HC Deb 14 December 1983 vol 50 cc984-5
10. Mr. Wood

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will establish closer links with educational bodies to formulate clear policy guidelines on all aspects of design training.

Mr. Butcher

Yes, Sir. In the course of our campaign to stress the importance of design in national economic performance we have had many constructive discussions and suggestions about design education and training. We are considering these with DES, MSC and SERC.

Mr. Wood

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that British designers' talents are being properly utilised? Does he believe that our designers are of the highest calibre?

Mr. Butcher

I am not satisfied that British design talent is being properly utilised. Britain has a massive design talent. Unfortunately, British designers are being used by foreign manufacturers. They subsequently produce excellent products, which British consumers buy. I am determined to redress that problem. I have had many representations through our "Design for Profit Campaign" and will shortly be discussing the educational aspects of that campaign with the DES.

Mr. Eastham

Does the hon. Gentleman believe that one way to formulate clear policy would be to encourage industry to make up its mind about measurements? There is great confusion about using metric or imperial measurements. This is causing much confusion to education authorities in deciding what measurement industry leaders want provided to children. Should not industrialists say clearly to what type of measurements they will work?

Mr. Butcher

This can be a cause for confusion, not least in our schools, but also among our employers. I share the hon. Gentleman's anxiety about the dual nature of our measurement system. This is not a question addressed specifically to designers. To a certain extent they can lead opinion about the type of measurements that they require. We have spent much time talking to industrialists and major employers of designers, not so much about this problem but about giving designers a much better role in society and about their being able to lead opinion in this matter.

Mr. Warren

Has my hon. Friend's attention been drawn to the way in which a major British electronics company has had to go abroad to recruit qualified scientists and engineers because it cannot obtain them in this country? Does not this show the need for educational authorities in this country to be much more aware of the role that designers can play in promoting the construction and export of manufactured goods?

Mr. Butcher

On a previous occasion I said that, to a certain extent, we operate a mismatched economy with large sections of our domestic demand satisfied by imports and not enough of our domestic manufacturing capability committed to goods for which demand is high and growing. Engineering designers, product designers and designers generally are a major weapon that can be used to address the problem of a mismatched economy.

Mr. Williams

Is it a major blow to the Minister's objectives that United States car manufacturers operating in this country have transferred their design capability to the continent? What representations have the Government made to them to ensure that this design capability is returned to Britain?

Mr. Butcher

Our representations on the design front are wide ranging. It is true that a number of foreign cars, including German cars, which have a high import penetration into our market, are designed by British people. We must create the opportunities for those people to come home and to get back to work again. I take the hon. Gentleman's point. In 1984, we are determined to enhance the status and the role of designers in the economic fight back.