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Catalytic Converters

Volume 201: debated on Tuesday 14 January 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is his estimate of the numbers currently employed in the manufacture of catalytic converters for the automobile and transport industry.

There are no separate estimates available for the manufacture of catalytic converters.

The Minister will be aware that British firms such as Johnson Matthey are at the leading edge of this technology. Is he also aware that in scientific and engineering circles there is much concern that the Government's indolence and reticence in supporting long-term investment in research and development in the leading technology will result in our suffering badly in comparison with our major competitors?

That matter is not strictly for me, but is one for my colleagues at the Department of Trade and Industry. However, the hon. Gentleman will find that this country's record in research and development—in the private and, indeed, in the public sector—will bear scrutiny and comparison with that of most, if not all, others. The very fact that we have in this country possibly the leading manufacturer of such a high technology product which is so essential to environmental and pollution control in the future surely bears testimony to that and sits ill with the fact that the hon. Gentleman has sought to raise the subject of our lack of technology and R and D while in the same breath mentioning a world-leading company.

If we can get more cars sold on the domestic market, we can get more catalytic converters made. Will my hon. Friend join me in urging my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to abolish the 10 per cent. car tax in the Budget?

I admire my hon. Friend's ingenuity in using this question to raise what is undoubtedly an important matter. I am sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends at the Treasury are very much aware of my hon. Friend's point. I take this opportunity to remind them of it and I am sure that they will take it fully into account in their pre-Budget deliberations.