to protect it if it becomes apparent that it is being unreasonably undermined?

Mr. Wakeham

The Government realise the importance of the diesel industry, but, with one exception, United Kingdom producers form part of large engineering groups or international vehicle manufacturers, so it is difficult to think of a single strategy for the industry. However, my Department has responded to the diesel industry's need by offering selective aid of £12 million over the past year to encourage research and development and capital investment.

Mr. Dalyell

Without a strategy, what future is there for factories such as Bathgate?

Mr. Wakeham

Bathgate's future is bound up with the future of BL, and BL has a clear view on the way in which it sees itself in the market in the future.

Mr. Viggers

Are there not strong energy conservation arguments for shifting the balance between petrol and diesel more in favour of diesel to encourage the use of diesel engines in motor cars?

Mr. Wakeham

The technical part of my hon. Friend's question is more for my right hon. Friend. I would want to encourage the diesel industry as far as the Government are able. As I said, in 1981 we gave about £12 million of selective financial assistance.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Why do we not sponsor the development of a small high speed, lightweight diesel engine to compete with the Italians and Germans? Will the hon. Gentleman suggest to companies such as Perkins that they make the development, so that the Europeans do not dominate our markets with their products?

Mr. Wakeham

My Department is in close touch with Perkins, BL and the other United Kingdom manufacturers of diesel engines.