§ Mr. Peter Mills
asked the Secretary of State for Industry for what reasons there is a difference in the policy of his Department in answering parliamentary questions over the disclosure of the level of grants paid to individual firms depending on whether the grants were paid under the Industry Acts or the Mineral Exploration and Investment Grants Act 1972.
§ Mr. MacGregor
Following the sixth report of the Expenditure Committee in 1972, the names of companies receiving assistance under the Industry Act and the amounts received have been disclosed since late 1974 following discussions with industrial associations. In order to preserve the confidentiality of negotiations between the company and the Governnment, details are not published until the first quarter after the first payment has been made.
Work under the Mineral Exploration and Investment Grants Act 1972, whose purpose was to encourage exploration for and evaluation of the United Kingdom's mineral resources, corresponds to industrial research and development and is especially confidential. Publication of individual grants would be likely to disclose a project's location and scale of operation, which are commercially very sensitive. It is therefore not the Government's policy to disclose details of grants to individual companies under either the MEIG Act or the Science and Technology Act and companies are assured that any information supplied to the Department will be treated in strict confidence.