HC Deb 13 July 1970 vol 803 cc1120-2
9. Mr. Sheldon

asked the Minister of Technology if he will make a statement on the Investment Grant Scheme.

Mr. Rippon

This is under consideration.

Mr. Sheldon

Is the Minister aware that the uncertainty which at present faces the industry is the greatest investment disincentive the Government could conceivably devise in that firms are not in a position to say whether for each £100 of plant purchased it will cost £100, £80 or £60? Will he end this uncertainty and in the meantime expand and say whether the honouring of existing commitments will apply to plans made for which no firm orders have been placed?

Mr. Rippon

I dealt with this matter at some length in last Thursday's debate.

Hon. Members


Mr. Rippon

Of course we appreciate the difficulties about uncertainty, but any industry or firm which feels in difficulty should get in touch with me.

Mr. Emery

Would my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that many hon. Members on this side of the House consider that industry should normally obtain its finance from the market and not from the Government? Would he consider the problem of the overlap by those firms which are at the moment considering capital schemes and obviously will wait before initiating these until a Government statement is made?

Mr. Rippon

I am sure the State should be the last, and not the first, port of call. As for plans going ahead at present, there will, as I said on Thursday, have to be transitional arrangements.

Mr. Grimond

Is the Minister aware that any change-over to a system of allowances will adversely affect small new companies which are not yet making a profit? Would he assure the House that there is no intention of changing the method of grant in regard to the Highlands and Islands Development Board?

Mr. Rippon

These are matters which need time to consider before changing the whole system. We have made clear that we prefer a more flexible system of grants and prefer a system of tax reductions and tax allowances wherever possible.

Mr. Biffen

Could my right hon. and learned Friend be more forthcoming about when he expects to be able to make this statement? Does he hope that it will substantially precede the announcement about public expenditure expected this autumn and will it be made before we rise for the Summer Recess?

Mr. Rippon

As investment grants are costing something like £600 million a year, it will be very relevant to that study.

Mr. Benn

Could the Minister enlarge on what he described as transitional arrangements and give an assurance that a firm which now decides to develop and expand in a development area or elsewhere will enjoy the benefits of the investment grants under existing legislation until such time as the Government come forward with legislation to replace existing Statutes?

Mr. Rippon

Firms can act under the present position until it is changed.

Dame Irene Ward

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that we in the North are looking to him to do better than the Labour Government did when they were in power? Could I also ask him not to pay too much attention to some of these southerners who do not know anything about our problems in the North?

Mr. Rippon

I shall certainly do my best to avoid incurring my hon. Friend's displeasure.

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