HC Deb 22 February 1965 vol 707 cc3-4
3. Mr. Gresham Cooke

asked the Minister of Labour what estimate he has made of the additional manpower to be made available to industry over each of the next three years by reason of the introduction of automation.

Mr. Gunter

It has not been found practicable to make year by year estimates of this kind. The Manpower Research Unit's study No. 1 concluded that over the next five years the effect of technological changes on total manpower was expected to be quite marked in particular sectors of employment but that in very few cases could the effects be ascribed specifically to automation in the strict sense or to the introduction of computers. With fewer extra workers becoming available the general effect of the technological changes would be to help alleviate manpower shortages.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Could we not have a definite assessment, say three years hence, because the number of computers now coming into industry virtually daily must be making more labour available in both clerical and manual trades? Could the right hon. Gentleman not set a target, say three years hence, so that we could see what the position is at that time?

Mr. Gunter

I would be reluctant to set targets, but I appreciate the importance of making proper assessments.

Mr. Godber

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the latest unemployment figures show the need to do our utmost in this way to alleviate the call on skilled manpower at present and, therefore, the need for industry to make the greatest use of these methods?

Mr. Gunter

Yes. I do agree with that.

Sir C. Osborne

Would the Minister say why there is a shortage of labour when automation is persistently releasing labour?

Mr. Gunter

No. I would rather that question were directed to my precedessor in office.

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