HC Deb 24 April 1968 vol 763 cc203-4
13. Mr. Corfield

asked the President of the Board of Trade what claims for investment grants have been received under the provisions of subsection (8) of Section 1 of the Industrial Development Act, 1966, concerning prototype equipment; how many payments have been made; what is the total sum disbursed; and what has been the average period between receipt of claim and payment of grant.

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. Edmund Dell)

128 claims have been received and eight payments totalling about £103,000 have been made. The average period between receipt and payment of those claims where payment has been made has been four months.

Mr. Corfield

But how long have the others been outstanding? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are considerable complaints about the delay which has been experienced by industrialists and complaints about the inability of the regional officers to help in these matters?

Mr. Dell

I appreciate that there have been such complaints, and there has been delay, which has been due to establishing appropriate criteria in this field. We have now established them. I therefore hope that there will be little further delay in making the payments.

37. Mr. Nicholas Ridley

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has yet defined the criteria for prototype investment grants.

Mr. Dell

Yes, Sir. To qualify for an investment grant a prototype must be built in order to undergo rigorous testing as part of a programme of scientific research. It must incorporate in its design an extension of knowledge in the field of natural or applied science. The mere production of an improved model of an existing machine or vehicle does not qualify.

Mr. Ridley

Can the hon. Gentleman say how it came to be that he kept the country waiting for two and a half years from the date of the introduction of investment grants before deciding the principles on which these prototype grants were to be based? How could his Department have been so incompetent and slovenly?

Mr. Dell

The establishment of these criteria has obviously involved consultation with a number of people, and has involved examination of claims made under this section of the Industrial Development Act. We have now decided upon the criteria, and we hope that the backlog of applications will be speedily settled.