HC Deb 10 February 1959 vol 599 c995
34. Mr. Zilliacus

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will appoint a committee of inquiry into the importance of automation as a means of cheapening and speeding up production and making British goods competitive on the international market on the one hand, and on the other to report on the reorganisation of the economic system necessary to prevent automation resulting in large-scale unemployment.

Mr. J. Rodgers

The Board has already conducted a survey of industry's plans for automation and some of the problems involved. The results were published in the Board of Trade Journal a year ago. I do not think that we can usefully carry general inquiries further, but I shall continue to watch developments in this field with the greatest of interest.

Mr. Zilliacus

While thanking the hon. Gentleman for his reply, may I ask him whether he agrees that we are in danger of getting into a dilemma on this issue? On the one hand, unless we speed up automation, we shall fall behind in the export markets as compared with countries that are introducing automation rapidly, and, on the other hand, if we do introduce automation rapidly, is there not a danger of the same thing happening here as has already happened in the United States, where there are between 3 and 4 million unemployed?

Mr. Rodgers

That is indeed a fair statement of the case. But I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that, through various instruments, the Treasury is doing a great deal of research work into the problem through the N.R.D.C., the D.S.I.R., the A.E.A., the Ministry of Supply, and the Admiralty.