HC Deb 17 July 1979 vol 970 cc1284-5
9. Mr. Buchan

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what consideration is being given to the compiling of statistics related to unemployment arising out of developments in the use of microprocessing technology.

Mr. Jim Lester

It would not be practicable to compile unemployment statistics to relate to particular causes of unemployment. The greater threat to employment is if United Kingdom industry fails to adapt to new technology, and I welcome the TUC's recognition of this in its report " Employment and Technology ".

Mr. Buchan

In view of the statement that this would not be practicable, may I remind the Minister that this process is already undertaken in France? Is he aware that, taken together with the devastating Tory cuts in industry, the unemployment to which I refer in my original question is one of the most serious matters the nation faces? We are importing as much microtechnology as we are exporting, and the Government are showing appalling complacency.

Mr. Lester

The Government are not complacent, because my Department set up a study group in microelectronics last July, the report of which we expect in the next two or three months.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

Although the social problems inherent in any structural unemployment must always be taken seriously, may I ask the Minister to take every opportunity to emphasise the enormous potential which this device offers the human race for eliminating both intellectual and physical drudgery?

Mr. Lester

I agree with my hon. Friend. We believe that British industry, by using its initiative, will be able to adapt better to this technology than will our competitors.

Mr. Strang

Is the Minister aware that against a background of policies that can lead only to a massive increase in unemployment the statement by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State this morning, and his own modest support for the TUC's recent report on microelectronics, represent small steps in the right direction? Will he assure the House that the Government will not sabotage the Labour Government's announcement on this area? Will the Government put their weight behind efforts to modernise British industry in applying these developments to important industries, such as machine tools?

Mr. Lester

I am pleased to give that assurance.