HC Deb 07 December 1965 vol 722 cc219-20
15. Mr. Hugh Jenkins

asked the Minister of Technology if he will state the terms of the contracts between the National Research Development Corporation, International Computers and Tabulators Limited and Elliot-Automation; and what profit will accrue to the Exchequer under these contracts.

Mr. Cousins

No, Sir. Details of its contracts are a matter for the Corporation and, in accordance with normal commercial practice, are confidential to the parties concerned. As regards the second part of the Question, any profit will accrue to the Corporation and not to the Exchequer.

Mr. Jenkins

Would my right hon. Friend look at this again? Does he not agree that, even if profit accrues to the Corporation, that is an improvement on the practice of the previous Administration, who were in the habit of giving large doles to private enterprise with no prospect whatsoever of recovery? Will he take the matter further by considering the possibility of acquiring a share in the equity of these companies?

Mr. Cousins

I suggest that the latter part of my hon. Friend's question is a different question. It is a separate one which needs a specific answer, and if one is to be given to it, it should be put down separately. On the second point, I am not sure what I am being asked to look at again. Having said that it does not accrue to us but to the Corporation, if it is suggested that it should accrue to the Exchequer, it should be remembered that when the Development of Inventions Bill was going through the House, we agreed a Clause which said it would be possible for me to direct revenue back to the Treasury if this were really important.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

In view of the answer which the Parliamentary Secretary gave to Question No. 10, would the Minister not agree that there is some danger of the N.R.D.C. being overloaded financially in respect of computers and perhaps not having sufficient money available for other projects?

Mr. Cousins

I hope that there is no such possibility. One of the things we have to do is to strengthen the N.R.D.C. At the same time, we must make money available in order that it can cope with the projects. It must be able to deal with these things when they arise.

Mr. Hogg

Would not the right hon. Gentleman confirm that, so far from the insinuation in the first part of the question by the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) being correct, the truth is that the National Research Development Corporation, to which the Question refers, has always had to make the best possible profit and keep it to itself?

Mr. Cousins

The right hon. Gentleman will recall that when we were discussing the N.R.D.C., I paid a compliment not only to the right hon. Gentleman himself for the association he had with N.R.D.C. but to the fact that it was a very efficient organisation, which had done the best it could with the money. We were asking for more money.