HC Deb 15 July 1982 vol 27 cc421-2W
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 his predecessor's reply to the hon. Member for Melton on 29 June 1981, Official Report, c. 265.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

The Department of Industry has continued to make steady progress in achieving the Government's programme.

The programme of reducing State ownership and exposing nationalised industries to the forces of competition has been furthered by the flotation of Cable and Wireless and the passage of the British Telecommunication Act. Private firms may now obtain licences from the Department to offer value added services to BT's network and the world's first competitive telecommunications network has been licensed.

The objective of attracting private sector capital has resulted in the sale or disposal of the National Enterprise Board's interests in 24 companies. The NEB has continued to operate under its revised guidelines of August 1980, making investments in high technology companies. The NEB and NRDC are now working under a common board and the joint name British Technology Group. The Department's expenditure plans for industrial support in 1982–83 and beyond reflect my policy to reduce spending as on the casualties of the past, become less dependent on public funds, and to increase support for new technology and industrial innovation.

In Information Technology Year, the Government have organised many events and an additional £130 million has been made available for 1982–83 to support advanced technology. New schemes have been introduced for flexible manufacturing systems, computer-aided design, fibre optics and advanced office systems. The microelectronics applications project has continued in operation and the Micro-electronic industry support programme and the robotics scheme remain open for applications.

Grants under the Science and Technology Act and innovation-linked schemes under section 8 of the Industry Act have been increased to 33⅓ per cent. for a limited period. Steps have been taken to encourage the development of broad band cable systems and direct broadcasting by satellite.

More than 80 per cent. of secondary schools have acquired a microcomputer under the micros in schools scheme.

The programme of focusing the Government's regional assistance to industry more on areas most in need was confirmed in my statement to the House on 28 June.

Small businesses are benefiting from measures announced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget Statement which, amongst other things, made more money available for the successful loan guarantee scheme; from the small firms service which has continued to expand; and from a new small firms technical inquiry service. The small engineering firms investment scheme introduced this year to stimulate investment in advanced capital equipment has been a resounding success.

Other measures taken to help industry include widening the scope of the coal-firing scheme; the introduction of the private sector steel scheme and the steel casting self-help levy scheme; and the suspension of industrial development certificate controls on industrial location.

My Department continues to speak for industry. The 1982 Budget reflected the priority which Her Majesty's Government give to measures to help industry to cut costs, increase efficiency and improve profitability.

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