HC Deb 13 July 1959 vol 609 cc2-3
2 and 3. Lord Balniel

asked the Minister of Supply (1) what steps he is taking in consultation with British European Airways to expedite the placing of a contract with the de Havilland Aircraft Company for the D.H.121;

(2) whether he is aware of the difficulties of maintaining employment in the de Havilland Aircraft Company; and what steps he is taking to ease the problem by advancing Service Department orders to this company.

Mr. Aubrey Jones

I am aware of the difficulties which this company is having in maintaining employment. My Department has recently placed with the firm a substantial further order for Sea Vixen aircraft, but I see no prospect of further Service orders in the near future. As for the D.H.121, I have nothing to add to the statement I made in answer to a Question by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) on 6th July.

Lord Balniel

Whilst I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the steps that he is taking in the matter, may I ask him if he is aware that the initial production shops have already ceased work on the Comet and that there is now a wide and serious gap between the ending of work on the Comet and the beginning of work on the D.H.121? Will do his utmost to see that this gap is kept as small as possible.

Mr. Jones

As I said in my Answer to the original Question, I am aware of the employment problems of this company. On the other hand, I hope it will be fully realised that I have no responsibility for the D.H.121, which is a matter between the operator and the manufacturer.

Mr. Beswick

Does not the Minister agree that someone in the Government ought to have some responsibility for this aircraft? The important thing here is that the specification eventually decided upon should be for an aircraft which can be sold in the world market. Can the right hon. Gentleman say which Government Department is taking part in the discussions and whether it is in a position to help?

Mr. Jones

This aircraft is being built out of the private resources of the firm. The Government, therefore, have officially no cognisance of the specification.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Does not my right hon. Friend recall that when the matter was discussed in the House eighteen months ago his Department had quite a lot to say about who should get the contract? How does that tie up with what he tells us today?

Mr. Jones

That is a different matter. What happened eighteen months ago was that there were two tenders for the contract. One of the people tendering was prepared to build the aircraft from his own resources, without Government money. It was, therefore, my interest as Minister of Supply to ensure that the other aircraft was equally built without any call on Government money. Once that decision was made my Department officially no longer had anything to do with the specification.