HC Deb 01 December 1958 vol 596 cc816-7
6. Mr. Mason

asked the Minister of Supply in what order of priority his Department places contracts far requirements determined by the Services; and what machinery exists to enable the industries concerned to be consulted before the order of priority is decided by him.

Mr. Aubrey Jones

The question of priority does not arise. Each contract is placed as soon as is necessary to enable the manufacturer to meet the delivery date.

Mr. Mason

Is he aware that this will not alleviate the concern in the mind of aircraft industrialists, and particularly the workers who are being held back waiting for orders to be granted, in particular for the successors to the Canberra and the Beverley? Has the right hon. Gentleman now discarded completely the idea of importing American transport aircraft, especially at a time when our aircraft industry is awaiting orders?

Mr. Jones

I have been at pains to let the industry know that certain requirements are under study. Clearly the study has to take into account the state of the aircraft industry, but it is not yet complete in some cases.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Is the Minister aware that men were attracted from many parts of the country to the aircraft industry when it was being built up for national purposes? Since the industry has been of enormous importance and is now facing great difficulty, do the Government accept full responsibility for ensuring that this problem of redundancy is met in the best way possible and that these premises are used for alternative employment?

Mr. Jones

Yes, Sir, but much though I sympathise with the anxiety over this problem, I think that right hon. and hon. Members are tending to exaggerate. In fact, the redundancies of the past year have been far less than expected, and where redundancies have occurred the rate of absorption into other industries has been extremely high.

Mr. Knox-Cunningham

Will my right hon. Friend give every encouragement to the development of the vertical take-off design of Messrs. Short and Harland, Belfast? Will he bear in mind that an early decision about freighter aircraft will be of great assistance to the whole industry?

Mr. Jones

I am most anxious to see the vertical take-off project now being executed by Messrs. Short and Harland continue with all possible speed. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air has said that the study of freighter requirements is not yet complete, and I am afraid that I cannot add to his statement at the moment.

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