HC Deb 15 February 1966 vol 724 cc1094-5
18. Mr. Longbottom

asked the Minister of Technology what estimates he has made of the shortage of computing staff in Great Britain.

Mr. Marsh

There are no precise figures, but there are currently shortages of most types of computer staff. The immediate pressures are for programmers and systems analysts with three or four years' experience. We are planning in conjunction with the Department of Education and Science to see that the educational system is geared to meet future requirements.

Mr. Longbottom

What immediate steps, other than the National Computer Centre—which seems rather a paper tiger—does the Minister intend to take to deal with this serious situation?

Mr. Marsh

I must first make the point that the serious situation arises because there is an insufficiency of people with three or four years' experience. The blame for that can hardly be laid on this side of the House. Secondly, it would be regrettable for hon. Members opposite to start underplaying the value of the National Computing Centre before it has even had time to go into action. Thirdly, the Department of Education and Science has set up a group to deal exclusively with the whole, question of computer education.

Mr. Snow

Is my hon. Friend aware that the chairman of one very large British computer manufacturing organisation takes the view that the training of this highly qualified staff should be a joint venture with the other companies, including the large American company to which I think he referred a moment or two ago, and that directors of education should be better informed about the capacity of these firms?

Mr. Marsh

We have in the Ministry a computer advisory group which is discussing this problem, not only with British computer companies but with American companies as well, because we all have an interest in getting as many of these people as possible.

Mr. Marples

But can the hon. Gentleman assure us that the existing computer staff is being used in the most economical way? In other words, can he assure us that the Government, the local authorities and the nationalised industries are not using these scarce scientific people and having their efforts duplicated over various authorities?

Mr. Marsh

There is a great distance to go before we use either computers or people to the fullest extent here. If the right hon. Gentleman has any specific cases in mind, we will certainly be prepared to look at them.