HC Deb 22 June 1994 vol 245 cc221-2
7. Mrs. Anne Campbell

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what estimate he has made of the effects of the cuts in the advanced technology programmes.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of Stale for Technology (Mr. Patrick McLoughlin)

The advanced technology programmes had been running for six years. We will be spending the money that was previously devoted to them on new activities. These were set out in the competitiveness White Paper and will help the majority of firms to get better access to, and advice on, technology.

Mrs. Campbell

Is not the Minister aware that cutting the advanced technology programmes has led to 25 scientists and engineers being made redundant at the Welding institute in Abington, near Cambridge? Does not he realise that bewildered industrialists cannot understand why the Government are inflicting such home-grown damage on a firm that is the major promoter of technology transfer in the United Kingdom?

Mr. McLoughlin

As I said, the programmes had been running for six years. We have to examine the best way of using the resources that we have at the Department of Trade and Industry. Is the hon. Lady calling for more spending, for higher taxes or for cutting borrowing?

Mrs. Gillan

The advanced technology programmes have been a success. Has my hon. Friend had a chance to look at AEA Technology, which has performed impressive diversification into neural networks and environmental science? Is he aware that the firm is operating under some uncertainty, waiting for a statement about its privatisation? Is he in a position to tell me when such a statement will be forthcoming?

Mr. McLoughlin

My hon. Friend's point is well taken. We are considering the matter, and we hope to be able to make an announcement of the sort that she requires shortly. That is a matter for my hon. Friend the Minister for Energy, who has taken note of what she says.

Mr. Nigel Griffiths

Will the Minister confirm that the Government have cut tens of millions of pounds from industrial collaborative research funding for textiles, printing, paper and other manufactured products? Why are they the only Government in Europe cutting funding for collaborative research in those industries?

Mr. McLoughlin

As I have said, we always have to look at the best way of using our resources. We are helping a number of companies by means of the Business Links offices that we are setting up throughout the country. The EC research and development budget will grow by 5 per cent. per annum until 1999, and the Government contribute to that budget. The recently published R and D scoreboard shows a welcome 9 per cent. increase in R and D investment in United Kingdom companies.

Mr. Ian Taylor

Will my hon. Friend note that the competitiveness White Paper enhances the work done in the science White Paper? The Government really are trying to achieve better collaboration between industry and the academic community in their various programmes. I welcome the advances being made in the technology foresight programme, for instance.

Mr. McLoughlin

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for mentioning a number of areas of collaboration, and the money that we are spending through the links programme, the small firms merit award for research and technology programme and various other programmes by which we are helping industry. My hon. Friend was right to draw attention to the foresight programme, which is an important one.

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