HC Deb 15 February 1966 vol 724 cc1095-7
20. Mr. Gresham Cooke

asked the Minister of Technology what is the total value of public sector purchases of Hovercraft at the most recent convenient date; and what is the estimated value of similar public sector purchases during the current year.

Mr. Marsh

Up to 31st March, 1965, the total value of public sector Hovercraft purchases was in the region of £1.8 million. Expenditure for the current financial year is estimated to be small and limited to ancillary equipment for craft delivered in previous years.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

In view of the recent naval trials of Hovercraft in Borneo, has the hon. Gentleman or his right hon. Friend had discussions with the Ministry of Defence about taking up Hovercraft for defence purposes?

Mr. Marsh

Hovercraft are already being used for defence purposes. They have been bought by the Ministry of Aviation and the Ministry of Defence, and one would hope to see an increase in this. We are still evaluating the full range of possibilities of this particular craft.

29. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Minister of Technology what discussions he has had with overseas organisations developing the Hovertrain; and what consideration has been given to collaborating with such organisations.

Mr. Marsh

Hovercraft Development Limited, a subsidiary company of the National Research Development Corporation, which is engaged on development work in connection with tracked Hovercraft, is keeping in close touch with developments overseas.

Mr. Taylor

Would not the Parliamentary Secretary agree that all forms of public transport in this country are facing very serious problems and that there is a need for this country to follow the initiative of France in trying to promote a new form of public transport like this?

Mr. Marsh

I think that the key is in the last half of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. This is a new form of transport. There are many forms of modern tracked craft other than Hovercraft.

33. Mr. McMaster

asked the Minister of Technology what plans he has for developing the manufacture of Hovercraft.

Mr. Marsh

The development and manufacture of Hovercraft for civil use is primarily the responsibility of the industry, which will continue to have the co-operation of the National Research Development Corporation. Development for military use is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation.

Mr. McMaster

Will the Parliamentary Secretary look into the possibility of producing this craft in Northern Ireland where some 4,000 skilled aircraft engineers are faced with unemployment over the next 12 months as a result of the Government's policies?

Mr. Marsh

If there were any particular aviation company in Northern Ireland which the hon. Gentleman had in mind and if such a company was interested, it should contact the manufacturers or the Ministry of Aviation.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Could not the Navy be allowed to buy a few Hovercraft in place of aircraft carriers?

Mr. Grimond

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that this is one of the most promising adventures in British industry? Is his Ministry assisting at any rate in experimenting with the existing Hovercraft to find what possible uses there are for it, because it is one of the great break-throughs by British industry and is exactly the sort of thing the Government should be backing?

Mr. Marsh

It is a very great breakthrough for British industry. It is an outstanding example of the benefits of public intervention in this field. The Government are giving all the assistance they can to ensure that it is developed to the maximum degree.