HC Deb 16 March 1959 vol 602 cc14-5
21. Mr. Mason

asked the Minister of Supply, in view of the heavy losses incurred by his Department on the development of aero engines, what steps he is taking to ensure that aircraft firms do not use this Government expenditure for investment in capital equipment, thereby being enabled to pay out the accrued benefits to shareholders.

Mr. Aubrey Jones

Firms are expected to provide at their own expense the capital equipment needed to fulfil the contracts they undertake. Recovery, through overhead costs, is limited to fair and reasonable charges for depreciation.

Mr. Mason

That does not answer the Question posed. Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why we have lost £5 million on the development of the Orion engine and why the original estimate for the Avon R.A. 29 engine rose from £2.2 million to £8.8 million in 1957, and as it is not possible by any means to get this outlay back, can the Minister explain to the House these staggering losses which we have already incurred on engine development?

Mr. Jones

The hon. Member is referring to matters contained in the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General to the Public Accounts Committee. Since that Report is at the moment under consideration by the Committee, I do not think it is proper for me to comment on the Question posed to me.

Mr. Beswick

Is the Minister not aware that the Report has been published and it excited a good deal of comment? The public generally would like to know the answer to the Question posed by my hon. Friend. Are we to understand that, as a result of all the experience with the Brabazon, we did not improve our techniques for controlling expenditure?

Mr. Jones

The question originally asked was not a general question. It was restricted to the two specific items mentioned in the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General. Once again, I can only say to him: far be it from me to comment on something which is sub judice by the Public Accounts Committee

Mr. Mason

On a point of order. This is an annual event. Every time the Report of the Auditor General comes out the Minister hides behind you, Mr. Speaker, and in this instance he is doing so again. When will it be proper to question him?

Mr. Jones

If the hon. Member for Barnsley will couch his question in a general way so as to save me from the embarrassment which I have mentioned, I shall be only too pleased to answer it, but that is not what he has done.

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