HC Deb 23 April 1964 vol 693 cc1477-8
1. Mr. Stratton Mills

asked the Minister of Power if he will give a general direction, in the public interest, to the National Coal Board to use British computers where such machines are available.

2. Mr. Pounder

asked the Minister of Power if he is aware of the policy of the National Coal Board in purchasing American computers; and if he will give a general direction in the public interest to the Board to use British computers.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power (Mr. John Peyton)

The National Coal Board is a substantial customer of the British computer industry. I would not regard a general direction on this subject as appropriate.

Mr. Stratton Mills

Is my hon. Friend aware that recently the National Coal Board bought an I.B.M. machine for £150,000 and that British industry is facing intense competition in this field and is in danger of annihilation unless public bodies like the National Coal Board support British technology? Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that he will have discussions with the Board regarding future policy?

Mr. Peyton

I have no doubt that the Chairman of the National Coal Board will note what my hon. Friend has said. I think I should make it clear that my information is that all data processing equipment now used by the National Coal Board is, in fact, rented and not purchased, the bulk of which is British made.

Mr. Pounder

Furthermore, is not my hon. Friend a ware, also within the scope of his Ministry, that the last orders placed by the Midlands, Eastern and South-Western Electricity Boards have all been for equipment supplied by United States companies and that the equipment could have been supplied on time and at competitive prices by British industry?

Mr. Peyton

I do not think that that arises on this Question, though the Answer that I have given, that I do not regard this matter as one which is appropriate for a direction, would stand even here.

Mr. Lawson

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that American computers are now being built in Scotland, notably at Newhouse in Lanarkshire, and that they will, in fact, be built from the ground up? Will he do nothing to discourage the work of good American firms in this country?

Mr. Peyton

I shall certainly do nothing to discourage the work of good American firms in this country, particularly in Lanarkshire.

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