asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he is satisfied with the progress towards the amalgamation of the National Enterprise Board with the National Research Development Corporation.
Yes. The NEB and the NRDC are working together as the British Technology Group through their existing statutes and their separate arrangements for accountability.
What is the strategy of this exciting new grouping? Will it always invest in small, new high technology companies, for example? Will the shareholdings, as a matter of principle, be available for sale once the companies are established commercial successes?
I see the group having its primary role, indeed almost its exclusive role, in providing new investment to support high technology industry where there might be long lead times and high risks. However, we must recognise that trade and not aid is an important requirement of these industries, as was made clear to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and other Ministers when we met an interesting cross-section from the high technology industry at No. 10 Downing Street last week. The British Technology Group has an important role to play in supporting high technology industries. At the moment it is suffering from the awful overhang of the strategy endorsed by our predecessors, which led to substantial losses.
Can the Secretary of State assure the House that in the newly created British Technology Group the standard of entrepreneurial energy and resourcefulness will resemble that of the former National Enterprise Board rather than that of the National Research Development Corporation, which has a rather sluggish record?
I have every confidence in Sir Freddie Wood and those who are working with him—who I met the other day—in the important work that they are doing.