On Monday some 75 MPs, peers, and party officials will begin a three day course on computer appreciation and introductory programming.
This snatching after technological literacy is being organised by Elliott Automation, which, with the blessing of the three whips, the late speaker, and the serjeant-at-arms in the House of Commons.
The three day course looks rather like escalation in reverse. Is not Mr Marples, as Opposition spokesman on technology, now completing a sabbatical year’s study of automation and computers in this country, the United States, and Japan? Is not Mr Cousins, the minister of technology, now spending eight days reviewing American developments in technology and automation?
At least Mr Marples and Mr Cousins will not have it all their own way in future debates on automation in the House, nor can they expect a silent and subservient audience.
During the three day course the 75 politicians, split into groups of six under a tutor, will be told what computers do and will be taught programming. On Monday they will write a programme on the cost of buying and running a car, hire purchase expenses included. On Tuesday they will write a programme from statistics on wages. The last day they will work out the percentage poll from figures for 50 constituencies and place the percentages in ascending order.
No one at Elliott Automation pretends that the politicians will become experts, but they should gain an understanding of computers, which, as Mr RE Giles, head of the company’s education department, says, “are at the heart of automation.”
Their instructors, all aged between 18 and 30, are members of the booming second generation of computer experts. Elliott Automation is not releasing the names of the politicians attending the course or their political affiliations, but all, lords and commoners, Liberals, Conservatives, and Socialists, are being requested to arrive punctually on Monday morning and to bring their own pen or pencil with them.