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A.E.I.-G.E.C. Laboratory, Rugby (Scientists and Technicians)

Oral Answers to Questions — Technology – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th March 1968.

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Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby 12:00 am, 18th March 1968

asked the Minister of Technology what steps he is taking to ensure that scientists and technicians involved in the Associated Electrical Industries-General Electric Corporation laboratory closure in Rugby do not join the brain drain.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

The company has assured me that it expects to be able to absorb almost all of these staff in other parts of its organisation, either at Rugby or elsewhere.

Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, despite that assurance, teams of scientists and technicians are being broken up and some of the staff will go to America rather than move to London? What is he doing to ensure that one of the finest research laboratories in Britain is saved from the effects of this merger?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

I could not accept the doctrine that one must at all costs always keep all design teams together. If that were so, it would not be possible to have the benefits of mobility of labour. In the case of these laboratory staff, totalling about 225, of the 129 graduates, 104 have already received offers of alternative employment and others are likely to be placed. There has been a difference of policy as between A.E.I., which centralised its research, and G.E.C., which dispersed its development. I do not think that my hon. Friend's anxieties are all that justified.

Photo of Sir David Price Sir David Price , Eastleigh

Does not this issue raise a much wider problem? I have come across individual instances among the staff involved of failure by this Government or the previous Government to arrange for transferability of pension rights so that people who are redundant in a design team may move somewhere else within the British economy, without being faced by the alternative of staying where they are on unsatisfactory terms or emigrating.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

I recognise, as everyone does, the importance of transferability of pensions. This is a very big question, and it runs counter to the doctrine of many companies which use pensions in order to recruit and hold staff. This particular company is paying the personal costs of transfer to Wembley and is reviewing salaries to try to meet the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. William Price) about the extra cost of living in London.