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Tracked Hovercraft Vehicle

Volume 888: debated on Monday 10 March 1975

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16.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry, in view of the fact that the tracked hovercraft vehicle, in its original building at Earith, is the only vehicle of its kind in the world and is of historic interest and potentially of scientific value, if he will take steps to ensure the suitable preservation and public display of this vehicle.

The vehicle, RTV31, is the property of Tracked Hovercraft Ltd., which developed it with funds provided by the National Research Development Corporation. The project was terminated two years ago and the disposal or preservation of any residual equipment is the responsibility of NRDC and THL.

Will the Minister bear in mind that it was Government money which was used to develop this most promising invention, in which we have a world-wide lead and which has now become a museum piece? Does his answer mean that the Government are taking no responsibility whatever for its preservation for the future in case it should have further scientific value?

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is quite right to refer to the fact that when the previous Conservative Government cancelled this project £5million of public money was lost without any benefit in sight. As for his question about preservation of the project, this is not a unique vehicle. Other air cushion vehicles are being developed elsewhere, notably in France. As I sought to make clear, the question of the vehicle's display and preservation is a matter primarily for NRDC. but if it makes such a specific request to us we shall certainly consider it.

As much of the expertise for the project came from my constituency, and as there is great disappointment that it is not possible to proceed with it, will the Government keep an open mind on the suggestion that my right hon. and learned Friend has made and positively respond if an appeal for help on a modest scale reaches them in the near future?