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Volume 977: debated on Monday 28 January 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry what is his estimate of the amount of public funds currently expended on (a) the application and (b) the production of microprocessors in industry and commerce; and if he will make a statement.

Commitment under the microprocessor applications project is now £16·7 million. The sum of £10 million has been committed under the microelectronics industry support programme for support of manufacturing facilities capable of producing microprocessors.

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that the bulk of expert opinion is that in the production of microchips we cannot compete with the Japanese and the Germans, and that far more money should be spent on the application side and to encourage users?

It is wrong to assume that only those businesses of whose activities the Government are aware, let alone only those that receive grant-aid from the taxpayer, are using microprocessors.

Is my right hon. Friend yet in a position to tell the House whether he will bring to an end the Inmos venture, started by the National Enterprise Board? Has he looked at that yet? Can he make a decision on it?

The NEB has only just passed to me its recommendation about the second phase of Inmos.

What thinking has been done by the right hon. Gentleman and his Government about future employment? We are likely to have a vast number of unemployed as a result of the microchip revolution. What measures are the Government likely to take to overcome this serious problem?

I do not expect to convert the hon. Gentleman at a stroke, but it is my view that if only adaptability were encouraged instead of obstructed by the trade union movement we should have continuous very near full employment.

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that a total of about £27 million from public funds has been made available for these purposes? If the application of microprocessors is as beneficial as people say it is, should not private industry be doing this for itself?

I agree with both parts of my hon. Friend's question. I repeat that only a fraction of those firms which are investing in microprocessors in their own interests are known to the Government, let alone grant-aided by the taxpayer.

Will the Secretary of State reconsider his rather stupid attack upon the trade union movement? Is it not the trade unions, unlike his hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, North-West (Mr. Grylls), which support, for example, the development of the microchip industry, through the NEB? Is not the real criticism that, far from facing adaptation or change, the trade unions and their members face unemployment as a result of the right hon. Gentleman's policies? That is what they oppose.

If the hon. Gentleman is not careful, I shall send him my 7,000-word lecture entitled "Conditions for Fuller Employment" which I tried to summarise effectively in the four-word thesis "Jobs occur if allowed". The fact is that in this country, by well-intentioned intervention, by over-legislation, by over-regulation—and, no doubt, by bad management, but also by uncomprehending obstruction by the trade unions—we have far fewer jobs, far less prosperity and far lower pensions than we could have.