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Manufacturing

Volume 893: debated on Monday 9 June 1975

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10.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will publish figures, for actual and anticipated investment in manufacturing industry in 1973–74, 1974–75 and 1975–76.

Investment by manufacturing industry, measured at 1970 prices, amounted to £1,975 million in 1973–74 and £2,110 million in 1974–75.

The results of the latest survey by my Department of manufacturers' investment intentions, covering calendar years, are published today and suggest that the volume of investment by manufacturing industry in 1975 could be of the order of 15 per cent. lower than in 1974.

Does the Secretary of State not appreciate that investment in industry depends on confidence in industry? He suggests that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has not been seductive enough. When will he become seductive enough to encourage industrialists to invest in this country without being clobbered in terms of his wish to nationalise industry?

I think that many of us have been disappointed in the investment record of manufacturers in this country for a number of years. That applies all the more when we compare our record with what is happening in other countries. No doubt that is why the Conservatives introduced the Industry Act 1972. That is why we have put forward an Industry Bill this year to establish a National Enterprise Board and to bring about the system of planning agreements. We have done so because we believe—I am sorry that I probably do not carry the Opposition with me—we can increase investment in that way.

With what degree of accuracy can we regard the estimates for 1975–76 in view of the unfortunate fact that private industry is still too dependent upon the whim of the private investor, far too many of whom appear to be too willing to take money out of industry and to invest it elsewhere?

The results for 1976 are necessarily more tentative, but they suggest that the figures will be of the same order as 1975. We hope that before then the plans which we have put before the House will be implemented in the form of an Act of Parliament and that they will inspire a great deal more investment than we have had over the past few years.

Is not the real reason for the Secretary of State's head being on a charger that, in fact, the answer given by his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State is not the full answer, in that today his Department published its assessment of investment intentions which are 15 per cent. down for 1975 and provide for no recovery in 1976? Is that not a clear indictment of the Secretary of State's stewardship and an indication of the need for a change?

I have already said in my initial answer that we expected the figure to be 15 per cent. lower than the 1974 figure. I have also indicated why, in two General Elections, we felt it necessary to put forward some substantial changes in industrial policy. That is why we are pressing ahead with those measures as fast we we can.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the construction industry is one of the major transgressors of all British industries, in that it exports capital abroad to build, principally in the Common Market countries? Does my hon. Friend agree that we need investment in building in this country and not in building office blocks in Paris and Brussels? Will my hon. Friend ensure that some curbs are put on the building industry so as not to allow it to take money out of this country for that purpose?

The latter part of my hon. Friend's question, regarding exchange control, is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Like everyone else, I am much more concerned that the construction industry should be involved in substantial works in industry in this country rather than in speculating, no matter whether it be in this country or abroad.