HC Deb 27 July 1965 vol 717 cc213-4
14. Mr. Ron Lewis

asked the Minister of Technology what discussions he is having with the computer industry in Great Britain to expand production to meet foreign competition, with particular reference to modern design and price.

Mr. Cousins

My Department keeps in close touch with computer manufacturers on all these matters.

Mr. Lewis

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that it is not design or price but rapidity of introduction and new equipment by British manufacturers which matters?

Mr. Cousins

This is the criticism that has been made against the British computer industry very frequently. It is not so much design or price. It can be argued whether a particular design is the most suitable one, but there have been considerable delays in the introduction of new equipment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), on the last occasion of a technology debate, drew attention to the fact that he had been giving particular attention to the question of software. We also have been giving some attention to this and hope that the British computer industry will recognise that that is one of its failings and help us in that direction.

Mr. Maxwell

Would my right hon. Friend consider inviting British computer manufacturers to put forward a design for a computer which could be used in schools, because the industry will not have sufficient people who know how to use computers unless we begin training them, as in the United States and the U.S.S.R., at school? Furthermore, will he bear in mind that the successful design and manufacture of cheap computers for schools would be of tremendous export value?

Mr. Cousins

One of the British computer manufacturers is already tackling this. It forms part of our discussions with the Department of Education and Science, because we, too, believe that there needs to be training of young people in the use of computers.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

In order to keep part of world trade looking towards this part of Europe, has the Minister any views on the suggested merger between an English computer firm and a French one?

Mr. Cousins

This is a different question. It was raised a little earlier on another question, probably before the hon. Gentleman entered the Chamber. I have said that this is, in some cases, a matter for commercial interests in the first instance. They have drawn my attention, as the Minister responsible, to this, and we shall be dealing with it at some time.