HL Deb 08 December 1965 vol 271 cc287-8

2.35 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have decided in principle to contribute financially towards market research abroad; and, if so, what are the conditions on which such assistance is offered, and in how many cases such assistance has so far been offered and accepted.]


My Lords, the Government have been contributing financially towards the cost of market research projects overseas on behalf of particular sectors of industry since early this year. The grant for the purpose is administered by the British National Export Council. For approved projects, the Council is prepared to refund up to 50 per cent. of the cost of travel and accommodation overseas. Where a professional consultant or other outside agency is employed by the organisation sponsoring the project, 50 per cent. of the fee for professional services may also be refunded. Approval of the Council depends on, first, a clear definition of the subject of research; secondly, confirmation that the information sought is not already available from the Export Services Branch of the Board of Trade; thirdly, an undertaking to provide a report on the results of the research to Her Majesty's Government and to the British National Export Council; and, fourthly, an undertaking to make the report available to all firms in the sector of industry concerned who are prepared to bear a fair share of the cost of producing it. Up till the present time, 28 market research projects have been accepted for financial assistance under the scheme, out of a total of 30 offered.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that very full reply, may I put this one point to him? Is he aware that market research is very often an affair of individual firms? Can he consider the sponsoring of research by individual concerns to meet particular needs and idiosyncrasies of the market, always on condition that the results of the research are made available in the same way as are the results of the research on the items he has already indicated?


No, my Lords, I am afraid not. All this was agreed by industry before we put it into operation. The British National Export Council cannot make grants to individual firms. As a rule, schemes are sponsored by trade associations or chambers of commerce, and we think they are best operated in that way.


My Lords, I was not suggesting that these individual items of research should not be sponsored by trade associations. All I was suggesting was that the results should be made available to the public and given to the British National Export Council and the Government in the same way as any others are. May I ask the noble Lord how many of the concerns in any trade must contribute before consent is granted? Is it two, or four, or six? And if it is two, why not one?


My Lords, we could not do that. The scheme is for groups, and the best way of doing it is through either the chambers of commerce or the trade associations.


My Lords, can the noble Lord give an assurance that there will be no attempt by the Treasury at some time in the future to claw back these grants from firms that have made profits as a result of these co-operative researches?


My Lords, that suggestion is very far-fetched, but I think J can nevertheless give the assurance.

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