HC Deb 24 June 1968 vol 767 cc18-20
9 and 10. Mr. David Howell

asked the Minister of Technology (1) what location he has decided for the proposed European Technological Centre;

(2) what will be the number of staff required for the proposed European Technological Centre.

19. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Minister of Technology what plans his Department has to further the establishment of a European Institute of Technology and an international Atlantic research centre; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Benn

Discussions with European Governments and industrial organisations about the European Technological Centre are continuing. The other proposal which is being developed under the auspices of the North Atlantic Assembly is for an academic research and teaching institute for science and technology, and it is for industry and the universities to decide what support they would give to this proposal.

Mr. Howell

Is there not a striking contrast between the speed with which the Government seem prepared to withdraw from some European technological efforts, such as the C.E.R.N. particle accelerator, and the slowness with which they get on with this kind of technological initiative in this field? Is there not a widespread feeling amongst our Continental friends that we must be more specific and define more clearly what the functions and aims of this kind of thing are?

Mr. Benn

I doubt whether there is much doubt in the minds of our European colleagues about this, because I have taken the opportunity of discussing this with a number of European Ministers—most recently in Denmark a few days ago. The object of the European centre was that it should be to a very large extent industrially based and motivated. Here we shall want to carry European industry with us. That is why the discussions are going on in this way. This is not a political initiative but a very serious industrial initiative.

Mr. Roberts

Will not my right hon. Friend accept, however, that the speedy development of both these technological centres is vital to our technological advance? Will he not further accept that there should be some level of Government intervention in the Atlantic research project?

Mr. Benn

The second point is not for me, as my hon. Friend will realise from the Answer that I have given. On the first point, we have played a leading part in discussing this proposal and have been, generally speaking, encouraged by the response we have received.

Mr. David Price

Can the Minister tell the House the Government's precise purpose in the European Technological Centre, because he will appreciate that a number of different purposes have been put forward in relation to the phrase "a European Technological Centre"? It would assist the House if the right hon. Gentleman could define it a little more precisely.

Mr. Benn

The object of the Centre is that European industry together should analyse the forward demand, particularly in the fields of advanced technology, and then analyse the existing industrial capability in Europe and see whether, by inter-industrial and inter-governmental action, Europe can be helped to meet more of its own needs and provide the home base upon which it can compete with Americans and others and develop an export market in this field.

Mr. Moonman

Will my right hon. Friend comment on the fact that within the last few months plans have been announced to establish two management-type technological institutes of the type he has just described? Is there not a danger that, if we do not move fairly soon, we shall need a further organisation to avoid overlap and duplication of all these technological institutes?

Mr. Benn

I do not think that is the case. I think that as Europe grows together, as Europe will grow together, because of the needs of technology, a number of techniques will have to be used to encourage and utilise this development. This is just not a matter of management. We are talking here about the development of European industrial capability.