§ Mr. Hannam
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied that the industry support aims of the Government's public purchasing policy are 458W adequately taken into account by health authorities; and whether the National Health Service will be represented at the "Better Made in Britain" exhibition.
§ Mr. Whitney
National Health Service authorities are generally sensitive in their purchasing decisions to the aims of the public purchasing policy initiated by the Government in 1981 to use purchasing power to strengthen suppliers' competitiveness.
Nevertheless my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I believe the scope for improvements should be reviewed. Accordingly he has asked me, with the help of a small group of regional health authority chairmen and officials, to consider what further action might usefully be taken to help support the development and maintenance of a strong, internationally competitive health care industry. The group has commenced its review. It is aware of the study being undertaken by an advisory council for applied research and development working party into the international competitiveness of the United Kingdom medical equipment industry and looks forward to the working party's report. NHS authorities spend nearly £2 billion annually on a wide variety of supplies; it is important for the service, for our economy, and for employment opportunities, that British industry is able to compete effectively over as broad a range of these supplies as possible.
In response to an invitation the NHS and the Department's Procurement Directorate will be contributing to the "Better Made in Britain" exhibition on 25 and 26 March. We plan to follow this up later in the year with the launch of a "Design" competition for a number of products bought by the National Health Service. Good design and high quality, as well as keen prices, are key factors in successful competition.