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Titanium

Volume 977: debated on Monday 28 January 1980

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15.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement on the progress of his negotiations to involve the private sector of industry in the development of a British titanium capacity.

I understand that the National Enterprise Board is continuing actively to seek further private sector participation in the project.

Has not this taken some time to be effected? Is not the truth that the private sector does not particularly want to be involved in the project? Is not this a matter for concern, and, given our trade relations with the Soviet Union, is not this question of a British titanium capacity all the more urgent?

I accept the general thrust of the second part of the hon. Member's question. A new company, Deeside Titanium Ltd., has been formed, consisting of the National Enterprise Board, Rolls-Royce and Imperial Metal Industries Ltd. Planning permission has been sought to build a new plant at Shotton in North Wales. I hope that the hon. Member will welcome the move in that direction.

Is not the fact of the matter that Rolls-Royce is the monopoly purchaser of this commodity in this country and is not prepared to pay a commercial price for it?

I take note of what my hon. Friend says, but the fact is that Rolls-Royce is prepared to put money into this project.

Is it expected that this smelter will begin production in 1982? Is it not true that there would be no chance of meeting that starting date without the encouragement and funding of the National Enterprise Board?

I do not think that the hon. Member really needs to make a great meal of this. He should be the first to welcome the fact that about 280 jobs will go to his part of the world.