HC Deb 24 April 1968 vol 763 cc221-2
41. Mr. Leadbitter

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many applications have been received since 1962 for grants for the purposes of modernising and re-equipping the Furness shipbuilding yard; and how many have been accepted and rejected, respectively.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody

Applications from individual companies for assistance under the Local Employment Acts are confidential and it is not our practice to disclose any such details.

Mr. Leadbitter

Is my hon. Friend aware that it is more difficult to get information out of the Government than it is to get it from the firm itself? Is she aware that I am informed that the amount of grant given to this company by the Government is between £2 million and £2½ million? Since there is a closure notice on this firm and about 3,000 men, who are taxpayers, may lose their jobs, they are anxious to know what the Government will do to protect their money and their interests. Will she discuss the matter with her right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology, who is dealing with it, so that this aspect can be examined with great care?

Mrs. Dunwoody

We are, of course, concerned that a modern yard should have to close, with this loss of skilled workers, but I can assure my hon. Friend that the right of recovery is a question which the Board of Trade takes great care to study when the grants are given.

Mr. Michael Shaw

Is this not one further example of the disadvantage of the present system over the alternative system which was in force when we were in power, namely, the investment allowances, under which grants were given only when the profits were made?

Mrs. Dunwoody

I am afraid that I cannot possibly agree with the hon. Gentleman's views. There is no doubt in my mind that the investment grants system is working very effectively in many places. We are extremely sorry that this yard should be the one which is closing, but I do not believe that either the system of investment grants or that of investment allowances would materially have altered the present situation of the Furness yard.

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