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Volume 929: debated on Monday 4 April 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he next expects to meet the CBI.

My right hon. Friend expects to meet CBI representatives at the NEDC meeting this week.

Will my hon. Friend ask the Secretary of State, before he meets the CBI, to read the new book about the CBI which was published two weeks ago and ask the CBI whether it can explain the apparent contradiction between its total opposition to public expenditure and the disclosure in that book that it uses for its own membership campaigns the fact that it can fiddle company structures so as to screw more grants out of the Government for individual companies?

Not only have I read something about that book, but I have read my hon. Friend's review of it in Tribune and I recognise that he has very strong opinions about the subject. I will bear in mind the rough tenor of what he has said, but I am sure he will agree that it is in the interests of both Her Majesty's Government and the CBI to see more investment in this country for everybody.

When the Secretary of State meets the CBI, should he not discuss with it objectively a problem of industries in our public sector which has arisen in South Africa? For instance, Alfred Herbert—whose improved results I welcome—has been urging its South African associates to persuade the South African Government to put on a tariff against the import of British machine tools because of Alfred Herbert's great interest in its South African associates. Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that such a policy of urging the use of tariffs against other machine tool manufacturers could cause unnecessary hostility to an industry in the publicly-owned sector?

That is a specialised matter which does not arise from the Question on the Order Paper. However, if the right hon. Gentleman writes to me and gives me more information I shall have the matter looked into.

Does not the Minister agree that the logic in the question asked by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) should lead him to the proposition that neither the TUC nor the CBI should have any sort of privileged position?

That is an interesting observation but I do not think that that is what my hon. Friend meant.