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Leisure, Brewing And Manufacturing

Volume 929: debated on Monday 4 April 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry what was the return. before tax, on capital employed in the leisure industry, in the brewing industry and in the manufacturing industries as a whole in each of the years from 1973 to the last year for which figures are available.

For large listed companies operating mainly in the United Kingdom in manufacturing industries, the rate of return on net trading assets, measured at replacement costs, was 7 per cent. in 1973, 3½ per cent. in 1974 and—provisionally—3 per cent. in 1975. Corresponding figures are not available for companies in the leisure and brewing industries.

Does not the Minister agree that it is rather curious that no figures are available for the brewing industry? If they were available—I declare an interest here—they would show that over recent years the brewing industry has been earning less as a return on capital than the cost of new money. Does not that factor make it rather odd that it should be the one industry singled out for examination by the Price Commission?

The singling out of the brewing industry is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection, but I am sure that his decision to have that industry examined carefully was widely welcomed by many people who have a direct interest in the drinking of beer. We shall have to wait to see what the investigation finds.

Is the Minister aware that the latest pronouncement on the brewing industry by the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection will, it is estimated by the brewing industry, delay £250 million of new investment, with all that that means for jobs? Will the Minister have a word with his right hon. Friend so that in future, before he makes these grandiose announcements on prices, he takes jobs into account as well?

I understand that in this not-so-crowded hour the hon. Member is seeking to raise all sorts of issues. However, if he wants to tackle the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection he should have the decency and courtesy to put down a Question to him.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, in view of the social and revenue implications of the brewing industry, there might be a case for requiring it to hive off brewing interests from the other interests into which it is spreading with a view to securing special taxation arrangements?

The problem of investment in the brewing industry is specifically under examination. The Government are giving every inducement to encourage investment across the whole of industry, and we expect an increase in the level of investment this year of between 10 and 15 per cent., which will contribute towards the economic recovery now on the horizon under the present Government.