HC Deb 23 February 1959 vol 600 cc791-2
5. Mr. Mason

asked the Minister of Supply if he is now able to make a statement about the progress made to streamline the aircraft industry; and to what extent it is still his intention gradually to reduce the manpower figure by 100,000.

Mr. Aubrey Jones

Good progress towards rationalisation of the industry is being made. As I informed the hon. Member on 2nd February, the reduction in the labour force stems from a falling off in the demand for the products of the industry and my policy of encouraging diversification and re-grouping into larger and stronger units is aimed at minimising this decline.

Mr. Mason

How can the Minister reconcile that statement with the fact that he proposed this integration policy prior to the acceptance by the Service Ministers of the Lightning aircraft, the supersonic manned fighter, and the T.S.R.2, the supersonic manned bomber, which means that he must farm out orders to areas where unemployment has been growing and that there is now no definite Government plan for the aircraft industry? The right hon. Gentleman is wavering from one side to the other according to the way in which the Service chiefs are wavering in the battle behind the scenes on these issues?

Mr. Jones

I am not sure that I follow the hon. Gentleman. The Lightning was started long before I came to the Mnistry of Supply. Concerning the latest aircraft, the T.S.R.2, I would have thought that this was the genesis of what I hope and believe will be fuller co-operation between the two firms, Vickers and English Electric.

21. Mr. Beswick

asked the Minister of Supply if, in the light of recent military orders, he will give his estimate as to what will be the further contraction of the aircraft industry; and if he will state the anticipated level of employment which this industry will provide over the next few years.

Mr. Aubrey Jones

I took into account the prospect of these orders when I gave the House on 22nd May last year my broad estimate of the future level of employment in the aircraft industry, and I have no reason to amend that estimate now.

Mr. Beswick

I much appreciate the reply given by the Minister, which answers the question my hon. Friend was trying to put, but is the Minister now saying that there is nothing further he can do and that redundancy is going according to plan?

Mr. Jones

No, Sir. Redundancy is never planned; it is the outcome of a contraction of orders. The answer to the contraction of orders is to endeavour to build the industry on the civil side, and that work is proceeding.