HC Deb 19 December 1984 vol 70 cc290-1
18. Mr. Coombs

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress he is making on removing barriers to trade in telecommunications' equipment between European Economic Community member states.

Mr. Channon

The Government have strongly encouraged the development of a Community telecommunications programme aimed at expanding intra-Community trade. Two important measures recently agreed are the urgent development of harmonised standards for terminal equipment and a recommendation that operators should open up their tendering procedures to suppliers in other member states.

Mr. Coombs

I welcome my right hon. Friend's remarks about terminals, but will he give the House an assurance that the proposals that he has mentioned will be implemented and brought to fruition in 1985? Does he agree that reciprocal trading agreements for other telecommunications equipment such as PABXs, which directly affect firms in my constituency of Swindon, which wish to manufacture and market them, would be of advantage in creating inward investment and, therefore, jobs, and in providing more export opportunities throughout the European Common Market?

Mr. Channon

My hon. Friend makes a persuasive case in the second part of his question. As for the first part, it is the British Government's hope that that will be done in 1985. That is not entirely within our gift, but I hope very much that that will be done.

Mr. Geoffrey Robinson

Great though the progress may be on our side in liberalising the purchasing arrangements in Government telecommunication contracts, is the Minister aware that in the EEC as a whole there may not be anything like a similar desire and determination to do likewise? Will he note that the French Government have clearly taken no steps to liberalise and open their ordering and tendering system? Will he undertake to the House to obtain matching agreements so that there are clear commitments from our European partners, especially the French?

Mr. Channon

The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point about reciprocity. He has said that the British Government's attitude is not always the same as that of other member states. I shall be grateful if he will have a word with those sitting beside him, so that he can understand some of the problems.

Mr. Conway

Where telecommunication developments require certification by the division within my right hon. Friend's Department, especially if they are inventions of small firms in non-assisted areas such as my constituency of Shrewsbury, will my right hon. Friend assure me that the applications will be processed with the greatest possible speed?

Mr. Channon

I had better look carefully at what my hon. Friend has said. I shall consider it and reply to him sympathetically and quickly.