HC Deb 14 July 1958 vol 591 cc796-7
5. Mr. J. Eden

asked the Minister of Supply when the internal inquiry into the future of the aircraft industry will be completed; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Aubrey Jones

The inter-Departmental group of officials which was set up to inquire into the future of aeronautical research and development is now examining other problems relating to the aircraft industry. As decisions are reached on its recommendations, I shall make appropriate statements.

Mr. Eden

Can my right hon. Friend give any indication now as to the plans for the development of the supersonic transport aircraft? Can he also say what amount of money will be spent on research and development in the industry, and, if it is possible, will he also confirm that it is his belief that the production of manned aircraft for military purposes must continue and that where men employed on those manned aircraft are rendered redundant as a result of the cut in the amount of production that takes place, he will, so far as possible, ensure that they will be found alternative employment?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is quite enough.

Mr. Jones

I am not at all sure that I shall be able to remember all those questions. But to take them in order, on the first question, the development of a supersonic civil transport aircraft, a study is being made of the feasibility of an economic civil transport. Broadly, it is the opinion that there could be an economic civil transport. What is in issue is the kind of transport that would, in fact, be the most economic, but it will be my concern to ensure that decisions are taken as soon as possible. With regard to the second question, the volume of aeronautical research, I think it emerges from the statement which I made to the House before Whitsun that the broad level of expenditure would remain unchanged although the division between civil and military aircraft might change. On the third question, the future of manned aircraft, I believe that manned aircraft will most certainly have a future.

Mr. Beswick

How wide is this further inquiry going, within the terms of reference given to the committee? When does the Minister expect the inquiry to be completed?

Mr. Jones

I cannot offhand conjure from the recesses of my mind the exact terms of reference. At the moment, the committee is examining the whole question of export credits. I would hope that an early decision would be reached upon it. I am not at all sure that it would be right to think in terms of this inquiry being completed at a certain moment of time. The existence of this inter-Departmental group of officials has been found to be useful, and I hope that it might have a continued existence.

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