HC Deb 22 June 1966 vol 730 cc550-1
2. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what conclusions he has reached about the use of a large Hovercraft for the Royal Navy as a result of the recent official investigation of the project.

8. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Defence how far his consideration of Hovercraft following the trials of such craft in Borneo last year have gone in the direction of larger, seaworthy Hovercraft; and whether the prototypes he is considering for coastal patrol work are fit for crossing the English Channel and North Sea and for passenger and commercial use and for carrying freight.

The Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu)

We have decided, subject to satisfactory arrangements on price and time-scale, to order two experimental Hovercraft for technical and service evaluation; one is to be developed and built for coastal patrol work, and one for logistic support. These craft will certainly be capable of crossing the English Channel and the North Sea; they may have commercial application where the sea is too rough for smaller craft, but the traffic too light for larger.

Other studies of multi-engined craft are continuing.

Mr. Digby

Can the hon. Gentleman give any idea of the size of the craft which has been ordered, and can he say also whether he is considering an even larger craft which will go further than coastal duties?

Mr. Mallalieu

These are of 45 tons. Yes, we are considering a larger hovership.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Can my hon. Friend say why Britain's achievement in the science of Hovercraft lags behind Britain's achievement in aircraft, as evidenced by the recent spectacular flight of Miss Sheila Scott, and will he do something——

Mr. Speaker

Order. That supplementary question is getting too wide of the Question on the Paper.

Mr. Hector Hughes

May I continue my supplementary? Will the Minister take steps to see that Britain's achievement in Hovercraft keeps pace with Britain's achievement in aircraft?

Mr. Mallalieu

Britain's achievements in Hovercraft lag behind no one and no thing.

Captain W. Elliot

Can the Minister tell the House whether the Hovercraft is a naval vessel? If this question has not been considered, ought it not to be considered, to prevent overlap which has so often occurred among the Services in the past?

Mr. Mallalieu

There has been no overlap at all. Inter-Service work has been entirely harmonious and satisfactory. What one calls the thing I do not know, except Hovercraft, which is what it is.

Mr. E. L. Mallalieu

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the vast superiority of the Humber ports for craft of this order, rather than the North-East of Scotland—or Aberdeen?

Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu

I do not want to get involved in that one.