HC Deb 01 December 1969 vol 792 cc894-5
9. Mr. David Howell

asked the Minister of Technology what steps he is taking to return industrial research functions at present carried out in Government research establishments to private industry.

Mr. Benn

The Government research establishments are not carrying out functions which were formerly those of private industry. Closer co-operation between the establishments and industry is being encouraged and my Department is continuing to contract out to private industry as much as possible of its research and development work.

Mr. Howell

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that when I last pressed him on the possibility of transferring functions at present in the research establishments back to private industry, he said that the tax reductions which I said were necessary to encourage firms to take on these functions lay outside his responsibility? Now that the right hon. Gentleman has acquired a bigger economic empire, can he see whether they are within his responsibility and take action accordingly?

Mr. Benn

The tax concessions point certainly is not within my responsibility and I am not sure that the relevance of it to the hon. Gentleman's point is as clear as he suggests. The amount of research and development in industry financed by my Department is three times as great as that which is done intra-murally, and I have already adopted measures designed to encourage co-operation between our establishments and industry.

Mr. Snow

Is the spin-off from research establishments under my right hon. Friend's control given adequate commercial exploitation?

Mr. Benn

Of course. N.R.D.C. has a responsibility of one kind, and I have set up industrial units, notably in the Royal Radar Establishment at Malvern, with this point in mind. As the result of our work, the awareness of the establishments of the need to encourage industry to exploit the spin-off is pretty well understood.