HC Deb 12 March 1979 vol 964 cc41-5W
Miss Maynard

asked the Secretary of State for Industry why Courtaulds has received Government grants of about £90 million over the past eight years; and what account he has taken in making such grants of the policy of the company to reduce the number of its United Kingdom employees.

Mr Les Huckfield

Courtaulds has been and is eligible to receive grants and other forms of financial assistance, on the same basis as any other company. It must be able to meet the criteria and conditions for such assistance.

The company is entitled to regional development grants on all eligible expenditure on qualifying premises, Selective financial assistance under the Industry Act 1972 is available for viable projects including various types of investment. The employment implications of such projects are always taken into account.

Employment in textiles has declined throughout Europe and the developed world. To assist only those companies which have been able to increase their total employment would effectively have excluded the greater part of the United Kingdom industry from assistance. By the use of financial assistance in the textiles industry we have certainly been able to preserve more jobs than would otherwise have been the case.

Sector Working Parties

Mr Grylls

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will list those sector working parties which have formulated sectoral objectives in qualitative terms, listing those objectives which are not commercially confidential.

Mr. Les Huckfield

The majority of SWPs have formulated sectoral objectives fo rtheir industries. I understand that 15 SWPs have so far published full reports for the work they carried out in 1978. Copies of these are available in the Library. I also understand that further SWP reports will be published in the coming weeks.

I have read the reports with interest. I am pleased with the good progress made in a number of important areas. I also recommend the analysis of sector working party Reports prepared by the Industrial Strategy Staff Group, which is available in the Library. This was discussed at the NEDC meeting in February when all parties reaffirmed their commitment to the industrial strataegy programme.

Mr. Grylls

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement on the various proposals made by the sector working parties to encourage the better use of productive resources in industry.

Mr. Les Huckfield

During 1978 most SWP's concerned themselves with the better use of productive resources in their respective industries.

I am hopeful that the momentum will be maintained during 1979, and that SWPs will continue to promote discussion and action within companies to ensure the efficient use of the available resources.

Departmental Statistics

Mr. Grylls

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will give details of the progress so far of the review his Department is undertaking of statistical forms and the effect the sending out of such forms has on industry and small firms in particular.

Mr. Les Huckfield

I shall reply to the hon. Member as soon as possible.

Assisted Areas (Expenditure)

Mr. Cryer

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what is the estimated breakdown of regional preferential expenditure, by region, for all the assisted areas in England, Scotland and Wales, giving total expenditure and expenditure per head of population for 1972–73, 1973–74, 1974–75, 1975–76, 1976–77, 1977–78 and 1978–79 to the most recent practicable date.

Mr. Les Huckfield

I shall reply to my hon. Friend as soon as possible.

Paper and Board Industry

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether his Department has made any assessment of the damage to the United Kingdom paper and board industry by granting to the United States of America further concessions in the paper and board sector in the current negotiations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, Tokyo Round; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Les Huckfield

My Department has had the benefit of the industry's assessment on this matter, and is in close contact with the British Paper and Board Industry Federation. The industry's concern is fully appreciated, and is being taken into account in the continuing exchanges.

Electronics Industry (Japanese Investment)

Mr. Kenneth

Clarke asked the Secretary of State for Industry what is the policy of the Government towards the encouragement of Japanese investment in the British consumer electronics industry recommended in the latest report of the consumer electronics sector working party.

Mr. Les Huckfield

The Government have worked closely and consistently with both management and union members of the consumer electronics sector working party and the Japanese industry to reach a consensus on the role of Japanese investment in the British consumer electronics industry. Government policy and SWP recommendations are at one on this matter.

Aveling Barford Limited

Mr. Kenneth

Clarke asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether the Government were consulted about and gave their consent to the offer for sale of Aveling Barford Ltd. by British Leyland.

Mr. Les Huckfield

The NEB and BL are keeping my Department informed about the current discussions with potential purchasers of Aveling Barford Ltd. Under the NEB guidelines my right hon. Friend's consent is necessary for any disposal of voting shares in excess of £0.5 million by an NEB subsidiary.


Mr. Carter-Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will indicate the reasons for the shortage of titanium in the United Kingdom; if he will give indications of help which his Department is giving in overcoming the problem of this important element; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Les Huckfield

Recent worldwide pressure on supplies of titanium has been caused by significant increases in demand for this material for its traditional aerospace uses, and continuing steady growth of non-aerospace applications. The Government appreciate the importance of securing satisfactory supplies for United Kingdom users and are considering with industry what steps should be taken to this end, both in the short and long-term.

Public Bodies and Nationalised Industries (Guarantees and Letters of Comfort)

Mr. Hordern

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will publish a list of guarantees and letters of comfort given by nationalised industries, and their subsidiaries, and any other trading organisation in which the Government have an interest; if he will publish the sums of money involved not covered by existing statutory financial limits; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Joel Barnett

I have been asked to reply.

Nationalised industries and other public sector trading bodies already disclose guarantees in their published accounts as legally enforceable contingent liabilities. As outlined in paragraph 91 of the 1978 Treasury Minute (Cmnd. 7402), arrangements have been made to ensure that comfort letters will be similarly treated in future, unless the relevant borrowing is counted against the statutory financial limits of the organisation concerned. It is not necessary under normal accounting practice for individual guarantees to be listed or itemised as to amount and there can be good reasons of commercial confidentiality for not doing so. As statutory borrowing limits for any trading body come up for review, the Government will consider the inclusion of borrowings that are the subject of guarantees or comfort letters by the body concerned. The hon. Gentleman will know that in the case of the National Enterprise Board the Government have proposed in the Industry Bill that all borrowing by all subsidiaries should in future count against the NEB's statutory borrowing limit. While the Government do not have detailed information across the board, there is no reason to suppose that there are sums at issue significant in relation to the liabilities of the other bodies concerned.