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.
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?
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.
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?
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?