§ Mr. Latham
asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he will make a statement on the results of his Department in achieving the Government's policy programme since the previous Under-Secretary of State answered a similar question from the hon. Member for Melton on 6 June 1980.
§ Sir Keith Joseph
The Department has continued to make excellent progress in achieving the Government's programmes. For example, the programme of reducing State ownership and the role of the National Enterprise Board and exposing nationalised industries to the forces of competition, has been furthered by the successful flotation266W of British Aerospace; by the British Telecommunications Bill which will open up major parts of the telecommunications industry to competition, will allow the disposal of shares of Cable and Wireless Ltd. and will open up certain areas of the postal monopoly to competition; by the Iron and Steel Bill; by the Industry Act 1980 and the subsequent issue to the NEB of revised operating guidelines; and by the sale by the NEB so far of holdings in 13 companies for £122 million. The programme of focusing Government assistance to industry more on the areas most in need has been furthered by the assisted area status changes effective on 1 August 1980. These are the first steps towards a reduction in assisted coverage from 44 per cent. to about 26 per cent. of the working population, to be achieved by 1 August 1982.
The small firms sector has been further benefited by the introduction on 1 June 1981 of a pilot loan guarantee scheme to encourage bank lending to small firms and by the expansion of the Small Firms Service and the launching of the business opportunities programme first announced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor in his Budget Statement.
The programme of encouraging industry to substitute coal for oil has been furthered by the introduction of the boiler conversion scheme. And the programme of helping industry adapt to changing technology has been considerably advanced by increasing total support for industrial R & D in real terms; by giving special emphasis and publicity to the Government support available for advanced technologies such as robotics, computer aided design and automated manufacture; by giving guidance to the NEB to invest more in high technology areas and its subsequent investments in the biotechnology company, Celltech, and a joint venture with Rank Hovis MacDougall to produce Mycoprotein; by encouraging closer links between the NEB and the National Research Development Corporation; by establishing micros in schools scheme, which will equip all secondary schools with a microcomputer by the end of 1982; by designating 1982 "Information Technology Year", culminating in a conference in December 1982, to increase awareness in industry; by supporting the promotion of British Teletext and Videotex technology and products in the USA through British Videotex and Teletext; and by appointing my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Information Technology so that all initiatives in this present field can be properly co-ordinated.