HC Deb 19 December 1984 vol 70 cc277-8
1. Mr. Stott

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if, following the recent review of the operation of COCOM, he is now satisfied that the COCOM rules apply equitably to British firms.

The Minister for Trade (Mr. Paul Channon)

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Stott

I understand that the recommendations come into force when the right hon. Gentleman signs the documents. He will know that the matter has great ramifications and is causing anxiety to a number of hon. Members. Accordingly, will he have a word with the Leader of the House to try to find time to debate the agreements before the documents are signed?

Mr. Channon

The question of a debate is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, but I have noticed the desire for a debate in a number of quarters of the House. I would certainly have no objection to that. I shall convey the hon. Gentleman's remarks to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Viggers

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the computer software industry has been one of our most conspicuously, successful growth industries? Is he aware that leaders of that industry have expressed serious concern that their export potential might be inhibited if the rules that are suspected to have been agreed are implemented? Can my right hon. Friend give the industry any reassurance?

Mr. Channon

I hope that that is not the case. Industry representatives have been consulted at all stages, and representatives of the software industry were offered the same facilities for consultation as other industries. This is a package. In general I believe it to be in the overall British interest, but if hon. Members wish to raise particular points with me I shall be delighted to look at them.

Mr. Ashdown

The right hon. Gentleman will recall that he told me in a recent letter that he was considering mechanisms for restricting or licensing the export of intangible high-technology assets, which is the coy phrase used to describe the information in people's heads. Will he explain how that could be done except by limiting or restricting the freedom of United Kingdom nationals to move abroad?

Mr. Channon

I do not have that point in mind, but if there is an aspect of that issue that I have not answered satisfactorily perhaps the hon. Gentleman will get in touch with me and I will gladly go into it in detail.