§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Marples (Wallasey)
The Opposition have chosen the Vote of the Ministry of Technology as the subject of this debate. This gives the right hon. Gentleman the Minister his first, and, if I may say so, golden opportunity to render an account of his stewardship and of what he has accomplished during his period of office and what he proposes to do in future. The right hon. Gentleman has been nine months in a new job, which is rather unlike any position he has held before. We in the Opposition have been extremely reasonable and have given him every opportunity to settle down, which is more than the Labour Party ever gave me. When I became Minister of Transport, hon. Members opposite slapped a Motion of censure on me within five weeks of my taking office. We have given the right hon. Gentleman nine months, and I think that it is only reasonable that we should have done so.
This debate also gives us a chance to review the position as a whole. I should like to start with the policies outlined, and the hopes raised, by the Labour Party's prospectus "Signposts For The Sixties" and speeches before the election. In "Let's Go With Labour", it pledged:A New Britain—mobilising the resources of technology under a national plan …. If we 501 are to get a dynamic and expanding economy it is essential that new and effective ways are found of injecting modern technology into our industries".The phrase used by the Prime Minister was very startling. He intended to harness Socialism to science and science to Socialism.
There is no doubt that those speeches, and especially the Prime Minister's speech at Scarborough, had a great effect on the nation. The speech at Scarborough was an extremely fine example of the way in which words could be thrown together. This afternoon we are examining not only the words, but the deeds. [Interruption.]
§ The Chairman
Order. The hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) knows that the correct way of interrupting is not the way that he is adopting at the moment.
§ Mr. Marples
I thought that the Prime Minister's speeches were excellent. However, as I said when we had the first debate on technology under this Government, I judge the Minister of Technology by his deeds and not by his words.
What has the Minister done? He has had two phases in his Ministry. The first was to collect together many of the existing institutions which have been in existence for a long time, such as the Atomic Energy Authority, the N.R.D.C. and most of the D.S.I.R., including the Building Research Station. But these are not new institutions. They have been established for some time. They are going concerns and they have a record of work in progress. I therefore hope that we shall not have this afternoon from the right hon. Gentleman a catalogue of what these institutions, started a long time ago, are now doing.
I say that because I have had some experience of receiving briefs from Government Departments. No doubt they are put before the Minister. I am sure that he would reject the idea of giving a catalogue of what has been done in the past and would concentrate on the present and the future. We should like to know what innovations he has made and what he proposes to start. That is the first part of what his Ministry has done with several Acts of Parliament.
In the second part the right hon. Gentleman has sponsored four science-based industries. This was announced 502 by the Prime Minister on 26th November. The four industries are telecommunications, electronics, machine tools and computers. I should like to examine what the right hon. Gentleman has done, as distinct from the words which have been spoken, about those four industries.
In telecommunications nothing has happened at all. On 23rd June, the Minister said that various studies were being made, but that these were part of a continuing review. On 5th July, he added to that illuminating Answer by saying that he had nothing to add. The Post Office is by far the biggest customer of telecommunications in this country. If it knew what to do, and if the right hon. Gentleman knew what to do, they could move into action at once by using the purchasing power of the Post Office. I do not know whether the Minister has been able to persuade the Postmaster-General to adopt his way of thinking. So far, in nine months, not a single thing has happened. As I have said before, the private enterprise in Whitehall between one Government Department and another is possibly the fiercest and most savage battle ever fought, because a Government Department is always reluctant to give up any of its sovereign power, and this makes it very difficult indeed for the right hon. Gentleman.
I turn to electronics. On 23rd June, the Answer was that there were various studies being made and that these were continuing. On 5th July we had another illuminating addition to that Answer, to the effect that the right hon. Gentleman had nothing to add. In two out of the four sponsored industries which the right hon. Gentleman has taken over, precisely nothing has been done in nine months. We are complaining about the Southern Railway going slow, but, so far, action on 50 per cent. of the right hon. Gentleman's sponsored industries has not even started. This is difficult to square with the Labour Party's election manifesto, in which it talks about being "poised for instant action".
I come to the third sponsored industry, machine tools. By a stroke of luck for the harassed Minister, a "little Neddy", which had nothing whatsoever to do with his Department, produced a report on the machine tool industry. The right hon. Gentleman announced in the House that he was taking certain measures which 503 were based on that report. He started that announcement by saying that his Department was engaged on a full study. Of course, his Department is engaged on a full study. It ought always to be studying the problems which it is in existence to deal with, and I do not see why that should be said. Again, he went on with the phrase about the study continuing. He said this in column 183 of HANSARD for 1st June, column 42 of HANSARD for 15th June and column 230 of HANSARD for 23rd June.
What I object to is this. This business of saying that his Department is studying the matter, and that the study is continuing, enables the Minister never to come to the House and give us the conclusions of that study. The Department is continuing to study, but we never get any conclusions, either final or interim.
Therefore, of the first three industries that the right hon. Gentleman is sponsoring, in two he has done nothing and in the third he is making a full study which is continuing. This does not square with the election manifesto of the Socialists, in which they said that they were "poised for instant action". It is crystal clear that they had not the slightest idea what to do with the Department of the Minister of Technology.
I come to one other point about the machine tool industry which is disturbing. I do not want to argue the merits of nationalisation and private enterprise—
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Robert Mellish)
We know the right hon. Gentleman's views.
§ Mr. Marples
I agree with the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, who interrupts from his sedentary position on the second bench. I know his views, too. I do not want to argue whether he is right or whether I am right.
It is the view of the hon. Members opposite, and they have said it repeatedly, that this industry, or part of it, should be nationalised. In their Labour Party programme—for example, in "Signposts For The Sixties"—they said:In machine tools, for example, our aims will probably best be realised by means of 504 competitive public enterprise—the establishment of new, publicly owned plants, specialising in the types of machine tools which existing firms are not producing satisfactorily.The Trades Union Congress supported that, stating, in its 1957–58 Report:Congress believes that the greater part of the machine tool industry should be brought under public ownership.As recently as a few months ago the Minister was asked whether he had abandoned the idea of a State-owned machine tool industry and he said, "Certainly not."
Therefore, the threat of nationalisation hangs over the machine tool industry. Whether we approve of nationalisation or not, it is on the agenda that the industry could be nationalised at any moment the Government so decide. Hon. Members opposite do not realise—they may realise it more now than they did at the time of the election—that one of the ingredients, in fact the most important ingredient, for success is confidence and that one of the ingredients for failure is uncertainty.
The machine tool industry is uncertain of its future. The question to which the Government should address themselves is whether they are nationalising it. The industry will have difficulty in raising capital. The Machine Tool Trades Association has said to some of my colleagues that the industry is being harmed, particularly overseas, by persistent rumours of nationalisation. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is hon. Members opposite who do it."] No. One of the questions which I should like the Minister clearly to answer is: does this threat of nationalisation hang over the machine tool industry or not? This afternoon, in the time of the Opposition, the Minister has an opportunity of letting the nation in general, and the machine tool industry in particular, know what the threat is. Is it there or it is not?
So much for the first three sponsored industries. I now come to the fourth, computers. Unlike the other three industries, in which the Minister has, I think, been unwise, in this one he has certainly done something. My difficulty, however, is in assessing precisely the value of what his proposals add up to in terms of cash. It is difficult to find out from the information given in Written Answers, and so on, how much cash 505 annually the Treasury and the Minister are devoting to sponsoring the computer industry. If it was an enormous sum of money, the support would be immense. If, on the other hand, it is a small sum of money, it is small support.
What I am anxious to get at, but have not been able to find, and what I should like this side of the Committee to be given—it would be unfair to expect the Minister to give the reply when he speaks immediately after I have finished, but perhaps his hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary can get the information before he winds up the debate—is the amount of the annual sum of money which is being devoted to promoting the computer industry.
So far as far as I can see, in the part of the industry that is under the Minister's direct control he is reviewing the requirements of universities, colleges of advanced technology and research institutes and is to give £2 million a year. Under the right hon. Gentleman's control would be the National Computer Programme Centre, which, I calculate, amounts to £½ million a year. Thirdly, the old D.S.I.R. has the advanced computer techniques, which come to another £½ million.
As to the cash that is given but is not under the Minister's direct control, under N.R.D.C. is the loan to the I.C.T.—a loan, not an outright grant—and something towards computer techniques. I may be wrong—that is why I ask for the information—but I calculate £5 million a year to be the maximum that is being contributed towards the computer industry. If I am right in this figure, it is a yardstick and a measure of how much cash will be spent per annum. It amounts to the cost of about 10 to 15 miles of motorway.
I do not believe that that is an effort of great magnitude in our science-based industries, because it will not go very far. In addition, the Government have done something on the other side by devaluing investment allowances. Investment allowances were of great assistance to the computer industry in the past, when it had a 30 per cent. allowance on 51 per cent. of the tax that it paid. Now, it is to have a 30 per cent. allowance, but on only 35 to 45 per cent. of the 506 Corporation Tax which is paid. Therefore, the industry has the incentive of £5 million a year and the disincentive of losing quite a large proportion of the investment allowance.
I should like to ask the Minister something else concerning computers. The information that is available to us on computers is in bits and pieces. It is extremely difficult to piece together what the Minister is doing. It is not organised methodically, it is not done comprehensively and sometimes it is downright contradictory. I will give an example of how contradictory it is and the difficulty of getting at the facts of what is happening.
On 23rd February, the Minister of Technology was askedwhat facilities exist in his Department for the study of restrictive practices on both sides of industry.The right hon. Gentleman's Answer was:Restrictive practices in industry are primarily the concern of my right hon. Friends the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Labour. I am naturally concerned with the social impact of the adoption and efficient use of new techniques, plant and machinery and have set up a separate branch to deal with this aspect of the work of my Department."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd February, 1965; Vol. 707, c. 54.]Thus, on 23rd February, the Minister said that he had set up a separate branch to study and to find out about it.
On 15th June, a few months later, we asked the Minister what progress wasbeing made by the branch of his Department concerned with the social impact of the adoption and efficient use of new techniques".The Answer, which I ask the Committee to note, was as follows:This very important subject is carefully watched throughout my Department in the course of its work. It is not the responsibility of a single branch."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th June, 1965; Vol. 714, c. 48–49.]On 23rd February, the Minister said that he had set up a special branch, but on 15th June he said that it was not the responsibility of a single branch. The Committee will see from this the difficulty which faces the Opposition in getting reliable information from the Minister of Technology to judge what his deeds have been.
Another Question was put on 30th March, when the Minister was asked 507 what computers the public sector had purchased. The right hon. Gentleman replied:Statistics of public sector purchases are not at present collected in the detail asked for. I am examining whether, without a disproportionate expenditure of effort, it would be practicable to do so in future."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th March, 1965; Vol. 709, c. 203.]If the Government themselves cannot collect the information about the numbers of computers which they have purchased, what hope is there for the Minister of Technology?
I should like to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to what happens in the United States of America. They have an inventory every year of the automatic data processing equipment in the Federal Government. This inventory gives full information of every computer purchased, and, what is more important, of the price range it is in. One can see how effective it is, what is does, where it is situated. A whole heap of information is given.
I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he and his Department look at this United States publication to see whether it can produce something on similar lines which, I am sure, would help the right hon. Gentleman in his studies, and would certainly help the nation as a whole in its studies. [Interruption.] I am only commending it to the right hon. Gentleman. He was appointed as Minister of Technology to do this very job, and I am only trying to assist him to do it by giving him advice and guidance on what he ought to do.
I may point out, for example, that in 1954 the United States had 10 computers; in 1956, 90; in 1958, 250; in 1960, 531; in 1962, 1,030. They projected it forward to 1964–66. In 1964 they hoped to have 1,767 and in 1966, 2,150—[Interruption.]
§ The Chairman
Before the hon. Member intervenes I would point out that, if the Front Bench wants to intervene, there are no special rules of conduct for the Front Bench and that it must intervene in a proper way.
§ Mr. Wilkins
I was wondering whether the right hon. Gentleman would 508 give us the date of the publication. That is relevant.
§ Mr. Marples
Certainly. I am very grateful to the hon. Member for starting to put his question originally by saying, "May I ask the Minister?" The date of this publication is July, 1964.
It therefore projects 1964 forward. The 1965 one will be out any moment.
§ Mr. Marples
It goes back to the first generation of computers, when they started.
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman seriously to concentrate on this. We want to be able to assess what our own country is doing as against what America is doing. I have tried to do some homework on this and I find, for example, that in agriculture here we have five computers; the United States has 56. In health, education and welfare the United States has 112 computers and we have—if I say two and a half let it not sound ridiculous—we have two with the half use of another one, so we have, in fact, two and a half.
I believe that at the moment we spend £1,000 million a year on health, but we have not a computer of any sort there. Therefore, I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he looks at this document, and if he likes I will lend him my copy to assist him.
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Middlesbrough, West)
Would the right hon. Gentleman say who was responsible for failing to install these computers?
§ Mr. Marples
The computer, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is a comparatively new tool. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] All I am saying is this. Bright words were uttered at Scarborough and in the Labour Party's election manifesto. The nonsense talked about the Socialists' being poised for instant action is shown for what it was worth. They were not poised for anything. They were nowhere near ready to move, and the hon. Gentleman knows it.
§ Mr. Marples
I would not accept that, either. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] No. I would not accept that. For example, if local authorities were prepared to accept the programme—the software—which had already been done by another local authority, they could go into action straightaway. The hon. Gentleman agrees with me on this? The problem of getting a computer into action is not in buying the hardware but to get the software formulated. [An HON. MEMBER: "Get on."] I am not surprised that the hon. Member wants me to get a move on. The second interruption by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray) can be demolished easily. [Interruption.] The Patronage Secretary should keep quiet. He is paid a large sum of money to keep quiet.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Edward Short)
May I say for the second time this week that I have not lost my right to speak in this Chamber if I wish to do so: I represent a constituency, too, just as the right hon. Gentleman does.
§ Mr. Marples
The Patronage Secretary has a right to speak, of course, but not from a sedentary position. He is paid to sit in a corner and keep quiet. If he wants to speak he should stand up. He must not try to help his hon. Friend because he is in a corner.
The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the hardware is easy to deal with. The difficult part is getting the programme. He knows that where local authorities have the same task right throughout the country—collecting rates, looking at the vehicle traffic, budgetary control, and so on—the same programme will do for every local authority.
§ Mr. Marples
The Minister knows very well that a lot of individual local authorities, although the work on the software has been done by other local authorities, insist on doing it again by themselves, and using scarce scientific resources in the process. That is happening now. I think that the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West will do well if he stays in his seat. If he keeps bobbing up and down like that he will be made Patronage Secretary before he knows where he is.
Now I come to the reason why the United States has had a dynamic policy in its public sector. It has, of course, spent a great deal of money, and in the private sector it has expended enormous funds. For example, it has bought computers of an advanced type and insisted on people like Boeings using them. In the private sector, where any private firm tenders for a contract, where sub-contractors are involved, it insists on a computer programme showing the critical part of the construction methods employed. The United States did this with the Polaris submarine and does it for major constructional works.
If that were brought into the Government's scheme here, then it would be an encouragement and a great inducement to private enterprise to do this sort of thing. I am quite certain that the right hon. Gentleman will do all he can to make a success of his present job, but I believe this: I would like him to have the power of co-ordinating and maybe having control of the computers in all the Government Departments. I would like him to have that, and I would like him to see that the software, systems analysis, and so on, is done efficiently. Thus he could measure the benefits.
Of course, he should run for civil servants top management courses in computers, because we are managing now, in Government Departments, for change, and not static conditions. One thing should be clear. Unless top management at Westminster—that is, the politicians—and in Whitehall—that is, the civil servants—understand the application of this new tool we shall never get it adopted thoroughly and efficiently in this country.
I say this to the right hon. Gentleman. If, unfortunately, I were to be a Minister in the present Government, but in another Department than that of the right hon. Gentleman, I should be fully prepared to 511 give him that power from my Department—give it to the right hon. Gentleman in the interests of the country as a whole. One question I want to ask him is this. Has he got that power? I do not believe that he has. If I were asked to do his job with what I believe are his terms of reference—and I hope that he will explain those to us when he replies—I should have to think a lot about whether I could accept it on those terms, because I believe that if he has not that power of control he can never do the job—and maybe that is the reason why he has done nothing up to now.
If the right hon. Gentleman has that power and that control, then he has been guilty of gross negligence. If he has not got it, I do not think that he should have accepted the job. As Sir Leon Bagrit said recently to Members of the House:Perhaps he should be a Minister of Modernisation, equal in status to, say, the Minister of Defence, highly placed in the Cabinet, with power to co-ordinate the policies of other departments in order to reach the main objective.We want to know whether the right hon. Gentleman has that power. I do not believe that he has, and I think that that is why he has achieved nothing in the past, and why he will achieve nothing in the future. If he has not got that power, we shall continue to scratch around like a lot of part-time British amateurs compared with the full-time American professionals.
§ Mr. Robert Maxwell (Buckingham)
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that if the Prime Minister were to give the Minister of Technology the kind of co-ordinating power which he has just mentioned the net effect would be that all other Government Departments would opt out of scientific and technological problems on the principle of saying, "Let the Minister of Technology deal with it"? Surely that would not be in the national interest?
§ Mr. Marples
The hon. Gentleman's knowledge of government is like Sam Weller's knowledge of London, extensive and peculiar, and I shall tell him why I say that. The Board of Trade has a computer. My hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) asked the President of the Board of Trade how soon after the end of the month the Trade and 512 Navigation Accounts were published during the period January to April, 1964, and January to April, 1965. In 1964, the previous Government were in power, and no computer was available. In 1965 this Government were in power, and a computer was available. The answer was that on average it took 18½ days without a computer under the Conservatives, and 21 working days with a computer under a Socialist Government. That gives the Committee some idea of the hon. Gentleman's knowledge of Government Departments.
I am not necessarily arguing for more computers. What is really wanted is the proper use of them, and the illustration which I have just given shows that they are not being used properly. Which part of the right hon. Gentleman's Department looks at them? Or is it left to the Board of Trade? If it is left to the latter, I should not like to be the Minister of Technology responsible for the efficient use of computers.
If we are to make proper use of computers, it is clear that we must have enough trained operators—systems analysts, programmers, and so on. We have to get estimates of the future, and we have to train people to do the work. It is often asked what we have done. During the period 1950 to 1964 the number of scientists and technologists increased from 8,000 to 20,000, which shows that we did something there. It is not so much a question of training systems analysts and programmers. Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that we are making efficient use of the scientists and technologists who are available? I do not believe that we are.
I went to see a computer centre of the metropolitan boroughs in south London. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Technology has visited it, because his constituency is one of the metropolitan boroughs which uses it. It took the centre a long time to get off the ground, but it now has rating, pay roll, stores, vehicles, transport, costing and budgetary control, under a computer. It is working extremely well, and the centre ought to be congratulated on the progress it has made, and on the voluntary co-operation which brought it about.
513 The centre is also extremely generous. It has said that if any other local authority goes to it, it will give that authority its soft ware and its programmes free of charge. That is a generous offer. It took five man-years to prepare the rating programme which it fed into the computer, yet other local authorities all over the country are starting their own computers from scratch. Why are they doing this? Here are five man-years of work on rating at their disposal free of charge, and yet they are advertising for scientific people to start from scratch to deal with the problem that has already been dealt with.
The same thing happens with the area electricity boards. I visited one of them, the Yorkshire Electricity Board. It took the board six or seven years to get off the ground, but it is metering the readings into a computer, and the readings are stored on magnetic tape. The system is working well, yet electricity boards in other areas are starting from scratch to do what this board has already done. These other boards are drawing on scarce manpower to give them the programmes that they want.
Does this National Computer Programme Centre which the Minister announced on 1st March function? If it does, will the Minister look into those two illustrations which I have given, and, if necessary, let the Minister of Power give a direction that all area boards should use the same programme? Let us conserve scarce resources, and not waste them.
There is another point about computers which is worrying me, and which I am sure worries the right hon. Gentleman. I do not believe that it is possible for any one country outside the United States or Russia to "go it alone" in the technological field nor to operate in other than an international market. It has to co-operate in ventures in other countries, and then specialise in certain chosen areas. For example, the United Kingdom should specialise in electronic data processing rather than try to offer expertise on a wide range or the whole front.
I believe that the latest compelling reason why the whole of Europe must come together is the rapid advance of technology. The enormous rate of change in technology is opening up a 514 frightening gap between small European nations and the huge super Powers of the United States, Russia, and maybe China later. To meet this disparity in a spirit of old-fashioned nationalism would be suicidal. Europe must unite on this technological front or become a "lesser Orient" altogether.
§ Mr. Maxwell
Is that statement really true? Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that if we as a nation were to choose certain sectors of science and technology on which we wished to make a major effort we would have sufficient resources, brain power, and economic power to be eminent? We cannot do it across the whole front, but if we chose a certain sector, such as computers, we would be bound to succeed.
§ Mr. Marples
The hon. Gentleman is helping me by repeating what I said. I said that we could not go on over the whole front. We in the United Kingdom have to specialise in certain areas of electronic data processing. The hon. Gentleman must listen when we are trying to educate him. We know that it is a difficult task, but we shall continue to try.
I believe that we have to create larger and more efficient industrial units, first on the European scale, but ultimately reaching out beyond Europe to a worldwide pattern. No business which is not world wide will survive the challenge of the technological giants. Developments in the past, such as the Concord, are not enough. I should like to see a greater exchange of capital investment between British and European countries.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Does not the right hon. Gentleman's argument about technological development rule out the possibility of having an independent nuclear deterrent?
§ Mr. Marples
The hon. Gentleman must put that question to his right hon. Friend, not to me. I shall give way to the right hon. Gentleman if he wishes to answer it.
I believe that European co-operation is the best way of preventing the American domination of European industry, especially in computers, where I.B.M., through brillant organisation and management, is strongly entrenched. Why not have a centralised European software 515 centre, where the cream of those qualified experts, who are scarce, could eliminate wasteful competition. Then we could produce a range of software on which European computer hardware could be standardised, and which would be wider and more advanced than anywhere else in the world.
In future the right hon. Gentleman will choose other industries to sponsor, and I offer him a few suggestions as to what industries he might choose.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
If the hon. Member believes in a European centre why did not his Government do a great deal more to help C.E.R.N. when that body needed help?
§ Mr. Marples
I am dealing with the right hon. Gentleman's responsibilities. He has been in office for nine months, and if all that can be said by hon. Members opposite is, "Never mind about the future. What happened in the past?", all their talk about instant action is nonsense. They are jobbing backwards all the time. That is, apparently, all that they can do.
I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that one industry that really ought to be taken over when he considers his next lot of sponsored industries is the building industry. I have said this before, and I shall go on saying it until he does take it over. It should be taken over quickly. It is not the fault of the building industry that it is expensive in what it does; it is the fault of the architects, in the design field.
§ Mr. Marples
I hope that the hon. Member will not be too enthusiastic, of he will sap my confidence.
The building industry is one of the few where design and construction are separated into two compartments. I have asked somebody who has carried out studies in the United States and in Canada to give me the comparable statistics for those two countries and Britain. In the construction industry 1.6 million workers are employed and in the building materials industry 0.4 million, making 2 million altogether. In this country we argue about rents and interest charges, but what is important is getting down the cost of building.
516 In New York, the cost of building is practically the same as it is in the United Kingdom, in spite of the fact that the cost of contract labour is approximately four times greater in New York than it is in this country, apart from one or two exceptions. In New York, a labourer receives 32s. an hour and a craftsman 39s. an hour, yet they produce a hotel bedroom at the same price as that at which it can be produced here. What would happen to our costs if we paid craftsmen and labourers 39s. and 32s. an hour, respectively?
In Canada, the position is the same. In some cases it is 25 per cent. cheaper there than it is here, although the cost of labour is twice what it is in this country. That means that there is an enormous financial drain and a drain on our resources. We should be building houses with standard kitchens. Why should an architect design one sort of kitchen in Birmingham and another in Liverpool, another in Cardiff, another in Perth—
§ Mr. Marples
And Great Yarmouth, yes. I did not know that they had any kitchens there. I am glad to know that they have penetrated to Great Yarmouth.
The building industry is one on which the right hon. Gentleman ought to concentrate.
Another industry, which is the ninth in size in this country, is the paper and printing industry, which has more people working for it than the steel and motor car industries. It is a really good candidate for examination by the right hon. Gentleman, for two reasons. First, the restrictive practices in the industry are scandalous, and, secondly, technology can be swiftly applied in that industry, because it is not a heavy basic industry like the building industry. It is small in size. Electronic devices which have now been applied to printing outside London are not being permitted inside London. If we had a major drive in this industry we could save an enormous amount of labour, which could be used for other purposes.
There is one other job which the right hon. Gentleman must forgive me for mentioning, but which is an absolute "natural" for him to deal with, namely, the modernisation of the docks. I say that for two reasons. I believe that the 517 right hon. Gentleman has more influence with the labour in the docks, in his own union, than any other man in this country. If he cannot deal with it I do not think that anybody else can. I sincerely suggest that this job goes down on his list, because his past history has given him enormous influence in this matter, and now that he is in charge of technology my hon. Friends and I will help him all we can.
My last point concerns the Atomic Energy Authority. The Minister has a particular responsibility here. He must see that it is efficient. He must ensure that the Authority examines the right problems, such as marine nuclear propulsion. He must see that it sells its products at the right price, and that it has an efficient organisation in general—including the organisation of management and men.
Pay claims are outstanding in the Atomic Energy Authority. It has a senior staff of 500 for whom there is to be an increase in pay of 4 per cent., backdated. There is a pending wage claim for 17,000 manual workers. The right hon. Gentleman, as a Cabinet Minister, has a responsibility to his colleagues. The Cabinet has a collective responsibility. The Government have pronounced what their policy is on prices and incomes.
At the recent Transport and General Workers' Union Conference, on Friday, the right hon. Gentleman made some remarks which implied that he approved of the union's resolution rejecting an incomes policy. I do not know whether that is right or wrong—
§ Mr. Marples
With due respect, Dr. King, the Atomic Energy Authority is the responsibility of the Minister. That being so, he ought to declare whether he is in favour of the Government's prices and incomes policy, out of loyalty to his colleagues if not out of deference and respect to the Committee.
§ The Chairman
The prices and incomes policy is not part of the work of this Department. On this Vote the right hon. Gentleman must discuss the work of the Minister.
§ Mr. Marples
I made a lot of inquiries whether or not this was in order beforehand—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Why not? I did so out of respect for the Committee. I do not want to waste time on "phoney" points of order. It was only courteous to the Committee to make inquiries on this matter. Since it comes under the right hon. Gentleman's responsibility, and since the policy of the Government collectively applies to his Department individually, all I want to know is whether he accepts that policy, as a Minister.
§ The Chairman
The right hon. Gentleman has obviously done some research in this matter, but he must accept the Ruling of the Chair. If we applied his argument to every Vote we could take up every item of Government policy with every Minister. We must keep to the Vote that we are discussing.
§ Mr. Marples
I made my inquiries because I wanted to know that the point that I was making was in order, Dr. King. If my inquiries had shown that it was out of order I can assure the Committee that I would not have raised it.
§ The Chairman
Order. I have added to the right hon. Member's inquiries by giving him the information that the Chair is ruling that his question is out of order.
§ Mr. Marples
I accept your Ruling, Dr. King. I will not continue on this point, but if the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to give the information we shall be grateful.
§ Mr. Ted Leadbitter (The Hartlepools)
The right hon. Gentleman has spoilt it. He has allowed his obsession and prejudice to spoil his speech.
§ Mr. Marples
There is no prejudice on this side. The prejudice is on that side of the Committee, as shown by the way things have happened.
In certain parts of my speech I have been critical of the Minister, because I do not think that he has done sufficient. I cannot fault him on what he has done, because he has not done enough for me to fault him. I have also tried to be constructive and show that the Opposition are trying very hard to do their homework in this matter. After the next election that homework will be needed, 519 so that we can clear up the mess that the Socialist Government have left behind.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ The Minister of Technology (Mr. Frank Cousins)
I shall not attempt to compete with the comedy act which has just been put on and which has been directed towards trying to establish that I have not resolved in a short time the economic mess in which we found ourselves on coming to power. Nor will I allow the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) to make my speech for me. I do this, because I happen to think that this is a serious subject.—[Interruption.] Of course most of it is already written out. In passing, I would say that I rely more on my scriptwriters than on those responsible for the speech which we have just heard.
The questions which the right hon. Member put, in some instances, need further comment before we get down to the discussion on technology. One question was what we are doing about our position compared with that of America, where computers are 20 times as numerous as they are in this country. This information could have been extracted from a speech which I made to the House, when I drew attention to the need to take action on this, because I did not accept that our relative industrial position justified our assuming that we could remain in the forefront with a ratio of 1 to 20. I have not changed my view about that and we are pursuing every possible means of getting computerisation into British industry. As my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Dr. Bray) said, we cannot order computers today and put them in tomorrow. That just is not possible.
A very serious situation existed when we took office, in that many of the computers already ordered—this is known to hon. and right hon. Members opposite—were already earmarked from American producers. It is said that local authorities have not co-ordinated their efforts. This is true. This was one of the functions of the Computer Unit. We are having a tussle to get them out of the atmosphere which they were in, out of the position in which they were encouraged to believe that independence and freedom to do as they wished were the 520 hallmarks of successful operation under the last Administration. I have said elsewhere that we cannot "go it alone". We need to make our associations with other people and co-operative efforts of value to us. They must be of value to us. Co-operative efforts have to be, in the eyes of this Government, those which bring material value and return to us, because our economic position is such that we need that kind of aid.
It has been suggested that I might "take over"—a nice phrase, which I shall remember—other industries. The right hon. Member suggested the docks. Does he recall that, a number of years ago, I came to see him about the docks when we were both in rather different positions? I was asking for his material aid to mechanise, modernise, and develop the docks, and I put forward proposals to him as to how this could be done. The right hon. Gentleman was quite happy to continue under the provisions of the Act which enabled any surplus money to be spent on reducing port charges instead of modernising and mechanising. I do not wish to dwell on the past. I did not start this. I had assumed that we were to talk about the future.
§ Mr. Marples
Surely the right hon. Gentleman remembers that it was during my term of office as Minister of Transport that we had the Rochdale Committee and an Act of Parliament especially to modernise the docks, and a large sum of Treasury money was paid for that purpose?
§ Mr. Cousins
I refrained from interrupting the right hon. Gentleman. I did not think that it was necessary for us to do that.
I recall this. I am aware that we put forward proposals to the right hon. Gentleman about the mechanisation and modernisation of the docks, and that that was not accepted as the method by which we should approach it. He will, of course, also recall that, on another occasion, addressing him in his capacity as Minister of Transport, we drew attention to the fact that they were allowed to become individualistic and private enterprise-minded and to go running off to carry out separate functions. One body was split up and made into four, and we did not think that that was good. If the right hon. Gentleman is now converted 521 to the idea that we should co-ordinate efforts and use local authorities and have a standard central computer system—
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
Is it in order to discuss the Ministry of Transport? I thought that the debate was about the Ministry of Technology.
§ The Chairman
When the right hon. Gentleman departs from the subject of technology, I shall call him to order, as I did the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples).
§ The Chairman
The right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. I was not calling him to order. I was reproving the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover), who sought to advise me to call him to order.
§ Mr. Cousins
I said, "In attempting to remain within order", and you have confirmed that I was, Dr. King. I simply dealt with the relevant points raised by the right hon. Member for Wallasey. If you had ruled the other interruption by the right hon. Member in order, I should have attempted to deal with that one, too—[Laughter.] I might, even yet—
§ Mr. Cousins
May we now go back to the subject which the debate is about?
No one can argue against the future of technology. It is now eight months since we had a serious debate on it, which I listened to but was not able to take part in. The Ministry of Technology had been set up only a few days and we had no organisation. Much of the discussion centred upon the type of organisation which was felt to be needed to do the job.
No one can question the need for the job which my Department is setting out to deal with. I assume that this is common ground between us and that industry needs to get in the forefront of technological advance if it is to retain its place in a world which is at once highly competitive and in a state of great change.
There was agreement on both sides of the House that the Government had a vital part to play in this. In some measure, the right hon. Member for 522 Wallasey has endorsed that view. There are areas in which it is felt that we should be doing more. One point was the question of the finance involved. I shall deal with that a little later. I do not think that the assumptions upon which this is based can be challenged. If they could, it would be strange, having regard to the views expressed by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) when he was in a different position. He argued that there should be an improvement in the position of science and the efficiency and productivity of industry.
If we look at the actual achievements in pursuit of those aims, we see that they were not met in practice. Recently, in the House, when answering a Question by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Charles Morrison), I said that I was not satisfied with the progress that my Department had made so far. I do not need to be reminded about this. But I am positive that it is a far better record than we had for a few years previously. That is not the issue before us. The organisation and scope of the Ministry of Technology has been criticised. Let us look at this and see how it compares with the organisation of technology outlined by the previous Government.
I do not say this in the spirit of criticism, but simply in the form of comparison. Our organisation derives essentially from two main requirements. First, to get the Government's resources in civil industrial science, the A.E.A., the N.R.D.C. and the industrial side of the former D.S.I.R. mobilised and co-ordinated under a single Minister. Second, to put under sponsorship of the same Minister certain industries which are particularly important for technological advance by British industry. There will be others—there is no doubt about that—because the very nature of the function calls for the application of technology to a much wider range of industries than those I have mentioned.
In comparison, the proposed organisation of the Opposition when in Government was somewhat different. It did nothing to achieve the concentration of the Government's powers and resources. Had we followed the pattern set out by the previous Government, we would have had two independent authorities—the A.E.A. and an Industrial Research and 523 Development Authority—under one Minister, the N.R.D.C. under another, and industrial sponsorship in certain closely related industries diversified under a series of Ministers. In the event, it was not possible to see whether this would be workable in practice, because the election overtook it, and a change of Government took place.
So it must be a matter of conjecture whether it would have been an advantage. But I cannot think that it would have been a convenient arrangement which enabled two independent authorities under different Departments to let research and development contracts in industry. Our feeling was that, however elaborate the arrangements for that co-ordination, it could not be as effective as having them under my Ministry. Nor did we favour the idea of putting under the Secretary of State for Education and Science responsibilities that ranged through primary, secondary and tertiary education to all kinds of research, including medical and agricultural research and all Government activities in support of industrial research including hydraulics, sewage and fire and, for good measure, work on nuclear reactors. That was the proposal prior to the election. Certainly the Secretary of State for Education and Science would have been a busy man.
Our view, on the other hand, was that the importance of guiding and stimulating the application—and I emphasise that word, because we have said it so frequently—of technology in industry was such as to require a separate department under a single Minister. You have in fact made quite clear at times during your speech this afternoon that you have also been thinking along the lines of a co-ordinated industrial Ministry.
§ The Chairman
The right hon. Gentleman must address the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) through the Chair.
§ Mr. Cousins
I am sorry. It has been my practice to speak to some of the right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite so many times in other places. So the effort there was obviously directed towards the same kind of end. But this was in Opposition; it was not in Government. The idea of co-ordinating the efforts and making one 524 Ministry centrally responsible was the least and the last of the things that received attention. Substantial advantages are already flowing from the concentration of the efforts for which I am responsible, and I have illustrated them often.
First we are taking advantage of the grouping of the A.E.A., the Government's industrial research Laboratories and the N.R.D.C. The Managing Director of the N.R.D.C. has become a member of the Board of the A.E.A. and his experience will be especially valuable in the extension of the Authority's activities outside the nuclear field, which is now possible under the Science and Technology Act.
Second—and most important—it is only right that the Government should be able to engage the resources and expertise of these two statutory corporations in activities which are deemed to be in the national interest. There is no conflict here with the corporations' autonomy. Under our present organisation I am able to call on the unparalleled technical resources of the A.E.A., and the expertise of the N.R.D.C. in patent and commercial negotiations to assist us in areas where there is urgent need for action. I will go into this in more detail later in my speech. It is sufficient at present to mention the A.E.A.s new responsibilities for desalination work and timely assistance, on a large scale, which is being negotiated between N.R.D.C. and computer manufacturers, so that we have a joint, co-ordinated effort of the industry and the corporation, and get the value of joint effort. In both instances, these functions are in co-ordination with the work which is going on in industry and in research establishments supported by Government funds.
In fact, the way in which we are making the fullest use of the A.E.A. and N.R.D.C. exemplifies an approach to this problem which is essentially different from that previously in existence. Contrary to the views which have been expressed, I have never made any attempt to disguise the fact that the task of my Department is a very long-term one. I have been asked a series of questions—and we have been under fire many time, with 42 Questions in all in the short period since I have been able to answer here—along the lines of, "What have you done since last week?". As has been said, there have been times 525 when I have answered, "I have nothing further to report." It is hardly likely that one is going to have something further to report on a major project in atomic energy, computers, or electronics seven days after being asked the last Question. We have set out to demonstrate that we regard it as a long-term and very valuable task.
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wallasey that in his last position as Minister of Transport he initiated many desirable studies—some he did not initiate, but some he did—which have not yet come to fruition. Some will. Therefore I suggest to him he should not be too impatient about a matter which is deep and detailed—detailed to the extent that the right hon. Member himself is taking what he has described as a sabbatical year to learn what it is all about. I have in my hand a little box, containing two micro-miniaturised circuits. The right hon. Gentleman for Wallasey is learning whether such things are of use to British industry. Therefore, I would suggest that to pretend that my Ministry should have reached a conclusion in every direction in a few months of operation is not even being fair to the right hon. Member himself.
The right hon. Gentleman has suggested he is going to America and to Japan to see what is going on. I wish I could. Part of my duties is to be in the House instead of being in America or Japan or elsewhere to see what they are doing. When the right hon. Member comes back, probably he will tell us. He will not have to read from a book published in 1964 about the period 1951 to 1961, but will tell us what is happening now and whether we are starting to catch them up in the way we hope we are.
Since it is accepted that much of our work is long-term, we must not neglect the opportunities for doing short-term work.
The Opposition claim that the Ministry of Technology has achieved nothing since it was set up. Let us examine its record, starting with the A.E.A. and N.R.D.C. Both these corporations are now in a more confident position than they have been for years. This is natural in the light of recent developments which I will cover in the course of my review. They are both excellent organisations, 526 and are now enjoying an opportunity to use to the full their considerable resources to stimulate technological progress in industry. The right hon. Member for Wallasey made the point that one of the major things that help to bring progress is the establishment of confidence. We have done this. We have made the N.R.D.C. see that it has the backing, I hoped of the House, I am certain of the Government, but from some of the comments that were made on the last occasion on which I was at the Despatch Box, I thought of the House.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
While the right hon. Gentleman is on the subject of the Atomic Energy Authority, is he going to say anything about his recent visit to Dounreay and the future of the fast breeder reactor?
§ Mr. Cousins
It is my next point. Starting off with atomic energy, let the Committee consider the present position of the A.E.A. One of the most encouraging developments for the Authority and for the country in recent years has been the success of the tender for an advanced gas-cooled reactor submitted by Atomic Power Construction Ltd. for Dungeness B. Contract negotiations between the C.E.G.B. and the firm are expected to be concluded later this month, and a considerable amount of information on the technical and economic features of the successful design will then be issued.
Tributes have already been paid, deservedly, to the Atomic Energy Authority for their highly successful development of the A.G.R. system and to the industrial group concerned for their design for Dungeness B. The Authority and my Ministry will lose no opportunity of advancing the claims of the A.G.R.; and the nuclear industry also must, in its own interests and that of the nation, do everything possible to seek out business abroad wherever this is, in fact, possible. This we regard as a matter of great urgency and of essential need. Competition will be very keen—there is is no doubt about that—but there is a great opportunity and a great challenge here, and it must not be missed.
Nuclear power has turned the corner, and it has been possible to demonstrate that energy can be produced more cheaply by this means than by any other means. No other country in the world is better 527 placed than our country to secure a substantial share of the business in nuclear power stations and equipment which is bound to arise soon. This is something which is not generally known, but it is in our interest that it should be known: this country has more nuclear generating capacity installed than the rest of the world put together. There is too much denigrating of what we are able to do. Some of it is our own fault. But in this instance we have sent out to date about 1½ times as much electricity from nuclear reactors as the rest of the world put together. But we cannot afford to slacken. We must make progress.
I do not wish to take any credit from the Opposition. As I have said, I did not start with the idea of having a critical debate, "You did this and you did not do that". A lot was not done. Some things were done and many things need to be done. But they need to be done together, and I hope that at the end of the debate we shall emphasise that they need to be done together.
Fast reactor development is an important feature of the Authority's programme. These are reactors for the future, as far as one can see at this stage. They can produce electricity more cheaply than can any of the conventional stations or any other form of station, either conventional or nuclear. Moreover, they will use plutonium derived from the operations of existing types of reactor and they will be able to breed new fuel. This means greater economy and conservation in the use of uranium.
The Dounreay Experimental Establishment has worked very satisfactorily, and the next stage is the construction of a prototype. During the next few months the authority will be submitting to me their proposals for a prototype fast reactor. When they have done so, the Government will as soon as possible announce their decision whether the project should proceed and, if so, where the prototype is to be built. This will be brought to the House as soon as possible.
I have recently paid a visit to the Scottish area and to other parts of the Atomic Energy Authority Establishment to consider possible sites. Recently I visited Dounreay, and there was considerable pressure that the reactor should 528 be built in Scotland. Some would like it to be at Dounreay and some would like it to be at Chapel Cross. The fact is that I cannot yet say where the prototype ought to be put. Whatever we do about it, the claims of Dounreay, Chapel Cross and indeed anywhere else will be considered fully, having regard to what I hope the Committee will also think should be factors in the consideration. I am sure that my colleagues in the Government and on these Benches will think that we must have a great regard for the social and economic consequences of where we put the prototype.
It is quite obvious that the creation of stations of this kind is an expensive proposition in the first instance. Much money is involved in building a huge power plant. May I make this appeal. I hope that there will be as much enthusiasm for projects of this kind when we consider the money side of it as when we consider the theory and the social factors.
I turn to the Atomic Energy Authority's Trading Fund. The Authority's main task under the Act of 1954 was to promote research into various applications of atomic energy and to manufacture special material for use in atomic energy programmes. Production activities have grown substantially in the last few years, especially the manufacture of nuclear fuel elements for sale to the electricity generating authorities and for export. Altogether the Authority's sales of fuel elements, electricity and isotopes amount to some £30 million a year.
Commercial operations on this scale are difficult to accommodate within the structure of annual Parliamentary grants. Those who have been in Government, some of them a great deal longer than I have, will appreciate what I am saying. If one is not a free trading entity but is subject to Parliamentary grants it is difficult to take immediate decisions on monetary matters in a commercial sense. We have therefore, with the agreement of the House, freed the Atomic Energy Authority. They now more nearly resemble the position of other public enterprises or private operation. Since 1st April they have had their commercial operations separated from the rest of their activities. These are organised in a trading fund. The fund will retain depreciation provisions and trading surpluses 529 to enable it to build up its own reserves, to meet contingencies and normal capital investment requirements. This will enable them to compete in the commercial markets for the type of products which they produce.
In pursuing their commercial policy the Authority have recently concluded agreements with German and Italian companies for the manufacture of fuel elements in Europe. These agreements are intended to ensure that the Authority play a full part in fuel element business in Europe, against all competition. They have unrivalled experience and facilities for fuel element manufacture and they are determined to exploit these advantages to the full.
The Science and Technology Act, under which the changes in the organisation of civil science were given statutory effect, contains a very important provision on which I should like to speak for a moment. Under it, the Minister of Technology has power to authorise the Authority to undertake research and development in fields other than that of atomic energy. The idea, of course, is to utilise the vast resources and experience of the Authority to further the interests of British technology. Directives have already been given to the Authority requiring steps to be taken in their research effort in the use of centrifuges for medical research, aspects of the European Space Research Organisation satellite, and desalination.
I should like to emphasise the importance which we—and, I hope, everybody else—attach to the subject of desalination. We tend to think sometimes that the difficulties exist only in those countries where they have vast areas of unwatered sands which they hope to bring to cultivation. That is not so. In many parts of this country the water shortage is becoming one of the main problems. We hope that we shall be able to meet the problem. Every effort of improving the techniques and economics of desalination processes are being investigated.
The Authority will work very closely with industry on the improvement of present techniques and will also press on with the development of new ones. I say "with industry" because British industry has already supplied most of the large-scale desalination plants throughout the 530 world. The possibilities of using nuclear power for the dual purpose of generating electricity and supplying steam to desalination plants is under active consideration. Altogether a programme is being studied which will cost £1½ million in the next three years.
May I turn in some detail to the National Research Development Corporation? The right hon. Member for Wallasey suggested that we should not talk about the past but should talk about why we have not done things. But the Act is a framework in which we must examine what we intend to do. As the Committee knows, legislation was introduced early in the Session to raise the limit of advances to the National Research Development Corporation from £10 million to £25 million. The Development of Inventions Act, 1965, became law early last month. This increase reflects our belief that the Corporation can and will contribute significantly to our continuing need for the new techniques, processes and machinery, both for our industries at home and to sell abroad.
In addition to raising the ceiling on advances, the new Act gives the Government Departments power to ask the Corporation to undertake development on their behalf and at their expense. This is an important change, which will enable the Government to make full use of the knowledge and experience which has been built up in the Corporation over the last 16 years and to avoid duplication of effort. The new Act also gives the Corporation additional flexibility in making arrangements to share with industry the risks of novel developments, and in negotiating terms for the recovery of its investment appropriate to the circumstances of particular cases.
The growing volume of new proposals which has recently come forward to the Corporation is evidence that industry is becoming increasingly appreciative of the facilities offered by this unique institution. N.R.D.C. has taken on a number of new staff and is reorganising to meet the increased demands made on it by the continuing and unprecedented influx of important and interesting new projects.
Perhaps the most important development, however, is the change of atmosphere. Under the former Administration—I say this without any offence at all— 531 N.R.D.C. was a slightly awkward appendage of the Board of Trade, whilst the other main instrument of Government activity in industrial research was a completely separate Department, D.S.I.R. We have brought these activities together in my Ministry. We are associating N.R.D.C. closely with our discussions at all levels. We discuss with the Corporation projects which we have in mind. The Corporation discusses with us proposals it has in mind. We do not impinge upon the Corporation's authority. Its autonomy has been protected. But there is a new attitude of self-confidence and self-respect and the Corporation feels that it has the opportunity to make a full contribution now to the modernisation of Britain.
The Corporation has been in the news in the last few months concerning the support of one of its projects, the hovercraft. The Corporation has supported the hovercraft from 1958. It is no secret that the hovercraft is the largest of the Corporation's enterprises to date. The hovercraft has developed from an experimental model to a commercial craft in six years. There were many periods of time when there was deep criticism of the Corporation's continued support for this project. However, the Corporation pioneered this venture and it now looks as if the project is coming to a stage of real commercial exploitation. The optimism about the hovercraft is apparently now justified.
Some ferry services using the smaller craft are already running. I understand that firm orders are in for at least 17 and possible orders for some eight more. The cross-Channel hovercraft service has been announced for next year. There is interest from all over the world in this wonderful British invention. The new product—the S.R.N.4—is working a revolution in the matter of movement over considerable and medium distances of water.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
Will the right hon. Gentleman say why in the culmination of this very successful enterprise foreign Powers—the Swedes and others—will be allowed to carry out the actual operation from British shores?
§ Mr. Cousins
At this point in time I have no authority to make anyone do it. I would have liked to have made someone 532 do it, but I have not yet the authority to say to a British firm, "You go and run a hovercraft service". I have taken every opportunity recently to express my point of view, and I shall continue to do so. There is another aspect about which we must be careful. We must not give the impression that the Corporation is not producing things for export. If an industry is in fact capable of producing something which a foreign company starts up and makes a success of, it will at least help us in our export trade. However, I shall resent it if they come into our market and take all the fruits of our efforts.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I do not attach any blame to the right hon. Gentleman for what has happened. As he has referred to this subject, however, may I say that I should have thought that the Government ought to bring pressure or persuasion or coercion to bear to ensure that this is a British effort in the final organisation of it.
§ Mr. Cousins
I am sure that this side of the Committee will take note of the words used by the hon. Gentleman—"pressure", "coercion", and so on. Seriously, I am very interested in trying to assist the use of this by British organisations. The new S.R.N.4—the 150 tonner—is able to move at 70 knots and tackle waves of up to 15 feet. They know that it can tackle waves to a greater depth than that, but they are prepared to give it commercial propaganda at 15 ft. It will be able to carry up to 250 passengers and about 30 cars, or a greater number of passengers without a car ferry service attached to it. This is a good thing. The more frequently we say this, the better I shall like it.
Turning to computers, as the Committee knows, because it has been referred to today, we drew up a programme of action. We ought to consider the use of more computers by British industry. The discussion sometimes varies between it being said that I ought to stimulate the British computer industry and that I ought to stimulate British industry to use computers. I am sometimes asked to say which is my intention. I do not think that the two things are alternatives. I feel that there is a great need for the growth of the use of British computers here.
533 The right hon. Member for Wallasey made this point when he compared our figures with those of America. There is no doubt but that there is a need for a great growth in the use of computers. I do not think that anybody will be likely to dispute this, but the Government are themselves convinced that a flourishing British computer industry is necessary so that the techniques which this industry employs shall remain right here in the United Kingdom side by side with the other industries with which the computer industry works, because control processes are becoming a very important part of the computer industry.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)
The right hon. Gentleman may know that B.O.A.C. is contemplating purchasing computers. There is a suggestion that it may purchase American computers, as opposed to what B.E.A. has done. B.E.A. has British computers. Will the right hon. Gentleman use his influence to ensure that B.O.A.C. takes British computers?
§ Mr. Cousins
This is a matter which has been drawn to my attention. We are considering this. One of the great problems is that B.O.A.C. has commercial autonomy in the same way as most other organisations have. Under the last Administration it was allowed, without any opposition, to purchase American computers. It is talking of maintaining that association within the existing system. Nevertheless, we are considering what can be done about this.
§ Mr. Godfrey Lagden (Hornchurch)
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way again. Would he not agree that if in the case he has mentioned the advanced computer machinery which has been purchased is an advantage to the industry it would be well advised to continue with it, as the whole object of the exercise of the computer industry in itself is to produce for British industry the best tools to hand?
§ Mr. Cousins
The situation is quite a difficult one to answer in a "Yes" or "No" way. If we were to pursue this through, we could justify the purchase from elsewhere of almost every piece of equipment we have in this country. I am sure that this would not be the wish of either side of the Committee. If we are 534 not producing equipment which can satisfactorily cope with the job, that is the issue which needs tackling, or we may find ourselves without any of our industries.
The right hon. Member for Wallasey asked me whether we were giving effect to this policy and whether the Computer Advisory Unit was doing a job of work. I am sure that it is. The right hon. Gentleman then began to talk in terms of money. I am not intending today to give any money figures, for a reason which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will accept as soon as I outline it. The review of the computer requirements of universities and research councils has been completed and is about to be brought forward to me for action. It would be quite improper for me to be talking about computer costs when the report has not yet reached me. We made the proposal that our five-year programme should start off at the rate of £2 million a year, and we gave the House of Commons the impression that it would be a rising programme. It was inevitably bound to be a rising programme, but the extent to which it rises is dependent on the report and on the reactions of all the departments, both research and education, to their programme requirements. If the right hon. Member for Wallasey accepts this point of view, at a later stage, I hope not too long from now, I hope to be able to tell the House the position as to the Flowers Report.
More important than these specific measures, however, which should be acceptable to both sides of the Committee, is the effect which our determination to stimulate the growth of computers is having on the computer industry itself I have seen ample evidence of this in my discussions with the industry and in visits I have paid to its establishments, some of which the right hon. Gentleman has also visited either at the same time or at different times. There is a new sense of confidence, both in the production of current equipment and in the development of new ranges. ICT's 1900 series, despite all the criticisms I have had about British computers, is a good computer. For example, it has been successfully launched and the company is planning a programme of production 535 of a computer a day, which is the kind of production we have not had so far in this country. At this rate, the company could supply all Britain's computers in about six months' production. This is the kind of approach which we have not had before.
I turn now to the subject of machine tools. I made a statement to the House setting out proposals in connection with the machine tool industry. These included action to promote research and development through the National Research Development Corporation, an important programme of work at the National Engineering Laboratory, a new study of the cyclical pattern of machine tool ordering, a programme of work at the universities and the establishment of an expert machine tool unit in my own headquarters. The implementation of these proposals is now in progress and it is clear that they have already had a good response and have aroused a great deal of interest in the industry.
Since I announced a month ago that we wanted to increase development contracts and place pre-production orders for new machine tools, there has been an encouraging response. My Department has received about 20 approaches from firms already, including four relating to pre-production orders, and these are now being examined. In case we have any more questions about how many times since last week we have bought a machine tool, I hope that the Committee will accept that part of my responsibility is to examine projects and to ensure that money spent on development in the industry is well spent, bringing material advantages to the economy.
There has also been an increase in the number of projects for new machine tools submitted to the N.R.D.C. The criticism has been levelled at us that we failed to deal with this question of cyclical ordering in the machine tool industry. This is not surprising. We came to office and we examined the facts and we had a report from a Committee and we set about putting our proposals before the industry in an attempt to deal with this problem. But many experts over the last 50 years have applied themselves to this question and none has brought forward a generally acceptable and satisfactory solution which has maintained 536 the flow in the machine tool industry. We hope to do something about this, but certainly not in the next two or three days.
It has been wrongly suggested that in my statement on 14th June I dismissed the possibility of Government action to deal with this problem. What I said was that I was not at present convinced that Government assistance was needed to underwrite manufacturers' building for stock. I am not opposed to the possibility of other Government action, as should have been apparent from my announcement that I was setting up a Working Party to examine the cyclical problem further. The membership of the Working Party is now complete. It includes representatives of the manufacturers, the trade unions, the users of machine tools, Government Departments and the City. I have asked the Working Party to address itself to its task with urgency, with a view to submitting an interim report as soon as possible.
The Opposition have said quite often and have told me again today that I am holding a sword—not the Sword of Damocles this time—over the heads of the industry. I wonder whether the right hon. Member for Wallasey would not prefer me to say that I intend to nationalise it so that we can have something to row about. It is not an argument with the industry. People in the industry do not believe that our proposals are designed to create an atmosphere in which we can proceed to nationalise the machine tool industry. We said in our programme that it could include the use of Government Departments. This is still so. I would not hesitate to tell the House of Commons about any measures which we thought appropriate. If we do, I will tell the House, but until we do, for the Lord's sake let us encourage the machine tool industry to go on manufacturing the kind of things needed in British industry. Let us stimulate its confidence by the Opposition's confidence and our confidence.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
Are we to understand that although in the Labour Party's policy at the last election the possibility of nationalising the machine tool industry, amongst others, was visualised, at present the right hon. Gentleman has no intention whatsoever 537 of nationalising it but still reserves the right to do so should he change his mind?
§ Mr. Cousins
In the proposals which we put in front of the industry I have suggested methods by which we think we can stimulate and aid the production of machine tools and it includes measures which have not been tried before. If the industry will not and cannot—I use "will not" because it is partly the responsibility of the industry to do this—it will be necessary to consider what other steps the Government may need to take. I do not think that I need to declare my political allegiance to the principle of public ownership in order to make the industry do it. Everyone knows that I am a believer in the principle of public ownership. It has nothing to do with my approach to this industry, and I hope that it will get on with the job.
I should like to say something about the organisation of the Ministry because this is one of the problems with which we have been faced. Anyone who ever had to tackle the question of creating a new Department will know something about these problems. We had to set up an organisation of scientists, engineers and administrators. It embodies, in addition to the industrial elements of the former D.S.I.R. Headquarters, certain important new features. Of these I would mention in particular the special groups which have been set up to study the problems of selected industries, including the four for which the Ministry of Technology is the sponsor Department, and also the question of engineering standards, about which I shall have something to say later.
Our build-up has been slower than I would have wished, mainly because of the difficulty of recruitment. In most of these spheres there is as much difficulty in obtaining top scientists and administrators for Government Departments as there is elsewhere and this is something which we need to consider. As for regional organisation, the previous D.S.I.R. had regional offices in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Newcastle. This organisation is being expanded to conform with the Government's regional plans under which there will be eight regional centres. Our regional offices will encourage technical development in industry and 538 will promote more effective co-operation between Government, academic and industrial establishments concerned with research and development.
I stress these regional developments, and I am sure that the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) will endorse them because he was one of the people who spoke strongly in support of regional progress particularly in association with the North-East. I do not know whether people asked him as often as they ask me how fast progress was being made.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (St. Marylebone)
Whilst I share the right hon. Gentleman's enthusiasm for all this, may I point out that he has taken over almost everything that I have done and claimed the credit for it himself?
§ Mr. Cousins
I am not sure if the right hon. and learned Gentleman should join me in receiving the complaints or whether we should share the praises.
In regional organisation we want to get down to the grass roots. We hope that as our regional organisation spreads and becomes better known it can provide a valuable point of contact and a two-way traffic both for industry and ourselves. We need this. We want to tell industry what we are about and we want industry to tell us its problems. One of the complaints recently was that there was a dissociation between various branches of Government establishments and industry. We are trying to remedy this.
I have tried to deal with the whole problem of industrial centres. They are centred mainly on colleges of advanced technology and on regional and area technical colleges. Each sector has one, or more, industrial liaison officers who is responsible for maintaining contact with local firms and particularly with the smaller firms to promote greater use of existing scientific and technical knowledge. I believe that these arrangements will greatly improve the sources of advice available to industry and particularly to the small firms which are unable to afford an ambitious research staff of their own and which, as a result, will be brought directly into the stream of modern technology.
539 I have taken over from the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research responsibility for administering grants to the industrial research associations. Since April, fresh grant terms have been given to six research associations and we have launched three further projects under the earmarked grants scheme. One of these deals with the computer programming of factory operations in rubber manufacture and another with in-line process control in the food industry.
In particular, we have increased the maximum grant available to the Production Engineering Research Association from £100,000 to £195,000, and that to the Machine Tool Industry Research Association from £80,000 to £120,000. These grants should benefit a wide range of industry. We have also offered to the Scientific Instrument Research Association a special grant of 300 per cent. of industrial income devoted to industrial instrumentation and control work. We regard this as a special field in which we need great assistance, and it was pleasing to hear that some hon. Members opposite think that we should pour more money out than we have up to now. In this way, the Association will form a focal point for this type of work in the research association movement as a whole, which will be a valuable step forward and hasten the application of better process control and automation in industry. The Committee will have noted that some of the grants which I have mentioned are designed to go to research associations whose work has a widespread impact on the manufacturing side of industry.
One special responsibility assigned to my Department relates to engineering standards. Standards are of the greatest importance to our export trade, and our aim must be to see that British standards incorporate the most modern technology and also that, so far as possible, they are aligned with internationally agreed standards. A special group within my Ministry is working with the Board of Trade and the British Standards Institution in promoting an important programme for the introduction of the new series of metric standards foreshadowed in the announcement made by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade on 26th May. We are working 540 also on the important fields of standards of measurement and improving arrangements for certification and approval.
British industry itself has been pressing for a number of years that we should go over to this system. Before we made our approach for a decision to be taken on the principle of intent regarding metric standards, we had consultations with industry, and industrialists were quite clear in their opinion that it was a necessary step forward. These are not points of marginal significance, as many hon. Members associated with industry will recognise. Our ability to sustain an export trade in engineering goods will be greatly embarrassed unless we are able to do it because 50 per cent. of our trade is with countries which accept and maintain metric standards. It is necessary for us also to study the standards and certification regulations and legislation in countries with which we trade. This, too, is being undertaken by the Ministry.
Now, manpower. The Ministry of Technology has been given an important function in connection with the status of the engineering profession. Half our exports are in the form of products of the engineering industries. These industries are vital to our future. To compete effectively with fierce competition from other countries, old and new, exploiting modern technology and modern sophisticated processes to the limit, they need an increasing share of the ablest men coming forward from our schools, technical colleges and universities. At the moment they are not getting enough. They are getting some good men—again, one wants not to belittle the men who are coming forward—but they need more.
The sixth form boy, as we know from a recent publication of the Oxford University Department of Education, is impressed by a career in science or medicine. But the proportion of boys and girls of the highest ability who want to make engineering their career is too small. Two years ago, a valuable report was published with the Report of the Advisory Council for Scientific Policy. This covered a series of proposals designed to raise the status of engineers. We are setting up an organisation to follow up all these points. We have also commissioned a study through the Tavistock Institute on the use which 541 industry makes of the engineers which it gets. We are co-operating closely with the Engineering Institutions Joint Council on this subject.
Inevitably, this is another long-term task involving changes of social attitude. It is encouraging to know that, nowadays, so many people are aware that the problem exists and are publicising the imperative need for a solution. There is a great responsibility on industry here. May I issue a word of warning to us all. We do not want to repeat the mistakes of 50 or 60 years ago when there was a huge drive to bring men of skill in the sciences into industry but many men came along only to find that industry was not ready to receive them and did not want them. Certain sections of the chemical industry and others suffered acutely over a number of years on this account. We must co-ordinate the need with the provisions we make for the supply of men. In this connection, I have, in talking to British industrialists, pointed out that the higher up the ladder of control in industry engineers come the more likely will people be to recognise what the situation demands. If a managing director is an engineer, he is more likely to recognise the value of engineers to his organisation than if he has no association whatever with engineering.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the result of the survey by the Tavistock Institute is likely to be published? Will it be in two or three years or one year?
§ Mr. Cousins
Quicker than that. We have set one of our own people the responsibility for pushing it forward. A short time ago, I said in answer to a Question in the House that I am an impatient man and I push everyone to get on with things—even if I do not build computers every week. The task will be completed as speedily as we can because we regard it as most important. We think it important also that, in the interim period, every one of us should emphasise the need for engineers to be in industry.
Now, the social consequences. There is an equally important point here because this is a problem affecting men and women. Our efforts in advancing technology will not succeed if we do not take into account the consequences for 542 those whose work may be radically altered or abolished by the changes which will come. Otherwise, the changes we need will be suspect and resisted, not being welcomed as they should be. The restrictive practice attitude, which was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman in passing, with an oblique effort to give it to me as a responsibility, is, in fact, the responsibility of us all. We all tend to adopt it in our own separate ways, but we notice the other man. But, unless we approach these things in the right way, looking forward to change and a new order of society and recognising the social consequences which it will bring to people, we shall fail. However cleverly we debate or reach conclusions here in the House of Commons, this aspect of the matter must be kept in the forefront of our minds.
A few days ago, in company with the right hon. Member for Wallasey, I visited Wolvercote Mill of the Oxford University Press. It is interesting to know the details of a new mechanised and computer-controlled system which has been installed there. It is the first fully automated paper mill in the world. In the early stage there was an investigation of the human aspects of the workpeople's situation and their working environment, and the management was assisted in this by studies undertaken with financial help from the D.S.I.R. The company took pains to introduce a productivity and cost reduction sharing scheme in order to ensure that the workers would have a fair share of any benefits which would flow from the introduction of computer control. Also there was the closest collaboration between the manufacturers of the computer system, Elliott Automation Limited, and the Oxford University Press from the initial planning right through to the operational stage. People were sent from the printing company to the computer company, and vice versa, in order that each should know the other's problems. The computer firm said, "We do not know about paper making but we know about control systems", and the printing company said, "We know about paper making but not about automation and control systems". So they planned the thing together.
The results so far have been extremely encouraging—increased output, better 543 quality production, higher wages and no redundancy. I understand that the whole cost of the project is expected to be recovered in less than two years. I hope that this will be noted especially by managements of small firms. They can put money in to mechanise and automate and achieve a satisfactory result. This was another of the projects backed by the N.R.D.C.
This is part of the record of the activities which we have undertaken during our period of existence. Of course, I am aware that there are many which we have not fully dealt with. I am aware that in our examination of, for example, telecommunications and electronics, we have not a great deal of progress yet to report. I am aware also that one hon. Member opposite said that I ought not to rush into decisions about the electronics and telecommunications industries, suggesting that this was a most complicated matter, that our studies ought to be deep and detailed and that, when we came to conclusions, they should be supportable. That we intend to do.
I do not intend to come every few weeks with a report to the House in order to prove that I am still working. I claim, I hope with justification in the light of the facts, that my Ministry has already a solid basis of achievement over a wide range of activities. I am satisfied that it has a vital and important part to play in the future development and modernisation of industry.
It is not offensive to say that British industry in some instances needs assistance and modernisation. I am not decrying industry in saying that. We must not forget that many sections of British industry are ahead of the rest of the world. However, many others need aid to help them get there. Whether we like it or not, we are moving into a new world. Everyone in science and technology knows what can be accomplished. I hope that politicians—and for that purpose I include myself—do not regard it as simply a debating plank. It is something that we must face and I think that we should be prepared to help it rather than hinder it.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
If I have any castigations to deliver, I 544 hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Technology will not take them personally because I believe that where there has been misunderstanding in the public mind of what he was going to be able to do in his job that misunderstanding is not his fault but the fault of those who draw up the policy which visualised a Ministry of Technology and gave the impression that it would be able to do a great deal that the right hon. Gentleman himself now openly admits that he has not had time fully to decide upon or has not yet the powers to do.
I have always thought that we should keep science and technology out of party politics as far as is reasonably possible. Obviously, if the question of ownership arises, then automatically the issue becomes one of party politics and one cannot help that. But in the work of science and in deciding on subjects of research we should always keep party politics to the minimum.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that there is a very great danger, in dealing with this subject, of getting so fascinated by the new types of machinery and the various devices designed to help industry and provide it with new tools that we get carried away with the sophistication that it entails and forget those who have to employ the means. Unless we have the right approach in the minds of men at all levels of industry and in Government, particularly in the Civil Service, we shall not be able to use as we should all the tools that are now coming out in the most sophisticated form to help industry.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman will admit that we have not unduly pressed him so far to declare himself before he was ready to do so. I asked him before Easter to tell us a little about a certain order dealing with the Atomic Energy Authority. He then said that he would like to wait. He must expect us before the Summer Recess to question him about many of these matters.
But all these things which are concerned with his Ministry will never be done as well as they should be done unless the Government Departments concerned are manned by people who have the right approach to life, by people who are themselves, in taking big decisions, approaching the whole question of modernisation and automation of industry 545 in the right way. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman was right, when he took office, to try to learn what his job was to be, but I hope he will avoid the temptation to try to dazzle us with the end products of what has been a continuing process over many years. This, I think, is the great error of the policy upon which the Prime Minister has depended.
A picture was painted before the last election of something that was rapidly grinding to a halt in industry when, on the contrary, there had been a steady increase of Government activity in science and technology. The right hon. Gentleman, like us all, is now reaping the benefit of what has been done by the D.S.I.R. over the years.
The D.S.I.R. has now submitted its last report to the Minister, and through him to Parliament. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to congratulate those who have worked over the years in the D.S.I.R. and have achieved such amazing results. We all know how it grew up. We have read Sir Solly Zuckerman's account of how it emerged and also the Trend Report. They have told the history of this remarkable Department. We can all rejoice that many of those who have given such devoted service to it will continue under new labels in the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry and in various bodies for which he is responsible.
Whatever we call the organisation, we all owe these men, as men, a very great debt. I hope we shall always remember that if we had not had the ability and dedication to the public wealth of these men over the years we should not have achieved the success we have, any more than we shall achieve the future success that we must get. If we ignore the fact that it is men first of all who really matter and that, if we choose the wrong men for the wrong job and do not have men who can interpret, use and encourage others to use modern tools in industry then, however brilliant and sophisticated those tools may be, we shall not get the results that otherwise we could get.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Those who have debated this subject with the hon. Gentleman know how fair-minded he is. It is very well for him to talk about injecting science into the Civil Service, but what precisely has he in mind? Is he suggesting that there 546 should be a scientific sub-committee of the Public Accounts Committee? Is there not an onus upon him to specify rather than generalise?
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I know that the hon. Gentleman is a great enthusiast on this subject. I ask him to contain himself long enough to allow me to make my speech, and I will answer his question. He may recall that in October, 1961, the Labour Party Conference adopted "Signposts For The Sixties". At the time, some of my hon. Friends and I, together with some members of my party outside the House, were working on a report which we published just before the Trend Report came out. In that report, we pressed this very theme of what we thought ought to happen in Government Departments. I will quote from one of our major recommendations.
If the Minister has not a copy of our report, perhaps I may have the privilege of sending him one. We sat for about two and a half years before the report came out and we took evidence from those dealing with the sort of departments the right hon. Gentleman is responsible for and with industry as well. Our principal conclusion was:… the pace of technological progress and the pattern of research and development in Britain, which are crucial to our economic future, are already heavily influenced not only or even principally by specifically scientific policies but by almost every other aspect of Government economic and financial policy. This influence on the country's science and technology, which has so far been for the most part unconsciously exercised, is in need not so much of extension as of being recognised and deliberately directed. The Government should consider its policies not only in terms of the immediate purpose of a particular policy, but also in terms of the indirect impact of that policy in influencing the technological future of British industry. This will involve a much more detailed appraisal of the industrial repercussions of policy than the present machinery of Government can provide.We went on:We recommend that every Government Department with industry should have a new kind of 'scientific-economic staff' to act as a forward policy planning unit and to advise the Minister on the technical and industrial implications of the Department's future policy plans, to gather economic and technical information from the relevant industries, to apply it to the specific aspects of the Department's work and generally to provide a technical intelligence service to the Department in formulating its future requirements and considering the developments of its policy.547 I am sorry to have wearied the Committee with a long quotation, but I hope that that is partly the answer to the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) and I hope that it has conveyed to the Minister, if he was not already aware of it, the fact that we in the Conservative Party have been trying to think constructively about what is necessary in the Government machine itself to enable him, or anybody else in his office, to achieve the worthy objectives which he has set.
In all my experience of life, whether as a soldier or in industry or elsewhere, I have always found that if one did not get one's headquarters right, one never succeeded. The right hon. Gentleman is extremely fortunate in being able to draw on the bodies which form his headquarters. But what I am worried about is whether he is getting the co-operation from other Departments which he must get if he is to succeed.
This is where I blame the Prime Minister above all other Ministers, because if a Minister of Technology is to be given the job which the Prime Minister has outlined on more than one occasion, not least explicitly when he spoke to the annual general meeting of the Parliamentary Scientific Committee not long ago, it must be made possible for that Minister to get the co-operation from his Government colleagues which he must have if he is to succeed. This is where the Government are falling down and I have great sympathy with the Minister in his difficulties.
There is one detailed matter on which I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to reply in some detail. In Sir William Penney the Minister has as the head of the Atomic Energy Authority one of the finest scientists and leaders of vital application in industry he could have. I would not wish to suggest, and nor would the Minister, that there should be any undermining of the position of the head of the Atomic Energy Authority, or that the Minister should start to interfere politically. However, in that excellent weekly journal, the New Scientist, and elsewhere, there have been recent reports indicating that there is still a certain potential commercial activity of the Authority which the Minister has not treated as he has treated commercial 548 activities of the Authority's research division.
Personally, I welcome his decision over the other aspects, but why is he leaving Windscale's reactivation of spent fuel out of this commercial exercise? I understand that there is here a very big potential business building up and that there is the prospect of some very good trade with the Italian equivalent organisation. Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to take Sir William's advice and see whether we can develop this new commercial outlook with a possible extension to other countries? I hope that he will.
For a very long time I have been a believer in what used to be called the Haldane system of Government and science—that the politician was not allowed to intervene too deeply in scientific matters. Over the years—certainly over the last 13 years, whether the right hon. Gentleman likes it or not—the amount of civil research and development sponsored by the Government and industry has rocketed. We have to ask ourselves whether we are getting full value for money. The process has now reached the point where those in charge of authorising this sort of expenditure have to be more qualified so as to know from whom to take advice on a scientific subject. This is becoming increasingly the great problem of Parliamentary control in science.
I am certain that many people now taking these decisions are finding themselves more and more at sea, not knowing what the right answer is and not knowing to whom to turn to get it and, even when they get the answer, probably not comprehending it, simply because they do not think in that vernacular. These are the problems which the Minister should attempt. My sympathies are with him, because if the Prime Minister had meant what he said when he helped to write "Signposts For The Sixties", he would never have allowed the right hon. Gentleman to get into this position.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
I have the impression that the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) was being a little unfair about the internal mechanism in Whitehall. Does not the Ministry of Housing and Local Government have an expert planning advisory group, and architects like 549 Richard Llewelyn Davies, the technically highest qualified people in the land? Does not the Ministry of Public Building and Works also have the highest quality of technical advice? The Department of Education and Science certainly has a formidable array of statisticians and other experts.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman about Parliamentary control. What does seem to me to be essential is that, to be effective, any Select Committee of the House of Commons must have not only the ability to call before it whom it pleases, but also an adequate staff to ensure that it is effective. It is because of this that some of us would recommend that what the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely wishes to achieve can best be effected by extending the present use of the Public Accounts Committee. There should be a small scientific unit working alongside the Comptroller and Auditor-General and his staff, directly responsible to the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons, and paid on the same Vote as the Comptroller and Auditor-General. The Comptroller and Auditor-General might be an administrative primus inter pares.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
One very important Department which the hon. Gentleman left out of the list which I have particularly in mind is the Treasury.
§ Mr. Dalyell
It so happens that I have with me a book by Samuel Brittan, "The Treasury Under The Tories". I got this book from the Library precisely because I had the same suspicion as the hon. Gentleman. It was my impression that the Treasury was back in a pre-Plowden sort of Gladstonian era in which it looked after candle ends. Having read this account of how the Treasury works—and I give credit to the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), because it seems that he put through some very important Treasury reforms—I believe that the Treasury is very different from what it was 10 years ago.
I think that those of us who criticise Whitehall have an obligation to be very specific in saying what we want done. What I want to see is an extension of the Public Accounts Committee and a subcommittee on civil science, armed not only with the Comptroller and Auditor-General's Department, but also with a small staff of its own which would not be 550 beholden to civil servants and could, perhaps, operate from private industry and the universities and C.A.T.s on the same basis as officers and members of the staff of the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst—that is, that they do not stay for more than three or five years. This will be the sort of organisation that will help to achieve the things that we both want.
When I was on the benches opposite I never concealed that I had a very high regard for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), not as a Parliamentary performer, but from what one heard, of his capacity as an operator in Whitehall. I have said to my somewhat astonished constituents that although I had many other criticisms of the Government I always felt that the slogan "Marples Must Go" placed an emphasis in the wrong quarter.
During the right hon. Gentleman's speech I wondered how many of his colleagues would accept what he told us this afternoon. It seemed to indicate a degree of coercion and dragooning that was considerably greater than anything that would be accepted by most of his colleagues on those benches. I am sorry that he is out of the Chamber. Perhaps I should have given him notice that I was going to take up this point, but I had no idea I would be called so soon.
Specifically, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wallasey said that we should extend our scientific relations with Europe, that one of the answers to our problems was to combine our efforts with those of our European partners. This, on the face of it, is an extremely attractive proposition and one to which I wholeheartedly subscribe.
We are entitled to ask some questions, however. Why was it that the right hon. Gentleman's Government were not prepared to support the European High Energy Nuclear Physics Centre at Geneva when they were in need? I cannot forget that about 18 months ago I was the guest of the Director of the High Energy Centre at C.E.R.N. He complained bitterly that time and again, when he wanted to expand, it was, "You British who were dragging your feet". The Italians, the Germans and the French were easier than the British, who were holding back on expansion.
It seems that if we are to talk with any idea of honesty about European 551 co-operation, then we must be prepared to say that we will not drag our feet. Let us give credit where it is due, in this case to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology and his Department, because when a crisis was reached on the question of storage rings at C.E.R.N., the British Labour Government acted very promptly, even though it was a time of financial difficulty.
Perhaps it lies more in our mouths rather than in the mouths of the Opposition to talk about European co-operation. I wish to follow the example of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Ely in that he was brief and to the point, in order to let other Members get into the debate. I would like to make one rather narrow point. Some weeks ago I was the guest, at their annual conference, of the Association of Teachers in Technical Institutions. At its four and a half day conference at Whitley Bay we talked a great deal on the subject of mathematics. It was their belief that we could not have the sort of technological revolution that we are talking about today unless very many of our average pupils had some grounding in mathematics. Perhaps it is not only a question of pupils, but also a question of apprentices having a grounding in everyday mathematics.
In paranthesis, I would wish to pay tribute to the apprentice training scheme that is operated by my right hon. Friend's Department, in its atomic energy engineering workshop at Dounreay and Chapelcross and elsewhere. I think that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) also knows something of this work at first hand.
It is not very honest to talk about improved training in mathematics unless one is clear about where this instruction is coming from. Although it in no sense does away with teachers in mathematics, I believe that a great deal more use could be made in our country of programmed learning, of teaching machines and audio-visual aids, especially in training in mathematics and technical subjects. The 14 to 18-year-old, if he is to get a grounding in mathematics, needs confidence more than anything else. This often means being allowed to work at his own pace and not being made a fool of in front of other people. A person able to work at his own pace often overcomes 552 the blockages with which we are all familiar. Branching teaching machines can instil confidence in handling cosines and tangents in pupils.
Perhaps one could leave it at that, and advocate teaching machines, but this would not be facing up to our present problem, because the situation at present is not at all satisfactory. When one writes to the Department of Education and Science on this subject it passes by like the Levite, on the other side of the road, and it sends a long memorandum, signed by Mr. Embling, from which I would like to quote at random.The County of Oxfordshire has teaching machines being used experimentally in a rural school and the authority is planning to acquire more in 1964–65.Somerset: The headmaster of a day school for E.S.N. children is studying the use of programmed learning and teaching machines for remedial purposes.This is all very praiseworthy. I am not deriding it, but it is nothing like the co-ordinated policies we must have if teaching machines and audio-visual aids are to be used at anything like the significant rate which is required. Therefore, my call this afternoon is for co-ordination and some sort of plan. I would not wish to blame the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle), or my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), for what they have apparently failed to do in the past, because until recently it was true that the programmes were not available and programming is the key to this whole situation.
Now the time has come when the programmes are sufficiently far advanced to have a co-ordinated policy and now is the time for leadership and we look to the Government, to the Ministry of Technology and the Department of Education and Science for the leadership. The purpose of my speech is to propose one of two things, either co-ordination of a consortia of firms involved in making teaching machines, or publicly-owned industry. It is no use asking for leadership without being clear where one is to find the sort of machinery that we still need—the sort of hardware, to use the terminology of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wallasey. It seems that the Government should get together a consortium of the firms that 553 have already experimented in programmed learning or else it should be the speciality of a small public enterprise, along the lines outlined by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when he was Leader of the Opposition.
My right hon. Friend said:We believe that research and development contracts should be placed with aircraft, electronics and other firms affected, with groups of young scientists, with Government research establishments and with the technical departments of the universities and colleges of advanced technology, to enable the research workers, the technicians and the productive workers to achieve a whole series of breaks through in the civil field. We have become accustomed to research and development contracts in the military field: it is urgent now to be working out a similar procedure in the civil field.That was the view of my right hon. Friend when he spoke at Preston on 19th June, 1964. Speeches of Leaders of Oppositions always repay study!
§ Mr. Lubbock
Does not the hon. Gentleman think that a great deal could be done by the Secretary of State for Education and Science in drawing the attention of all local authorities to the experience of advanced authorities such as Essex which have made great use of programme learning and audio-visual aids?
§ Mr. Dalyell
That is true, but my worry is that all Ministers are too concerned with what Lord Bridges called the "departmental philosophy" of leaving it to the local authorities. I believe that this problem can no longer be left to local authorities, however big and however progressive. With that qualification, I accept what the hon. Member for Orpington says.
To return to my theme, we should consider setting up, in conjunction with colleges of advanced technology, or perhaps new universities, such as Stirling or Essex, not only research into programme learning but production units. Is it not crucial that, in order to get the right kind of teaching machines which will fit the needs of average pupils, there should be a certain feed-back between those who make them and those who use them? I should be very strongly in favour of allowing teachers who were interested to take part at the production stage. These men and women should participate; the teachers should be involved. These 554 matters should not be left to mechanics, however able, and engineers, however talented, to give to teachers what they think the teachers should have. This is a two-way traffic, and it is partly on these grounds that my preference would be for a publicly-owned enterprise rather than a private consortium.
There is, however, another reason why I am swayed towards a publicly-owned enterprise. Because of the often legitimate worries of hon. Members opposite, I should go further on this point. Those of us who examined Sebastian de Ferranti and his firm, and those of us who attended the course run by Elliott Automation organised by my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wallasey, have learnt that these great firms, at any rate in relation to fixed price contracts, are not prepared, for reasons of their own, to allow equality of information. The Minister and his Department might care to study the evidence of Sir Richard Way to the P.A.C. on this point.
Last Wednesday morning, the Elliott representatives made it very plain that they would not be party to fixed price contracts if it meant Government Departments or anybody else having access to all their "know-how" and commercial secrets. If we believe that teachers and technicians should have access to these secrets in order to make an optimum product, it seems that a publicly-owned unit would be better, set up in conjunction either with a college of advanced technology or a university.
It is sensible to set up a publicly-owned unit where the products will be bought by the public purse and where there is, perhaps, an assured market. Of course, there would have to be assessors and the matter would have to be dealt with carefully, but the prize is very considerable. The prize is giving to our schools, taking advantage of the economies of scale, instruments which will give confidence in mathematics and in basic technical studies.
The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely spoke about engineers. Those of us who have talked to Mr. Feilden and others on his Committee—doubtless the hon. Gentleman is one of them—recognise that one of the difficulties is that a 16 555 to 18-year-old will not have that incentive to study engineering as he has to study pure science as science is more extensively taught in schools.
The standard of engineering teaching which is thought a possibility at many of our schools would be immensely improved if the teachers could have at their disposal some of the excellent programmes in engineering developed partly through the Association of Mechanical Engineers with which the hon. Member for Orpington and others of us have recently been associated.
I do not think that teaching machines are the answer to everything. Of course they are not. There is no panacea. But a serious Government policy to co-ordinate the production of teaching machines, constantly improved by feedback from teachers, developed by a university or by a college of advanced technology—and my preference would be for a new university such as Stirling or Essex, or at the National Visual-Aids Centre at Gypsy Hill—would be the sort of organisation which has been developed very effectively in New England where M.I.T. has done remarkable work. A teaching aid production unit is practical politics, it is sensible and it is a crucial factor which would take us into the new technological revolution and give a basic training to those whose working lives will extend to the year 2010 and 2015 without which it is senseless of us in this Chamber to think that we shall get the proper technological take-off that we all want.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Sir Lionel Heald (Chertsey)
When the Ministry of Technology was established I remember the Prime Minister saying that the Minister would be concerned with the practical application of science and technical skill in industry. On a later occasion he said that the Minister of Technology had the general duty of guiding and stimulating a great national effort to bring new advanced technological processes into operation.
I wish to concern myself with only one limited aspect of that function and to emphasise the importance of a close connection between the Minister of Technology and the patents system and for him to insist, in his capacity as Minister 556 of Technology, that that system should be efficient and properly equipped.
I know that this view was in the Minister's mind when he took up his position, because the point was dealt with in the debate on the Development of Inventions Bill on 18th February last. It was a joint effort: the Minister opened the debate and it was answered by the Minister of State, Board of Trade. It is sufficient for me to summarise briefly what the Minister of State said, which was that there must be the fullest co-operation between the Departments to ensure that industry and technical progress can benefit from what was done by inventors who, between them, made at least 40,000 new patent applications every year. It was, in fact, essential to have collaboration betwen the two Departments to that effect.
As far as I know, there has never been any delineation of the respective parts to be played by the Minister and the Board of Trade. It may well be that it is not necessary or desirable that there should be any strict definition. But that statement was warmly welcomed by all those interested in various patent matters. It was assumed that the right hon. Gentleman would be ready to act as a friend and, we hoped, a champion of inventors and patentees whenever it appeared that their interests and rights were not, perhaps, being fully regarded either by the Board of Trade in its anxiety for efficient organisation or by the Treasury when it was concerned with such matters as taxation.
I should like to bring two recent examples briefly to the notice of the Committee and thereafter to ask the Minister quite definitely to give us a clear answer about exactly how far and in what respects he is concerned in the kind of matter that I shall mention. The only Government proposal of any importance concerning our patent system since the General Election has been a proposal for the removal of the Patent Office from London. As far as I have had the opportunity of learning the views of those concerned with patents, almost without exception they regard this as a highly retrograde and undesirable move.
My information is that the proposal was considered during the last Parliament by the previous Government, but certainly no decision was made in favour of the move. 557 On the contrary, it would seem to have been the other way, because it appears to have been decided in general principle at that time that at least the Patent Office library which is the hub of the whole patent system, the place to which everyone connected with patents has to resort in connection with the filling of applications, the making of final specifications and considerations of possible defences to claims of infringement of patents, all of which matters require ready access to the Patent Office, should remain in London.
In May this year, however, the "grapevine" of the patent system, which I have always found to be a quite efficient organisation, appeared to have become aware that the proposal for removal was once again an active runner. The result was that the Federation of British Industries, the International Chamber of Commerce and other organisations on the industrial side, as well as professional organisations such as the Chartered Institute of Patent Agents, made strong representations against the proposal. It certainly would not be appropriate in this debate to rehearse the various arguments that were put forward; they were various and cogent. I venture briefly to mention only one, which has been the subject of considerable discussion. There have been speeches and discussion about it and there have been references to it in the Press.
I refer to the international repercussions which those with experience of these matters believe would be created by what would appear to be a downgrading of our whole patent system at a moment when the Government have professed—as I am sure the Minister, if he were present, would agree was certainly his objective—that British technology, the application of the brains of inventors, the resources of those who develop inventions and the industrial people who make use of them, should enjoy a very high reputation for Britain in the world and that to move the Patent Office from the capital would have a deplorable effect. I have seen more than one letter or other communication from people in other countries making a strong plea that this should not be done.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Richard Marsh)
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman seriously suggesting that the 558 act of moving the Patent Office or, presumably, any other office, out of London would downgrade it? Do I correctly understand him to say that offices of any sort outside London are inferior to those in London?
§ Sir L. Heald
Certainly. It does not mean that the people in the office are inferior, but the view taken by those who are concerned with these matters is that the clear indication would be that it was not regarded as an essential matter to have the Patent Office in the capital city. The practical result would be that a great deal of added inconvenience, real difficulty and delay would be caused to those who were involved with the Office.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary appears to be rather surprised at that and, perhaps, does not agree. I hope that he will believe, as I am sure the Minister would if he were present, that he should be guided in these matters by those with knowledge and experience. Even though it may seem to the hon. Gentleman that what I am saying is surprising, I ask him to believe it to be possible, as someone else was once asked to do—Cromwell, I think—that he may be mistaken.
It would not be right for me to go into it this evening, but I am astonished that the hon. Gentleman should assume this attitude when it was stated by the Board of Trade representative who received the deputation—unfortunately, it was not one of the Ministers; he was a senior officer of the Board of Trade—that he fully recognised the point and regarded it as a serious one and that it would be carefully considered.
That brings me to my next point. It would appear that at least the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has no real knowledge of the subject. All those who are engaged in this important subject—at least, I hope that the Minister of Technology regards the patent system as important; I have always assumed that he did—fear that the Minister has not taken any interest in the matter. Indeed, it is now said that although the deputation, according to my information, was received, as one would expect, with great courtesy and its arguments were listened to carefully, the members of the deputation were asked to deal with a number of detailed points because the gentlemen 559 at the Board of Trade who were discussing the matter with them apparently confessed that they were not familiar of the operations of the Patent Office. It was, therefore, hoped that the matter would be deferred for further consultation and discussion.
It now appears to be generally felt that the matter is to be treated as a fait accompli and that the weighty considerations put forward by the highly representative deputation have been entirely in vain. I sincerely hope that that is not the case, but I cannot help—
§ Sir L. Heald
I am in the middle of a sentence; perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to finish?
It appears from today's OFFICIAL REPORT that in a Written Answer yesterday, the President of the Board of Trade said thatThe present accommodation of the Patent Office is inconvenient and dispersed. I am considering the possibility of moving the Office to a place on the outskirts of the Greater London Council Area, or perhaps a little further, but with convenient access from Central London."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th June, 1965; Vol. 716, c. 58.]That is only one aspect of the matter which was under discussion. Those of us who are concerned with this matter and who regard it as one of the highest importance are extremely concerned to read that Answer, because it appears to be designed to close the matter and to prevent further discussion and consideration of a subject which is engaging daily attention in the correspondence columns of The Times and is also being discussed widely by people who are engaged in industry and who are very interested in patents.
§ Dr. Bray
That was rather a long sentence. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman speaking on behalf of lawyers, or is he speaking on behalf of scientists? Has he himself observed that the Patent Office library is one of the best scientific libraries anywhere, and that it was because of the practical inconvenience in its use by scientists that the science lending library at Boston Spa had to be set up? Surely if one wants to have the resources of the Patent Office brought into industry, and to help scientists in 560 industry, Manchester would be a better place than the middle of London?
§ Sir L. Heald
That may be so. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has quite appreciated the concern I have, which is that the matter should be considered with great care before a decision is made. I believe that the hon. Gentleman would agree with that.
I am most anxious to keep within the rules of order. This is not a debate on the Patent Office, and I appreciate that I could possibly go out of order by continuing on this point, but my concern is that the Minister of Technology ought to be greatly interested in this subject, and it appears that he has no connection with it at all.
Those of us interested in this matter have not been able to ascertain that he has ever really addressed his mind to it, and the Joint Parliamentary Secretary's intervention just now made it perfectly clear that he knew nothing about it at all. Surely, it is a rather terrible thing that we should have the Minister of Technology, with his functions as laid down by the Prime Minister, not brought into this matter at all, and it should not be left to the Board of Trade.
I am not criticising the right hon. Gentleman in the very least. What I am saying is the very contrary. There is no political content whatever in what I am saying. What I am saying is that the right hon. Gentleman ought to have been brought into a matter of this kind. If the Minister of Technology is to have and to perform the functions which the Prime Minister indicated, this is the very kind of subject with which he ought to be concerned, and yet, so far as I can see, he has absolutely no connection with it at all.
I have no quarrel at all with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray); he may be perfectly right. That may be one of the things which ought to be taken into account, but we do not know what is going on, and, what is much worse, the Minister of Technology, apparently, does not know what is going on. What I am pleading for is that he should know.
I will give another example. There is another interesting example of this very same sort which arose in connection with the Finance Bill the other day.
§ Mr. Lubbock
Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman finishes this part of his argument, I think that he ought to know that the Minister of Public Building and Works wrote on 4th June to me saying that the printing and sales branches of the Patent Office were to be housed in offices in my constituency, in St. Mary Cray. His letter went on to say thatthe majority of the staff being dispersed from central London are going further afield".This indicates that a decision has already been made.
§ Sir L. Heald
I do not know what "further afield" means. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Middlesbrough, West would like it to be Manchester, but it might be Manchester, or The Hartlepools, or anywhere. We do not know.
But let me give this further example. In the Finance Bill provision was made for what should be included in valuations for Purchase Tax. There had been a provision dealing with patents and designs, and Clause 3 of the Bill incorporated copyright. That was apparently because authors, according to the newspapers, had brought forward the question of copyright and said that it ought to be taken into account, and the Government accepted that. The matter arose in the Schedules—
§ Mr. R. W. Brown (Shoreditch and Finsbury)
On a point of order. I am following the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but I find it very difficult to see where this fits into the debate. We have had discussion on patents and on inventors. I ask for your guidance, Dr. Broughton, where this part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech fits into our discussion on this Bill.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Dr. A. D. D. Broughton)
We are not discussing a Bill at the moment. We are discussing Class IV of the Civil Estimates, and so far the right hon. and learned Gentleman's remarks have been in order.
§ Sir L. Heald
I will be very brief about this. If the hon. Gentleman will be patient just for a moment I think that he will see the point.
The Finance Bill brought copyright into the matter where trade marks, patents, designs, had been mentioned. There was another case where provision 562 was made by amendment for relief from taxation in relation to copyright designs. An Amendment was put down suggesting that that ought also to apply to patents and designs, that inventors were entitled to protection. The Treasury, who, apparently, knew nothing about it at all, failed entirely to deal with the point.
There is another example where the Minister of Technology, as I suggest, ought to have had that point brought to his attention. If it had been brought to his attention I have no doubt whatever that he would have appreciated that there should be the same type of relief given to inventors as is given to authors. At present, the position appears to be that the Minister of Technology is not supposed to have any responsibility for that kind of thing at all.
§ Mr. R. W. Brown
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is not doing justice to the Finance Bill. Does he not recall that my right hon. Friend went into great detail to explain the problems of trying to establish patents and about copyright? I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is doing a grave injustice by arguing that these things were not taken into account.
§ Sir L. Heald
I cannot argue that now, but I can say that my right hon. Friend said that he had never in his life heard an Amendment so inefficiently answered.
I am only giving that as a practical example of this, that at present the Minister of Technology, who, I would have thought, essentially should be concerned with the interests and protection of inventors and the efficiency of the Patent Office arrangements and matters of that kind, apparently not only has no effective power to intervene but does not even have the interest to do so.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)
I was very interested in the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) and his comments about the location of the Patent Office. I think that what is rather more important is that generally the science and technological libraries of the country do need to be improved, and that where there is only one of a kind of document it needs to be duplicated and the copies more widely spread about. 563 This is essential because of the great number of developments. As one who has used the Manchester Library a great deal, may I say that if the Patent Office library were to go to Manchester I for one will be delighted.
What my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology has said about research, study groups, training of technologists, and so on, has undoubtedly been valuable, but this work of education—and training—is important in so far as it is a means to an end, and it cannot remain the main work of my right hon. Friend's Ministry, because efforts taken in this direction will take time to make themselves felt. Even if they are all entirely successful there is really not enough time to educate an entire generation. This is a work which, I think, ought to be that of the Department of Education and Science and I do not conceive the Ministry of Technology being a branch of that Department.
The research assistance given by the Ministry of Technology is of undoubted value. One of the weaknesses of our industry has been the inability to exploit some of the excellent ideas that have been put forward. I think that the Wolvercote Paper Mill, which has been given as an instance, is one type of development that we want to encourage. The weakness in technology in this country has been in the translation from the design board to production; in the development of the prototype, leading to the export consignments that should eventually follow.
The real responsibility of the Ministry of Technology lies in the modernisation of British industry. It lies not in initiating study groups here, and giving research grants there, valuable though these are, and essential though they will be, but in modernisation, and this is why the Ministry of Technology is so important.
The Ministry's success or failure will be determined not in 10 or 15 years, but in three, four or five years from now. It will be successful only if it is able to persuade industrial management to take certain decisions in the future which it has not taken in the past, and it is not a substitute for such action to devote the work of the Ministry entirely to education and training.
Improvements in financial understanding, technical control, and managerial 564 ability are most important and vital to industry. The work of the Ministry is of some value in accelerating this understanding, but this is all very slow in working. We cannot await the new generation to train and, eventually reach the managerial positions in which they, in turn, will influence industry. We have to influence the managers that we have in industry now. It is, therefore, in providing incentives here and now that the Ministry of Technology can play its most important rôle. More important, incentives can act quickly, and the effects can be seen with greater certainty.
Unfortunately, at present, there are very few incentives. The only really important incentives are those of the investment, initial and annual allowances provided by the taxation system. These investment allowances do not necessarily contribute to the modernisation of industry, which I consider to be the criterion for useful investment. Furthermore, the present system of investment assistance is undoubtedly haphazard, and I am not just thinking that the same investment allowances are given for computers as are given for gaming machines, scandalous though this may be. These allowances to encourage investment are indifferent to the type of investment, whether for the replacement of machinery, or modernisation, or whether the investment is beneficial to the community or not.
The whole case for giving investment allowances is that the investment so made should be beneficial to the community. What is of benefit to the community is not only that investment should be made, but that industry should be encouraged to modernise, and the two are not necessarily the same. Annual and initial allowances, for example, are precisely the same whether the machinery or plant is new or secondhand. These are by no means actual distributions, and I think that we should understand this. Initial and annual allowances are not gifts given to industry. But there is an element of assistance in them, and it is fair to make the point that they are the same for secondhand as for new machinery and equipment. It is of importance that discrimination should be possible between blanket investment given by the present capital allowances, and modernisation, which should 565 be the way to try to make use of our allowances.
There is a further element in the discrimination in investment. The Ninth American Machinist Inventory of American Working Equipment, 1963, showed that in the United States in that year 64 per cent. of machine-tools in use were more than 10 years old, of which 21 per cent. were more than 20 years old. Over the period of time which I have chosen, which is quite fair, one sees that, in 1925, 44 per cent. of the machine tools in use were more than 10 years old, that in 1953 that figure had risen to 55 per cent., and that in 1963 it had increased to 64 per cent. This rise in the number of machine tools more than 10 years old is very illuminating, and perhaps rather surprising, because it is likely that our figures—I have been unable to find comparable figures—show a similar trend.
§ Mr. Lubbock
Metal Working Production carried out a study of British machine tools about a year or 18 months ago. I cannot remember the exact figures, but they are worse than those which the hon. Gentleman has quoted relating to America experience.
§ Mr. Sheldon
I saw some of those figures, but they were not strictly comparable, and it is rather difficult to do the pinpointing which is possible with the American figures, and from which one is able to draw useful deductions.
When one examines the conclusions and the reasons for those figures, one sees that they are not quite so startling as they might appear at first sight. Some machine tools, naturally, are changed rather less frequently than others, and in some cases the failure to change machine tools does not have a great effect on productivity. A bench drill in the corner is not necessarily a sign of bad management, but what is crucially important is that certain kinds of new equipment are widely used. The American Inventory to which I referred shows that there are certain categories of equipment which are extremely new and are used. What is needed is not necessarily blanket investment, even for so important an investment as machine tools. What is important is that there should be certain peaks as the American survey shows, of certain kinds of machinery and equipment.
566 Every new machine has latent possibilities which are undreamt of at the design stage and it is important that there should be a wide understanding of the working of certain kinds of new machines which, in their turn, will lead to the next advance in development and production. These are the crucial investments, and special treatment should be given to them and special categories created for their encouragement.
The present method of influencing investment is by means of the capital allowances which are set off against taxation. Unfortunately, these have always been very complicated and not sufficiently or generally understood. The total cost of the capital allowances in 1964 was £1,195 million. This seems a large sum to encourage investment, but, on closer examination, one sees that that is not quite the case, because the capital allowances are split in three ways. First, there are the annual allowances which are really a kind of depreciation. They should be called depreciation allowances. In that year, they totalled £731 million.
The system of annual allowances works, as depreciation works, by writing off a certain part of the value of the investment each year. When the investment is finally sold—when it is useless, or not longer required—if there is a profit it shows that the depreciation has been too high and, as a result, there will be a balancing charge to be set off against the profit.
On the other hand, when the investment is sold at a loss it naturally shows that the depreciation throughout the years has been too low as compared with the annual allowances, but, there again, a balancing allowance will be added to the allowances. So there is no element of assistance by the Government, except to the extent that they are rather more generous than the actual depreciation.
This remains a subject of speculation, because the figures are not conclusive, although their general import should be accepted. Industry in general does not depreciate quite so quickly as the annual allowances permit. It is, therefore, rather difficult to estimate the precise amount of assistance given by annual allowances. Nevertheless, if the allowances are more generous they are taken back, in effect, when the piece of plant or equipment is sold at the end of its life.
567 So there is no net gain or loss. What there is is something in the nature of a loan, which is given in the initial stages, when the investment is fresh. After a certain time, when the investment is written down to zero it is also worth zero and the book and the real values coincide. When the investment is sold the profit is a balancing charge on which tax is paid.
The second form of assistance given to industry by the Government—the second form of incentive—is the initial allowance. In 1964, this totalled £142 million. Initial allowances are given only for the first year in which the piece of plant or equipment is purchased, and it is taken into account in precisely the same way as annual allowances are taken into account when the piece of equipment or machinery is sold at the end of its useful life.
These can, therefore, be added together in one respect, because if the initial allowances plus the annual allowances—the depreciation allowances—are greater than the actual depreciation, there is a loan over that period. The real cost of the loan is difficult to assess, but it is a little easier to guess than is the effect of the annual allowances, and I hazard a guess that it amounts to about £30 million a year out of the total cost of annual allowances of £142 million.
The third method of providing incentives to British industry by the Government is by means of investment allowances. These are given only for new investment. In 1964, they amounted to £322 million. They provide a real and positive contribution. This total amount of assistance to aid investment in industry in 1964, plus my rough guess of £30 million, representing the value of the loan interest charge, plus something else which is quite indefinable in terms of loan interest—because the annual allowances depreciate rather more quickly than some of the low depreciation rates generally accepted in parts of British industry—gives an extremely rough total of £370 million. This is an approximate estimation of the cost of the incentives provided by the Government to industry to invest not on specific items, but generally.
The Corporation Tax, as was pointed out by the right hon. and learned Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), will effectively cut the value of all capital allowances. 568 These will be cut—using the same figure that I have adduced, to £240 million, so the net reduction will be about £130 million. But the encouragement to higher retentions which is given by the Corporation Tax effectually offsets this if the retentions increase by 9 per cent. I am speaking of the incentives given by the Government to industry to invest in machinery and equipment, and I am trying to point out that on this increase of retentions the investments will remain the same.
The Corporation Tax will not hit at investment; it will promote it. But the promotion will still be inadequate, and it will still be indiscriminate. The question of discrimination in investments is of crucial importance. All civil servants and all hon. Members try to avoid categorisation, because it is liable to be shot at. The categorisation of certain items for investment, Purchase Tax or anything else, always leads to the danger of too much rigidity. Some categories can be separated only by a hair's breadth, and it is difficult to defend marginal cases.
Nevertheless, we know that if we are to get investment in the right types of plant and machinery, categorisation of some kind will be needed. We all know that despite the derision which the former Member for Kidderminster, Sir Gerald Nabarro, used to show for categorisation in respect of Purchase Tax, and despite certain anomalies in the surcharge which was imposed last November, the categorisation of investments must come, even though, naturally, it must be rather broader than the more detailed categorisation in the examples I have cited.
It should be remembered that this is not entirely new. Annual allowances, as at present, represent a feeble attempt at categorisation of investments. In annual allowances there is a table, starting from the highest rate, at 31¼ per cent. for combine drills used in agriculture and going down to 20 per cent. for precision machine tools. I quote this glaring anomaly not as an argument against categorisation, but to show that the Ministry of Technology can play its part in determining where assistance can most profitably be given.
Somebody has to take a decision in this matter. No decision means the same 569 rate of investment allowances for fur coats as is given for computers. If the Ministry of Technology is to influence investments it must also influence initial investment and annual allowances. The rôle of the Ministry is not to stand on the sidelines of industry, providing money here and there for the study of this aspect or that. It is more than a branch of the Department of Education and Science, and it must concern itself with technological assistance to the economic wellbeing of the whole of industry.
In the past, a knowledge of technology and an understanding of economic forces were not often found together. It is for the Ministry of Technology to develop this rôle—this joining together of technology and economic forces which can create a great and lasting improvement in our industrial structure.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Griffiths (Smethwick)
I listened with great care to the speech of the Minister and felt growing disappointment with what he had to say. I hoped for the kind of clear lead which would be intelligible to the great mass of people working in industry—that clear lead which is necessary if we are to get the new atmosphere of which the Minister spoke on the shop floor as well as in the realms of higher management. I have never sneered at the speech which the then Leader of the Opposition, now Prime Minister, made at Scarborough in 1963. I have always felt that when it was made that speech expressed a view which had great support outside the Labour Party and the trade union movement. The only fear I have is that the clarion call which was heard then has not been lived up to in practice.
The phrase used in "The New Britain", "mobilising the Resources of Technology under a national plan" would, if it were put forward in a manner which roused the enthusiasm of the mass of our people, be acceptable to those of all party complexions. This afternoon, we did not hear—
§ Mr. Maxwell
I wonder whether the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths) was present when the debate began. If he had been, he would know that the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) had already opened with a Conservative Central Office brief. Is this really necessary?
§ Mr. Griffiths
There is nothing to answer there. I have been here throughout the debate and probably longer than the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell).
In his opening speech, the Minister did not justify the promises which were made at Scarborough and again last October. Nor did he justify the paraphernalia of a whole new Ministry. I represent a constituency in the West Midlands where we have special problems in this respect. Although we have very large units of production, such as the car industry, many firms in the West Midlands are small, many of them family firms, and they are the bodies which we must ensure are modernised, using the most modern equipment. However, because of their small size they are the firms which find it most difficult to introduce the most modern equipment because of its great complexity, great cost and the need that such equipment shall be used full time. The small firm may find it difficult to make full use of such equipment if it has to use it for itself.
If I were, with all modesty, to suggest what the function of the Ministry of Technology should be, I would say that it is to arouse the enthusiasm of people within industry for the modernisation of the work they do, that they should be ready and receptive for the introduction of the most modern machinery. This is vital. It could be done, first of all, by the co-operation of other Departments of the Government, secondly, in co-operation with industry, and thirdly, by gaining the confidence of the public and private sectors, not only of industry but of administration.
The Minister said that his Department was "guiding the application" of technology. I accept that many of the points he made are examples of the kind of advance which we should like to see. They did not arouse enthusiasm in the House, and they certainly will not arouse enthusiasm outside. They will not create the kind of atmosphere which is necessary. I was disappointed, because he appeared not to be very interested in the suggestion that he should personally draw on international experience. Perhaps I misunderstood him. I thought that he suggested that because he was tied here 571 it was not practicable to do this. Before his Department carries out many of its projects, it would be useful to see what has been done abroad to make sure that there is no unnecessary duplication.
The Post Office has already been mentioned in connection with the advances in co-ordination which I have suggested, so I will not repeat what has been said. The Minister might co-operate with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour in industrial training. I know that there are certain Prayers on the Order Paper which indicate that there is a certain amount of teething trouble in the application of the industrial training of young persons, but I believe that the principle is well established and accepted by industry. It could be expanded so that it took in people who were not in the early stages of their training but in the higher echelons of management.
Co-ordination with the Minister of Housing and Local Government would be extremely fruitful. The modernisation of local government procedures will be of great importance when we have the reorganisation of local government boundaries in the West Midlands. Here is an opportunity which, if it is not seized at this moment, may not come again for many years. I hope that it will be possible for the production of modern, technical, electronic equipment to be planned ahead to meet demand and that there will be no bottlenecks when the new units of local government are set up in the West Midlands and elsewhere.
I hope that there will be co-ordination with the Department of Education and Science. I must agree with the remarks which have been made about teaching machines. It might be possible for the Minister to co-ordinate the use of equipment in industry and commerce with that which is used in education. For example, in my constituency, calculating machines for children of 11 and 12 have been introduced, so that they do not waste their time on mere computation but are tackling the real mathematical problems. The equipment in our schools is dreadfully expensive. An attempt to standardise the equipment in industry, commerce and education would be to everyone's advantage. This is where the Ministry of Technology could use its influence to great effect.
572 The work of language training and the development of language laboratories goes on side by side in industry and education with the training to go abroad and carry out our export programmes and the training of youngsters in our schools. Standardisation could lead to a reduction in cost of this kind of equipment. Perhaps, with his position in the Cabinet, the Minister might find it possible to ensure that the progress in electronics made within the Armed Forces is fed back into industry, so far as the national security permits. Very often, there is a duplication of effort between the Armed Forces and industry.
Lastly, I suggest that the Minister of Technology could take over the direct function of training senior people within industry and commerce. As a teacher, I remember the refresher courses for teachers which were run by the Ministry of Education on the Ministry's own initiative, not just for young entrants to the teaching profession but for people with many years of experience, who found great value from such courses. I wonder whether the Minister could take a leaf out of the book of the Department of Education and Science and put on such courses, not for young men entering industry, whose influence will not be felt for 20 years, but for those who are already in positions of top management. I should like to see them back in school, if only for a short time. With them, there might be some of the top officials from trade unions—[An HON. MEMBER: "And Members of Parliament."] Indeed, Members of Parliament as well, if the Minister wished.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
Would my hon. Friend think of recommending to the Minister that he might take a look at the British Institute of Management, which was set up to achieve many of the objectives that my hon. Friends and I first had in mind and which perhaps has fallen into disuse because there is not a close enough attachment between those interested in technology and the Board of Trade who, at the present moment, are the responsible body for it?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. It confirms the great need for co-ordination between people working to the same ends. That is perhaps a field where the Minister of 573 Technology might find that his efforts were fruitful.
§ Mr. Marsh
Before the hon. Member goes too far on the side of sending businessmen and other top men back to school, he should bear in mind that they have been back to school for the last six months on courses set up under the Industrial Training Act.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I agree that is a fact, but I am trying to suggest that there is a need for far greater training within small firms than within the larger units. Particularly in the West Midlands, where you have such small firms, it is essential that their managements should be given this type of opportunity.
I was developing the point that I feel we ought not only to look at those in the managerial capacity but at those in positions of authority in the trades unions. It is their attitude that has so much influence on the decision whether or not modernisation shall be accepted. This is in many ways a partnership, and some mixed educational classes with the two groups together might produce some interesting extra-mural work, as well as value within the classroom.
I suggest that the Ministry besides creating the atmosphere which I have called for might well continue the function which has already been outlined by the Minister and which I appreciate very greatly: to review the need for the re-equipment of industry and to continue the need for research into techniques and developments. I accept that as being extremely important, but I would impress upon the Minister the great urgency of the need for reports to be produced as soon as humanly possible. As there are so many changes, it is possible always to say that it is a continuing process and that we shall never come to the end of developments. But I think it is essential that we have interim reports, even if the same group continues its studies later. If there is co-ordination of effort between Government Departments, the Services, education and industry, we shall create the size of home market which is so essential if our producers of equipment are to find markets overseas.
We must all make sure that we do nothing in our political discussions that could be interpreted as preventing 574 management from carrying out modernisation programmes and workers from accepting them. We all have a responsibility in this, because on it hangs the survival of our country, and it is far more important than temporary political advantage and the scoring of political points. I hope that if the Minister of Technology can arouse the enthusiasm within industry and commerce that I have suggested, he and his Ministry will have the full support of all sides of the House, because the function is one of vital importance. Such a lead would be positive evidence of a real intention to modernise Britain. Without it, I am sure that Parliament and the country will come to the conclusion that much that we have heard has been just talk. I hope we shall see practical evidence very soon of the kind of modernisation programmes that were forecast last year, and that we shall feel that we are getting the kind of lead that industry and commerce deserve.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Middlesbrough, West)
I think we all enjoyed the speech of the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), and probably if he goes on in the same way and can overcome his persecution complex, he may yet make a good Parliamentarian. He favoured the House with some analysis of the work of the Ministry of Technology and, I was very glad to see, he passed over what seemed to me to be some of the more superficial criticisms that have been made by some of his colleagues on the benches opposite and by the Press. I suspect that there is a certain amount of feeling on the Front Bench opposite between the right hon. Member for Wallasey, on the one hand, who, if he will forgive me for saying so, is a practical man like the Minister himself, and, on the other hand, the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), who has been sitting like a great fleshy wet blanket on technology through practically the whole life of the Government of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I only hope that the right hon. Member for Wallasey wins.
Some of the comments that have been made from the benches opposite were, first of all, the old theological arguments of the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) that the whole 575 idea of the Ministry was wrong, anyway. That really seems to be past history. We can have many possible patterns of Ministries. All of us were so fed up with the arguments about it before the election that we were very glad that the pattern was settled decisively, and I trust that the Ministry will be allowed to settle down not for five years but for the 10 years that it takes to get a Department strongly established in Whitehall and in the machinery of government. I hope that other Departments will note this, and that there is no point in regarding the Ministry of Technology merely as a bird of passage.
The other point which has been made by some people outside the House, though not, I am glad to say, in the House this afternoon, is the question of the rôle of the Minister himself. I hear a great deal from engineers and technologists, many of whom have met the Minister on previous occasions. They have found him a great contrast from the previous Secretary of State for Education and Science, because they feel he is on their side, that he is knowledgeable and quite genuinely interested in what they are doing. Nor would any of us feel in the House, though the suggestion has sometimes been made outside, that industry and public opinion are not interested in the Ministry or in the advance of technology. I think they quite genuinely are.
The suggestions that technology cannot be made the subject of live political and public interest are entirely wrongly based and, as the influence of the Ministry develops, I am quite sure that will be the view of the country.
In opening his speech my right hon. Friend the Minister referred to the extraordinary superficiality of blaming him for not having put all the economic ills of the country right in his first nine months of office, particularly considering the economic situation that we inherited. Even more serious than the economic situation that we inherited is the rundown state of the machinery of Government itself, within which a Ministry had to be created to galvanise Whitehall and the Government of the country into a new frame of mind about technology.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
Did I understand the hon. Member to say that I had been suggesting that there should not be a Ministry? That is not what I intended to convey. What I intended to convey was that if we are going to have a Minister, the Government should give him the necessary power and backing to get on with his job.
§ Dr. Bray
Yes, but it was the old argument about the demarcation between Ministries, which I think is rather sterile.
The right hon. Member for Wallasey suggested that the range of industries for which the Ministry is responsible should be extended, and he mentioned the building industry in particular. While the Ministry of Technology is responsible for the Building Research Station, he must either take responsibility for the technology of the building industry or shed responsibility for the Building Research Station. I understand that the reason for this was that when the Building Research Station was put under the Ministry of Works, as it used to be, all scientific and technological work in the station stopped, while the station wilted in the hands of the administrators. It had to be put back under the protection of D.S.I.R. as quickly as possible.
I am sure that that state of affairs does not apply today, with the lively directorate of research and development in the Ministry of Public Building and Works, and I hope that the Building Research Station can be persuaded to accept its rôle in the Ministry of Public Building and Works and in the industry which it ought to occupy. Alternatively, responsibility for technology in building should be transferred to the Ministry of Technology.
Another industry in serious need of attention is the heavy plant manufacturing and chemical engineering industry. Delivery in this country for heavy steel pressure vessels from British industry is two years. One can get a better vessel, cheaper, delivered from Japan in ten months. The reason for this is not cheap labour and it is not excess capacity due to a trade cycle in Japan. It is due to proper equipment, proper management structure and complete modernisation in the Japanese heavy engineering industry. I hope that the tremendous export potential of the plant building industry in this 577 country will be further explored by the Minister, particularly since it is an industry which at the moment is an orphan with no Ministry taking an interest in it.
If the range of technology needs to be expanded then the Minister needs to look at the people that he has to deal with the whole range of problems which come to his Department. There is no denying that there is an undercurrent of unease in the relationship between the technologists and the administrators in the Civil Service. I receive a continual stream of representations from people in the service and in industry on this question.
Perhaps I may quote some of the more restrained remarks which have been made to me. One is,There is a unanimous view that if the professional and similar classes were to be given managerial responsibility in the service and this were to become known, this would greatly help recruitment to the service. The divisions between the administrative and professional workers exist in the service just as they do outside. It would help if it could be shown in terms of responsibility and progress to the top posts that technical people are not at a disadvantage. The facts at present are against this.The Minister referred to the value of having the managing director an engineer so that the technologist could feel that it was his show, run by his kind of person. I am sure that the Minister will not take it unkindly if I ask him to look at his own Department in this respect. I will quote a remark made about the Department by an official who I do not think is known to the Minister personally and who certainly is not one that he knows I know. He said:Many of us expected that the new Government would improve the standing of scientists and engineers in the Civil Service. You can perhaps imagine our feelings. The administrative class is on top, the scientists and engineers are on tap.
§ Mr. Cousins
May I point out to my hon. Friend that this is not so. Obviously we have two departments. We have an administrative department in which we need administrators. We certainly have scientists in our other top posts and most of our groups are headed by scientists. We have recently recruited a well-known scientist, Dr. J. B. Adams, to be controller of our Department. What my hon. Friend said is a misunderstanding of the responsibilities of the Department.
§ Dr. Bray
I am glad to hear my right hon. Friend say that and I hope he will clear up the feeling which has existed. All I can say is that it is a quite genuinely held feeling. The fact that the Minister has helped to clear up the position this afternoon will no doubt ease the unrest. The feeling is not confined to his Department nor is the problem of the introduction of expertise into the Civil Service, the relationship between expert and administrative staff, and the question whether this demarcation is an obsolete conception, entirely confined to his Department.
I would go further and ask whether we can achieve many of the things which the Ministry of Technology wants to achieve while the present structure of administration exists in the public service. May I refer to my right hon. Friend's announcement about a working party on the machine tool cycle? This remark, again, is not from his Department but it relates to operational research in which he has an interest. The remark is:This particular problem needs six months high-powered operational research study, an expert tells me. If Minister X would give me that job, I should run it myself full-time. What is he up to? Why it is left to Minister Y, who clearly does not understand it? Why does Minister Z lie so low? I am by now feeling exceedingly frustrated. All I have been given to do so far by those I thought intended to use me is a particularly unsavoury, if high-level one-meeting-a-month-committee job.
§ Dr. Bray
If the right hon. Gentleman presses that too far he may discover that they were Ministers in the last Government.
The problem remains of bringing the experts together. I respectfully suggest to the Minister that the problem of the machine tool cycle is an operational research problem. By all means let us have a committee of representatives of the industry. If I know that industry, the Minister will certainly get some odd people. Let us have representatives of the trade unions and the City. No doubt these people can contribute to an analysis and review of the problem. But its solution, I am afraid, is probably better handled by people who have dealt with trade cycles and general stock problems in the operational research field.
This brings me to the whole point of the machinery of Government. One cannot assess the effectiveness of the Ministry 579 of Technology and its impact on industry in isolation from other Departments in Whitehall. We have been talking about the modernisation of Government. The right hon. Member for Wallasey emphasised this. I am glad to say that he rubbed it in. I am also glad that he reminded us of the speech made by the Prime Minister at Scarborough.
The modernisation of Government was originally and must remain the theme of this Government. But I have some misgivings about the pace at which we are advancing in this direction. We have different objectives from those of our predecessors, but we are still operating the same old rickety machinery and are making decisions in the same antiquated ways. What we had hoped to do was to modernise the way in which the decisions were taken. When we were facing a problem we wanted to ensure that the information was available which was needed to settle that problem satisfactorily. We should be able to think out the information and consider various methods by which the problem may be solved.
Before the election we had worked out a system for the computerisation of Government statistics. As the House knows, the man in a back street firm in Birmingham sends in a return about the numbers of men he employs to the employment exchange or in some cases to the regional office of the Ministry of Labour. In the end that goes to St. James's Square. The production from that firm is reported either to the trade association or direct to the Board of Trade and it is added into the total for the industry. Any building plans which the firm has are submitted to the Minister of Public Building and Works through his Ministerial machine. But the firm itself totally disappears from statistics, and nobody in Whitehall knows anything about it. If it is necessary to inquire into a problem about it, one must start from scratch and find out what it is all about. This is true, not only of the problems of the individual firm but of the problems of any aspect of industry which suddenly crop up and which the Government want to know about urgently, only to learn that the information is not at hand to deal with them.
Before the election we had in a working party the advice of the foremost 580 experts in the country in setting up a system to deal with this—for preserving the information, being able to handle it fluently, marshalling it for those who need it, whether they are in Government or in industry, either in the nationalised industries or in the private sector. This has not been followed up. These proposals have been buried beneath two layers of official committees which have considered none of the principles involved in this reorganisation and which have no appreciation of systems analysis or analysing a problem as it must be analysed in the computer world. These committees are playing noughts and crosses with a list of 100 improvements in timing, in accuracy, in coverage of the existing pattern of statistical returns, without really considering the problem from a fundamental point of view.
No doubt many hon. Members read the article in last week's Sunday Times about Richard Stone's work at Cambridge on the computable model of the economy. That work should be done in Government. Now that it is working or reaching the development stage, it should be done in Government. Why is it not being done in Government?
With the present way of handling information, when we talk of planning we are trying to make bricks not only without straw but without clay. What we are doing is ordering the furniture for a planning system before we have built its foundation or before we have built the structure of the house.
I turn to another field altogether from the economic planning field, but still a vital field in the modernisation of this country. The Labour Party owes its modern outlook on pensions and social welfare to the social research into the needs of old people and the working of the social security system conducted by Professor Richard Titmuss, Peter Townsend and Brian Abel-Smith. Yet these gentlemen seem to have been kept at arm's length by the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance. Why? Why is there this difficulty in introducing the best analytical thought and the best research into Government Departments?
Change is perhaps beginning to take place, but it still has a very long way to go. The most lively set of appointments made by any Minister so far were those made by my right hon. Friend the 581 Secretary of State for Wales, with Peter Hall, Christopher Foster and a number of other bright young men of their generation. I hope that this example set by my right hon. Friend will be widely followed by his colleagues in the future.
The right hon. Member for Wallasey mentioned the control of computers in Government generally and spoke of the way in which he as a Minister would stake an imperialist claim for this if it were to be offered to him. The right hon. Gentleman needs to think a little further about the problem. As I understand it, the position now is that, whereas the actual responsibility for hardware and advice on the hardware of computer installations and the software that goes with them is the responsibility of the Ministry of Technology, the systems analysis, the operational research, the economic justification for machines, still rests basically with the Treasury. The Treasury claims responsibility for operational research, but it is not doing anything about it. It is just sitting on it like a dog in the manger.
I very much hope that the Minister of Technology will do a little poaching here and suggest to the Treasury that if it does not get on with the job he will start doing it himself, as he is very well equipped to do. There is no sense of urgency in the Treasury about this matter. The Treasury seems to engender the most violent emotions in the hearts of Members of Parliament, Ministers and civil servants in other Departments. But people are a little unfair. The suggestion is that the Treasury is a heartless tyrant grinding the faces of the poor. It is not. It is much more a kindly, elderly sub-postmistress with a long queue at the counter. The problem is not solved by bringing in the dear old sub-postmistress's sister to stand behind the counter with her in the next-door department in Great George Street to work the machine by the same old methods. This is just dividing the responsibilities differently, one dealing with the National Insurance stamps and the other doing the postage and the Savings Bank. There must be a development of new methods. We must take a much more fundamental look at the system than we have yet been able to.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will thoroughly enjoy throwing his weight 582 around in Whitehall in this direction. He needs to bring a breath of fresh air on to the scene. If he finds the archaic traditions of the House of Commons a little difficult to adjust to—and who can blame him—I only hope that he finds the traditions of Whitehall equally difficult and that he is refusing to adapt. I wish him every luck in this campaign. I am sure that he needs to conduct this campaign if he is to pull off the results which we all hope for from himself and from his Department.
I am sure that we shall see progress in specific projects coming through. I know that there are very interesting things in the pipeline, but I am sure that the pipeline will become much greater in diameter and that the projects will move along it much faster if a real, fundamental reconsideration is set in hand of the part played by the Government and of the whole machinery of government itself.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
I hope that the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his speech, in an effort to ensure the brevity of my own. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's remark about the sub-postmistress will he sufficiently amusing and new to make his speech stand out today.
It is exactly four years and four days since we had a debate on Science in which, to my great regret, I failed to catch the eye of the Chair. In desperation, I wrote a letter to The Times the following day, condensing a 20-minute speech into about three paragraphs. The Times very kindly printed it. I think that it achieved far greater publicity than the speech would have received had I made it. I regret to say that, despite this publicity, since that day no action has been taken on the important and dramatic points I then made. It was, perhaps, too way-out in those days, but now we have a new Minister and we have my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) who is, as was reflected by his speech today, receptive to new ideas. Because I believe that my right hon. Friend will soon be occupying a seat on the Treasury Bench again, I address my remarks not only to the Minister but to my right hon. Friend.
583 I want to speak about people, not about plant. The Minister mentioned the use of technologists. He is particularly used to handling and dealing with people. I hope that he will find what I have to say stimulating. We must find incentives to make management and trade unions accept modernisation and change in our factories. The hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon), who, unfortunately, is not here now, made a most interesting speech on selective financial incentives. I go a very long way with the comments the hon. Gentleman made in the early part of his speech. This again, will allow me not to have to repeat any of that aspect of my own speech.
There is one other incentive which I will not mention in detail and that is the increased competition which our industries must have in order to be forced to make needed changes. May I therefore deal with a third aspect where immediate change can be made in the improvement of the use of technology and technologists, and that is in the private sector of manufacturing industry.
I should like to recite five groups of figures and then draw a conclusion. All these figures come from an extraordinarily interesting survey entitled, "Scientific and Technological Manpower in Great Britain, 1962". When I mention technicians I refer to the scientists and technologists whose qualifications are enumerated in that survey. First, more than half of all those employed in private manufacturing industry work for firms which employ fewer than 500 employees. Next, about half the total of the technical manpower of the country, that portion of it being 88,000, are engaged in private manufacturing industry. [Interruption.] I should like the Minister to listen to this. It has waited four years and four days to be produced and I am desperately anxious that he should take it in as well as read it in detail tomorrow, which I am sure he will.
Of the total of 88,000 technologists engaged in private industry, two-thirds are employed in firms employing more than 500 and one-third work for firms employing under 500. Perhaps I could refer to them as the larger and the smaller firms. In the larger firms, 15 employees 584 in every 1,000 are technologists and in the smaller firms five in every 1,000 are technologists. Therefore, the man who works in the larger firm has three times the technical backing of a man who works in the smaller firm.
Lastly, there is the question of how these technologists spend their time. Of the total of 88,000, 32,000 are used for research and development sponsored wholly by private industry. Of these 32,000—and here is the rub—26,000 work for the larger firms and 6,000 work for the smaller firms.
This brings us to certain conclusions. Over half of those who work in private manufacturing industry, that is 4 million people out of 7½ million, are assisted by only one-quarter of our technologists, of whom only 6,000 back them with research and development. The remaining 3½ million who work for the larger firms are backed by the balance of 26,000 technologists who are working on research and development. It seems, therefore, that the majority of our working people are working with a very small research, development and technological backing. I believe that this is the real reason why our manufacturing industry has failed to keep up with the productive ability of our competitors overseas. This is the picture, and a picture in proportions almost completely unchanged over the last four years, except that those engaged in the smaller firms on research and development have actually gone down in number by 500.
May I draw the conclusions and then draw to a conclusion? These figures must show that the larger firms are more conscious of the use and value of technologists. They also lead to the conclusion that only where there are large runs of a particular product is it possible most efficiently and effectively to harness modern production techniques. We therefore come to the only possible conclusion in my own mind, which was touched upon by my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths), but I disagree with him. He said that we must have more training of people in these smaller firms. I believe that the day of the smaller manufacturing company is over and that the smaller firms must merge into larger organisations. If this is not done, they will not have the technological backing in manufacture which 585 they need. The place for the small firm is in the providing of services rather than in the provision of manufacturing facilities.
How can we arrange these mergers and how can we rapidly accelerate the use of modern technology in private industry? We have one important weapon which is available to any Government and could be instituted immediately and become effective within 12 months. This is to provide that no bulk order should be placed for any manufactured article by any national or local government department or by any nationalised corporation unless the company manufacturing the article or any components contained in it reaches certain standards in the use of modern equipment and modern techniques. Already in military purchasing quite a number of manufactured goods have to be bought from firms which are approved suppliers to the Admiralty, the War Office and so on.
I believe that we can learn from that experience and that we should say that every article bought by any Government organisation must come from a technically qualified firm. Some of the costs may be higher initially, but eventually costs will come down and the products will be better. In the United States the Federal Purchasing Bureau adopts a scheme whereby only companies which have what is called a feasibility capability report can supply products to the Government. I have not got all the details at the moment, but if the Minister is interested and does not already know them—and I am grateful to him for listening to what I am saying—I will try to obtain them and send them to him. This is the third way by which we can quickly increase the speed of the introduction of modernisation.
I have mentioned selective incentives, greater competition and Government action in being selective in purchasing. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey suggested another way, that is, requiring that tenders for certain complicated goods should be submitted in a way which showed that computerisation had been used in working out the critical path of manufacture. This could be a beginning.
We could take it much further.
586 Those of us who listened with enormous interest to the computer course upstairs—I went to the first two sessions but I failed to go this morning—could not but be impressed by the words of Sir Leon Bagrit in his opening remarks when he emphasised how anxious he was because our competitors in Europe, in the United States and elsewhere were taking advantage of techniques which were available to us in this country but which our managements were not applying. He said that it was not yet too late for us to catch up during the next year or two, but he emphasised that time was short.
From my experience in industry and in seeing other industries at work, I am convinced that there is only a little time for us to take advantage of the application of modern techniques. I beg the Minister—I say this also to my right hon. Friend in his planning and policymaking—to take advantage of the time which is available to us and to use it to good effect for our country.
§ Mr. Cousins
I did not interrupt the hon. Gentleman's very interesting speech, but may I now ask him whether the statistics which he gave have been brought up to date, or were they to be related to the speech four years ago?
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Palmer (Bristol, Central)
In a few minutes I shall join some observations of mine on technical manpower to the remarks made on that subject by the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page), but I wish, first, to take up a point made by the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), to whose speeches we always listen with great respect. The hon. Gentleman said that technology was a subject which could well be taken out of politics.
§ Mr. Palmer
No, I do not entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman about that.
It is the sort of remark which people make from time to time on many matters, sometimes almost coming to the point 587 of wanting to take Parliament out of politics. Very often, it is only when subjects become a matter of controversy and argument between the parties that they receive proper attention. In my view, if there is now controversy between the parties on technology, this will probably be good, in the long run, for technology.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I agree that it should remain a political subject and that we should debate it in Parliament, but it is a subject which we ought to be able to debate without our thoughts being coloured by party considerations.
§ Mr. Palmer
Just how much conflict there is depends upon our sense of reality at any given time. This was the weakness of the speech of the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples). I am sorry that he has gone out of the Chamber; he has been flitting in and out all day. The subject is very much bigger and vaguer than his remarks made it out to be. The right hon. Gentleman's speech seemed to me a bit unreal, a bit unnatural, a bit unscientific. It is not proper for anyone to be quite so sure of himself as the right hon. Gentleman seemed to be this afternoon. To me, at least, the right hon. Gentleman sounded noisily partisan, while my controversial right hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Cousins) seemed modest and very convincing in contrast.
It was evident from the speech of the right hon. Member for Wallasey that the attack by the Opposition is now somewhat different. At one time they argued that my right hon. Friend's Ministry was unnecessary. The argument advanced by the right hon. Gentleman today was that my right hon. Friend had no power to do the things which ought to be done. Obviously, this argument does not square in logic with the argument that the Ministry is unnecessary.
I frankly admit that at one time I had some doubt about the need for a Ministry of Technology. Obviously, everything done by this Ministry impinges at every point on the work of almost every Government Department. I thought that this was a valid point, and I regard it as the supreme task of my right hon. Friend to make his Ministry 588 truly viable. I am sure that he is struggling to do so, and I believe that he will succeed. But I can see that the arguments for and against having such a Ministry are, or were, fairly evenly balanced.
I come now to a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray). Criticism of organisational forms is always easy. What really matters is the spirit and the determination of the organisers. People can overcome organisations and sometimes make the most unlikely organisations do a very useful job. We now have this Ministry. It is now a thing of practice, not of theory. I feel that there is—perhaps it is just an instinct within me—a new sense of purpose in our national attitude to the urgent need for the technological modernisation of industry.
Now, two major points arising out of the work of my right hon. Friend's Department. I take, first, the position of the Atomic Energy Authority. I rather doubt that the Atomic Energy Authority in its present form is necessary at all. It evolved in the first place from the Ministry of Supply, when it was turned into a kind of independent public corporation but not a trading corporation. Much of its work is in heavy electrical engineering research and testing, not pure research. In my view, there is much to be said for a good deal of this work being transferred to and combined with the work of the Central Electricity Generating Board, which operates in a parallel field but which is bound to be infinitely more commercial in its operations than the Atomic Energy Authority can hope to be.
A lot of the lighter research activity done by the Authority, atomic processing, and so on, could either remain with the Authority or gradually be taken elsewhere, but I am not convinced that it is right to have in this country in the heavy power supply sector two enormous research and development organisations, one having grown out of a direct Government agency at one time and the other run by a public trading corporation. The case for reviewing the work done by both these organisations and bringing them together is very strong.
I appreciate that this is one of the responsibilities of my right hon. Friend 589 and that, with his usual humility, he will not necessarily want to give it up, but I ask him to look critically at the work of the Authority in relation to the work of the Board because, in doing so, he might be rendering very useful service.
As an engineer, I am sure that the key to everything we are doing in modernising our technological standards is an improvement in the status, qualifications, training and opportunities of technologists and associated technicians. There is still much confusion as to the nature of the rôle of the technologist and that of the technician. In these days, technical manpower is one of the greatest single weaknesses that industry has to contend with.
I know that much progress has been made in improving the standard of training and education of engineers. The establishment of the Diploma of Technology was an enormous step forward. The colleges of advanced technology and the talk of having technological universities are also advances. Now the engineering institutions are coming together to form a joint council and that again is a step forward. The trouble is that everything is so slow. It takes so long, so much debate and argument. In addition, to be frank, there are so many vested interests. Surely one of the greatest continuing scandals is the slowness of the engineering institutions and the education system generally to establish proper standards of qualifications for technician engineers.
I emphasise the term "technician engineer". I am not referring to the technologist engineer. To make the most effective use of a technologist, he must have working with him three or four competent technician engineers. Otherwise, to a great extent he is wasted on unnecessary tasks.
I believe that one of the principal reasons for the slowness is that the major engineering institutions, in a laudable and proper attempt to professionalise themselves, to make certain that they are thoroughly professional, have been far too anxious to divest themselves of responsibility for the numerous technician engineers. For about a decade, the institutions have stressed the essential auxiliary rôle that the technician plays in relation to the technologist, but they have searched high and low for someone 590 else, or something else, to take these awkward chaps off their hands.
Now, for the first time, a professional organisation for technician engineers has come into existence. It is rather a long title, which I will not give, and it looks after technician electrical and technician radio engineers. I wish it well, but in my view it is not the right solution because a technician engineer is as much an engineer as a technologist engineer and should be granted a special grade within the major professional body of his own profession.
That leads me to a point which is not often discussed, but which bears on the status of engineers. Under our somewhat archaic system of government, the Privy Council grants the royal charter of a scientific body or professional engineering institution or a learned society. Surely one of the things that my right hon. Friend might look at is the method by which the standards of a professional institution are approved by the Privy Council. I have taken the trouble to get some details. The rules say:In considering any specific Petition the following questions, and any others, are taken into consideration:They ask if the financial position is sound, but it was the fourth point that interested me. This said:Is it fully representative of the interests it purports to serve, and is its status in its own sphere generally recognised?I want to stress the words… fully representative of the interests it purports to serve …I suggest that the great engineering institutions—and I am a member of one—have become so much part of the general structure of the education and training of engineers that they cannot go on behaving as aloof private bodies. If they ask, rightly, for a semi-official status, they cannot behave as though they have a right to be entirely independent of general public policy. If engineering as a profession is to have the status it should have, the technologist must feel a responsibility for his colleague, the technician, or else we go back to the old view that anyone can be an engineer. Royal charters should insist on a fully representative scope for any profession.
Finally, I want to deal with a matter touched upon already by my right hon. Friend. One of the principal reasons 591 that so few young men and women go into engineering as a profession is that they are not sure that they will by that road necessarily rise all the way to the top in industry. I tend to have the usual bias of the engineer against accountants because they get in the way of doing something constructive, but there are far too many young men who are anxious to calculate the cash results of industry as accountants, or to advise on the administration of industry or to tackle its legal problems, and not enough young men going into industry anxious to produce the goods which make un our industrial wealth.
Far too many top posts on the boards of directors are occupied by lawyers and accountants and not enough by engineers and technologists. While I do not necessarily want to hold up the Soviet Union as an example in these matters, it is interesting to note that one of the regulations of Soviet industry—probably far too inflexible—is that there must always be on the management board of any enterprise of any size a set proportion of engineers.
§ Mr. John H. Osborn (Sheffield, Hallam)
While I agree with 90 per cent. of what the hon. Gentleman says on that point, I think that there is a danger that the engineer, chemist, or scientist considers any activity in industry outside his own to be not the done thing and likes to stay in his own laboratory or works. I agree with him, however, provided the engineers themselves could be encouraged to be a little more outward looking and to take more interest in producing things that the sales people want and at the right kind of price.
§ Mr. Palmer
Of course, this is the theory which is put forward particularly by professional administrators, lawyers and accountants. I have heard it advanced on many occasions. I am not speaking of scientists. They may be somewhat introverted people, and perhaps they need to be because they have to concentrate on research in their laboratories; but engineers are largely extroverted people because they are dealing with the world of matter and with fashioning and changing it. There is nothing at all in this "unsuitable" theory when we consider that one or two of the 592 top people in industry are Lord Hinton and Lord Fleck who have come up on the engineering or scientific or technical side to top industrial positions.
It is an old-fashioned view—a very convenient view for some people—that the engineer is used to his workshop and is not interested in administration. The truth is that many engineers make excellent administrators and I am arguing that until we make it quite clear that engineers can rise from the lower positions in industry to the very highest and have the same opportunities as any other grade of administrators, we will continue to find that we lack young men—and women—coming into industry to be trained as engineers.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Mr. John H. Osborn (Sheffield, Hallam)
The hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer) and my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) clashed about whether science and politics mixed. The debate has shown that politics has as much chance of mixing with science and technology as oil with water.
The Government have taken their own action on the report resulting from the work of the Committee headed by Sir Burke Trend. We now have a Ministry of Technology and a clearly defined sphere for education and science. The ingredients for this operation have had the chance to settle down and it is quite obvious, to use a chemical phrase, that the emulsifying agent, namely, the creation of the Ministry of Technology, has not necessarily succeeded in bringing science and politics closer together—mixing them.
From the discussion across the Floor of the Committee between the hon. Member for Bristol, Central and my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) it is obvious that the challenges which still face those responsible for governing the country are almost as unresolved as they were two or three years ago.
The Minister gave us a catalogue of the committees and advisory committees which he has under him. He told us of the studies he has implemented and how he has allocated his money. But this will achieve nothing unless the information coming back to the Minister 593 can result in action. I appreciate that that information must be collected scientifically so that we can make the necessary decisions, but the difference of emphasis between the two sides of the Committee is that the Government side is of the view that these decisions should be taken by Whitehall while on this side we consider that many of them should be taken by industry itself.
A debate such as this must be wide ranging and essentially inconclusive, but I welcome the fact that we are debating the application of science in industry. It was five years ago that I managed to bring this subject to the attention of the House when I moved, an Amendment to the Motion, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
The machinery to act as a catalyst for the process of implementing technology in industry and whether that machinery is working adequately is the subject of the debate today.
I want to make two preliminary observations. The first concerns Parliament and technology. Last night, I saw a Vicky cartoon in the Evening Standard showing placards saying:Modernise Britain. Reform the Unions. Reform Parliament? How dare you!I had some sympathy with that cartoon. Today, we are having a full-scale debate which is essentially a political debate when the task of the Opposition is to examine the work of the Minister of Technology and whether he has carried out the tasks he has undertaken to carry out and whether the Government are implementing their promises of a year ago. This is a legitimate case for debate.
There was another cartoon which impressed me five or six weeks ago and it was of the Minister himself. It appeared—to the best of my recollection—in The Guardian and may have been a little unkind. There were six acts. In the first the Minister was sleeping; in the second he was sleeping; in the third he said something about computers; in the fourth he was sleeping; in the fifth he shouted, "Machine tools"; and in the sixth he was sleeping again. This gave the impression that everything was slumbering, but for two outbursts of activity. In the cartoon there were two dashes and "hitting the headlines". This can happen because politics and technology have inevitably been mixed.
594 I hope that I shall not be ruled out of order if I say that if the House of Commons is to grapple with technology, let alone with science, we must find a better way and better procedures for dealing with the detailed problems in science, engineering, technology and the application of technology in industry which we should be facing. The Select Committee on Procedure has made several Reports. I hope that we shall debate its first Reports before the Summer Recess, and that we shall have some information about the advice given to the Select Committee by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee on the value of a Select Committee on Science and Technology.
The debate today has been diffuse and I am very mindful of the comment—and I wrote this before the Minister said it—that the right hon. Gentleman does not like Questions—"What are we doing about such and such a field and why are we not doing it faster?". This is excellent politics—or some people may think that it is—but those with a knowledge of the time scale for implementing decisions will agree that if the Minister does not enjoy the sympathy he should receive here he will get it from those affected by the time scale of the immense technological decision which have to be made outside this Committee and Parliament. There ought at least to be a Report of a Select Committee on the Minister's work, with the advantage of many meetings and visits behind it before subjects of this kind are debated.
My second observation is that it is the duty of Parliament to criticise the Executive, of course, and a more general debate such as this must be a debate giving Parliament that opportunity. We have passed the Science and Technology Act and, as the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray) said, we are discussing a decision which has been taken. There has been a discussion on where the N.R.D.C. belongs. Sir William Black, then Chairman of the N.R.D.C., said when the Trend Report came out that it would be tragic if the N.R.D.C. lost its present freedom of action and was taken away from the Board of Trade. I do not believe that he would necessarily hold to that statement now in the new circumstances.
595 I have always accepted the importance of pure science and basic research and the need to pursue knowledge for its own sake. I have also accepted that the pursuit of such knowledge can never be assessed or measured.
This brings me to my third observation. Where does science end and technology begin? The problem is that the path from the nursery or primary school to the modern machine tool or piece of manufacturing equipment on the shop floor is, from an administrative and many other points of view, continuous and continuing. The modern machine tool, or a modern piece of manufacturing equipment, whether press, forge, milling machine, transfer line for machining in an automobile factory, is developed from a scientific analysis of the technological problems with which an industry is faced. There are several demands that have to be met.
Those in charge, whether at the factory or national level should have a full appreciation of the wider issues involved. Perhaps that is background to the discussion we had on management. Therefore, we want a greater knowledge now of technological strategy rather than day-to-day tactics in the management field. We have had this discussion on making engineers and scientists the heads of industry. When one is looking for a head of industry one is looking for a person capable of "driving" the destiny of an individual firm. I use the word, driving, because it is necessary to have a knowledge not only of science but administration and have an understanding of management. I would suggest that the first consideration is the ability to manage and administer. But an essential asset today is a knowledge of the technology with which one is dealing.
It therefore demands that those in charge of policy at the factory level can so crystallise the variables that engineers and designers know what they have to achieve and can find a practical way of doing so. The engineers and designers want to know from the management what they have to set out to do, whether the field be in, for example, aircraft or machine tools. But someone has to lay down the policy. It is the training of this type of person which is more and more important. Having made reference 596 to those in charge of policy and having decided the course to take, it must be the designers and engineers who must have the necessary technical qualifications whether in hydraulics, electronics or engineering.
Going on from this there is the demand that the individual company should lay the correct emphasis on research and development and there is also the demand that the appropriate research associations which we have discussed, should have adequate direction and guidance. This extends to East Kilbride—the National Engineering Laboratory—to research in our research associations and in the colleges of advanced technology and universities. The point that I want to stress is that technology is not confined to the factory—that is directed only to the shop floor—but that it stretches right back into our universities and ultimately our schools.
The problem facing those on the Trend Committee was the division between education, on the one hand, and technology, on the other. I think that we must accept the present division between technology and, perhaps, education and science. What I think is more important is that there should be a technological impact on the working of science in our schools and colleges of technology.
To digress slightly, it is essential to assess the main obstacles which we have to face. The first one which we have to deal with, is that of resistance to progress on the shop floor. The second obstacle, which I think is all-important, is the lack of awareness by management of the criteria and conditions necessary for survival. So many people have worked in so small an environment and have become effective managers in that environment, that they are not aware of the wider issues.
This may be a criticism of management, but it applies to other countries as well as our own. It is in this field of broadening the outlook of those who have to work on a very narrow front that not only the Minister and his Department has a contribution to play, but which we as a nation have to look at it in greater detail.
I welcome the decisions which have resulted from the Franks Report and 597 the fact that there are schools of management being established in Manchester and London. A vitally important question I want to ask is what impact is the Minister of Technology able to make on management and management syllabuses? To give an example of an establishment now under the University Grants Council, on which some Members on this side of the House have tabled Questions to the Secretary of State for Education and Science, the Cranfield College of Aeronautics is an amazing mixture of activities. One of these is a works study school. This does valiant work in encouraging work study in various firms. Is work study a technological subject or an academic subject? At the moment it is under the Secretary of State for Education and Science.
I do not suggest that there should be any change, but what I ask the Minister is how can we bring technology to bear in these various schools? It is too early to pursue the extending of the empire of the Minister of Technology. The influence of technology, whether or not through a Minister into the more academic fields, is something that must be pursued earnestly.
We in Parliament and the Government have a task to encourage the application and understanding of technology in our more academic institutes to a much greater degree. For example, a person doing a university course asked me what sort of additional training he should take, having done his honours degree, to accustom himself to management and industrial problems. Where can he get it? We concede that the British Institute of Management has much information which can guide people.
In conclusion, I hope that the Minister will take note of my plea that we should set up adequate machinery for discussing technology and science and not try to tackle the subject in a general debate of this type. Inevitably, Parliament will criticise the work of his Department. There will undoubtedly be many shortcomings, as seen from this side of the House. But this is one of the subjects which, a year ago, when I was supporting the Government of the day, I considered should be taken out of politics to a much greater extent. In this debate it has been decided that this is impossible, but we can have a Select Committee on 598 Science and Technology and I hope that the Select Committee on Procedure will report favourably on this subject.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Maxwell (Buckingham)
I should like to bring to the notice of the Committee this evening four points. The first deals with the rôle of the laboratories of the Atomic Energy Authority. Secondly, I wish to urge my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology to use all his powers of negotiation and persuasion to persuade his colleagues in the Cabinet to give the Ministry of Technology the necessary resources and authority to induce the Government to use its power as a purchaser to compel British industry to modernise itself; to induce them to bring about the urgently needed increase in our exports. The third point I wish to bring to the notice of the Committee is in the nature of a plea to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology, asking him whether it is really necessary to have adopted in the Ministry of Technology a procedure whereby the administrators are on top of the scientists instead of the long-established procedure in the Ministry of Aviation and other Ministries where scientists are used in important rôles and are involved in decisions of policy. They co-operate with their administrative colleagues. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to throw some light on the problem of whether the administrators in this new, important and vital Ministry are about to strangle it.
§ Mr. Cousins
This point was raised earlier this afternoon when my hon. Friend was not present. The administrators are not on top of the scientists in the Department. The Deputy Chairman of the Ministry of Technology is probably the top scientist in this country. The Controller, Dr. Adams, is the head of the Culham Research Laboratory to whom I referred earlier. It is nonsense to talk about the administrators being on top. The administrators are doing the administrative job, and my Advisory Council has a number of scientific men attached to it.
§ Mr. Maxwell
I am very obliged to my right hon. Friend. I now accept that the scientists have nothing to fear, that they co-operate with the administrators, but 599 that the administrators are not there to stifle their initiative and to find excuses as to why they cannot support their projects.
The third point which I wish to bring to the notice of the Committee is the urgent need to get something done about trade associations. I hope that my right hon. Friend, when he winds up the debate, will say that he is perhaps thinking of setting up a Royal Commission to see how the trade associations can play a more positive rôle in getting known scientific and technical principles applied to increase productivity and our competitiveness.
The last point on which I should very much like to hear from my right hon. Friend is what has happened to the plans and discussions which went on before the election when the Federation of British Industries made a proposal that £100 million should be provided for the joint financing of development projects in British industry—£50 million by private industry and £50 million by the Government. This is an important and vital suggestion. No doubt my right hon. Friend will be able to tell us something about it.
I return to the question of the Atomic Energy Authority laboratories. There has perhaps never before been anything as dramatic as the emergence of the atom to focus the attention of the world on the relevance of science and technology to our society. A possible exception has been the development in recent years of space technology. But, as is well known, space exploration is such an expensive toy, or tool, that only the giant nations such as the U.S.S.R. and America can indulge in it. On the other hand, nuclear power is a technology in which a great many countries can and do participate.
There are scores of atomic reactors working safely throughout the world. Indeed, even in the less industrially advanced countries nuclear research has been a useful device for stimulating support for technological and scientific endeavour. In the three countries involved in the original development of nuclear technology—Great Britain, Canada and the United States—great research laboratories were developed in which scientific research was carried forward. These laboratories provided the 600 fundamental scientific basis for the ultimate development and control of the atom for both warlike and peacelike purposes.
The question now confronting all three of these countries is whether these laboratories, having fulfilled their original purposes, may not already have outlived in principle their usefulness. The productive period for the atom is now just beginning, and the requirements for its fruitful development at this stage of large scale industrial application have changed. Highly sophisticated and imaginative engineering is required rather than science. The type of facilities and the kinds of skills and attitudes required for research in the development of technology as an important economic tool for society are different from those which were required to uncover and explore the basic scientific principle of what, after all, eventually became indispensable military hardware in the form of atom and hydrogen bombs which we all hope will never be used.
There is little reason to believe that the same organisations, people and laboratories which were capable of designing atomic and nuclear bombs would also, ipso facto, be capable of almost any other kind of industrial and technological development. I refer here to a point which I raised in my maiden speech. I said then that what we needed in this country was a tool to find out what we should do with a scientific laboratory whose mission has come to an end. What means should we use for reorientating it? I am sorry to say—and this is no complaint of my right hon. Friend's Department—that this is a very difficult tool and technique to discover. We tend to say, "We have these expensive laboratories and thousands of trained scientists and engineers. Let us find some decent jobs which we might throw to them to keep them busy". This is very dangerous and terribly harmful and the Atomic Energy Authority is well on the way to perpetuating this danger. I am very worried about this, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to throw some light on it.
Indeed, there is every reason to believe that these laboratories cannot be converted to serve a useful purpose. There has been ample evidence of the work done in recent years by the major governmental nuclear laboratories in the United States 601 that their approach to industrial technology and their failure to understand technological economics have been handicaps in the effort to transfer their skill from their original purpose to new fields. Among the best illustrations of this evidence are some of the proposals for nuclear desalination which have emerged from Governmental laboratories in the United States. I fear that we are on the verge of duplicating the very mistakes that the Americans have made because, as is well known, amongst other civilian projects the Government have entrusted to the atomic energy laboratories the problem of desalination.
The idea that science and particularly technology are universal and that developed knowledge and skills in one area can be transferred across the entire spectrum of scientific and technological problems is a highly questionable proposition. Because a particular laboratory organisation is capable of exploring nuclear fission or fusion or nuclear biology, this does not necessary indicate its competence to explore other technological problems such as desalination.
§ Dr. Wyndham Davies (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
The point has already been made today about desalination plants. Would not the hon. Member agree that a great deal of work in this direction has taken place in private engineering companies which has put us ahead of the rest of the world? This was done by private enterprise in this country as distinct from Government action in the United States.
§ Mr. Maxwell
I entirely agree that private industry has done a great deal, and I am delighted, but this work has been done in conjunction with Government laboratories.
My point about desalination is precisely that this work ought to go back to private industry and I hope to persuade my right hon. Friend by my argument that this might well be a worthwhile proposition.
The Atomic Energy Authority has not only been given research in desalination. Underground direct-current transmission, air pollution control, the development of technologically and economically feasible magneto hydrodynamic generating systems, a better steam turbine and improved steam boilers are other similar technological problems to which some of the 602 Authority's efforts have been directed in an effort to maintain its workload, to keep its people and its machines and in an effort to justify its demands on the national budget. It does not mean that despite some assertions to the contrary, there would reside in such a laboratory the ability to develop an economically meaningful desalination technology. This does not mean that there does not exist some special civilian-oriented areas of research in which these atomic energy laboratories cannot be used effectively. The areas, however, are bound to be exceedingly limited.
Thus the problem of what to do with these laboratories remains. The point which I am making is that it is wrong and a bad gamble simply to suggest that we should throw them a few jobs to keep them quiet and put them under the carpet in exactly the same way—I hope that I will not be accused of making a political point—as was our Trade deficit of £800 million by the former Administration.
The immediate reaction might be to do away with those laboratories, or, at lease, to curtail them. For one thing, in the light of the presumed general shortage of scientific and technical staff, curtailment of activity by these laboratories would make available such people to industry, where they are urgently needed, to reduce the time scale on which we are able to supply plant and instruments of all kinds. They would help to reduce costs and to increase our competitive power and they would assist industry in increasing our exports.
However, the existence of these laboratories over a long period has resulted in the development of strongly entrenched vested interests so that to curtail their activities or to eliminate them entirely would not be any solution and, I fear, would not be likely to be practical. And yet it is clear that these laboratories must not be permitted to become merely work projects. The tasks assigned to them must be carefully selected and delineated within their particular competence and always to the fullest extent possible. Adjustments need to be made in their organisation and personnel in accordance with the new kinds of work they may be required to do.
603 Britain needs a resurgence of the kind of science and technology that for many decades not only kept us in the forefront of the world's science and technology but made us one of the world's mightiest nations, if not the mightiest. However, the requirements for a dynamic industrial technology differ markedly from those necessary for science, and the two must not be confused or mixed. It may well be that the large Government laboratories can find a useful rôle in applied science. In my view, basic science is best done at the universities. But it is likely that the technological research and development and engineering technology required for dynamic industrial growth is best performed by the industrial organisations most closely concerned.
Thus, while Government laboratories, as exemplified by the laboratories of the Atomic Energy Authority, may be able to perform well in a very limited area, the powers for desalination research, future development of electric power, and wider desalination technology, are likely to make the best progress under the technological leadership of the manufacturers of the equipment and those responsible for the production of electric energy and water. The laboratories in turn need to adjust themselves to the more limited field or fields assigned to them. It really is quite monstrous that once we assign priority No. 1 to an important national problem somebody then ordains that we have to continue to spend money on that kind of scale. What was a priority No. 1 10 years ago may be priority No. 50 today. I think it is important that something be done about this.
I should like to say a few words now about the nature and meaurement of technical change. What is this, really? The economically relevant notion of technical progress is reasonably well defined. A production function is a set of inputs and outputs which can be attained by some producing entity such as a firm. Technical progress consists of an enlargement of that set in the sense of permitting the production of more of at least one output with given imputs without producing less of other outputs. I took a long time to get the economists to teach me this and I hope I have not confused 604 the Committee, but I have not seen a better definition of it and I hope that hon. Members will compare it when they read it tomorrow in HANSARD.
It is a classical proposition that under certain assumptions competitors' markets will lead to an optimum allocation of productive resources. In recent years considerable effort has been expended to determine the extent to which investment in new technology is an exception to that proposition. Leading experts give two reasons for believing that competitive markets will under-allocate resources to the production of new technology. This is one of the reasons why a Ministry of Technology, regardless of under what Government, becomes absolutely essential, because in a competitive economy, private enterprise—and some hon. Members have made this point this afternoon—firms do not allocate sufficient resources to research and development and these kinds of resources can only come from the general body of taxpayers, and there is no better way of having some of these resources channelled than through the Ministry of Technology. The first thing about why private industry cannot do more, or has not been investing as much as it should do, is really a question of uncertainty. Investment in new technology is uncertain as to how much the discovery of new technology will cost and as to what its uses will be. Therefore, one cannot really get an increase.
The second reason why private enterprise on its own is handicapped is economy of scale. New technology is often only useful if the product or process is to be produced on a large scale, and thus the large capital investment required for a newly developed automated process may make the process prohibitively excessive for small outputs but very economical for large outputs. Thus economies of scale are important in both the production and use of new technology, and this is, of course, why, for instance, science and technology in the United States are progressing at this fantastic rate.
§ Mr. E. S. Bishop (Newark)
My hon. Friend has mentioned several times that these great projects should be handed over to private enterprise. While one appreciates the point that he is making, I believe it is true to say that 60 per cent. of all research and development 605 costs in this country is borne by the taxpayer, and, indeed, my hon. Friend has already suggested that recently. If he is suggesting that private enterprise will do the job better than a public authority, such as the Atomic Energy Authority, how does he suggest we can control or ensure the best use of the public money which is to be put into it? If he can suggest that the capital cost of investment can be borne by private enterprise, that is a rather different point.
§ Mr. Maxwell
My hon. Friend has misunderstood me. What I am suggesting is that the work done by the A.E.A., for instance relating to transmission and research and development on these nuclear stations, had best be handed over to the Central Electricity Generating Board and the people who know what is wanted. As regards desalination, we have a first-rate private industry willing and able to undertake this work, and it should do joint research and development with the Government, on the same basis as is now being done with I.C.T., and I hope that I have made that clear.
It is worth asking why it should be necessary to subsidise the spread of new technology. The answer is that uncertainty and economies of scale cause medium and small firms to under invest in the creation of new technology, and these same firms also under invest in the adoption of new technology. It is often observed in industry between the best practices and the worse ones, which suggests that this is a very serious matter, and must be dealt with if we are to achieve the rapid and sustained economic growth that we need.
I now turn to the trade research associations. I hope that my right hon. Friend will say something about a commission which he is appointing to report on the value and function of trade research associations, and how and in what way they can be made more effective, better used, and better supported by industry. Research associations should be enabled to carry out pilot plant development, and financing should be done jointly by the Government and industry, along the lines of the suggestions made by the F.B.I., or some variation of them. Industry and trade associations should be encouraged to appoint consultants 606 from universities and technical colleges who will keep them in touch with the latest results in science and technology.
The creation and application of new technology in industry is likely to take several years before the country can see some massive results and receive the benefits of it. This is why I was rather astonished that the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms. Marples), in a knockabout speech this afternoon when opening this debate, implied that my right hon. Friend had not produced all kinds of rabbits out of the hat and put everything right, which the former Administration was unable to do in the previous 13 years. The scientific and industrial community, and business men of this country who, in co-operation with the Government, are fighting a battle for our survival and trying to hold the value of sterling will not forgive the right hon. Gentleman for treating this important matter in this kind of nonsensical political way.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for saying so, but I was upset that he treated this important and significant subject in such a lighthearted manner. This may be good politics, but this is a serious matter, and it deserves better treatment. Instead of adopting their present tactics, the Opposition would do better to concentrate on discovering how this new Ministry of Technology can be made more effective, more powerful, and more incisive. They should do this in a constructive manner instead of the destructive manner in which my right hon. Friend has been treated in all matters relating to his Ministry.
I turn now to my third point, namely, how the Government might be able to use their power as purchasers to induce industry to modernise itself and to increase its exports. Does the Committee know that the Government are spending a total of £6,000 million per annum on the acquisition of goods and services?
At present the Government's procurement policies, with some exceptions, militate against innovation, because their contracts and specifications insist on the purchase of well-tried and old-fashioned products at the lowest prices. This, in effect, discourages industry from bidding for these orders with new and better products. For example, if a local authority decides to purchase a new water 607 purification plant or sewage disposal plant the engineers responsible for writing the specifications for the plant are concerned merely with answering three questions: Has the plant that it wants to purchase been operating well in some other authority for the past two or three decades? Have they bought it at the lowest price? Can they obtain this plant or service with a minimum amount of trouble and inconvenience to themselves?
Similar considerations apply in respect of procurement officers who buy machine tools and presses for Government ordnance factories, or clothing and jerrycans for the Armed Forces. The question how to use the purchasing power of the Government to solve this problem is very difficult, but it must be tackled, because if it is successfully applied, it is likely to yield, quickly, considerable benefits to the British economy.
For years Governments of both Parties have been telling the business community how urgent and necessary it is to increase exports. A former Member of the House went so far as to tell them that "exporting is fun". But people who are engaged in industry and exports are tired of these palliatives. When this Administration came in at least industry was given an incentive to export, but it was not enough. Our exports have been falling in the last few months, and if they do not rise during the next six months our creditors will rapidly become seriously worried about our ability to pay our way.
Manufacturers who have been growing fat on Government contracts year in and year out, and whose names are on the list of various Ministries as approved suppliers, would take action if they were suddenly to discover that unless they increased their exports by 10 per cent. their names would be removed from that list. I submit that for the first time, and very promptly, the chairmen, managing directors and sales directors of all those companies would pull their fingers out and do something to increase their percentage of exports. They take no notice of shareholders.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Dame Edith Pitt)
Order. The debate is concerned with technology. The hon. Member is ranging very wide and I should be glad if he would bring himself back to order.
§ Mr. Maxwell
The Government should institute an urgent study to see what changes are necessary in their procurement policies. They should instruct, as quickly as possible, all their buying officers, both at national and local level, to change their procurement policies and conditions so as to encourage and reward with orders those firms who innovate and use technology to improve their products and services.
It would also be appropriate for the Ministry of Technology to set up a department which would provide guarantees and insurance facilities to buyers of advanced plants against their malfunctioning. Where necessary the Government should be prepared to pay a higher price for the technologically advanced product, instead of being content with the old-fashioned one. This would do exactly the same thing in assisting real innovation as the E.C.G.D. is doing in assisting exports. There is no reason why the Ministry should not set up such an insurance scheme, because if an authority is going to put down money for a plant which has not been tried out for many years, and if a failure occurs it wants to be assured that it will not have to fall back on the ratepayers to replace the plant.
In this way British industry will quickly feel that the Government mean business and will rapidly change its outmoded and wrong attitude towards applying technology. Such a policy would have the additional advantage that British industry would begin to produce products which were well in advance of their international competitors and which would give them a considerable advantage in the world export markets. I am convinced that the Ministry of Technology should help to provide the climate and support for work in universities and colleges of technology related to the particular practical needs of our civilian economy and society, that the Minister of Technology should ensure that the Government plays its full part in the encouragement by applying the results of science and engineering to economic growth.
Finally, we expect this new Ministry to encourage the establishment of the institutions and the environment which most effectively puts science to practical 609 use, diffuses the results of technology throughout society and encourages even higher levels of innovation in British industry.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
I am most relieved to be able to get into the debate at last. The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell) signalled to me before he rose to speak that he would make a short speech. I dread to think what it would have been like if it had been a long one. I hope that "Crossbencher" has been sitting with his stopwatch in the Gallery while the hon. Member was voicing his rather heterodox opinions on the Atomic Energy Authority, with which I will disagree in a few minutes. I hope that, in the next Honours List, the hon. Gentleman will be offered a seat in another place, so that other people will have to suffer him instead of us.
The debate has been far reaching, touching on the machinery of government, teaching machines, scientific and technological manpower, the rôle of the investment allowances and the future of the Patent Office. There are many threads which I should have liked to follow, but time allows only a few. I would follow one remark of the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray). I agree with him that we should leave the Ministry of Technology alone for the time being and give it a chance to work out its place in the machinery of government, and that we should not prolong the discussions which took place on the Science and Technology Bill and at the time of the General Election.
The hon. Member was right to say that at least five years is required before we can evaluate the results of setting up a separate Ministry of Technology and that, in the meantime, we should, whether we agree or disagree with the setting up of this separate Ministry, back the Government in what they are trying to do.
But this does not inhibit us from discussing those extensions of the Ministry's functions which we should like to see. Many suggestions have been made—for instance, that the Minister should take an interest in industries other than those for which he is directly responsible. Of course, the Minister is not prevented from 610 using his powers and from increasing the application of technology in other industries merely because he is not the sponsor of those industries. I hope that, in the case of building, he is having discussions with both the Minister of Public Building and Works and the Minister of Housing and Local Government on how technology can be harnessed to the expansion of the housing drive.
A personal wish of mine is that the Minister should take a greater interest in the shipbuilding industry, particularly after what we heard in the House last week about the industry at the conference on automation.
I am not accusing the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) alone of this, but I think that the Tories should be very careful not to allow their personal feelings about the Minister of Technology—which I know a great many of them have—to enter into discussion of the rôle of the Ministry of Technology. I detected an undertone of this in some speeches. We must try to get away from personal feelings. I agree with what the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) said. We cannot take technology out of politics entirely, and we do not want to do so, but we must try to approach it with an unbiased mind and not allow personal considerations to enter into it.
The right hon. Member for Wallasey was too hard in his criticisms. He said that no report had so far been issued on the telecommunications and electronics industries. Only the other day, one of his right hon. Friends was asking for careful consideration to be given to those industries and was urging the Minister not to get hurried into hasty decisions which might later on be regretted. That is a much more sensible attitude, though it would be helpful if the Minister could tell us roughly when he expects to be in a position to make these statements. Will it be before the Summer Recess, or shall we have to wait until next Session before we hear anything positive about his plans for those two industries?
The second thing about which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wallasey complained was the lack of data, which, he said, had not been published and which were never published under the previous Administration. But he expects 611 very many things to have happened in the short period of office of the Government which did not happen under 13 years of the previous Administration. One could apply the same reasoning to his remarks on the comparison between the number of computers employed in different fields in this country and in the United States. It is a shocking thing that in this country we only have five computers in the whole of agricultural research, whereas there are over ten times that number in the United States. He told us that in health, education and welfare there are 112 computers in the United States and only 2½ here. Surely this was the very purpose of establishing the Ministry of Technology, so that we could do something about the shortcomings of the last Administration.
Perhaps the only sense in which these criticisms are justified is that the Labour Party, during the last election, raised the hopes of the electorate that in the field of technology, things were possible within a short space of time, which we know it is impracticable to expect. The Prime Minister himself, in his great Scarborough speech, to which I listened with much admiration on the television at the time, said some things that were rather likely to lead to extravagant expectations. One could pick out several quotations, but, if I may mention one, he talked ofMobilising scientific research in this country in producing a new technologcal breakthrough.Later in the same speech he said:I believe that we could within a measureable period of time establish new industries which would make us once again one of the foremost industrial nations of the world.This is just not possible if, by "a measureable period of time", we mean one or two years. We have to have very much longer to put into effect what the Minister and hon. Members on both sides would like to see done.
I think that the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West was one of those whose expectations were unreasonably aroused, because I have been looking back at a very interesting article which he wrote in Electronics Weekly before the last election. I was not surprised to hear him say this afternoon that he had some misgivings on the case, because here is what the hon. Member had to 612 say in that journal on 30th September, 1964:The Ministry of Technology will not wait for ideas to be put to it though it must be receptive to ideas from outside. It will be pursuing a deliberate strategy of technological advance, thrashed out with industry, published in detail and backed by the financial resources of government.That is very fine, and just what I would like to see and what I know the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West would like to see, as well. But it is being too ambitious to expect this to happen within a few months of government, and what I would blame the Labour Party for is not their failure to do anything so far, but their undue arousing of the expectations of the people during the election. It is sometimes said that people are not on oath in lapidary inscriptions, and I think that that applies to General Election campaigns as well, because many things that are said in those circumstances cannot possibly come true.
§ Mr. Lubbock
There may well have been engineers, technologists and scientists who voted for the Labour Party in the expectation that these things could come about, but the realistic ones must have realised that it was impossible for us to proceed at the pace we were led to expect.
The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West, in his more sober moments—and I mean that in a figurative sense—will recognise that he would not have expected much more from the Government than they have managed to achieve so far. I am trying to make it plain that I am criticising not the Government's actions, but the high hopes which they raised in the minds of the electorate at the time of the last General Election.
I disagree profoundly with what the hon. Member for Buckingham said about the Atomic Energy Authority. I believe that it has an important rôle to play in various fields of research other than those in which it has been traditionally engaged. I thought that at the time this matter was under discussion in the House we had an inadequate explanation of the type of work which the Government had in mind, but since we now know that desalination is one of 613 the most important aspects which it will explore, I would agree that it has a tremendous job to do, and I am heartily in favour of it. It is impossible to place this kind of undertaking on the shoulders of private industry, for it is far too large.
Although I very much hope that the co-operation of private industry will be sought in the manufacture of the associated equipment, I feel that it is only the Atomic Energy Authority, or perhaps the Central Electricity Generating Board, which has the enormous sources of heat necessary for desalination on a large scale. The whole secret of this project is the larger the scale the more favourable the economics become. It is very sensible for the Atomic Energy Authority to be involved in this project.
In fact, I think that we should consider other possible avenues of research in which large-scale sources of heat are necessary. I have sent the Minister some data which I have from the Swedish experience of the use of atomic energy plant for district heating. While they have not got beyond the experimental stage in that country, the time may come with A.G.R., or perhaps, in the next generation, the fast breeder reactor, when it is so cheap to generate heat by atomic means that we can think of the large-scale district heating plant which so far has not been economic in this country. It is a possibility which we could hear in mind for the future. Again, perhaps on a very large scale is the heat required for processing industries such as the paper industry. It uses heat on a very large scale, and nuclear generation might be suitable.
I should like to pay my tribute to the Atomic Energy Authority for what it has done so far. The advanced gas cool reactor is a magnificent tribute to British engineering and one which we should shout from the roof-tops. I entirely agree that we do not give sufficient publicity to the wonderful achievements of British industry, of which this is an outstanding example. Another example which I should like to mention is the new station being built at Wylfa Head, in Anglesey, which, when completed, will be the largest nuclear power station in the world, generating over 1,100 mW. If this nuclear power station were in Texas how much more one would hear of it. In this country it is scarcely mentioned, and I dare say that some hon. Members 614 have never heard of it. We should take sufficient pride in our achievements to boast about them to the rest of the world.
The fast breeder reactor will be a great break-through for Britain and I should like to see it pressed on with as quickly as possible. I was a little disappointed to hear the Minister say that within the next few months the Atomic Energy Authority will be submitting proposals to him for the construction of a prototype station. I urge him to get on with it as quickly as possible so that we may maintain the world lead which we undoubtedly have.
When the right hon. Gentleman makes his decision about the siting of this prototype station I very much hope that he will bear in mind the strong claims of Dounreay. I know that he has been there for discussions with the various interests and that this point of view has been put to him most powerfully by my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. George Y. Mackie).
This is not a constituency matter. There are important considerations which should lead the Ministry to make the decision in favour of Dounreay. The technical team is assembled there. All the very expensive works involved in the fast breeder reactor and in the associated materials testing reactor are there. There must have been quite a lot of social investment as well in housing for the Atomic Energy Authority staff, and so on, which would all be lost if we could not continue to operate from that part of the world. The disastrous social consequences of failure to continue with the Atomic Energy Authority's establishment in that part of the world are incalculable. I remind the Minister that as recently as a month ago the Chairman of the South of Scotland Electricity Board stated that this prototype reactor should be located at Dounreay.
I hope that the Minister, in his general programme of work, will concentrate on research which will improve our balance of payments position. This is one thing that the hon. Member for Buckingham said with which I agree. I am sorry to see that, as usual, the hon. Gentleman has left the Chamber immediately after concluding his remarks. I think that by the direction of our research work we could very greatly improve our balance of payment situation. There must be many 615 examples which can be quoted. There is one which I drew to the Minister's attention quite recently, concerning the application of high pressure technology to the manufacture of industrial diamonds. I am given to undersand that we import quite large quantities of industrial diamonds and that these could well be manufactured in this country.
I was surprised to learn from the Answer to a Question I asked the President of the Board of Trade recently that these figures are not separately available. The Minister of Technology could look into the kind of research work which might have an influence on the balance of payments and he could make a point of discussing this with the President of the Board of Trade and obtaining figures where they are not already available from the Trade and Navigation Accounts.
In the few minutes remaining to me I want to say a few words about why automation is not applied more extensively in this country. For the last three weeks we have had upstairs an extremely interesting conference on automation which has been arranged by Elliott Automation. The interest shown by hon. Members in this conference has been quite remarkable. I was surprised at how many there have been at these sessions. I am sure that we have all derived tremendous value from them. We heard at the conference of applications of automation in defence, in medicine, in the process industries, in traffic, in shipping, and so on.
We heard some fantastic success stories. We heard about the horizons which are opening up in the application of computers. There are quite breath-taking savings in some of these fields. We have reached what I call the second revolution in the application of computers. We are now getting away from those which were employed in the obvious arithmetical processes such as wages calculation and have come more on to the application of computers to industrial processes.
If the variables in an industrial process can be measured and fed into a computer, the process can be controlled by means of the computer. Some of the savings quoted to us were fantastic. The interesting question to me, and, I think, to many of those who attended the sessions, was why automation is being applied so slowly. If these savings are possible, why 616 is not there a queue of industrialists at the door of every computer manufacturer? Why, for instance, has this country no fully automated ship on order? Here I am sorry to say that I must agree, once again, with the hon. Member for Buckingham that it is a case where the Government's purchasing power could be used. The Royal Navy must always be ordering ships, yet we were told by the experts from Elliott Automation that this country has no fully-automated ship on order.
In this country again, they said, there is only one centre where the application of automation to medicine is going on at the moment as compared with quite a number in the United States. Again and again they said that we have been so much slower than these other countries in the application of automation in spite of the fantastic advantages of the process. I do not think that this is because of fear of change on the part of workers.
We have had reports that we shall be short of skilled labour for many years to come. The National Economic Development Council has made that clear. Nor do I think that this is because of difficulties within the automation industry itself. One expert told me that there was economic application for ten times more computers than we have installed at the moment and that firms would be ready to provide them if only industries would see the benefits which they would bring.
It seems to me that the difficulty is that one cannot be sure of benefits until one has applied these processes. It is an act of faith. The Wolvercote Mill has been cited in this connection. One cannot measure the return on an investment until one has employed a system analyst to go through all the processes and the money has by then been practically invested. We need a religious fervour in favour of automation in industry, paralleled by a sense of urgency in the Government themselves.
There is no doubt that the Minister could do very much more, though of course he has no influence over fiscal measures such as direct purchasing power and the influencing of local authorities. He could apply to the computer manufacturers the same ideas as he has applied to the machine tool industry, that is there could be the ordering of pre-production batches to enable manufacturers to go 617 ahead with a particularly promising line when they have not had orders from industry.
Let us, for goodness' sake, not bring political acrimony into this subject of technology. We are all converts to the application of technology and automation in industry now and it should not be so difficult to secure a bipartisan approach to the subject. There is a tremendous amount still to do and we should not dissipate our energies by political quarrels across the Floor. I hope that in future we shall also demonstrate our interest in technology by appearing in these debates in rather greater strength than we are here today.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biffen (Oswestry)
I beg to move, That Class IV, Vote 18 (Ministry of Technology) be reduced by £1,000.
This has been an extremely valuable Supply Day debate. I think that the Minister will agree that it has been very constructive in character and that there have been a great many contributions which have been bipartisan and uncontroversial. It is obviously true that all parts of the Committee are very much seized with the sociological problems clearly implicit in the emergence of technology and automation. The contributions particularly of the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer) and the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) on the problems of education and industrial training were very much appreciated, and I should like to pay tribute to the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) on the problems implicit for the structure of British industry in this subject.
All politicians to some degree are frustrated business consultants, in the sense that we very much enjoy preaching on what we think to be desirable attitudes in British management and British work-people. In the short time during which I have been a Member of Parliament one thing which I have discovered worries hon. Members is that as a result of the findings of the Boundary Commission we shall be redistributed over the job. As long as we find this fear in the very heart of this place it ill behoves us to be too moral in our strictures on the world outside.
618 I should like to keep at least an opening spirit of bipartisanship by saying to the Minister how very much I agreed with him when he said that we must not denigrate too much what we ourselves are able to do. I am sure that this is taken to heart in all parts of the Committee because, whatever else happens as a result of our debates, it is essential that, although we must not become complacent, we do not become so neurotic that we convince ourselves that this is a nation of Luddites. Clearly, it is not.
I was pleased to hear the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) remind the Committee that in the United States, for instance, 64 per cent. of the machine tools in use are 10 years old and 21 per cent. are 20 years old. Those figures are a healthy reminder that many of the problems which, at times, we feel must be unique to this island are, in fact, problems international in character which affect a great many of our competitor nations.
I fear that I must now stray a little and be somewhat more controversial. We are moving a reduction in the Vote. But before I go further, I wish to try to establish a measure of bipartisanship with the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock). [HON. MEMBERS: "He has gone."] Yes; I see that bipartisanship is wearing a bit thin already. However, the hon. Gentleman made the point that there was, as it were, a great revolution of rising expectation generated by the Prime Minister's speech at Scarborough in 1963. A great deal of our criticism arises from the hopes which were created by the attitude of the Prime Minister and the party opposite in the run-up period to the General Election. The same point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths).
Nevertheless, whatever scepticism there might have been on these benches—I readily concede that we were rather sceptical about it—there were one or two converts who succumbed to the Prime Minister's siren words, not least The Times. I do not normally regard The Times as an organ easily won over by the Prime Minister's words—I know that some of my hon. Friends may disagree about that, and I express only my own view—but The Times heralded the advent 619 of the Minister of Technology in a quite remarkable leading article on 21st October. The Committee may like to reflect on some of the hopes expressed in it. Speaking of the Minister, The Times said:His voice will be heard when it comes to deciding which industries should be run down and which helped by tax incentive to expandIt went on to conclude—it may have been a little prophetic—… his strong personality may help him in the inevitable Cabinet arguments about priorities".The Committee will have to judge for itself to what extent The Times was prophetic in that instance. But a great deal of our complaint, developed today by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), is that the Ministry of Technology has not developed in such a way as to measure up to the expectations which might have been generated before and after the last election.
We have tried by a number of questions, particularly from my right hon. Friend, to examine the evolution of the Ministry of Technology since last autumn and to consider its self-avowed rôle as the spear-head of the Government's programme for industrial innovation. As I said, we do not disguise that on this side we have always been a little sceptical about it. On 11th December, in the debate on the Science and Technology Bill, my right hon. Friend, as he put it, "wondered how Mr. Cousins would operate his Ministry". That language was appropriate then, of course, because the right hon. Gentleman was not a Member of the House. My right hon. Friend said:I am, therefore, sorry that we do not have the advantage of listening to Mr. Cousins explaining precisely his duties, functions and objectives."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th December, 1964; Vol. 703, c. 1992.]We have had that advantage this afternoon, but all our doubts remain. The Minister's speech was detailed, thoughtful and lengthy, but it did nothing to remove the doubts expressed earlier by my right hon. Friend. Perhaps the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour will seek to remedy the position.
There remains, however, a series of unanswered questions concerning the 620 relationship between the Ministry of Technology and other Government Departments and it was this argument that was so particularly detailed by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke). I invite the Committee to look at a few of those relationships. For example, the Minister is sponsor of the telecommunications industry, but we still await a statement which will clearly show where his responsibility begins and that of the Postmaster-General ends.
Has the Ministry of Technology any interest in the tracking or the development of space communication satellites? Perhaps an even more relevant aspect is that the Post Office spends a considerable amount on the telecommunications industry annually. Has the right hon. Gentleman any say on how that money is spent? If I may use words dear to the hearts of hon. Members opposite, is he consulted on the purposive use of the public money involved with a view to producing certain results in the industry?
The right hon. Gentleman is also a sponsor of the electronics industry. What are his relations with the Ministry of Aviation? The Ministry of Aviation has enormous purchasing power which can and does have material consequences for the electronics industry. Has the Minister of Technology any say in how that money is to be used?
Was the right hon. Gentleman consulted over the major decisions on the TSR2 and other changes of aviation policy which must materially have affected the electronics industry? Perhaps the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will be able to give us some examples of the administrative liaison which, we hope, exists between the Ministry of Technology and the Ministry of Aviation. It is precisely answers to this kind of question that we feel entitled to have and it is because there have been no satisfactory answers so far that we feel justified in moving a reduction in the Vote.
Another relationship which interest us is that between the Minister of Technology and the Department of Economic Affairs. We should be interested to know how the Ministry liaises with the industry development councils for electronics and machine tools because they are both industries that the right hon. Gentleman seeks 621 to sponsor. For example, did the Ministry conduct any study on its own account of the machine tool industry independent of the D.E.A., or did the right hon. Gentleman merely accept the proposals of the Machine-Tool Industry Development Council other than those that the Treasury would not allow to be accepted?
Finally, and probably most important, we should like to know a little more about the relationship between the Ministry and the Treasury. We will long remember the description of the Treasury given by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray), in a characteristic speech. I am sorry that I was taking a snack during the first half, but I came in for what I am sure was the more delightful half and which contained the references to the Treasury.
Our concern particularly arises from the statement that the right hon. Gentleman made on the machine tool industry on 14th June. He said that he was discussing the whole question of the fiscal arrangements for capital equipment with the Treasury. Are we to understand that the proposals for any fiscal changes affecting the machine tool industry will only be announced by him after the Treasury has completed its general review? He will appreciate that this is a matter of significance if only because of the compelling speech by the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne. Has the right hon. Gentleman any scope for independent action over the industries of which he is sponsor?
Another major issue concerns the function of sponsorship which, we are told, is a characteristic of the Ministry of Technology. The Minister told us this afternoon that he was the sponsor for four industries—computers, machine tools, electronics and telecommunications. I would very much appreciate, and I am sure that the entire Committee would, being told more about what the right hon. Gentleman and his Ministry conceive to be embraced by the terms "sponsorship". Does he hope to shape and guide these sponsored industries?
We are entitled to interpret the functions of sponsorship against the fairly robust declarations of the Prime Minister and many others on the developing rôle of State intervention in those areas of industry which are intimately concerned with science and scientific development. I would be very interested to know quite 622 what the Minister himself had in mind when he said, for example, that he intended to take up the machine tools industry and shake it, rather like President Johnson and his beagles. This just will not do. It is remarks of that kind, set against the background of interventionist desires, which lead us to be very suspicious, and we merely seek information and perhaps we are now to get it.
§ Mr. Cousins
It is rather regrettable that questions of this kind should be addressed to me now when, if they had been addressed to me by the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), I could have answered them in my speech. The question is now being addressed to my hon. Friend. What I meant by what I am alleged to have said—it might as well be noted that it went on record in the Press at the time and in the House subsequently—was that in different circumstances I would have said that I would take the machine tool industry and shake it, but in the circumstances in which I was now operating I had to use different words. I was prepared to continue the discussions with the machine tool industry and I reported to the House of Commons on the discussions and on the details of agreement which had been reached.
§ Mr. Biffen
I thank the right hon. Gentleman and I accept his explanation, but I assure him that I have a good deal more confidence in the ability of the Parliamentary Secretary to answer the debate than the right hon. Gentleman apparently has. I am sorry if he thinks that these are unfair questions, but they seem to flow directly—and I thought might even be called repetitious—from the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey.
§ Mr. Bernard Conlan (Gateshead, East)
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the machine tool industry leaves much to be desired and itself has recognised this to be the case, so much so that it is expending a great deal of money on research and development. [Interruption.] I am—
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. When an hon. Member gives way it is only for the purpose of a short intervention.
§ Mr. Conlan
Will the hon. Gentleman appreciate that the machine tool industry itself recognises its limitations and its difficulties and is trying to put right the deficiencies of neglect over many years?
§ Mr. Biffen
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on having made his speech even at this late stage of the debate. I accept what he has said about the problems of the machine tool industry. Nevertheless, it is precisely the kind of statement about the machine tool industry which we had on 14th June, when there was a great deal of imprecise information about what the Government would do and a complete inability on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to give us any conception of what the actual financial amounts were, which raise the much wider issues which have been mentioned among others by the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell) and which have been unanswered today.
Just what are the views of the right hon. Gentleman and his Ministry about the use of the purchasing power of his Ministry and perhaps the use of that purchasing power to alter the structure of any of the sponsored industries, computers or machine tools? Because if it is the view of the Minister that he has a budget to use purposefully to this end, perhaps he can tell us what kind of a budget? Does he recall that on 30th March he was unable to tell me, in answer to one of those 40-odd Questions which apparently gave him some concern, what share of the total output of his sponsored industries was accounted for by purchases from the public sector? I would have thought that the information was of very considerable concern to his Ministry and I hope that, at the close of this debate, we may be told that the information is now available. If it is not, are we now to assume that the Minister does not intend to use public purchasing to shape the development and fortunes of the sponsored industries?
I think that this is a matter which has aroused considerable interest on both sides of the Committee and one on which the right hon. Gentleman throughout his speech earlier this afternoon was conspicuously reluctant to deal with. I promised that I would try to keep my remarks reasonably brief, but I have been subject to one or two interventions. I have no wish to be unnecessarily controversial 624 and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not think I am being in any sense inspired by animus if I now turn to one of the very broad points concerning the rôle of the Minister, because I do not believe that any examination of the structure of his Ministry gives one a great deal of confidence about the ability of the Ministry through its administrative structure to achieve a great deal.
I think that there is a certain argument to be made that the personality of the Minister himself can certainly help in certain areas and certain directions. It is his personality and his reputation which invests some degree of authority in his Ministry. This is certainly claimed for the right hon. Gentleman. It has been claimed that he is well fitted to argue the benefits of automation with the trade unionists of this country, and to disarm their fears and their traditional conservatism. It has been claimed that his trade union experience gives him that advantage and I think it is a perfectly fair point. I repeat the question put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey—which I do not recall received a satisfactory answer—namely, whether the Minister has any plans for carrying out studies of automation in the docks?
I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I am not making this comment in any narrow or personal sense. I believe it is a perfectly genuine point to make. I think that for a trading nation whose dependence upon exports is something about which we are reminded almost daily, it would be well and fitting that a first priority of his Ministry should be to concern itself about technology in the docks. Any beliefs I had in that direction would certainly be confirmed by the recent comments of Sir Arthur Kirby, Chairman of the British Transport Docks Board, when he presented his recent second Annual Report to Parliament. If I may remind the Minister of the words used by Sir Arthur at the Press Conference when he presented this Report, he said that:Push-button ship-loading methods would be in use in five years' time, and in ten years in wide use.He concluded by saying:Push-button methods are bound to come. One reason for labour troubles at the docks is the traditional loading methods which have not moved away from Carthaginian times.625 Those are his words and I believe they indicate a very fruitful field for work on behalf of the Ministry of Technology. I ask the Minister to appreciate that that comment is offered purely constructively.
Having listened to a great part of the debate, and in particular to the Minister's speech, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion, regrettable though it is, that the Minister of Technology remains primarily, if not entirely, a public relations appointment. He is a Minister who has still little semblance of executive authority. The right hon. Gentleman brought a considerable reputation for executive authority to the office which was created last autumn. All I can say is that the tasks which have been given to him in no way match his previous authority.
We had precedent for a biblical analogy from the hon. Member for West Lothian. Therefore, I suggest that we might call the Minister a shorn Samson, except that that would invite the somewhat improbable supposition that the Prime Minister was Delilah and the even more improbable supposition that my hon. Friends were the Phillistines. But one thing is certain: there is growing disappointment and disillusionment that the Ministry of Technology has in no way lived up to the confident and fulsome promises made by the Labour Party that it uniquely understood the problems of technological change and that the advent of a Labour Government would make a major contribution to improved British economic efficiency.
We have a Minister who is undoubtedly sincere in wishing to promote a wider use and acceptance of new techniques but with no real terms of reference and, I fear, a chronic inability successfully to prosecute his own demarcation disputes in the Whitehall shipyard. It is more in sadness than in anger that we move the reduction in the Vote.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Richard Marsh)
A number of hon. Members have said during the debate that the whole subject of technology should be taken out of politics and that it was a non-political issue. I can understand this. I think that we all accept this approach. The definition is rather different. From 626 experience, I have come to the conclusion that, on the whole, when hon. Members talk about taking things out of politics they mean supporting the Conservative Party and that when they talk about being non-political this is all right as long as it is directed at the Labour Party.
§ Mr. Marsh
I do not know where the hon. and learned Gentleman has been all day, but he has obviously drawn a lot of inspiration from somewhere.
As I say, a number of hon. Members opposite, who clearly take a great nonparty interest in this subject, have made this point. But if hon. and right hon. Members opposite wanted to lift this subject out of politics and to have a discussion about technology on its merits, it seems to me slightly strange that they should slap on a three-line Whip and move a Motion of censure on the Minister before they knew what he had to say. [Interruption.] I always think that the right hon. Gentleman is the embodiment of the Conservative intellectual, a sort of primitive Powell.
The right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) dispelled any doubts that we might have had about whether this was to be a non-party debate. He made a very enjoyable speech which we all enjoyed, not least the right hon. Gentleman. It was primarily focused on an American booklet which he produced which contained some very serious statistics showing just how far behind this country had dropped compared with some of its foreign competitors. The right hon. Gentleman quoted from the booklet figures which were accepted on all sides as extremely serious figures. One does not doubt this, because the ability of this country to remain a technologically advanced nation is essential to everybody's standard of living.
The significant thing about the booklet, however, was that it was published in July 1964. When it was published the right hon. Gentleman was a Member of the Cabinet. It took him 12 months not only to read it but to realise its implications. Having spent 13 years with that lot opposite, he then came and said to my right hon. Friend, "What have you been doing for the last eight months?" The 627 right hon. Gentleman went on to describe us, I think with some justification, on the basis of his quotation, as a nation of part-time amateurs compared with the American professionals. At that time, however, our affairs were being managed by another firm. We now have a different management. At no stage did the right hon. Gentleman make any criticism of his own Government—at least, if he did, they did not take any notice of it.
Everybody accepts that this country over a period of years, for some reason or other, found itself facing difficulties in the struggle to stay abreast technologically. For 13 years nothing was done about this, or, if something was done, on the right hon. Gentleman's own figures, it did not work. The Labour Government then took office and we decided to embark upon a number of policies designed to challenge that position to try to make the country a major technologically advanced country. Without a solitary constructive suggestion, right hon. and hon. Members opposite turn up here and then start to criticise everything we have done, saying at the same time that this is not really a party debate, just as if we had only suddenly thought about it. They cannot get away with that.
An interesting feature of the debate is that very few hon. Members have challenged the idea of a Ministry of Technology. Indeed, no one has argued against our objectives. Some hon. Members, on either side of the Committee, have suggested that the Ministry is too constrained, that it has too narrow a front and that the empire of my right hon. Friend should be extended. I do not intend to embark upon that subject. It is not one in which a junior Minister should get involved.
Some hon. Members have said that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology was not ruthless enough with industry. The hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) talked about discriminating in the public sector of industry against private companies which were not technologically advanced. If my right hon. Friend had said that the Press Gallery would have emptied in an instant to flash the message, "Cousins strikes again". We have had a pile of those suggestions.
628 The right hon. Member for Wallasey, who has never been regarded as the most progressive of Left-wing Members of the House of Commons, made the point that one of the things that my right hon. Friend should do would be to take over the building industry. Just imagine what would have happened if that had been said by us on this side. Perhaps, however, the most intriguing suggestion of all came from my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray), who complained bitterly that my right hon. Friend was not throwing his weight about enough in Whitehall and Westminster. A number of specific points and a number of serious points were raised. One was made by the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), who takes a detailed interest in these matters and made a specific point about reprocessing at Windscale. Let me make it quite clear that there is no conflict whatever in this matter between my right hon. Friend and Sir William Penney. The position is that the reprocessing plant at Windscale is not wholly engaged on civil work. It also deals with defence contracts, and it is only because of this, and for no other reason, that it was decided not to include it in the trading fund. I make this point to avoid any misunderstanding.
A number of other hon. Gentlemen, and the right hon. Gentleman, raised the point that perhaps we in the Ministry of Technology were engaged in taking decisions affecting industry, and taking them without enough knowledge and without understanding British industry, as they said. They went on to say that the Ministry of Technology was getting involved in policies which it did not have the expertise and understanding properly to appreciate. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Ely made the point that the taxpayer could not be sure that he was getting value for money because we needed the experience of those in industry.
Of course, we accept this. That is why my right hon. Friend set up the National Advisory Council at the Ministry of Technology, and nothing like this has existed before in this country. Who are the people on it? Lord Nelson of English Electric, Sir Arnold Hall, of Hawker Siddeley, Sir Leon Bagrit, of Elliott's, Mr. Frank Kearton, of Courtaulds, and Mr. Hugh Tett, of Esso. 629 Our country and this House owe those men a very real debt for all the time and effort they are giving us to help this country to become technologically advanced, and doing so regardless of any party beliefs which they may or may not have. I can only wish that we had the same sort of approach from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite as that we get from British industry.
But this is the problem which faces us and it is a very serious problem, because it is the biggest issue which faces this country and it is, simply, the question of how we can put this country technologically among the most advanced nations in the world. Whatever social policies either party prepares, whatever discussions we have about social welfare, whatever we say in terms of raising people's standards of living we on both sides of the Committee accept that the performance which, for whatever reason, this country has produced over the last few years is totally inadequate to maintain an advanced standard of living.
There is no dispute between the two sides of the Committee on this. No single hon. Member opposite—perhaps there is at this time of night, but normally no single hon. Gentleman opposite—would stand up and argue that our economic performance, our technological performance, is sufficiently good to sustain the sort of standard of living which we need in this country. We all agree that something was wrong—I am not at the moment arguing whose fault it was—there was something wrong, and that something had to be changed and that something had to be done, and that is what this debate has been all about, whether or not the policies of this Government will tend towards making this country more competitive in the future than it has been in the past.
This is not just a question of computers; it is not just a question of machine tools. One hon. Gentleman opposite said, I think very truly, that we, particularly the laymen amongst us, get so fascinated by these extraordinary machines, these extraordinary pieces of equipment, and the things which they can do, that we forget that, in order to be technologically advanced, we have to have not only the equipment but a sympathetic and a completely changed attitude 630 and atmosphere in every section of the community. There are no sacred cows in the British economy on either side of the fence. The hon. Member laughs. It is not enough to laugh, because I come back to the point that these are problems which we recognise exist and have existed for a long time, and so far no previous Government have done anything about them. The hon. Member says "Rot". Well, hon. and right hon. Members opposite were not very successful if they tried.
What, then, is the biggest problem we face? One of the biggest problems is the use we make of our manpower and resources which we have in this country, how we can use them to the best advantage. We have to have more skilled workers in this country.
There must be the fullest utilisation of the people whom we have working in the country, because in the years to come our labour force will grow at a considerably slower rate than the dependent population. This means that with a relatively reduced labour force we have to ensure that we use labour—not just manual labour, but technologically qualified and graduate labour, in fact all sections of the community—to the best advantage, because if we do not we cannot use it to the full whether we have the equipment or not.
What have the Government been doing about that? First, there is the question of the Industrial Training Act. The hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths) said that we ought to do something about management education, and that we ought to do something more in terms of re-educating and retraining technically qualified people whose skills might have become out of date over the years. This is what we are doing. I wish that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite would clear their minds of the strange prejudices which they have against us. Never in my life have I seen so many people opposed to righteousness. We as a Government are trying to meet these problems, and they criticise us without knowing what we are doing.
Under the Industrial Training Act, in the first year alone the industrial training boards will spend a sum not far short of £100 million. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are in favour of this, because they are in favour of retraining.
§ Mr. Marsh
I agree that the right hon. Gentleman passed the Act. Perhaps he will say why his right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) has tabled Prayers to annul the Orders that we have made to put the Act into effect. It makes one wonder what was the intention behind the Act. It was a sort of enabling Act, by which one could do a great deal, or do very little. We decided to do something about it. The Orders were published, and at the first possible opportunity the Shadow Minister of Labour, the right hon. Member for Grantham, tabled Prayers to annul the three Orders that were made. I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition for raising this point. If I had known that he was going to explain it, I would have told him that this Prayer was on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. Marsh
I cannot give way because I have very little time in which to conclude my remarks. I can appreciate that hon. Gentlemen opposite would prefer this question to be dealt with by the hon. Member for Harrow, West rather than by the Leader of the Opposition, who has an unhappy knack of putting his feet in it. I do not know why hon. Gentlemen opposite are being so unruly when I am trying to make a series of factual comments about what we are doing.
Under the Industrial Training Act machinery has been set up and finance will be provided to ensure that demands for skilled labour at all levels is forecast. We are raising money to pay for the training which hon. Gentlemen opposite have been saying they want. As soon as we do this they try to stop us.
§ The Chairman
Order. If the Minister has no intention of giving way it does not help if someone else tries to interrupt.
§ Mr. Marsh
Not only are we dealing with training under the Industrial Training Act; it is also our intention to deal with the question of adult retraining. It is also interesting to note that two years ago—[Interruption.]
§ The Chairman
Order. I hope that hon. Members will allow the debate to end as it has gone on during the day, in a quite orderly fashion.
§ Sir Knox Cunningham
On a point of order. I distinctly heard the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) say, "You stink like stoats". Is that a Parliamentary expression?
§ The Chairman
I often regret it when an hon. Member brings to the notice of the Chair words which have passed between hon. Members. Will he repeat what he alleges the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) to have said?
§ Sir Knox Cunningham
He said, "You stink like stoats". Is that in order as a Parliamentary expression?
§ The Chairman
It is certainly not in order. If the hon. Member said it I hope that he will withdraw it.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I had no idea of saying anything that was out of order—but there are things in the world that do stink like stoats. [Interruption.]
§ The Chairman
Order. I am not interested in the hon. Member's comments on nature in general. If his remark referred to an hon. Member it is offensive and I hope that he will withdraw it.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am obliged to you, Dr. King; I was simply making known my views on nature in general.
§ The Chairman
Order. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has withdrawn his remark in his own way. He has withdrawn any implication that was made in his earlier remark.
§ Mr. Marsh
It is clearly impossible for hon. Members opposite to believe in democracy at all. Surely the Government are entitled to put a case. In view of the fact that it is impossible for me to do so, I can only ask my hon. and right hon. Friends to divide and to carry the Vote against this cowardly attack.
§ Question put, That a sum not exceeding £8,760,000 be granted for the said Service:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 273, Noes 297.635
|Division No. 257.]||AYES||[10.00 p.m.|
|Agnew, Commander Sir Peter||Currie, G. B. H.||Hiley, Joseph|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Dance, James||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Davies, Dr. Wyndham (Perry Barr)||Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin|
|Anstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W.||Dean, Paul||Hopkins, Alan|
|Astor, John||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Hordern, Peter|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hornby, Richard|
|Awdry, Daniel||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Howard, Hn. G. R. (St. Ives)|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Doughty, Charles||Howe, Geoffrey (Bebington)|
|Balniel, Lord||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Hunt, John (Bromley)|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Drayson, G. B.||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Barlow, Sir John||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Batsford, Brian||Eden, Sir John||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tutton||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Bell, Ronald||Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Johnson Smith, G. (East Grinstead)|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Emery, Peter||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Errington, Sir Eric||Jopling, Michael|
|Biffen, John||Farr, John||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Fell, Anthony||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Bingham, R. M.||Fisher, Nigel||Kerr, Sir Hamilton (Cambridge)|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles (Darwen)||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Fletcher-Cooke, Sir John (S'pton)||Kilfedder, James A.|
|Blaker, Peter||Foster, Sir John||Kimball, Marcus|
|Box, Donald||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Kirk, Peter|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D.||Kitson, Timothy|
|Braine, Bernard||Gammans, Lady||Lagden, Godfrey|
|Brewis, John||Gardner, Edward||Lambton, Viscount|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Gibson-Watt, David||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Brooke, Rt. Hn. Henry||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Glover, Sir Douglas||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Bryan, Paul||Glyn, Sir Richard||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'n C'd field)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Goodhart, Philip||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Burden, F. A.||Goodhew, Victor||Longbottom, Charles|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Gower, Raymond||Longden, Gilbert|
|Campbell, Gordon||Grant, Anthony||Loveys, Walter H.|
|Carlisle, Mark||Grant-Ferris, R.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Gresham Cooke, R.||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Grieve, Percy||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain|
|Chataway, Christopher||Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick)||McMaster, Stanley|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Gurden, Harold||McNair-Wilson, Patrick|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Maginnis, John E.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Maitland, Sir John|
|Cole, Norman||Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh)||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest|
|Cooke, Robert||Hamilton, M. (Salisbury)||Marten, Neil|
|Cooper, A. E.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Mathew, Robert|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maude, Angus|
|Cordle, John||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Mawby, Ray|
|Corfield, F. V.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Costain, A. P.||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Hastings, Stephen||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hawkins, Paul||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Crawley, Aldan||Hay, John||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Crowder, F. P.||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Mitchell, David|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Hendry, Forbes||Monro, Hector|
|Curran, Charles||Higgins, Terence L.||More, Jasper|
|Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Murton, Oscar||Ridsdale, Julian||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Neave, Airey||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Roots, William||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Nugent, Rt. Hn. Sir Richard||Royle, Anthony||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Onslow, Cranley||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Walder, David (High Peak)|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Scott-Hopkins, James||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||Sharples, Richard||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Osborn, John (Hallam)||Shepherd, William||Wall, Patrick|
|Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Sinclair, Sir George||Walters, Dennis|
|Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Page, R. Graham (Crosby)||Smyth, Rt. Hn. Brig. Sir John||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Soames, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Peel, John||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Whitelaw, William|
|Percival, Ian||Speir, Sir Rupert||Williams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)|
|Peyton, John||Stainton, Keith||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Pickthorn, Rt. Hn. Sir Kenneth||Stanley, Hn. Richard||Wise, A. R.|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Stodart, Anthony||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Pounder, Rafton||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Studholme, Sir Henry||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Talbot, John E.||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Prior, J. M. L.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Wylie, N. R.|
|Pym, Francis||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Quennell, Miss J. M.||Teeling, Sir William||Younger, Hn. George|
|Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Temple, John M.|
|Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Sir Martin||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Conway)||Mr. Martin McLaren and|
|Mr. Ian MacArthur.|
|Abse, Leo||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Hannan, William|
|Albu, Austen||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Harper, Joseph|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Alldritt, Walter||de Freitas, Sir Geoffrey||Hart, Mrs. Judith|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Delargy, Hugh||Hattersley, Roy|
|Atkinson, Norman||Dell, Edmund||Hayman, F. H.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Dempsey, James||Hazell, Bert|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis|
|Barnett, Joel||Dodds, Norman||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Baxter, William||Doig, Peter||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur|
|Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret|
|Beaney, Alan||Donnelly, Desmond||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.||Driberg, Tom||Holman, Percy|
|Bence, Cyril||Duffy, Dr. A. E. P.||Hooson, H. E.|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Dunn, James A.||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Dunnett, Jack||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)|
|Bessell, Peter||Edelman, Maurice||Howarth, Robert L. (Bolton, E.)|
|Binns, John||Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)||Howie, W.|
|Bishop, E. S.||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Hoy, James|
|Blackburn, F.||English, Michael||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Ennals, David||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Boston, Terence||Ensor, David||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline)|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S. W.)||Evans, Ioan (Birmingham, Yardley)||Hunter, A. E. (Feltham)|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Fernyhough, E.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Boyden, James||Finch, Harold (Bedwellty)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Jackson, Colin|
|Bradley, Tom||Fletcher, Sir Eric (Islington, E.)||Janner, Sir Barnett|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Floud, Bernard||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan)||Foley, Maurice||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & Fbury)||Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)|
|Buchan, Norman (Renfrewshire, W.)||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Buchanan, Richard||Ford, Ben||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton)||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Galpern, Sir Myer||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Garrett, W. E.||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||George, Lady Megan Lloyd||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Chapman, Donald||Ginsburg, David||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Coleman, Donald||Gourlay, Harry||Kelley, Richard|
|Conlan, Bernard||Gregory, Arnold||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Grey, Charles||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)|
|Cousins, Rt. Hn. Frank||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Lawson, George|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Griffiths, Will (M'chester, Exchange)||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Cronin, John||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Ledger, Ron|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. R. H. S.||Hale, Leslie||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)|
|Darling, George||Hamling, William (Woolwich, W.)||Lipton, Marcus|
|Loughlin, Charles||Padley, Walter||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Lubbock, Eric||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Paget, R. T.||Stonehouse, John|
|McBride, Neil||Palmer, Arthur||Stones, William|
|McCann, J.||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|MacColl, James||Pargiter, G. A.||Stross, Sir Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|MacDermot, Niall||Park, Trevor (Derbyshire, S. E.)||Swain, Thomas|
|McGuire, Michael||Parker, John||Swingler, Stephen|
|McInnes, James||Parkin, B. T.||Symonds, J. B.|
|McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Pavitt, Laurence||Taverne, Dick|
|Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Mackie, George Y. (C'ness & S'land)||Pentland, Norman||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Mackie, John (Enfield, E.)||Perry, Ernest G.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|MacMillan, Malcolm||Prentice, R. E.||Thornton, Ernest|
|Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Probert, Arthur||Tinn, James|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Tomney, Frank|
|Mallalieu, J. F. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Randall, Harry||Tuck, Raphael|
|Manuel, Archie||Rankin, John||Urwin, T. W.|
|Mapp, Charles||Redhead, Edward||Varley, Eric G.|
|Marsh, Richard||Rees, Merlyn||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Mason, Roy||Reynolds, G. W.||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Maxwell, Robert||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Mayhew, Christopher||Richard, Ivor||Wallace, George|
|Mellish, Robert||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Warbey, William|
|Mendelson, J. J.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Watkins, Tudor|
|Mikardo, Ian||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Weitzman, David|
|Millan, Bruce||Robinson, Rt. Hn. K. (St. Pancras, N.)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Miller, Dr. M. S.||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Rose, Paul B.||Whitlock, William|
|Molley, William||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Wigg, Rt. Hn. George|
|Monslow, Walter||Rowland, Christopher||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Sheldon, Robert||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Morris, John (Aberavon)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Sheffield Pk)||Shore, Peter (Stepney)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Murray, Albert||Short, Rt. Hn. E. (N'c'tle-on-Tyne, C.)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Neal, Harold||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Newens, Stan||Silkin, John (Deptford)||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Silkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Norwood, Christopher||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Oakes, Gordon||Skeffington, Arthur||Woof, Robert|
|Ogden, Eric||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|O'Malley, Brian||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Oram, Albert E. (E. Ham, S.)||Small, William||Zilliacus, K.|
|Orbach, Maurice||Snow, Julian|
|Orme, Stanley||Soskice, Rt. Hn. Sir Frank||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Oswald, Thomas||Spriggs, Leslie||Mr. Sydney Irving and|
|Owen, Will||Steel, David (Roxburgh)||Mr. George Rogers.|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ It being after Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.