HC Deb 15 February 1966 vol 724 cc1100-1
25. Mr. Younger

asked the Minister of Technology if he will make a statement on the results of his sponsorship of the electronics industry.

26. Mr. Gower

asked the Minister of Technology what are the results to date of his sponsorship of the telecommunications industry.

Mr. Cousins

The principal function of my Department as sponsor for these industries is to establish and maintain close contact with them in all day-to-day and longer term matters. This is a continuing process ranging over all the activities of these industries. If the hon. Members have any specific matters in mind and will put down Questions, I will try to answer them in detail.

Mr. Younger

Is the Minister aware that there is widespread disappointment with the results he has so far achieved in this industry? Is he aware that these are centred, in particular, on the lack of frequency in contact with the industry and the quality of that contact when it comes? Can he explain to the House how on earth it came about that he allowed his right hon. Friend to let office equipment go without investment allowance under the new scheme?

Mr. Cousins

The final part of that supplementary question is a separate question and needs to be put on the Order Paper. It is not a question for this Minister. To suggest that the industry is distressed at the nature of its contacts and the frequency of association is just not to understand what the industry is doing with us. Hon. Members opposite asked me in the first instance—because of the complicated nature of these two industries—not to rush into making statements of what we would do with them, but to study closely what is possible. Study contacts have been taking place into the possible use of metal oxydised semi-conductor transistorised equipment, which is an important aspect of equipment development. It cannot be said that in what we are doing we are not taking action.

Mr. Gower

In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has assumed the sponsorship of these industries, can he say how we can assess the value of that sponsorship unless he gives further progress reports from time to time?

Mr. Cousins

There is a little misunderstanding about what sponsorship is. Sponsorship means that industries which have problems can come to the Minister and get guidance to deal with them. I do not have to make a statement every time any of them comes to me. I apologise that this answer is slightly longer, but this is a technical and difficult problem which is bound to call for a long answer.

Mr. Woodburn

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, whatever may happen to hon. Members opposite, the leaders of industry who sat with them on these committees before he became a Minister understand that he understands the job and is doing it very well indeed?

Mr. Biffen

The right hon. Gentleman said that industries will come to him when they have problems. Can he tell the House if he has had such an approach made by the electronics industry about the Government's aircraft procurement policy, and what answers he gave?

Mr. Cousins

They have not approached us about procurement policy in the detailed sense. They have done so in the broad sense. When one examines procurement policy it is not so easy to define what action should be taken over the whole range of industry.