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High Technology Industry

Volume 127: debated on Friday 19 February 1988

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2.27 pm

I beg to move,

That this House recognises the major benefits obtained by the country through scientific and technological innovation welcomes the recent initiatives of the Department of Trade and Industry which will further stimulate technological innovation and co-operative ventures to that end, but regrets the uncertainties which still exist in relation to the British development of space technology; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to clarify its policy regarding space research and development so that industry and research institutions can formulate their programmes with some confidence as to their future prospects.
Clearly, in the time available, it is impossible to develop arguments on the motion. Over the past 150 years new developments and innovation in a variety of ventures have helped us to create our present prosperity. For a country such as ours it is essential that, by increasing the value added to the various activities in which we are involved, we continue to give ourselves a high standard of living, whether in the towns, the cities or the country, about which we talked earlier.

We continue to have a number of problems, some of which the Government have tackled. There is no doubt that, in the past, there has been a poor relationship between universities and industry. There has been a lack of regard for technologies. I welcome the proposals for a national curriculum and the pressures that have been placed on universities to collaborate with industry. I welcome the various initiatives which have been taken, including the technical and vocational education initiative and the recent Department of Trade and Industry initiative for enterprise, but there are significant problems.

The future in space technology is uncertain. I have a particular interest in that subject because British Aerospace employs 1,500 people in the space and communications division in my constituency. It is fair to say that, for two or three decades, this country has been in two minds about the value of pursuing space activities.

Again, over the past year, we have seen question marks placed on whether industry and commerce in this country should pursue such activities. Indeed, British Aerospace sent me a comment today to the effect that, immediately following a Government statement, there was an advertisement in the local paper in Stevenage stating that jobs were available in Europe for high quality space technologists at three times the salaries that are offered in this country. Should I advise my constituents to join a move to Europe to pursue the activities in which they are so well qualified? I should like to be able to say that this country will provide a future in that industry in the coming years—

It being half-past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Business Of The House

Ordered,

That, at the sitting on Wednesday 24th February, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Orders No. 14 (Exempted business) and No. 15 (Prayers against statutory instruments, &c. (negative procedure)), Motions in the name of Mr. Secretary Rifkind or of Mr. Neil Kinnock relating to Housing (Scotland) may be proceeded with, though opposed, for one and a half hours after the first of them has been entered upon, and, if proceedings thereon have not been previously disposed of, Mr. Speaker shall put successively the Question already proposed from the Chair and the Questions on such of the remaining Motions as may then be made.— [Mr. Alan Howarth.]