HC Deb 02 March 1965 vol 707 cc1121-2
13. Captain Orr

asked the Minister of Technology how much was spent during the last full year on Government development contracts in the electronics industry; how much of this sum was spent with wholly owned foreign companies and partly-owned foreign companies, respectfully; what were the countries involved in the ownership, and what amount of money involved relates to each foreign country concerned; and what information he has as to the amount being spent by each country concerned on development contracts with British firms.

Mr. Cousins

So far as my own Department is concerned, the amount provided in the financial year 1964–65 for development contracts placed with the electronics industry by those parts of D.S.I.R. which we are taking over, amounts to about £140,000, two-thirds of which is placed with wholly British-owned companies.

Captain Orr

Is the Minister aware that we are grateful to him for that information? Will he look carefully at the whole situation? May it not be very bad business to subsidise, in effect, research and development for foreign-owned companies whose parent arrangements prevent their competing in exports and thereby adding to British exports? Would it not be a good thing to see whether it is possible to arrange a sort of pound-for-pound reciprocity basis for dealing with this kind of thing?

Mr. Cousins

It is not the best of business propositions to spend money on research and development and then to find oneself limited in the matter of exports by the parentage of the company concerned, but in many instances it is difficult to determine the exact parentage of a company, because of cross-financing. It is sometimes difficult to determine what is a British company. But we will certainly try, wherever possible, through the National Research Development Corporation, to ensure reciprocity for this kind of arrangement.

Mr. Biffen

Does the right hon. Gentleman expect the proportion of two-thirds referred to in his Answer to be substantially altered in any way as a result of his policy statement of yesterday?

Mr. Cousins

It would not be possible to define this, because it is extremely difficult to know what one means by a British firm. The people involved in the electronics industry are particularly aware how difficult it is to define what is a British firm, having regard to the European financing of two of the major companies.