HC Deb 14 December 1983 vol 50 cc980-1
4. Mr. Park

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many types of telephones submitted for approval under the procedure laid down in the 1981 Act were made in the United Kingdom.

The Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. John Butcher)

One hundred and twelve types of telephone have been submitted for approval under the British Telecommunications Act. These include 18 telephones supplied exclusively by British Telecom before the Act came into force. Of these 112, 56 were wholly made in the United Kingdom and 31 have more than 50 per cent. United Kingdom added value.

Mr. Park

Will the Minister accept that the bulk of simple telephone extensions installed since liberalisation are imported models? Has he had a look—it would be particularly appropriate in the Minister's case—at the possible impact that that is having on companies such as GEC in Coventry?

Mr. Butcher

I, too, have constituents who work for GEC in Coventry, and I am as concerned as the hon. Gentleman to see that the fortunes of that company continue to improve. There is a new dynanism in the overall market for telephones. New models are coming forward and the liberalisation programme will help our manufacturers to address international markets as well. It is a matter of congratulation to GEC that it has produced the world's first single chip telephone, the IXT, which is already selling in large numbers to British Telecom.

Mr. Robert Banks

Will my hon. Friend see what arrangements can be made to install some of these new telephones in the House? I am sure that they would be an improvement on the existing ones.

Mr. Butcher

That is probably a matter for the Services Committee and the appropriate Select Committee. However, I share my hon. Friend's concern about the matter and I shall, indeed, look into it.

Mr. Stott

In spite of the Under-Secretary's interesting answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Park), can he confirm that at an early stage of the pre-liberalisation process the Government invited applications for potential suppliers of simple telephone extensions and that, of the 96 eligible applications, no fewer than 94 of the products orginated from abroad, with only two being manufactured in Britain? Is it not true that, as a consequence of liberalisation and of the privatisation that is provided for in the Bill that we shall consider later this evening the British information technology industry will suffer? The importation of telecommunications equipment is going on apace and British manufacturing industry is bound to suffer.

Mr. Butcher

No, Sir. I cannot agree with that assertion. It is worth reporting, for example, that of the 300 liberalised items there is an average United Kingdom content of about 70 per cent. Indeed, the telephone market itself is expanding, and we take into account the United Kingdom content of those items submitted for approval to our approvals procedure.

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