HC Deb 01 December 1958 vol 596 cc814-5
4. Mr. Edelman

asked the Minister of Supply whether he will move to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into the present state of the aircraft industry.

Mr. Aubrey Jones

No, Sir.

Mr. Edelman

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the present atrophy of the aircraft industry is causing the greatest concern to workers, employers, and strategists alike? While not advocating a return to the old system by which thousands of millions of public money were paid out without adequate reward, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will say what public support he is prepared to give to the aircraft industry?

Mr. Jones

Nobody is more aware than I of the problems confronting this industry, but in the middle of 1957 the Government considered whether they ought to set up an external inquiry and they came to the conclusion that the main problem was the degree of support which the Government ought to give to the aircraft industry in relation to other claims on the Government for help. This was a Government problem on which the Government could not very well seek guidance from outside. In answer to the hon. Member, I would say that that reasoning is still valid.

Mr. Beswick

Is there not something of a Greek tragedy about this? The industry is shrinking and we appear to be doing nothing about it. Is the Minister keeping track of the men leaving the industry? These are skilled men. What about the design teams now being dispersed? Is he endeavouring to keep them inside the industry?

Mr. Jones

I would deny the suggestion that nothing at all is being done. The Government set up an internal inquiry into the methods by which the Government might help on the civil side of the industry, and as a result of this inquiry at least two statements have been made. Something is being done.

Mr. Edelman

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.