HC Deb 18 June 1951 vol 489 cc11-2W
Mr. Powell

asked the Minister of Supply if his attention has been called to the export of machine tools required for armament manufacture in this country and now being imported from abroad; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. G. R. Strauss:

I am aware that a few machine tools which are being imported for the defence programme are similar to those which are being exported. I have not, however, thought it desirable at present to withhold supplies from export markets, except, of course, from the Iron Curtain countries, unless it is necessary to do so for our defence programme.

I am very reluctant to do anything which would interfere with the promises which British manufacturers have made to buyers overseas. The machine tool industry has always depended to a large extent on its exports and more than half our exports of machine tools go to the Commonwealth and the N.A.T.O. powers. Deferred deliveries under these contracts would, therefore, affect the common defence effort and essential industrial development in those countries.

Moreover, exports of machine tools are an important factor in our negotiations with countries which supply us with raw materials and other goods which we badly need. I can assure the hon. Member that I am watching the exports of machine tools and that diversions for defence needs will be made if those needs cannot be satisfied otherwise.