To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make it his policy to ensure that universities do not enter into major contracts with foreign high technology companies without first alerting British-owned companies; what information he has on such contracts under consideration by British universities; and if he will make a statement.
My right hon. Friend is advised on major contracts for the supply of computer or communications equipment to British universities by the Computer Board for Universities and Research Councils. The board normally recommends a process of open competitive tender whereby interested British and foreign companies are invited to bid against an operational requirement and a fixed cash limit. Exceptionally, single tender action involving a British or a foreign supplier is allowed where there are strong grounds for ensuring technical compatibility with existing equipment or for establishing a lead site to demonstrate a novel type of application that only one supplier can support. In cases where a British or a foreign company offers a study contract including a capital gift of high technology equipment to a university, it is a matter for the university to decide whether or not to accept the contract, taking into account the recurrent costs associated with the gift of the equipment.