HC Deb 22 December 1954 vol 535 cc2760-2
45. Mr. de Freitas

asked the Prime Minister whether he will hold an inquiry into the relations between the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Supply and between the Ministry of Supply and the aircraft industry with a view to reducing the cost and increasing the speed of development and production of modern jet fighter aircraft.

The Prime Minister (Sir Winston Churchill)

No, Sir. As I informed the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) on 16th December, Her Majesty's Government are well aware of the facts and are giving careful consideration to the lessons to be learnt from experience in the development and production of new fighter aircraft. This covers the relationships between the various Departments concerned.

Mr. de Freitas

Does that mean that there is an inquiry into the relations to which I refer in my Question?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I am not proposing to hold any special inquiry, but a continuous examination of the whole subject is proceeding.

Mr. Shinwell

In view of the rumours about a possible revival of the Ministry of Aircraft Production in order to deal with this subject, would the right hon. Gentleman, before taking any definite step, consider the possibility of streamlining the Ministry of Supply, hiving off some of its functions to the Board of Trade and other Government Departments, and making itself primarily and exclusively responsible for munitions production, including not only the Army and the Air Force as at present, but also the Admiralty?

The Prime Minister

All these matters will have to be considered if any changes such as those at which I hinted were actually brought into force.

Mr. Beswick

Is the Prime Minister aware that doubts about the aircraft industry are not confined to the production of fighter aircraft but extend to civil aircraft, too? Is there a possibility of improving the industry and improving the returns on the great sums of public money that have been invested in it, and will he look into that wider aspect?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I shall. I hope we shall have plenty of time to do so in the weeks approaching us which are usually the occasion when heavy work can be best accomplished.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Will the Prime Minister, when considering the aircraft industry, recall that it has always been closely organised, that many people have called it a ring, and will he look up what he said before the war about its efforts?

The Prime Minister

I am always glad to look to any part of HANSARD which enables me to say, "I told you so."

46. Mr. de Freitas

asked the Prime Minister whether statements will be made as soon as possible after the recess on the supply to the Royal Air Force of modern jet fighter aircraft.

The Prime Minister

As I informed the House in reply to a supplementary question on 16th December, I consider that this is a matter which should be presented to the House during the debates on the Estimates.

Mr. de Freitas

Since responsibility for the waste of millions of pounds of public money on aircraft production is that of the Ministry of Supply, will not the right hon. Gentleman see that the Minister of Supply makes a statement so that it can be considered and debated without relying merely on the debate on the Service Estimates when the guilty man is not present?

Mr. A. Henderson

Has the Prime Minister gone back on the statement he made at the end of a supplementary answer recently, when he said, in effect, that if it were decided through the usual channels that a full statement should be made earlier than the Estimates debates, it would be considered? Will he agree to consider any such request if made through the usual channels?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, I think that when the general question of business is gone into when we meet together again we must see what is most convenient.