Computers

Oral Answers to Questions — Industry – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th April 1976.

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Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford 12:00 am, 5th April 1976

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he expects to receive the sectoral industry report concerning the computer industry from NEDC.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Minister of State (Department of Industry)

The tripartite group carrying out the computer industry sectoral study has been asked to submit its first report to the NEDC by early June.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

Can the Minister say whether what he referred to as the tripartite group report will be delayed following the squabble between various unions, especially Mr. Jenkins' union ASTMS, which meant there were no trade union representatives present at the first meeting of this group?

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Minister of State (Department of Industry)

I know that the hon. Gentleman has a serious interest in the computer industry. He does that interest no credit with this kind of muck-raking.

Photo of Mr Gordon Wilson Mr Gordon Wilson , Dundee East

Will the Minister give an assurance that when the report is received he will seek to abolish the single tender scheme in the public sector, which favours the English ICL manufacturer against the Scottish computers produced by IBM, NCR and Burroughs? Does he realise that this does immense harm to Scottish jobs in the computer industry?

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Minister of State (Department of Industry)

The hon. Member must be complimented on extending his Scottish nationalism across the Atlantic. I have had consultations with both Burroughs, whose presence I welcome, and Honeywell, which has recently received an extremely good order for a university computer. I am anxious that both companies should provide maximum employment, but I have made clear to them that I am not prepared to undermine the position of the only wholly-British owned computer company.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the nature of that reply——

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. I was going to call the hon. Member for another supplementary question. If hon. Members ask briefer supplementary questions it may be possible for hon. Members who asked the original Questions sometimes to get a second bite of the cherry. Mr. Gwilym Roberts.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Roberts Mr Gwilym Roberts , Cannock

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the problem of computers spreads well beyond data processing, and will he ensure that the use of computers in other spheres, including control and automation, is taken into account in this inquiry?

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Minister of State (Department of Industry)

I am well aware of my hon. Friend's long interest in this matter and I shall certainly take full account of what he says.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

Will the Minister refrain from muck-throwing and deal with the substantive point raised in my earlier question?

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Minister of State (Department of Industry)

I am not prepared to become involved in personalities in the way the hon. Members seeks. This is a constructive tripartite group and we are looking forward to its report so that various matters can be studied and reported upon later.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Industry

Will the Minister take this question seriously? It appears that my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) is trying to find out whether there is a case for ensuring that there is full union representation in these discussions. It also appears that the Minister has not grasped the importance of this matter. Will he now answer the question in the terms in which it was put?

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Minister of State (Department of Industry)

The terms in which it was put were offensive, and I refuse, however much provoked, to respond in an offensive way, because it is not in my nature. We look forward to constructive tripartite discussions and a satisfactory report.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the nature of that reply, I give notice that I intend to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the first opportunity.