HC Deb 16 November 1983 vol 48 cc843-4
15. Mr. Flannery

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what was the value of United Kingdom exports of electric traction units in each of the past three years.

Mr. Butcher

Exports of direct current electric traction motors amounted to £4 million in 1980, £5.8 million in 1981 and £8.6 million in 1982. These figures do not include indirect exports or complete propulsion units, which are not separately recorded.

Mr. Flannery

Is the Minister aware that the most important producer of traction units in Britain, and one of the most internationally famous, is the firm of GEC traction, Sheffield? Is he further aware that that firm is now in great difficulty, having completed its last international order, strangely enough, for the underground railway in Seoul? Will he make a serious attempt to talk to the Secretary of State for Transport and the British Railways Board, and encourage them to electrify the railway between St. Pancras and Sheffield, part of which has already been electrified? That would save that very important international firm.

Mr. Butcher

I can fully appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern, because he has mentioned one of the two companies that specialise in that type of product. However, as he rightly surmises, the major question is for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. Indeed, I understand that the hon. Gentleman has already raised this issue with him. Of course, the prospects of any company depend on the balance between its efforts in the home and export markets. Therefore, any early effort in the home market will, in turn, help that company to continue to export.

Mr. Churchill

Is it not a tribute to the skill of the management and the efficiency of the labour force at the Trafford Park division of GEC, in particular, that it has won so many contracts in the far east and South African markets and has been so successful? Will the Government continue to give every possible assistance to ensure that we can land those important foreign contracts?

Mr. Butcher

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade will continue to give special help where required for those who wish to export to those markets. I join my hon. Friend the Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill) in congratulating GEC in that regard. In the generality, locomotive and self-propelled rolling-stock exports amounted to £17.1 million in 1981 and £32.2 million in 1982. That is, indeed, a first-class record.

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