HC Deb 30 November 1959 vol 614 cc858-9
29. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Minister of Aviation the amount contributed by Her Majesty's Government to aircraft firms since 1951 for the purposes of research and development; and how much has been returned by aircraft firms to the Government.

Mr. Sandys

From April, 1951 to March, 1959, payments made by the Government to industry for research and development on airframes and aero engines have amounted to £430 million. Most of this was for military aircraft for our own Forces; and the special prices paid for them took into account the contributions made by the Government to the cost of development. Some £24 million has been received from the industry in respect of royalties on aircraft developed with Government assistance and sold to other customers.

Mr. Shinwell

Is not this a vast—indeed, an extravagant—subsidy provided to the aircraft industry? Over £400 million has been supplied and only £24 million has been returned by way of royalties. Can we have an assurance from the Government that the subsidisation of this industry—which is a waste of taxpayers' money—will cease?

Mr. Sandys

I do not think the right hon. Gentleman listened to my Answer. I explained that the overwhelming majority of that money was spent on the development of military aircraft for our own Forces. We do not expect to get back a royalty on that—and the price that was paid to the firms for those military aircraft, developed with Government money, was lower than that which would have been charged by the firms if they had developed the aircraft with their own money.

Sir W. Wakefield

How much money has been returned to the Government by way of taxation because of the exports of these aero engines and airframes, which has been of such great advantage to our taxpayers?

Mr. Sandys

I cannot answer that supplementary question without notice, but it would be a considerable sum.

Mr. Paget

Can the Minister tell us how the cost to the taxpayer of the private aircraft industry compares with the cost to the taxpayer of the Coal Board, or nationalised transport?

Mr. Sandys

I should think it compares very favourably.

Mr. G. Brown

Can the Minister say how much of that £430 million was spent in respect of aircraft which were never subsequently ordered and put into service?

Mr. Sandys

Not without notice. The only aircraft I can think of, straightaway, is the Swift, which was ordered by the right hon. Gentleman's party when it was in power.