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Finniston Report

Volume 981: debated on Monday 24 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will list the organisations that have submitted their views to him on the Finniston report.


asked the Secretary of State for Industry what actions he is taking both to assess the Finniston report on engineering and also to implement its findings.

The Department is currently seeking views on the key recommendations of the report from over 350 organisations and in- dividuals. Over half of these have replied to date and I expect most of the remainder by the end of the month. Other Departments are carrying out their own consultations. In addition, many unsolicited views are being received.

I do not think it would be appropriate to list the individuals and companies who have submitted their views, whether solicited or not, but I shall place in the Library a list of those representative organisations from which the Department sought comments.

The consultation exercise is being co-ordinated by officials, who are also advising my colleagues and myself on various aspects of the report. As I told the House on 29 January, we intend to reach decisions on the key recommendations quickly and to announce them in the summer.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider eschewing a noninterventionist view of the report? Does he not recognise that Government intervention is needed if the major recommendations of the Finniston report are to be accepted and carried into practice? Will he further note that there is a shortage of science and mathematics teachers? If we are to have engineers, those teachers are required now.

I note the hon. Gentleman's remarks, particularly those referring to the work of educationists. No doubt my colleague in the Department of Education and Science will consider those remarks. I appeciate the hon. Gentleman's broader point about intervention. I hope that he will use his influence to encourage industry to put its money where its mouth is to ensure development along those lines.

Further to that reply, does my hon. Friend agree that this is a most important report about the future of British engineering and the economy? Will he ensure that the Government implement the report's major conclusions as soon as possible?

I am glad that the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) has already welcomed the report. I think that the House will recognise the significance of the analysis. There was a great deal of agreement about it. The decisions that flow from it must be carefully analysed.

Does not the Minister agree that there is a great shortage of skilled workers on the shop floor? Does not that shortage flow to a great extent from the trouble that arose in 1973–74 when apprenticeships in many parts of British industry came to an end? Does not the Government's policy of massive deflation encourage the loss of skilled workers, although they will be needed, in the future?

The right hon. Gentleman seeks to widen the debate. The question of technicians is not covered by the Finniston reports, although some people would have liked it to have been. The right hon. Gentleman's arguments are therefore somewhat specious.

Does my hon. Friend realise that some of us feel that it is high time that the House had a debate on this important document? Will he give us a guarantee that a debate will be held before the Government reach a conclusion?

I note my hon. Friend's remarks. However, he will appreciate that the issue has been debated in another place. We shall want to consider that point when we are nearer to reaching our own conclusions.

Does my hon. Friend not agree that the shortage of skilled labour—complained of throughout British industry—is an inevitable consequence of freezing differentials as a result of successive wage controls?