HC Deb 20 July 1981 vol 9 cc4-5
3. Mr. Cadbury

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he is satisfied with the level of Government support for research and development in key industrial sectors.

The Under-Secretary of State for Industry (Mr. Michael Marshall)

Yes. We are satisfied with the level of Government support for research and development in the main industrial sectors. The Government recognise the importance of industrial research and development and they have increased the funds available. However, most of the money for civil industrial research and development comes from the profits of companies. The profitability of the industrial sector must therefore be improved to ensure adequate expenditure on research and development.

Mr. Cadbury

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Is he aware that over 50 per cent. of the Government's research and development expenditure is devoted to defence and that less than 10 per cent. goes on industrial research? Does he agree that in view of the urgency to raise productivity and to keep our technological lead—in those areas where we still have a technological lead—there is a strong case for correcting the apparent imbalance in our research spending?

Mr. Marshall

I note my hon. Friend's comments. If he brings together the various items under research and development, he will find that that goes rather wider than his 10 per cent. suggests. As an example, expenditure on space has wide-ranging implications for research and development and is a factor to be added to the figures that he has quoted.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Is the Minister aware that today the heads of Ferranti, GEC Marconi Electronics and others are meeting to oppose the cuts on Salford university? If the Government believe in more research and development, why are they cutting Salford, Aston and the other universities—Salford by 44 per cent—which means the loss of 700 engineering students and 500 others? Will they reconsider that?

Mr. Marshall

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that much of what he is urging on us rests on decisions to be made by right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education. Taken overall, however, the number of science and engineering graduates for 1983 is expected to be at an all-time high.

Mr. Henderson

Does my hon. Friend accept that there is a special need to encourage the development of telecommunications-oriented products to ensure that British manufacturers can take the fullest part in the liberalisation of the telecommunications regime?

Mr. Marshall

My hon. Friend is correct. That is the purpose of the British Telecommunications Bill that I hope will be enacted shortly.

Mr. John Garrett

Does the Minister agree that there could hardly be a more important sector for Government research and development support than ICL? When will the Government make an announcement about their future level of support for research and development in ICL? Until that happens the company is not sure of its future?

Mr. Marshall

I recognise the importance of ICL. The Government are considering its circumstances. There is nothing I can say about that today.