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Electronic Equipment

Volume 176: debated on Wednesday 18 July 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proportion of electronic equipment sold in the United Kingdom comes from overseas.

The latest available figures show that 71 per cent. of electronic and information technology equipment sold in the United Kingdom is imported. This figure includes all such equipment, including components. No information is available on finished electronic equipment alone.

I am grateful to the Minister for his answer. However, what steps is he taking, together with his EEC counterparts, to encourage and develop the component manufacturing industries in Britain and the rest of the EEC, given the large proportion of components of finished electronic equipment that originate from outside Britain and the EEC?

The hon. Gentleman is correct in his analysis that that is a problem we all share. When I say "we" I mean all OECD countries because, with the exception of Japan, we all have a trade deficit in information technology. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman understands that the good news is that the United Kingdom has a large trade surplus with the rest of the Community countries—£900 million last year—in this category of equipment. Therefore, we are positive and optimistic, as we are entitled to be. If the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends persist, as they seem to, in looking on the gloomy and pessimistic side, downgrading the performance of British industry, they must answer for that. We like to recognise success when it occurs.

Will my hon. Friend tell the House on what grounds GEC and Siemens have recently been released from many of the undertakings that they gave less than a year ago in the context of their takeover of Plessey?

Regrettably, I cannot answer my hon. Friend's question because it is not part of my responsibility. I can assure him that we shall look carefully at his point and I shall ask my colleagues to give him an answer as quickly as possible.