HC Deb 07 March 1968 vol 760 cc628-30
18. Mr. Moyle

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will seek to acquire the land and buildings of the Associated Electrical Industries Advanced Development Laboratories at Blackheath, London, S.E.3, which have been declared surplus to requirement by the General Electric Company, with a view to integrating both the laboratory and the highly skilled research teams into the Post Office's research programme.

33. Mr. Dickens

asked the Postmaster-General if he will seek to acquire the General Electric Company-Associated Electrical Industries factory at Sydenham, London, S.E.26, to enable the Post Office to manufacture telecommunications equipment.

Mr. Edward Short

After careful consideration I have reluctantly concluded that I cannot take over either A.E.I.'s factories or research establishments.

The telecommunications industry's plans for expansion in development areas should be sufficient soon to satisfy my needs for equipment. As regards research, I am already committed to plans to concentrate all of it at Martlesham to improve efficiency and as a dispersal measure.

I shall, however, be very glad to consider applications for employment in the Post Office from any suitably qualified staff whom we can fit into our organisation.

Mr. Moyle

Is my right hon. Friend aware that that is a very disappointing reply, because if this research laboratory closes some valuable research teams will be broken up, that the staff concerned are completely disillusioned with the General Electric Company and that, in any event, the work will be transferred to such notorious areas of underdevelopment as Wembley and Coventry?

Mr. Short

I think that most of the research workers will be absorbed into the G.E.C.'s own research work, and we ourselves will be willing to take some as well. I do not think, therefore, that there is any employment problem. As I have said, the Post Office will concentrate the whole of its research from Dollis Hill and three other places on a 100-acre site near Ipswich on which work has already started.

Mr. Dickens

Is my right hon. Friend aware that whilst the latter part of his reply is helpful, the general tenor of his reply is disappointing in view of the re marks in his speech to a recent telecommunications dinner about the need for an extension of pubilc ownership in telecommunications to offset the failure of private enterprise to supply equipment? Will he not reconsider the need to take over the small purpose-built factory in Sydenham for this purpose?

Mr. Short

The purpose-built factory at Sydenham does not make telephone exchanges, which is our great bottleneck, and it is too small to make them. It makes private telephone equipment. If we took it over, we should have to retool the whole thing. That would be a very long job and there would be no work for the men there in the meantime. As I say, in view of its size, it is doubtful whether that factory would be an economic proposition. If the Post Office is to go into the manufacture of equipment, it will not take over old factories which somebody else has abandoned. It will take over new factories and build things under the best posstible conditions in the development areas.

Mr. Bryan

Does the Post Office at present have power to manufacture?

Mr. Short

Yes, Sir.