- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 25 Mar 1971, p. 336-352
- Bessborough, Lord, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Ladies Day. The present Government in the U.K. in favour of a policy of disengagement from intervention in industry. The abolishment of the Ministry of Technology. The abandonment of the industrial grant system in favour of tax relief and the abolishment of the Industrial Reorganization Corporation. Consequences of these actions. The upcoming budget. General agreement between British industry and the Government that "there must be a stimulus to investment by increasing the profitability of companies." The state of British industry is discussed in detail by looking at specific instances and industries, under the following headlines. Rolls Royce; General Policy and the Industrial Relations Bill; The Aircraft Industry; Helicopters; Hovercraft; Hoverrail; Cars; Electric Cars; Atomic Energy; Isotopes; The New Fuel Companies; Computers; Pollution; Desalting of Water; Super-Conductivity; Radar; Lasers; Agricultural Research; Medical Research; Ammonia; Fabrics; Plate glass. Some general and summary remarks. The Government's determination to control inflationary wage demands and stabilize prices. The need for firms to stand on their own feet. Dealing with high unemployment figures. Unions recognizing the need for greater productivity. The self-interests of everyone in the Western World to know that Britain is becoming strong. Balance of payments and export figures.
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- 25 Mar 1971
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- Full Text
- MARCH 25, 1971
Britain's Scientific and Industrial Achievements
AN ADDRESS BY Lord Bessborough, SPECIAL ENVOY, DEPARTMENT OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY, U.K.
CHAIRMAN The President, Harold V. Cranfield
GRACE Dean the Rev. William Prior, B.A., D.D.
On April 4th, 1931, almost exactly on this date, forty years ago, Lord and Lady Bessborough arrived in Halifax. The 9th Earl of Bessborough became Canada's 14th Governor General and, scientifically and technologically, history was made. The first radio broadcast of such an event ever to be heard across this great country was made on that occasion. A very large chain of Canadian stations were involved as were two of the major chains in the United States.
One part of Canada certainly was left out of this coverage and this deficiency has only now been possible of remedy. Just two weeks ago the News director of CHUM wrote to me to say that the speech to the Empire Club made by Viscount Amory was being broadcast over their twin station CFTC at Tuktoyaktuk 85 miles north of Inuvik. This is the first of our speeches to reach these people, who until now, had only occasional reception from Radio Moscow. I am therefore thrilled to be able to announce for the first time to an Empire Club audience that a speaker of such scientific prominence as that of today will be heard by the residents of the most northerly outreaches of our great Dominion. The 10th Earl of Bessborough, who has devoted his energies and talents in the past seven years largely to the subject of science and technology and to the organization of this vast subject into an orderly pattern is the first to know that his talk reaches into the Eskimo country. Because of the complex organizational nature of his work someone has suggested that it be expressed as the "science of science".
While the precise date is not available to me, I am advised that our speaker was born in March 1913 and thus may well be celebrating a birthday today or yesterday or tomorrow. Like one of our earlier speakers he was educated at Eton but unlike him our speaker went to Trinity College, Cambridge not to another equally well known place of learning. Cambridge is a beautiful University Town to which I can attest from a recent visit there and it has an atmosphere almost compelling one to become an academic. After leaving the scene of formal education his compassion for others became heightened, for his post was as Secretary to the League of Nations High Commission for Refugees. As with so many people around the world in 1939 he left his other duties in order to stand against the aggressors who would enslave Europe. He served as a soldier throughout the whole of World War II in France and Flanders, once we were able to acquire a foothold there. Because of his scientific orientation he was committed to tank-gunnery research, which I believe also engaged the skills and abilities of our guest Dr. Solandt. He served militarily in addition as a Staff Officer in West and North Africa. Once France was liberated, he joined the British Foreign Service and was Secretary in the British Embassy in Paris for five years and this country recognized his worth by the award of the Chevalier de la Legion d'Honeur.
In the first part of 1960 he was with a firm of Merchant Bankers. His association with Music and the Arts is probably fostered by exposure to the stage in his parents' home. In John Cowan's book Canada's Governor-Generals it is stated that their English Family home in Sussex included a fully-equipped theatre where plays of their own composition were staged. As a direct consequence our speaker became President of the British Drama League and is one of the founders of the Chichester Festival Trust, Britain's answer to Canada's Stratford Festival Theatre. I note too that he is an author of a number of plays and books. So that it is natural that he should, at one time, be a director of various companies connected with music, television and broadcasting, including "Associated Television" in Britain. He has been advisor to the well known Pye Company of Cambridge on overseas television projects. I find it interesting that he played an important part in establishing the Baghdad television station and the London-Moscow link which means that by the latest Tuktoyaktuk broadcast he is indeed heard around the world.
In Mr. Heath's Government he was Minister of State, Ministry of Technology from June 1970 to mid October. However he was needed for other functions by his government and in fact that is exactly why he is here with us today.
In addition to the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour he is an Officer of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. The speaker's illustrious and handsome father addressed the Empire Club in November 1931. His beautiful mother, of French descent did great service to unite Canada because of this and the birth of a child in Canada the speaker's younger brother George St. Lawrence Neuflize Ponsonby that truly unites Britain and Canada.
On behalf of the many Loyal Societies who have joined to make up the audience today, together with the Women's Canadian Club, the Empire Club and the Royal Commonwealth Society I welcome and present to you the Earl of Bessborough who is to address us on the topic: "Britain's Scientific and Industrial Achievements".
The present Government, of which I was a member during its first four months as a Minister of State at the Ministry of Technology, has in principle set its face against further government intervention in industry and in favour of a policy of disengagement.
It has indeed abolished the Ministry of Technology (Mintech). It has abandoned the industrial grant system in favour of tax reliefs and it has abolished the Industrial Reorganization Corporation (IRC) which was the instrument by which the last government assisted largely on the organizational side, but which nevertheless involved the investment of considerable government funds and which was, of course, criticized by Conservatives as a form of backdoor nationalization.
No one believed that a reversal of such an insidious, and in some sense anaesthetizing, process could be accomplished without difficulty. It was clear that some British firms would undoubtedly suffer. As our Secretary of State for Industry and Trade, Mr. John Davies, put it: "Withdrawing the crutches is bound to cause anxious moments even when their withdrawal is the only means of encouraging the patient to walk alone. But prematurely and hastily restoring them at the first stumble is a guarantee of failure both for the patient and the doctor." I hope you will agree with this?
This is, of course, a difficult moment to speak to you since our budget in the UK is only to be announced on March 30th, and it is the budget which should provide some of the remedies. Nonetheless, the diagnosis of the so called British disease has been made and I can assure you that there will be no letting up on the Government's opposition to high wage settlements. This was made clear by Mr. Heath when he met the Confederation of British Industry leaders on March 8th, and there was positive agreement with the C.B.I. on this.
Nonetheless, it is strongly felt by British industry that the Government must inject a modest degree of growth into the economy, mainly by relief in corporate and personal taxation and principally oriented towards investment which is so essential for international competitiveness and our standard of living; and, as you know, the present Government is indeed committed to reducing both forms of taxation in the forthcoming budget.
Although, clearly, Ministers are unable to commit themselves explicitly in this pre-budget period, there certainly seems to have been general agreement between British industry and the Government that there must be a stimulus to investment by increasing the profitability of companies. And the collective voice of the Conservative Party and of industry is now so strong and unanimous that it would be extraordinary if Mr. Heath and Mr. Barber, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, ignored it.Rolls Royce
But, in their present policies the Conservative Government are by no means following a doctrinaire policy in opposition to the dogma of socialist nationalization. Indeed, as has been seen in the case of Rolls, where the defence of the country depends on an industrial product--in this case aeroengines--a Conservative Government is prepared to take a firm into public ownership by purchasing the assets of a failing company. You may think that this is a form of nationalization, but there is certainly a distinction to be drawn here, for the Government are not bringing Rolls under complete State control. They are indeed acquiring some of its assets, but at the same time, as Lord Carrington, our Minister of Defence who is Chairman of the Committee on Rolls, made plain in our debate on Rolls Royce in the House of Lords on the 15th February, "it is certainly the intention of the Government to introduce private capital into the firm."
It should be remembered that Rolls Royce did not ask the Government to bail them out. (They may have realized that there was in fact no point in asking.) At all events, it was Rolls itself which called in the Receiver when they realized that their liabilities under their 1968 agreement with Lockheed over the RB 211 engine exceeded their assets. In the circumstances, the present Government felt that it was necessary to bring those parts of the firm into public ownership which were making such a very considerable contribution not only to our own defence effort but also to the Air Forces of no less than eighty other nations. The Government felt obliged to safeguard the position not only of those air forces but also of the 200 overseas airlines whose aircraft are powered by various types of Rolls engines.
Again, in regard to Rolls, Mr. Heath, who is, you may be sure, the new propelling force in our country and may well prove to be the greatest Conservative Prime Minister Britain has yet seen, said only last month "that one thing we have not been willing to do. We have not been prepared to mount a general operation to bail out the Rolls Royce Company--an operation which would have run into several hundred millions of pounds of the taxpayers' money. There could have been no guarantee," he added, "that even after such a further effort the company would have been viable in the years ahead." When he said this, there was indeed no way at the time of assessing the Company's liabilities. I am certain that no responsible government could have acted differently in this respect.
General Policy and the Industrial Relations Bill
We must indeed in Britain give up our illusions and return to realities. And in this general industrial policy you can be certain that Mr. Heath will stand firm. We hope that as a result of the new Industrial Relations Bill, which should become law during the summer, that we shall get ourselves out of our present difficulties. It may take a year or so to do this. Attitudes cannot be changed overnight. I am confident, however, that we shall succeed, and I think that the British character will show that we can. However much Trade Union opposition there may be to the Bill, it seems to me unlikely that there will be a resort to extreme measures and that as soon as the Bill becomes law, there will be a psychological change. Those one day protest strikes about which you have all heard were not unanimously supported and were certainly highly unpopular with the public. Indeed, the TUC have decided against further industrial action and though organized labour is still committed to a sort of passive resistance to the Bill, it does seem more likely now that both the TUC and the member unions will, when the Bill becomes law, learn to live with it.
I believe that the fact that a secret ballot is one of the most important features of the new Bill means that we shall see a considerable change of attitude among workers in Britain and that wildcat strikes will be greatly reduced as a result of the penalties which are also included under the new legislation. Let me add this too: there is no doubt from recent polls in the country that the great majority of the electorate are in favour of this new legislation. It was indeed largely as a result of the Conservative promises to introduce it at the General Election that ensured that the Party was returned to power. It is curious that the present Opposition are not able to sustain objections to details of the Bill. Although there will undoubtedly be protracted debates in the House of Lords on the subject it is certain that it will become law since the Conservative Party have a considerable majority in the Upper House.
We in Britain worry a great deal about the strike situation, yet we must not forget that in terms of actual working days lost, our record compares pretty well with Canada and the United States--witness the American Automobile Industry strike at the end of last year and earlier go-slows and strikes by Canadian Post Office workers which I think were overall more protracted than our own Post Office strike.
Britain has been through a period of transformation. We had to dismantle our Empire leaving, I believe, many good things behind. We have learned now to earn our own living witness our great export trade and the fact that last year we had a record balance of payments surplus of well over £ 600 million. (Surplus trading nations in 1970 were: 1. Japan, 2. UK, 3. Canada.) We have now, I believe, learned not to rest on our laurels. In recent years we have been going through a period of cushioning these transformations. But this cushioning process cannot go on indefinitely, and it is against this cushioning that the present Government has set its face.The Aircraft Industry
But my object today is to say something generally and particularly about our industrial and scientific achievements. Although it would be more natural to deal with science first, I am primarily concentrating on industry because I think it is of more interest to you.
In the aircraft industry I think we should put the problem of the RB 211 into perspective. Rolls in fact build the power plant for a number of other aircraft in addition to the Lockheed 1011--36 aircraft in all. They build the Adour engine for the Jaguar strike aircraft in collaboration with Turbomeca in France. A number of versions of the Spey engine are also being developed and produced jointly by Rolls Royce and the Allison Division of General Motors (the firm of Ling, Temco Vaught Aircraft) to power the LTV-A7 Corsair close support aircraft. And then, of course, with the French SNECMA they are building the Olympus 593 (power plant) for the Concorde and also the M45H with SNECMA for the VWF 614 short-haul passenger transport. They are also building a lift engine RB193 with MAN of Germany, and then of course the Pegasus is the power plant for the Harrier Vertical Take-off Aircraft which, as you know, has been ordered not only by the Royal Air Force but also by the United States Marines, and it is thought that various other Air Forces within NATO will also need it. With Allison, Rolls are also involved in a project for a high thrust-weight-volume ratio lift-jet engine suitable for a wide variety of vertical and short take-off and landing applications. All these quite apart from the well-known engines such as the Dart and NENE etc. which have proved themselves in the past. So although the RB 211 has perhaps been the most expensive of all their projects, the Company is involved in manufacturing and developing a wide range of engines and it is only because of the RB 211 that they have been brought to this difficult situation.
And in the aircraft industry, which employs some 236,000 people, we think not only of Rolls but also of the British Aircraft Corporation and the BAC 111, the short and medium range transport aircraft of which over 200 have been sold, including 94 to South, Central and North America alone. I have already mentioned the Jaguar tactical support aircraft in which BAC are collaborating with Breguet in France, and then, of course, they are also playing the lead in the development of the multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) plus a wide range of guided missiles in collaboration with MBB (Messerschmidt, Bulkow, Blohm) in Germany and Fiat in Italy.
In the field of international co-operation, I should of course mention again the magnificent supersonic airliner Concorde which is being developed by BAC and SUD Aviation.
Hawker Siddeley are, as you know, a go-ahead and highly commercial company which does not seek launching aid from the Government in building its aircraft, e.g. the very successful HS 125 Executive Jet, which Beech Aircraft Corporation market in the United States and Atlantic Aviation market in Canada. And there is also the HS 748, the short and medium range turbo prop airliner of which 67 have been sold to Central, South and North America. I believe I am right in saying that nearly every President in South America possesses one! As you know, Hawker Siddeley also build the very successful medium reconnaissance and anti-submarine aircraft Nimrod which is a highly sophisticated development of the Comet and is now in service with the Royal Air Force. They also build the successful Trident 1 and its stretched version, Trident 3, which are medium-short haul jet airliners. It is they too that as I say are building the Harrier VTOL strike fighter, and of course they are heavily involved, again on a commercial basis, in the production of the wings for the A.300-B European Air Bus. Then too, Short Brothers and Harland build the Skyvan, which is a very successful light utility transport aircraft. And now there is the 3-engined light aircraft, the Trilander, which is being built on the Isle of Wight as well as in Rumania and follows the very successful Islander.Helicopters
Westland are also building a wide range of helicopters in collaboration with the French--the WG13 which is a medium sized helicopter for general naval and civil purposes, the SA 330 medium size all weather helicopter and the SA 341 all purpose lightweight helicopter. As well as these new projects, of course they also have in production a range of highly successful military and civil helicopters such as the Sea King, the Wessex which has reached the Mark 5 stage, and the Whirlwind too is still being used together with Scouts, Wasps and Sioux machines.
So we must not think that because it may not be possible to go ahead with the RB 211 in the Lockheed aircraft that the British aircraft industry is not very fully engaged and does not have a great number of successes to its credit.Hovercraft
In hovercraft too, which is I think of special interest to you in Canada, the British Hovercraft industry offers a range of ten craft from the 160-ton SRN 4 to the single-seat Hoverlark. It must be remembered that although the industry has been actively engaged in the manufacture of hovercraft for over ten years, vehicles have been in commercial service for little more than four years. Designs are such that they can be adapted to suit a wide range of requirements.
Hoverrail (see Financial Times, March 11, 1971)
We also have great hopes for our own Hoverrail, a prototype train which will be in operation this summer and which will travel at the rate of 250 miles an hour. This is expected to be a considerable advance on the French and German models and indeed has been assessed by the US Department of Transportation to be the most economical of the three possible candidates.Cars
Apart from the Ford strike in Britain, British cars too are holding their own. Of all the cars manufactured in the United Kingdom 50 percent are exported overseas. And let no one under-estimate the demand for Rolls Royce cars the automobile section of that particular company is both thriving and profitable as indeed is the marine engine division and will continue to be so irrespective of the outcome of the latest aero-engine problem. British Leyland are indeed selling extensively all over the world. They expect to sell nearly 500,000 models of its four-door high performance Toledo car in Europe alone in the coming year and have plans to increase their sales in Canada markedly in 1971/72.Electric Cars
And I might add here that our development of electric battery vehicles too is well in advance of other countries. This is particularly important in view of the problems of environmental pollution of the atmosphere. In fact the United Kingdom already operates some 40,000 electric cars on the roads--more than any other country at present they are principally used for milk deliveries. But details have recently been released of the new Enfield 8000 electric car for private use. At the moment a range of 80 miles is achievable at cruising speed without stops although this is of course reduced to 50 miles under town conditions. Assuming an average use to be 5,000 miles a year, some 3 to 4 years of operation could be expected after which the batteries would have to be replaced. Living in the polluted atmospheres of cities as many of us do, clearly these vehicles have a great future, and already the Russians and the Japanese are showing a great interest in them. We are trying them out is buses for city centre operation, when probably electric storage heating which can be charged at the same time as the engine batteries, can also be installed.Atomic Energy
On atomic energy, I have already said that we generate more electricity by this means than any other country in the world, and although I know that we compete very much with the United States and Canada in the export of reactors, we are I understand the front-runner in Australia with our Steam Generating Heavy Water Reactor. Here again we have a good range of reactors suitable for varying demands.Isotopes
We also have a remarkable record in the exporting of isotopes--these have a thousand or more uses in modern industry, in medicine, agriculture and so on, and our Radiochemical Centre supplies over 2,000 products to well over 5,000 users throughout the world at a rate of more than a thousand orders a week. .The New Fuel Companies
I believe that the two new fuel companies which have been established under our Atomic Energy Bill and which are already registered and will become operational on 1st April, are to take over the work formerly done by the Atomic Energy Authority in Britain. They have considerable prospects of success.
We are also pressing ahead with the development of carbon fibre materials and although these have not yet proved entirely satisfactory for the RB 211 aero-engine itself, they have many other applications in aerospace where the high stiffness, strength and relative lightness can permit significant weight savings in component design. As I expect you know, carbon fibre composites are those in which the carbon fibre is incorporated into plastics or resin matrices. Government research and development in its own establishments, the AERE, in industry and in the universities, is aimed at helping the exploitation of these carbon fibres in aerospace and other industries as quickly and widely as practicable. Uses have already been found for it in general engineering, the manufacture of racing and sports cars, boat building, chemical plant, medical items, dry bearings and sports gear. The main industrial exploitation of carbon fibres, however, still lies in the vast aerospace market, and the vital basic development of this new material was carried out at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough.Computers
We are the only nation in Western Europe as I have said which possesses a powerful indigenous and independent computer industry. ICL supplies almost half of the UK market and exports more than a third of its output to 70 countries. They also have a close association with ICCL (International Computers of Canada Limited). Together with the progressive GEC Group and the British firm of Ferranti, they recognize the need to broaden the market base in order to compete more effectively with the powerful American industry and IBM in particular. Of course the fast pace of technological advance in the computer field imposes considerable burdens on manufacturers in the shape of the high continuing R & D expenditure and a high rate of obsolescence of equipment. Although ICL is on its own making good progress in the face of IBM's domination, they are adopting an international industrial strategy by joining with the French CII company and the American Control Data Corporation with a view to achieving greater sales potential and saving duplication of both research and development.
The need for European industry to concentrate on common standards is generally recognized, and in the field of computers Britain has a major contribution to make.Pollution
We have also, as you know, advanced far in antipollution measures. As a result of the "Clean Air Act" and the use of smokeless fuels, the famous London fog is now, thank God, a thing of the past. And, insofar as rivers are concerned, it is gratifying to know that it is now again possible to catch a sea trout in the Thames. I do commend to you the report which was recently issued by our Royal Commission on "Environmental Pollution".Desalting of Water
Another subject of importance to the future economy of the world is the desalting of water. It is a fact that 50% of the desalting plant currently in operation throughout the world was built by British industry. This is only a beginning.Super-Conductivity
We are very active in the field of super-conductivity which will make it possible for extremely powerful magnets to be produced for use in high energy physics in the future.Radar
It must be well-known that we invented radar but perhaps it is not so widely known that about one half of the world's shipping is equipped with modern radar made by only one British firm.Lasers
Many British companies are actively engaged in research and development of lasers and their uses, and recent achievements are their application to methods of obtaining exact precision in the cutting of machine tools, drilling holes in industrial diamonds and also in telecommunications.Agricultural Research
In the agricultural field, it is well known that we developed the Proctor strain of barley while our agricultural machinery industry exports annually well over L 100 million worth of goods each year.Medical Research
Then in the field of medicine, we are not still basking in the glory of penicillin, discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming. Our powered artificial limbs are among the most advanced in the world; the Melrose Heart and Lung machine which enables long and delicate operations to be performed on the heart was evolved in the United Kingdom. Through our Government sponsored Medical Research Council the group of anti-biotics called cephalosporins was discovered. And very recently they have found that the new drug Rifampicin has a great contribution to make to the treatment of leprosy as well as an ability to attack an enzyme by which viruses act. This could be an important clue to anti-viral agents. Additionally, it is possible that a major step forward is being made now in the understanding of cancer, for Professor Harris and his colleagues at Oxford have shown that the malignant characteristics of certain cell nuclei can be suppressed by transplanting them into other cells--terrifying, but it may save thousands of lives in the future.Ammonia
Our Chemical industry--and in particular ICI--have developed the steam-naphtha process for the manufacture of ammonia which is more economic and more efficient than ammonia produced from coal.Fabrics
Terylene and Polythene were British inventions.Plate Glass
The invention of the float glass process by Pilkingtons has replaced in a few years the traditional method of making plate glass and every one of our competitors in the Western World has taken licences from Pilkingtons in order to hold its own.General
And believe me, it doesn't end here. I could go on and on but I have just given you these few examples to show you that we are not only a nation of the latest pop music, miniskirts and hot pants. "The old country", as I still sometimes hear it called, must not be under-rated as one of the world's powerful scientific nations. Of course we have had our troubles with Rolls and the odd insurance company but this is perhaps inevitable while we go through this current transformation period.To Summarize:
Our Government is determined to control inflationary wage demands and stabilize prices. It is also determined to rid our industry of the illusion that if it gets into financial difficulties it has only to appeal for help from a Government-sponsored Industrial Reorganization Corporation which provided in the past a sort of "begging bowl" for firms unable to stand on their own feet. Our Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has expressed the view that he thinks "1971 will be the year which will see us start to move over the top of the hill--but it will be a hard slog."
The Government's task is made easier because the people of Britain themselves want this to happen. The unemployment figures in Britain are for us high at the present time, but the tide is turning. More and more unions are recognizing the need for greater productivity, and pay settlements are now including productivity clauses almost as a matter of course. Many world prices of raw materials such as wool, rubber and copper are falling. This should help as will national savings--these have doubled in the last year. With goodwill, co-operation (and a little luck) from the people themselves--and the present Government certainly has this inflation could, as a result of Mr. Heath's tough policy, be in check by the spring of next year with wages and prices operating at reasonable levels. Production could be rising, and unemployment falling.
So that's the prospect. I said I would speak to you about our scientific and industrial achievements and I have perhaps covered a slightly wider range, but it is in the self-interests of everyone in the Western World to know that we are fast becoming a strong Britain. As I have already said, our balance of payments is now running at a surplus of well over £ 600 million a year and this should continue. Exports are thriving orders are flooding in for all we make from aircraft to pottery. The £ is healthier than for many a day. Our reserves are the highest for twenty years. We are paying off much of the foreign debt that has been a millstone round our neck--£ 200 million were repaid last month alone.
We, you and I, come from countries with long and proud historical backgrounds. That this is so is because our ancestors had courage to prepare for our future. We have the tools to continue in this pattern and we must all do so.
The gratitude of the Club was expressed by Mr. John H. Hall, Chairman, The Royal Commonwealth Society.