HC Deb 19 December 1967 vol 756 cc1066-7
20. Mr. Dobson

asked the Minister of Technology what special facilities exist in his Department for giving advice to small firms in need of technological or scientific information.

Mr. Benn

My Department has established a national network of 63 industrial liaison centres at technical colleges and universities specifically to advise small firms how to make greater use of existing technological and scientific information.

Mr. Dobson

I thank my right hon. Friend for that Reply. Will he accept that small firms generally seem to have little opportunity of finding out what assistance and advice is available to them in the Ministry? Will he consider going further and setting up, on the United States model, small business agencies which will assist small firms?

Mr. Benn

I think that if my hon. Friend looks at the various services which exist he will find that there is plenty of opportunity to get access to the production engineering advisory service, the low cost automation centres, the use of new industrial units, and that the "Neddy" office has published a handbook on productivity services which meets the need which he has in mind.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that one of the most effective things that he can do to help small firms is to get better co-ordination between the activities of the Secretary of State for Education and Science and himself over resources such as library facilities and data, and that, in so far as his Department is concerned, computery perhaps has a part to play, otherwise he should keep out of the hair of these small firms.

Mr. Benn

The hon. Gentleman really cannot be in touch with the firms which have used the services, because what we are doing is providing a communication net on to which they can connect. As regards contact between myself and the Department of Education and Science, the latter runs the Office of Scientific and Technical Information, and discussions are going on to see how this can be broadened to help industry more generally.