HC Deb 09 August 1972 vol 842 cc456-7W
Mr. Skeet

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the arrangements he is making to identify programmes in the marine technology field which might qualify for Government support.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

On 20th March last my predeccessor announced the Government's intention to set up a Marine Technology Requirements Board which would replace the Committee on Marine Technology and would have wider powers to identify customer requirements for research and development and help to formulate relevant programmes. Arrangements for the new board now to be known as the Ship and Marine Technology Requirements Board, are well advanced, and I shall make a further announcement shortly.

Tremendous opportunities lie before us to exploit the potentialities of the sea and seabed, not the least of them being the wealth of oil and gas resources now being discovered in the North Sea and elsewhere on the Continental Shelf. Marine technology is plainly an increasingly and vitally important subject for Britain but, as my hon. Friend, the Minister for Industry, said in the debate on Scotland on 27th July, this is a high risk industry. It is essential, therefore, that we have the benefit of expert advice from industry to enable us to recognise where the greatest opportunities lie and how Government can best assist their exploitation.

I shall shortly therefore be inviting leading figures in many of the important firms working in this field to come to an all-day discussion early in October so that I can hear from them how the Government could, in their view, best contribute to this existing activity. We shall be talking about the development of technology for underwater oil and gas exploitation, about underwater engineering in its many forms and how technology can help the safe navigation and economic operation of ships. I hope that the conference will help us to assess priorities in the field of marine technology and to ensure that Government funds are used to best advantage to increase British industry's share of these growing markets and to create new jobs.