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National Enterprise Board

Volume 981: debated on Monday 24 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry when next he expects to meet the chairman of the National Enterprise Board.

When the Secretary of State next meets the chairman of the NEB will he be informing him that it is the intention to go ahead with the Inmos microchip production unit and that the Government will finance it? Will he also further indicate to the chairman that the Government's decision is that the production unit must be placed in an assisted area?

This is a very complex question. I shall make a statement as soon as a decision is reached.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that pressure for direct investment from the NEB in the information technology industry should be resisted, and that, alternatively, there is a role for the Department of Industry in the co-ordination of Government buying schemes and the placing of large contracts with successful British companies in this field?

I agree with the latter part of my hon. Friend's question. As to the former part, the NEB has been given a remit by the Government.

When the Secretary of State meets the chairman of the NEB will he make clear that it is his firm belief that, where the NEB is being forced to dispose of assets, such as in Fairey Engineering, the workers in those industries should be fully consulted about would-be purchasers?

The NEB is required to take into account the interests of the company as well as the national interest in its disposal policy, and it is for the NEB to decide how to carry out that instruction.

As the Government can expect oil and gas revenues of between £15 billion and £20 billion a year within the next three or four years, will the Minister have discussions with the NEB on how best it can make sure that those revenues are channelled into industry and manufacturing and are not squandered simply on higher imports within the next few years?

We must not spend money before we have it. It is the Government's view that such money as is available is better spent by the consumer than by Ministers and officials.