HC Deb 06 April 1955 vol 539 cc1148-51
24. Mr. Rankin

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation his policy in regard to the future of Renfrew Airport.

36. Sir G. Lloyd

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he is now in a position to make a statement on the future of the repair and maintenance base at Renfrew Airport.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

My right hon. and learned Friend, the Minister of Supply has been informed that the Canadian Government are placing a contract under which Scottish Aviation Limited will undertake the repair and overhaul of Sabre aircraft at Renfrew.

As this work, together with that offered by B.E.A., will ensure that there should be little or no redundancy, I have informed B.E.A. that I no longer feel justified in pressing it to continue at Renfrew. The House will realise that its work at Renfrew would in any event diminish in view of the withdrawal from service of the types of aircraft there maintained.

I understand that their withdrawal will take some months and will be phased with the introduction of the work to be done by Scottish Aviation. The position of Renfrew civil airport is, of course, not affected. I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a fuller statement of the position.

Mr. Rankin

In view of the fact that the contract to which the Minister has referred is obviously of limited duration, can he give us any idea of what is going to happen to the maintenance base once the Sabre contract has been completed?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The immediate contract placed is of two years' duration and ensures work for that period. In considering this matter, the hon. Gentleman will, I know, have in mind the fact that if British European Airways had remained its work would have shown a steady diminution with the withdrawal of the aircraft for which the base was designed.

Sir G. Lloyd

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, at any rate, some of the workers at Renfrew whom I represent will be very disappointed at his decision? Is he also aware that there will be, in Scotland, widespread satisfaction at, and appreciation of, his successful efforts to avoid unemployment and to retain this important skilled industry on our side of the Border?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The matter, of course, is one in the first place for the commercial management of British European Airways. I think that, having satisfied ourselves about the prospects of employment, it would not have been proper to urge this nationalised industry to continue to conduct affairs in a way which it regarded as contrary to its interests.

Mr. Woodburn

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is not laying down the principle that the Government are never going to use a nationalised industry as an instrument for trying to distribute industry over this country in a fair way.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am not laying down any principle. I am only indicating that on the facts of the present case it does not seem to me, in the light of the availability of this work on the Sabre aircraft, that it would have been right to press British European Airways to act contrary to its own views.

Mr. Maclay

Whatever our views may be on B.E.A.'s attitude to its maintenance base at Renfrew, may I ask the Minister if he is not aware that there will be considerable satisfaction that a Scottish undertaking will carry on this highly skilled work at Renfrew, and does he not agree that this matter will do much more for the future of the aircraft industry in Scotland than the presence at Renfrew of any reluctant Corporation?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I think that is so, and in the statement which I am circulating I indicate that it seems to me that this is a rather hopeful development in the Scottish aviation industry.

Mr. Rankin

Are we to understand quite clearly from the Minister's statement that this arrangement offers no security to the workers at the maintenance base at Renfrew beyond the two years for which a contract has been secured?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

All contracts of this kind are for a fixed period, and there is no reason to believe that if the work is done satisfactorily, as I hope and believe it will be, the very well-known firm which is undertaking it will not be able to obtain further work; indeed, the firm in question hopes to obtain some other work, even during the duration of this contract.

Following is the statement: Her Majesty's Government have been considering the proposed move by British European Airways of its maintenance base at Renfrew Airport. Such a move is a matter of commercial management for B.E.A., whose estimate that it would result in a saving to it of £800,000 over five years has been confirmed by an independent accountant. Her Majesty's Government have, however, been anxious to prevent a serious loss of skilled employment resulting from such a move. B.E.A. has been good enough to maintain this base at the airport to date, though the amount of work has been shrinking as a result of the withdrawal from service of the Viking and will shrink further as the number of the Pionair aircraft is reduced, which were the types maintained there. My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Supply has now been informed that the Canadian Government are placing a contract under which Scottish Aviation Ltd. will undertake the repair and overhaul at Renfrew of Sabre aircraft. The work will, it is estimated, provide employment for over 300 men for not less than two years. B.E.A. will wish to continue the employment of 100 at Renfrew, and is offering work and a grant for rehousing at London Airport for up to 300. At present B.E.A. employ about 600 men in their maintenance base at Renfrew There should, therefore, be little or no redundancy. This is indeed a promising development of the aviation industry in Scotland. Without it, there would have been a steady loss of employment at Renfrew due to the withdrawal from service of the type of aircraft for which the base is designed. In view of this, and of the desirability of encouraging this, as other nationalised industries, to conduct their affairs in as business-like a manner as possible, Her Majesty's Government are informing B.E.A. that they no longer feel justified in pressing it to remain at Renfrew. I understand that its move will take some months, and will be phased with the introduction of the Sabre work. This decision does not, of course, affect the position of the civil airport at Renfrew, whose expanding traffics are a source of great satisfaction to my Department, and whose new terminal building, the first opened in this country since the war, has been a great success.
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