HC Deb 09 July 1962 vol 662 cc943-4
6 and 7. Mr. Holland

asked the Minister of Aviation (1) to what extent the Services' requirement for helicopters is declining; and

(2) what development is proceeding on civil helicopter projects; and what Government support is forthcoming for such projects.

Mr. Woodhouse

I cannot anticipate defence decisions, but plans provide for continuing high deliveries of helicopters to the Services for several years ahead at least. Following the cancellation of the Rotodyne, Westlands are considering other possible civil helicopter projects in relation to the future programme of military requirements. They are keeping in close touch with the Ministry on this.

Mr. Holland

Whilst thanking my hon. Friend for what sounds to be an encouraging reply, may I ask him not to forget that his Ministry's requirements both for the Services and for civil pro- jects form the mainstay of support for the British helicopter industry and that irregularly phasing the orders causes temporary redundancies which lead to the permanent loss to the industry of skilled craftsmen with years of experience and knowhow? Does my hon. Friend deprecate this outflow of skill from the industry?

Mr. Woodhouse

Yes. I am well aware of the importance of Government orders to the industry. They are continuing at a high level for a number of years ahead, and the fact that there have been some contractions in some parts of the industry is a measure of the success of the policy of rationalisation, which has made it possible to keep up the level of production with a more efficient deployment of labour.

Mr. Hunter

Are any aircraft of this type being ordered from the United States of America? If so, it could be destructive in this country. I understand that there are worries in southwest Middlesex regarding short time in the aircraft factories.

Mr. Woodhouse

There is no such case that would fit the description the hon. Gentleman has given. There is still under consideration a project for joint use for B.E.A. and Sabena of the Vertol 107 aircraft, but this is at present only under consideration. No order has been placed.