HC Deb 27 July 1965 vol 717 cc216-7
17. Mr. Fisher

asked the Minister of Technology what measures he is now taking to encourage the modernisation of British industry and to make it more competitive in world markets.

Mr. Cousins

I would refer the hon. Member to the full account I gave of my Department's activities in the debate on 14th July.

Mr. Fisher

Quite apart from the strictures of the Estimates Committee, which are very serious, would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that one of the most helpful steps that he personally could take to make British industry more competitive in world markets would be to support the incomes policy of the Cabinet of which he is a member? Does he support that policy or that of the Transport and General Workers' Union? If it is the latter, he ought, in decency, to resign from the Government.

Mr. Speaker

There has been rather a lot of noise. The hon. Gentleman was asking about the modernising of British industry.

Mr. Cousins

Could I deal with the relevant part of the question? I was reminded of the strictures of the the Estimates Committee. It would not be my wish at this time to make a comment about this. I shall do so at the appropriate time, but I would remind the hon. Gentleman that these great strictures which were made—and not the way they were reported in the Press—were that we had not put people from industry on the appraisal committees, a fact which I denied a few moments ago by giving the names of some members of one of the main committees. Another of the strictures was that there had been a delay in making appointments and that there was topheaviness of structure. I hope that this House will at some time get round to the idea that it is much more important to know whether we are going to put the British computer industry, or any other industry, on its feet, rather than whether I have two deputy secretaries in my Department.

Mr. John Page

Will the right hon. Gentlemen remember the advice of his hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray) and throw his weight about in Whitehall rather more? Will he try to persuade his hon. and right hon. Friends to use the purchasing power of Government and local government agencies to place orders only with companies and firms which are using modern equipment and techniques?

Mr. Cousins

This is part of the approach which my Ministry is making to other Government Departments. When we get down to the question of bringing practical issues before the House, I wonder how many hon. Members opposite would support the idea that we should throw our weight about to place orders where we want.

Mr. Woodburn

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is a sad reflection on the so-called attributes of private enterprise that they have to be so dependent on his Ministry encouraging them to do what they ought to have been doing long ago?