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Information Technology

Volume 24: debated on Wednesday 26 May 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what action he is taking to ensure that Scotland benefits fully from the liberalisation of the telecommunications monopoly and from other Government measures designed to stimulate growth of the information technology industry.

My Department will do all it can to ensure that Scottish companies seize the market opportunities presented by our liberalisation policy and take advantage of the measures we have introduced to support development of new information technology products.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, despite those efforts, a great many firms that could still enhance their products or improve their production processes by the use of the most advanced technology still do not know how to get the kind of information that would be helpful? Will he therefore publish in the Official Report addresses and telephone numbers where firms can get that kind of assistance? Will he also bear in mind that, with advances in telecommunications cabling, priorities as perceived in Scotland may be rather different from those perceived in London? Will he therefore ensure that his Department keeps in close touch with these developments?

I appreciate my hon. Friend's point. It is necessary to encourage all those involved in this industry to get the maximum information. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry is now preparing a major publicity campaign to advertise the implications of the new legislation and the opportunities that it presents. Officials in my Department will play their part in spreading that message throughout Scotland.

Is the Secretary of State aware that there is another aspect, which is that the Post Office—now British Telecommunications—has provided an excellent service for a very long time in both the urban and rural parts of Scotland? If the Secretary of State for Industry chooses to use the massive powers of direction that he took unto himself in the British Telecommunications Act, and hives off the most profitable parts of British Telecommunications to private enterprise, that could leave the British Telecommunications set-up with a very poor profit. That could prove extremely damaging for the rural parts of Scotland and could increase telephone charges throughout the country.

I appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman says, but he will realise that much of what he has said is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry. I assure him that there are already encouraging signs that British Telecommunications is now looking to new opportunities and is positively stimulated by the new competition that it will have to face.