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Diesel Engines (Exports)

Volume 84: debated on Wednesday 23 October 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the exports prospects for British-made diesel engines of all kinds.

Detailed assessments of market prospects are a matter for the companies themselves. I note, however, that the industry has an excellent record in this difficult market exporting engines and components worth some £700 million a year, either directly or as parts of other products. This amounts to about 70 per cent. of its production. British diesel engine companies are at the forefront of new technology and new products, including engines for the growing diesel car and van markets, and my hon. Friend can be proud of the contribution made by his constituency to the sector's success. I am therefore confident of the industry's ability to sustain its substantial export performance.

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Will he join me in congratulating Perkins Engines of Peterborough on the production of its 10 millionth diesel engine? That is more than any other company in the world has produced. Will he also bear in mind that about 80 per cent. of everything produced by Perkins is exported? If the company is to build on that enviable record, it w ill need less volatility in exchange rates.

I join my hon. Friend in congratulating Perkins on its performance. I visited the plant last year and was impressed in particular by the engineering capability. The company has a magnificent export record. Exchange rates are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I hope my hon. Friend was encouraged, particularly in the context of Perkins, by the recent changes that we made in streamlining the approvals procedure in ATP and by the moves we are making on soft loan facilities.

The question refers to diesel engines of any kind. With regard to marine diesel engines, if the press speculation on the re-engining of the QE2 in West Germany is correct, will the Minister urge upon the Cunard company a policy of specifying British engines? Would that not be a marvellous export order for the British marine engine industry?

I am not in a position today to speculate. There has already been enough speculation on that question.