HC Deb 14 February 1983 vol 37 cc3-4
3. Mr. Kenneth Carlisle

asked the Secretary of State for Industry how much of the finance of £50 million allocated to the scheme for converting boilers to the use of coal has been spent.

The Under-Secretary of State for Industry (Mr. John MacGregor)

By 31 January 1983 offers totalling over £14.6 million in grant had been made, of which £1.3 million had been paid out.

Mr. Carlisle

Is my hon. Friend aware that our coal conversion scheme has been made much more attractive by the addition of the Common Market loan scheme? As the two schemes have been running together for only about six months and are due to end in March—there has not been much time to put together viable projects—will my hon. Friend consider extending the schemes? Not all the money originally allocated has been used.

Mr. MacGregor

My hon. Friend is right. The rate of applications seems to have increased since details of the cheap ECSC loans were announced. A further sum of about £10 million is still under consideration. I hope that many companies are still considering this attractive scheme. Companies with coal-firing projects should submit their applications as soon as possible. We are anxious to receive them. I cannot say what the position will be after March.

Mr. Dormand

I acknowledge that the overall take-up for so welcome a scheme is disappointing. Will the Minister dismiss any suggestion of winding it up? I understand that that has been discussed. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if the scope of the scheme were widened and it received greater publicity the number of applications would increase?

Mr. MacGregor

The scope of the scheme is as comprehensive as possible. The Industry Act 1972 precludes the giving of assistance to bodies such as local authorities, hospitals and schools. However, I think that the scope has been widened considerably. I shall do everything that I can to continue to publicise the scheme, but other considerations seem to prevent a greater take-up. For example, there are still fears in some companies about the effect on coal prices of possible future industrial action. We must try to eliminate those fears.

Forward to