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Volume 959: debated on Tuesday 28 November 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will invite the Manpower Services Commission to make a special study of the probable impact of micro-electronics on the industrial labour market and in particular its significance for the training opportunities scheme.

A group has been established within my Department's unit for manpower studies to examine the manpower implications of micro-electronics over the next 5 to 10 years. It will work closely with the Manpower Services Commission in planning the training and retraining requirements associated with this new technology. The training opportunities scheme is contributing substantially to the overall training effort on micro-electronics, and possible areas of expansion are being urgently considered.

Does my hon. Friend agree that there has been a lot of fantastic romancing about the impact on industrial manpower of micro-processors'? Does he agree also that this could have a serious impact on industrial manpower, with regard to both training and employment? I welcome his statement about the working party. Can he say anything about its composition?

It is headed by a team of three, including an economist. I do not think that I can say much more than that offhand. But if it will help my hon. Friend, I shall write to him. [Laughter.] I am not quite sure why the Conservative Opposition find that so funny. Let me add that, whatever fantasising has been done, it will be the task of this group to find out to what extent any kind of reliable and accurate assessment of this new technology has been made. I should tell my hon. Friend and the House that the Prime Minister will be making an oral statement, and tabling a written one, at the National Economic Development Council meeting on 6th December, which will include some of our preliminary conclusions about the possible manpower effects of this new technology.

Has the hon. Gentleman's Department formed any view about the likely level of job loss which could arise out of the introduction of microelectronic processors?

It would not make any sense if I tried to anticipate in any way the findings of the group, or in any way to anticipate what my right hon. Friend will say to the National Economic Development Council on 6th December.