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Small Foundries (Capital Loan Scheme)

Volume 977: debated on Monday 28 January 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he intends to implement the recommendation in the report by the Economic Development Committee for Foundries calling for a capital loan scheme to assist small foundries; and whether he will make a statement.

The Government have noted this recommendation and will make their response to the foundries EDC in due course.

Does the Minister have any proposals for restructuring the industry? More to the point, what has been his response to those foundry owners who are seeking Government aid in order to introduce a closure programme, at the cost of 25,000 jobs? Will the hon. Gentleman clearly understand that his Government have no mandate for an industrial policy that is destroying Britain's industrial base and making areas such as the Black Country fit only for stock brokers and landowners to live in?

As I said in my original reply, we are looking at the EDC report. Bearing in mind that under the previous Government the ferrous foundry scheme went ahead, with a great expansion of the industry, without proper relationship to the marketing prospects for foundry products, the hon. Lady should be the last person to suggest that we should take urgent action to sort out the problems created by her Government.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that it is a question not simply of the quantity of castings produced but of the quality, and will he discuss with the EDC necessary steps towards improving the quality, in view of the difficulties that have been experienced by customers and the increase in imports?

I note what my hon. Friend says about this matter, which I know he follows closely. This is part of the argument in favour of the previous ferrous foundry scheme. I am sure he will agree that if improvement in quality is not related to effective marketing it is counter-productive.

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that there is serious concern about the rundown in the foundry industry, and that we are becoming far too dependent on imports and losing many skills not only in foundry making itself but in the allied trade of pattern making? Will he give an urgent response to the EDC report?

I note the hon. Gentleman's point, but he should recognise that the import problem is relatively small in this industry. That is not the key argument here. The problem has been that of overestimating the marketing prospects, which suggests that one must examine the position very carefully before putting in taxpayers' money.