HC Deb 29 June 1959 vol 608 cc26-7
51. Mr. Gresham Cooke

asked the Minister of Supply why a delay of one year took place before a development contract for the Hovercraft was given after the vehicle had been demonstrated to his Department by the designer.

59. Mr. de Freitas

asked the Minister of Supply how far he is concerned with the development for military purposes of the Saunders Roe Hovercraft.

Mr. Aubrey Jones

The nine months which elapsed between the demonstration by Mr. Cockerell and the placing of a design study contract by the Ministry of Supply were occupied in finding a contractor who was prepared to undertake the work and in studies by him, by my own experts and by Mr. Cockerell of the most practicable method of proceeding. Possible military applications of the Hovercraft are being studied.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

My right hon. Friend is denying that there was a year's delay, as is claimed by the inventor. In view of the fact that the Germans, Americans and Swiss are developing similar principles, would not he agree that every effort should be made to catch up any time which may have been lost?

Mr. Jones

I certainly deny that there was a year's delay. Indeed, my Department got in touch with possible contractors three days after the demonstration. To the best of my knowledge, the lines on which the Americans are working are somewhat different. None the less, I entirely agree that it would be highly desirable that this development should go forward with all possible speed.

Mr. de Freitas

Does the Minister remember the Minister of Defence told us that the Government had not yet decided whether this was an aircraft or a ship? If they decide it is a ship, will the matter be transferred from his Department to the Admiralty and shall we have more delay and more "buck-passing"?

Mr. Jones

I understood that it was the point of the Question that the Hovercraft at the moment was neither the particular concern either of my Department or the Admiralty. At the moment, it is the concern of the Board of Trade and the sponsor is the National Research and Development Corporation.