Information Storage and Retrieval

Oral Answers to Questions — Civil Service – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th June 1980.

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Photo of Mr John Osborn Mr John Osborn , Sheffield, Hallam 12:00 am, 25th June 1980

asked the Minister for the Civil Service what progress has been made with technology agreements within Government Departments so that best use can be made of computerised office equipment, modern telematics and information, and computerised storage and retrieval.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

A great deal of equipment incorporating recent developments in technology is used in Government Departments. Full advantage of computerised equipment and other forms of new technology will continue to be taken. We should much prefer to introduce this equipment with the active co-operation of the Civil Service unions and discussions are taking place with that intention.

Photo of Mr John Osborn Mr John Osborn , Sheffield, Hallam

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that, following the Select Committee visit to the United States—since I tabled this question—there is ample evidence there, in Government Departments and commercial offices, of the use of word processors, microfiche and terminals for video screens. Is it not a fact that his Department has taken a long time to achieve the co-operation which already exists in other countries?

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

There is a large number of microcomputers in operation in the Civil Service already. About 250 word processors and 500 automatic typewriters are being used and more are in train. However, I take my hon. Friend's point and I shall continue to examine it as a matter of the greatest urgency.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Keighley

How can the Minister expect co-operation when he and his Government are using the Civil Service as a whipping boy for their own mistaken policies and while the Government are embarking on slashing cuts in numbers in the Service? Does not the right hon. Gentleman anticipate that civil servants will be concerned to preserve and maintain jobs? Does he realise that, in such circumstances, they will not be prepared to collaborate with a Government who are determined to destroy jobs and add to the enormously long dole queues?

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

I think that the hon. Gentleman wholly misrepresents the position. The Civil Service unions have, traditionally, always taken a most constructive attitude to the introduction of new technology and I have every reason to believe that they will continue to do so.

Photo of Mr John Butcher Mr John Butcher , Coventry South West

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the best way to encourage and build the development of the British information technology in dustry is through an enlightened and coordinated Government purchasing policy, and that the best vehicle for making such decision might be the Department of Industry?

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

Yes, I think I agree with my hon. Friend. I shall draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry.