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Volume 961: debated on Tuesday 30 January 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry what reasons have caused difficulty in finding speakers for the forthcoming seminars organised by his Department on the potential of the microcomputer revolution for industry; why a private consultancy is now being used and what is the cost.

My Department has engaged consultants to help it prepare a special programme of high level workshops to accelerate the application of microtechnology in British industry. Specific details of this programme, including the selection of speakers, and the costs of the consultants are still being worked out. No difficulties, however, are anticipated in finding speakers.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what steps he is taking to overcome the shortage of American miniaturised floppy disc drives for microcomputer production in the United Kingdom, including the possible financing of a British company to start up production of these disc drives for the European microcomputer market.

Floppy disc drives are already manufactured in this country by the United Kingdom peripherals company DRI and by at least one of the major United States multi-national companies. My Department is not aware of any shortages of supply at present, since there are also many overseas suppliers of these products.However, the increasing level of imports of computer peripherals in general is a matter for concern, as the NEDC computer sector working party has recently pointed out, and discussions are being conducted with United Kingdom and foreign companies on ways of widening the range of peripherals made here. Any company in this sector of the computer industry which is seeking support for product development or for setting up production of an existing design in the United Kingdom should contact my Department's computers, systems and electronics division.