§ Mr. Ashdown
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he will consider a Government-backed scheme to encourage the use of fourth generation computer languages, similar to the National Computing Centre-administered start scheme for real time software.405W
§ Mr. Butcher
The initiative to encourage software tools for application to large real-time systems (STARTS) was launched by the Department earlier this year since real-time software is recognised to be complex and in need of development methods and tools. An essential part of the initiative to stimulate suppliers to adopt improved software methods has been the setting up of the STARTS public purchasers' group whose primary interests are in large real-time systems. It does not involve direct Departmental assistance to either suppliers or users.
The Department has no plans at present to launch a similar initiative for other types of software. However many of the tools relevant to real-time systems are applicable also to the management of any large software project, hence STARTS will have relevance for a range of software users. Fourth-generation languages may need to be considered within this context though their application tends to be primarily related to more straightforward data-processing applications.
Projects aimed at developing specific 'fourth-generation languages' have received assistance from the Department's software products scheme, which is also administered by the NCC. Under this scheme costs of marketing the products are eligible for assistance.
The hon. Members' suggestion will be considered within the review of support for innovation that is taking place during the current moratorium on such assistance.