HC Deb 20 March 1972 vol 833 cc1054-5
10. Mr. R. C. Mitchell

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what Government financial assistance is at present given to the hovercraft industry; and if he will make a statement on the future of this industry.

The Minister for Aerospace (Mr. Frederick Corfield)

Payments to the industry in this financial year amount to approximately £1.3 million. Over the next two years I intend to place further contracts worth £1.5 million with the industry, for the development and improvement of existing craft. This expenditure will be reinforced by another £500,000 to be spent within Government Departments. I have made it clear that by the end of this period I expect the industry to be entirely self-supporting. There are encouraging signs that this will be so; and in this connection I should like to congratulate the British Hovercraft Corporation, Vosper Thorneycroft and Hovermarine Transport Ltd. on their recent sales.

Mr. Mitchell

I thank the Minister for that helpful reply. Is he convinced that the amount of Government assistance he has now outlined is sufficient to ensure the future development of the industry? If necessary, will he call together all the interested parties for a consultation on the industry's long-term future?

Mr. Corfield

I assure the hon. Gentleman and the House that in allocating the £1.5 million to which I have referred I have already consulted those interested, and I have been anxious to ensure that it is with their agreement that these funds are directed to where they will do the most possible good.

Mr. Lane

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied with progress in the research and development programme on the very interesting possibility of tracked hovercraft, and will he give special attention to this in the period ahead?

Mr. Corfield

Yes, Sir, but that is another question.

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