§ 14. Mr. Viggers
asked the Secretary of State for Industry what steps he has taken to encourage industry to innovate and expand into new areas of operation.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Industry (Mr. Michael Marshall)
The Government are seeking to encourage innovation and expansion by creating an environment in the United Kingdom where industry can take long-term risks with confidence and invest substantially more in research and development and the adoption of new technologies.
§ Mr. Viggers
Did my hon. Friend hear the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Dr. Cunningham) ask for a more sophisticated level of Government intervention? Does he agree that we should be subsidising, in so far as we are subsidising at all, companies that have a future rather than a past? When approaching companies such as ICL do the Government, in their purchasing policy, examine only the return on capital employed or do they also bear in mind the wide range of companies in the United Kingdom which require British computer manufacturing capacity?
§ Mr. Marshall
I accept much of what my hon. Friend says in relation to the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Dr. Cunningham). His selectivity on these matters is well 744 known to the House. In relation to ICL, recent Government decisions have shown full recognition of many of the factors of which my hon. Friend spoke.
§ Mr. Edwin Wainwright
Does the Minister realise that management throughout the country is of the opinion that this Government cannot do anything about innovation? Does he agree that our economic standards compared with the rest of the Western world have deteriorated since the Government came to power? How much longer must it be before there is an upsurge in the economy?
§ Mr. Marshall
The hon. Gentleman is an old friend and I am disappointed when I see vehemence overtaking logic in his submissions to the House. The hon. Gentleman leaves out an important factor. The Government understand the importance of the pump-priming activity in relation to research and development. The hon. Gentleman will recall the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement on 24 November which included in the £52 million package substantial additional funding for research and development. That is relevant to our thinking.