§ 3.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)
Now that the corpses have been dragged away from what has been described as the abattoir, it is possible for us to see the new team which has taken over at the Ministry of Aviation. Following what happened yesterday, I must be careful what I say about heads falling.
Perhaps I might be allowed to congratulate the new Minister on the fact that as yet his hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. Maurice Macmillan) is still the back bench member of the family. I should also like to congratulate the new Parliamentary Secretary. I know from his business background that he has considerable knowledge of the kind of technical equipment which is such an important feature of this industry, and I am sure that we all wish him well in his new appointment. I cannot guarantee how long it will last, but there it is.
Today we are inviting the Committee to discuss the affairs of the aircraft and aviation industries. This is a wide subject and the Votes on the Order Paper will, I think, permit hon. Members to raise a wide variety of issues, perhaps of a constituency nature, which I cannot discuss. The charge which we make against the Government is that because of their determination to use aviation to provide an ever-widening field for profit-making they are jeopardising the efficiency and solvency of both the B.O.A.C. and B.E.A., and that, as a consequence, they are adversely affecting considerable sections of the aircraft industry.
I believe that, flowing from this, at a time when the industry is struggling to adapt itself to vast changes which are now inevitable in a dynamic period such as this, the production, and, indeed, the utilisation, of aircraft has been pitched into the centre of political controversy.
On 22nd March we discussed the conditions in the aircraft industry, and it was then quite obvious from the speeches made by hon. Members on both sides that we were all anxious about the position as it then existed, and about the future of the industry. I do not think that there has been any improvement since then; indeed, my impression 435 is that there has been a fairly marked deterioration. Certainly, from my contacts both with employers and employed, in a wide section of the aviation and aircraft industries, I have never known a time when there has been greater apprehension and, in some cases, real bitterness, than there is at present. The Minister has undertaken a huge task, and for the sake of the industry and the nation we wish him every success in it.
Perhaps one of the greatest success stories in world aviation, if not the greatest, is the story of Rolls-Royce. This is a British firm, whose engines are powering not only a great percentage of our own aircraft but large numbers of foreign aircraft. Yet we know that well over 3,000 of the Rolls-Royce workers— some of them very highly skilled—are being dismissed from their jobs. It is a sad reflection on the efficiency of Tory planning that some of these men have been driven to accept jobs with foreign airlines, such as Swissair, at the very time when the nation is suffering from an overall shortage of precisely this kind of labour.
It is time for some of the things we have heard about the ability of Toryism to plan to manifest themselves, in the Government's ability to channel industry into areas in which highly skilled people and consequently, unskilled ones, are loosing their jobs. We would be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman—who has not had a lot of time in has job— would tell us something about the position and the prospect of Rolls-Royce in the immediate future.
I now turn to another firm—this time on the aviation side of the industry— which is in great trouble, namely, Messrs. Short Bros, and Harland. A few days ago Mr. Wrangham, the chairman of Short Bros and Harland, shocked us by his statement that unless the firm obtained more orders for the Belfast military transport aircraft, or substantial outside aid, the firm would not be able to continue any of its other activities. Some of us have visited this firm and have seen what I consider to be a first-rate factory, with a well-balanced labour force, doing a first-class job of work. I should be very sad to think that this firm was in danger of folding up. Such a decision would result in a great loss to the industry and the nation.
436 We are always very anxious when we hear statements from responsible persons like Mr. Wrangham, who, more than anyone else, is aware of the problem. At present, the firm employs 7,000 people —the lowest level since the war. At one time it employed 20,000; in 1950, the figure had fallen to 9,000, and it is now down to 7,000. The firm is operating in an area which has about 8 per cent. unemployment, and in which it is, therefore, extremely difficult to find alternative work.
So far, the only order that it has for the huge Belfast freighter is from the Royal Air Force, which has ordered 10 machines. We understand that it is necessary for the firm to sell 30 of these aircraft before its costs are covered. It is fair to point out that whereas even now the level of employment throughout the aircraft industry is 2 per cent. higher than it was in 1958, Short Bros, is now employing about 15 per cent. less than at that time. It is not a run-down of any type which has caused the problem in this factory.
I know that we have to base our calculations for the future on the ability of certain aircraft, and not merely upon sentiment. These aircraft must live or die by their performances. Nevertheless, it is germane to the argument to realise how much depends upon the success or failure of Short Brothers. The problem is that the public and private educational systems in Northern Ireland have developed on the basis of its aircraft industry. Courses at the local technical colleges are specifically directed to the industry's needs, and a Chair of Aeronautics has been established at Queen's University.
The company has a spendid apprenticeship system. It has trained over 3,200 operatives, and technical apprentices since 1937, of whom about 50 have secured degrees. In addition, about 1,000 awards of different types have been gained. Many of these young men are now teaching at Queen's University and technical institutions throughout Northern Ireland. All this—the basis upon which Northern Ireland will expand or decay—as in great danger, and it is difficult to know how it is to survive if Short Brothers is not able to remain in existence.
437 We know that the Royal Air Force has opposed the placing of further orders for the Belfast freighter. I suppose that its argument is that the Belfast is slower than a jet would be. We realise that the Royal Air Force is naturally interested in prestige types of aircraft rather than in ordinary freighters. The glamour of a supersonic aircraft probably attracts it far more than does an ordinary freighter of the Belfast type. But I would remind the Government that we are by no means out of the wood in respect of the use of jet aircraft. The noise factor will probably play a much bigger part in the situation, especially when freight is landed at all hours of the night. There are restrictions already at London Airport and at Idlewild upon the use of jet aircraft at night.
When we consider the objections of the Royal Air Force to further orders being placed for the Belfast it is relevant to remember that it had the same objections to the Beverley when that successful aircraft was first introduced. We were told that it would not meet Royal Air Force requirements. I understand that there were even murmurs against the Viscount, and suggestions from the Royal Air Force that it would not be a winner. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then, and it has been proved that the experts are not always right. Incidentally, I understand that the Army wants the Belfast, and has made representations to that effect.
The only aircraft of this type now in the possession of the Royal Air Force is the Beverley. It is now obsolete. There is no civil air freighter of the strategic range and size that modern military equipment and technical support forces demand. Therefore, whereas the Belfast can fly in 1963, there can be nothing else of this type within five or seven years, unless we buy American aircraft.
In the debate on 30th March this year the then Home Secretary—now the First Secretary of State—said:As the House knows, the freighter can lift a tank, and can lift not only that but many of our most modern weapons. It is not only useful for that, but for the transport of men to a very much larger extent than any other aeroplane known in the world. The freighter has, I am sure, proved its worth, and I would agree immediately that the whole question of the future of Shorts—whether it is to remain 438 independent, or whether it is to be amalgamated—is a matter that must be decided."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th March, 1962; Vol. 656, c. 1739.1Words of encouragement of that kind should have led to something being done about further orders for the Belfast freighter.
I do not want to go on quoting, although I could quote Lord Montgomery and Lord Chandos on the same subject. But it is surely important that the Government make up their minds about the future of Shorts. I have heard a proposal that Shorts should be used in a different way; that it should be consolidated with one or both of the aircraft groups and should undertake a programme of overall, sub-contracts and that kind of thing for the next few years with the Government leasing the assets at a nominal rental based on the value of the business or the prospects rather than on the valuation of the assets.
That would be tantamount to saying that Shorts should be turned into an aircraft garage and the design staff, numbering about 900 people, paid off. This would mean that research into guided missiles, electronics and work of that kind would be ended. This would be a great tragedy and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will tell us that he will not countenance such a suggestion. He must decide on the future of the Belfast and not allow the firm to be used in terms of a garage for other people.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
As my hon. Friend knows, I engaged in the controversy about the Belfast with the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations when he was Minister of Defence. Am I to understand that my hon. Friend is now proposing that this aircraft is of such merit that it should be ordered on that basis by the Service Departments? That was not the original argument advanced by the Government and supported by the Opposition Front Bench until now. The original argument was that this was an aircraft which would have a civilian market. Do I understand that my hon. Friend is abandoning that argument?
§ Mr. Wigg
I am obliged to my hon. Friend for what he has said. It reveals what is in his mind. But in my submission, this does not depend on new ideas, but on a new engine. My hon. Friend may be able to conjure ideas out of the air, but not engines. As I understand it, the position is that if there is to be an extended Belfast, what is required is a stage 5 Tyne engine. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is what is involved?
§ Mr. Lee
My hon. Friend has the answer. A stage 5 Tyne engine which would assist in the problem at Rolls-Royces Which I have put to the Minister. It would mean a delay before the aircraft was flying. There is still the question of development costs and timing. But, as I have submitted, the Belfast is still the best proposition we now have, other than buying American.
Yesterday, I received a deputation from people representing a wide measure of interests in Northern Ireland, including the religious denominations, chambers of commerce, all sections of political thought at Stormont, and the trade unions. They were unanimous in expressing anxiety, and in their feeling that Northern Ireland faced a great controversy unless something was done about this problem. The Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, which represents 3 million people, sent representatives to see me and I was reminded that at the Confederation's annual conference a resolution was passed asking for assistance to Shorts. The resolution is on the lines I have described and I will not bother to read it.
I turn from the question of Short Bros, to what is, perhaps, the main bone of contention, the B.O.A.C.-Cunard merger. On 7th June, which was the last day prior to the Whitsun Recess on which business other than the Adjournment debates took place, as hon. Members who found it impossible to tear themselves from this place until they had studied the OFFICIAL REPORT will know, there appeared among the Answers to Written Questions 440 a statement from the Minister of Aviation informing Parliament—I say "informing Parliament" in a purely technical sense—of the merger between B.O.A.C. and Cunard.
Most hon. Members knew about this from the London evening papers on 6th June. But I object to Parliament being kept in ignorance on matters such as this until it is far too late to challenge them or, to receive detailed information about them in the House. I am glad to note that the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) is in the Chamber. It would be interesting to know how the hon. Member knew about this and was able to put down a Question which received a Written Answer. How much notice did the hon. Gentleman give to the Minister of his intention to ask the Question?
§ Mr. Lee
I do not guess about these things. I put it down to intelligent anticipation at its very, very best.
On 26th June, when the House reassembled, the Minister was good enough to answer a Question from me on this matter and I invite the House to consider the relevant part of his Answer:Airlines on the Atlantic have suffered severe losses because of the setback in the growth of traffic and excess of capacity. The United Kingdom is facing fierce competition on these routes and by concentrating their capacity, maintenance facilities, sales effort, managerial experience, B.O.A.C. and Cunard should strengthen the British aviation effort in this vital area."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th June, 1962; Vol. 661, c. 960.]I invite the hon. Member for Belfast, North to keep that answer in mind.
Will the Minister answer a few more questions? The Government White Paper on the nationalised industries, issued last year, indicated that these industries have social functions to carry out which may be inimical to profit making. I suppose that financing research would be relevant in this connection and the question of operating unprofitable routes. Does the new company carry these responsibilities? Does the 70 per cent. of B.O.A.C. repudiate them, or does the 30 per cent. Cunard accept them? We must know this because of its association with the House.
441 Can the new company compete for trooping contracts? We have a position in which the nationalised industries can-not compete for such contracts and private campaniles can. Which "hat" does this company wear. I should be grateful if the right horn. Gentleman would answer those questions. At Question Time the Minister told me that the financial result of the company's work will be placed before Parliament. May we be assured that hon. Members will be able to debate and criticise the performance of the company, as with the nationalised industries, and that the Ministry can direct the overall question of policy? This is something we must know. I shall be very annoyed if we are fobbed off on the ground that within this new company there is a private enterprise element whose affairs do not concern the Minister.
I do not consider that B.O.A.C., or any other nationalised organisation, has a right to do this kind of thing without the consent of Parliament. The organisations were set up by Parliament to develop on certain lines. It may well be that as time goes on the set-up may need altering. But if and when that time comes, let the Minister come to the House to seek the permission of Parliament and to advance reasons to prove the need for any change which is proposed. At the moment, there is no reason why that should happen.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
About three years ago B.E.A. applied for a minority interest in Cambrian Airways. We did not hear any objection to that.
§ Mr. Lee
That is a different matter. I will explain the difference from my point of view during the course of my speech.
What would have been the position if B.O.A.C. had sold the majority holding? Suppose that instead of 70 per cent.—30 per cent. in favour of B.O.A.C. it had been in favour of Cunard? Suppose there had been a combination of Cunard and B.U.A.? What then would have been the position? If we have no right to be consulted before a merger of this kind takes place, I take it that, similarly, we should have no right to be consulted if a majority shareholding were taken from the national- 442 ised airlines, which would present the House with all sorts of difficulties.
I wish to make my position clear. In these days, when take-over bids have become a widespread method of industrial reorganisation, I do not say that nationalised industries should not have access to the same techniques as private monopolies. If that were the straight issue I should take a different attitude. What we have to ask ourselves is why B.O.A.C, which was so adamant in opposition to Cunard having a single licence on the London—New York run, suddenly agreed to that firm having 30 par cent. of B.O.A.C.'s business.
I think Chat the answer is to be found in the letter written by Sir Matthew Slattery, in the 6th June issue of B.O.A.C. News, in which he said:The Civil Aviation (Licensing) Act of 1960 radically transformed B.O.A.C.'s position. It ended our right to be the sole British challenger to the host of foreign airlines flying the world's scheduled long-distance routes. The independent airlines successfully staked their claim to a share in the British effort. In particular, the emergence of Cunard as an Atlantic air carrier through their wholly-owned subsidiaries in Bermuda and the Bahamas produced a big new factor for us to reckon with.This was not just another competitor—we have always had plenty of foreign competition. This was British competition, splitting the British effort, dividing the British market and—because of the way international air agreements work—inevitably having to siphon off most of its traffic from the British share.These were the most immediate effects of the new situation. But the long-term effects we (and Cunard, too) had to face were even more difficult. We were threatened with continual uncertainty over the outcome of future route licensing applications. This was no basis for long-term planning or investment by either of us.That puts it in a nutshell. What I object to is the presence on the Statute Book of an Act which is nothing short of a continuous threat to the two public Corporations. As the expenditure of public money produces lucrative routes, licences will or may be granted to companies which will be given the right to exploit them while the Corporation, as in this case, is placed in a disgraceful position of having to share its best routes with a rival to whom the Minister himself refused a licence on the ground that B.O.A.C. was already suffering from surplus capacity.
Look at what the two organisations will get out of the merger. In the case 443 of Cunard, it is clear that it will get a minimum of 30 per cent. of B.O.A.C.'s existing business on the North-Atlantic route and I think that I can show that it will get more than that. The company is rescued from its plight of having bought two Boeings and spares for £6 million and, having spent £800,000 preparing to run on the route, finding itself without a licence to use them. Between 1952 and 1961 the Cunard Steam-ship Company's operating profits fell from £10,790,000 to £1,122,000 and it paid no dividend this year. So this deal is in the nature of a life-belt for the company.
What does B.O.A.C. get out of it? It may be, although I do not think so, that I am a biassed witness, but I will quote the Economist, which I do not think hon. Members will consider has a biased judgment. It said, on 23rd June:Whatever one's views on nationalised versus private industry, the plain fact is that the arrangement between the two airlines comes close to making a gift of public assets to private investors, i.e. the shareholders of Cunard. It is important to demonstrate why this drastic step should be in the public interest. B.O.A.C. is hiving off the most glamorous third of its business to a £30 million subsidiary—a holding company rather than an operating company—in which B.O.A.C. will hold two-thirds and Cunard one-third of the capital. On the face of it Cunard could never hope to acquire this kind of stake in the North Atlantic air traffic on its own.So far as I see B.O.A.C. gets nothing out of it. It already has more aircraft than it needs, so it gets some more surplus capacity to add to its overall running costs, a superfluity of surplus capacity.
We would all be grateful to the Minister if, as his first attempt to help the House in his new capacity, he would explain what the Government mean when they use the terms "free enterprise" and "competition". That explanation would have relevance to wide sections of industry and it would have special significance to this one. The argument advanced in March, 1960, was that with an expanding cake in air travel no one need suffer. The Corporations and the independents could fly happily along together in a growing market with the independents supplementing the Corporations' efforts.
There was just one small, almost irrelevant, detail which the Government for- 444 got to consider, namely, what would happen if the confounded cake shrank instead of expanding. In fact, that is precisely what happened. Total traffic on the U.K.-U.S.A. East Coast route dropped by 11.8 per cent. between April-June, 1960, and April-June, 1961. With it the fight for traffic among the international airlines grew to intense proportions. At the very moment when our flag carrier was engaged in this, the Government insisted on handicapping it with the dangers of diversion of its share of traffic.
It was interesting to read what the then Minister, who is now Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and Secretary of State for the Colonies, said on Second Reading. He said that the Billis not intended to undermine the position of B.O.A.C. or B.E.A. Those two corporations are our main flag carriers on the air routes of the world. Large sums of public money have been invested in them and they have to face fierce competition from foreign rivals. They therefore deserve, and will get, our full support and encouragement.The right hon. Gentleman told us that the Bill would "regularise" the existing position—allowing the independents some of the more profitable pickings— in two ways. He also said:First, the monopoly of the Corporations will be brought to an end by the repeal of Section 24 of the Air Corporations Act, 1949. Secondly, a Board will be set up to whom all operators, both Corporations and independents, will be able to apply for licences on equal terms.The right hon. Gentleman was arguing that the Act was justified on a theory of limited competition. We would like to know what this means. Perhaps the new Minister can answer it. The former Minister argued:The introduction of some element of competition between the Corporations and the independents and the continuing need for all operators to justify the retention of their existing services will, I am sure, provide an additional impetus for efficiency. I would, however, emphasise that neither the Corporations nor the independents, wish to see unrestricted cutthroat competition.The last thing any of them wants is a complete free-for-all."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 6th March, 1960; c. 1231–3.]Can we be told what all that mumbo-jumbo means? Is it competition or not?
I understand that under the terms of the agreement the new B.O.A.C.-Cunard company will be able to purchase flying 445 hours from B.O.A.C. for all types of aircraft. So the potential of the new company is far greater than the 10 aircraft mentioned in the agreement. Before very long B.O.A.C. will replace its existing fleet with VC10s. It is clear that not only will Cunard get the advantage of the modernised B.O.A.C. fleet, but it will be able to buy flying hours from B.O.A.C. to ensure far greater capacity than the 10 aircraft which have been mentioned.
From the point of view of B.O.A.C. all that this will do will be to enable it to buy capacity from itself to increase the Cunard profit. This does not make sense to me, but for Cunard it solves one of the greatest problems which faces any private company, namely, when and where to develop. It can develop in a secure position established in the industry.
The type of business—we discussed this in the debate on London's airports recently—which seems more than any other to be certain of expanding spectacularly during the next few years is the carriage of freight. B.O.A.C. was preparing for this and had for some time been in discussion with Shorts for orders to be placed for suitably adapted versions of the Belfast. I take it that the increased capacity for freight developed by B.O.A.C. will now be placed at the disposal of Cunard.
To me, this suggests that B.O.A.C. has nothing like an acceptable agreement out of the arrangement which we axe discussing. During the last fifteen years the amount of capital involved in building up the services has cost B.O.A.C. well over £110 million—of public money. Not only does Cunard now horn in on a very substantial portion of that, but it is assured of a large portion of the returns on future freight and passenger services, and the fleet can be enlarged by the purchase of flying hours from B.O.A.C.
I am told—and this makes the agreement even more remarkable—that none of the Cunard hangers at London Airport was big enough to house the 707s which they bought, that there were no other facilities available to them there, and that B.O.A.C. had an option on them which could have been taken up in 1963. If anybody can make sense out of this from the B.O.A.C. point of view, 446 I shall be pleased to hear it, because the net result of all this is that we have returned to the point at which we started, with an internal monopoly to control our share of the Atlantic routes. There is, of course, one slight difference in the monopoly. It is no longer a public monopoly. One of the flag carriers which, to quote the right hon. Gentleman, "must deserve and will get" our full support and encouragement has been forced to bow the knee to the threat of licensing contained in the 1960 Act.
The Government's position in all this is quite remarkable. First, they set out in the 1960 Act to show us how well competition works. They told us of the impetus which it could give to industry. They set out to prove the beneficial effects which flow from the stimulus of competition, but the independents, who, in the aviation world, are the exponents of competitive private enterprise, have gobbled each other up in order to eliminate the realities of competition, while on the political side the Tories, who passed the 1960 Act to ensure that the stimulus of home competition would ensure our competitiveness in world markets, now encourage the creation of monopoly at home to save us from the wasteful nature of competition. In other words, while those who exist to practise competitive principles strive to eliminate them from their industry, the verbal advocates of competition, while still mouthing platitudes about its virtues, connive at the creation of monopoly.
What is the Minister's argument about this? It is that monopoly is the price of efficiency. That is precisely what he said to me a few days ago. What a difference two years of freedom of the 1960 licensing Act has brought in the educational processes of Toryism.
What happens now to the rump of the Cunard on domestic and European routes? We know that competition is out and that a tie-up with B.U.A. seems inevitable—and quite sensible, as I see it. What then? We see B.E.A. in exactly the position of B.O.A.C. on the Atlantic route. One fine day, perhaps just prior to or during a Recess, we may learn that B.E.A. has been forced into a merger with B.U.A.-Cunard, and they, too, will have scuttled away from the dangers of competition and under the 447 umbrella of a nationalised industry, and in the process will have eroded the public ownership of B.E.A.
All the arguments of both B.U.A. and Cunard before the Licensing Board in efforts to grab B.E.A. routes base themselves on the virtues of competition. This is the only case which they can make, for on no single route is there a lack of capacity and, by coincidence, on each a profit is being made. This is a strange story of the erosion of great public assets.
I started by saying that Government policy is jeopardising both B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. and, consequently, is adversely affecting considerable sections of the aircraft industry. How can it be otherwise when the two Corporations which, along with the Service Departments, are the principal customers of the industry, are living under the threat which I have described? B.O.A.C. has ordered £151 million worth of VC10s. B.E.A has ordered £30 million of Tridents. B.E.A. has the option of more Tridents if it wishes to take it up.
He would be a brave man indeed, as chairman of either of these companies, to enlarge a huge capital investment of that type while such a threat was still hanging over their future. By 1965, if the Minister licenses these routes, it will cost B.E.A. £5.8 million per annum— and this is the very Government which tells us that the failure of nationalisation can be shown by the fact that it does not make profits. Hypocrisy cannot sink much lower than that.
Some day the House will have to debate the facts of life in relation to competitive private enterprise in our great industries. I have suggested before that it is little more than Tory and Liberal mythology, which in our great industries does not exist. We are now rapidly reaching the stage at which the British people have to choose between private and public monopoly, because there are no other alternatives in most of these great industries.
Even in the United States, the home of competitive private enterprise, Pan-American and World Air are coming to an agreement to amalgamate in order to eliminate wasteful competition on the North Atlantic run. At home, while 448 the Tories preach the irrelevance of public ownership, Cunard, for well over a century the emblem of competitive private enterprise, could not find sufficient enterprise to accept millions of public money to build a Q-ship because it had to find some of its own money. We now have the spectacle of Cunard scrambling away from the dangers of competition under the wing of a nationalised industry.
This is the story of the B.O.A.C. and the Cunard merger. I hope that the people of the country will take particular notice of it, for these two great airlines, which have been publicly financed, have done an incalculable amount of good research and development to make our industry one of which we can be proud. Because of the sheer chaos created by the Government, both are jeopardised. I hope that the country will learn from this and will understand that Toryism means a bloodless society, that the anaemia of Liberalism is no alternative, and that we must get down to a properly planned economy under a Labour Government, so that we can make Britain great once again.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ The Minister of Aviation (Mr. Julian Amery)
I should like to pay tribute to my predecessor at the Ministry of Aviation for his work for over two years in connection with aircraft for the Royal Air Force. The Air Force is indebted to him for what he has done over that period to speed up deliveries. I am not qualified to comment on his work on the civil side except to say that the initiative which he took in launching a European space launcher organisation marks the first constructive step taken to get Britain into space, and this is a contribution which I, for one, fully support.
Last Friday morning I was in the lofty Air Council chamber that looks over the Embankment discussing with some of the air marshals the slippage in the deliveries of some aircraft. In a moment of impatience I allowed myself to say, "If I were Minister of Aviation what I would do is this…." Some of the air marshals present told me in spicy military terms what they would do if they were in that position themselves. Hardy were the words out of my mouth when the skies darkened and the ground 449 began to tremble, and we embarked upon the convulsions of the weekend which had some effect on the composition of the Treasury Bench. When the dust subsided I found that I was Minister of Aviation and that the usual channels, with their usual foresight, had so arranged matters that I had an opportunity to express my views on aviation policy within less than 24 hours of entering my new office.
It is not a very easy thing to do.I have to admit, even after 24 hours in my new office, that things look rather different from another chair. It is perhaps just as well that my remarks in the Air Council were not recorded. All the same, I begin by saying that with my experience at the Air Ministry I am very concerned—I know that a number of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the Committee are also very concerned—about continuous slippage in delivery times and about the steady rise in costs of many of the projects with which the Ministry of Aviation has to be associated.
This is not a purely British experience. It happens in other countries, too. I would not for a moment pretend that the customer is always right. Quite often the Service Departments complicate the process by changing their minds half way through the development of a project and asking for new modifications. However, there is a serious problem here. It is one of the first questions to which I want to address myself. I admit freely that it is easier to identify than it is to solve.
While I was at the Air Ministry I had many contacts with the Ministry of Aviation and more particularly with the R.A.E. at Farnborough. I was immensely impressed by the work which the Establishment does and, more particularly, by its recent development of the blind landing system. I do not know how many hon. Members have had experience of this system. It is a very strange sensation when, after circling an airfield, one begins to come down from 1,000 ft. to the airfield and the pilot takes his hands and feet off the controls and one sees the ground steadily getting nearer. There is an almost irresistible impulse to tap the pilot on the shoulder and say, "Look out, it is coming". But there is no need for that. On three suc- 450 cessive occasions I landed more smoothly than I have ever been landed by the best of pilots.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
I do not intend to deal exactly with blind landing in the setting in which the Minister described it. Is he aware that many hon. Members have failed to take part in blind landing and that I, on requesting that we should visit the station, was told that it was not opportune. Could the Minister make it opportune for hon. Members to visit the station?
§ Mr. Amery
I will certainly consider the hon. Member's request. I do not know whether there was a security consideration. There may be, but, of course, I will consider his request. I am very glad that he has raised the point. I hope that any other hon. Member who wishes to approach me on any matter will always do so.
We have decided to introduce the blind landing system for V-bombers and we are developing it to civil standards for the Belfast. An intensive evaluation is going on to see how far the system can be applied for commercial purposes. There is already a good deal of foreign interest in the system. For instance, the Americans have had one of their airfields fitted with the ground equipment and have sent over one of their aircraft to be fitted with the airborne equipment. That aircraft has now returned to America for trials. In all this the Committee will appreciate that it will be very important to establish accepted international standards so that the same blind landing systems can be operated in the different countries between which aircraft operate.
The hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) raised a number of important points. He was kind enough to give me notice of some of them. When answering some of his questions I shall be vary careful and guarded, for reasons which I am sure that he will appreciate. I am conscious that there is a serious situation in the aircraft industry. I am also conscious that my own experience of it is all too limited. I do not want to say anything which would make the task of the industry more difficult.
I want to deal, first, with the question of B.A.O.C. and the Cunard Company. 451 I do not pretend to be a master of this subject, but from the little I have seen since I came to the office last night, and from the discussions I have had within the Department, I have personally come to the conclusion that the hon. Gentleman's misgivings are very largely unjustified. As he knows, my predecessor refused a licence to Cunard Eagle to operate an independent service. After that, B.A.O.C. and Cunard got down to talks together on their own initiative. I understand that there was no initiative from the Ministry of Aviation. It was the decision of B.O.A.C. and Cunard. It was taken after consultation with their professional advisers.
The hon. Member for Newton asked what B.A.O.C. got out of it. I do not know, but we did not push the Corporation into it. It came to the conclusion that in the circumstances at that time it was the right thing to do. It is true that we were consulted. The Corporation was under no obligation statutorily to consult us, but it did consult us and my predecessor saw no reason to object. Given the circumstances at the time—I am not going back to the question of the 1960 Act; I am concerned merely with the circumstances of the time—I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman, if he had been in my predecessor's chair, would have taken a different view.
My predecessor thought—for what it is worth, I have come to the same conclusion—that it was in the best interests of British aviation that the two groups should co-operate to secure for Britain, which is what really matters to everybody, the maximum share in an already highly competitive North Atlantic traffic.
§ Mr. Amery
The hon. Gentleman would have had to face a completely different situation. There was an already established Cunard Company operating. We cannot go back every time to earlier Acts and say what should have been done then or later. My predecessor had to face this situation, and he thought in 452 the circumstances at the time that this was the best thing to do.
The hon. Member for Newton asked me certain specific questions. He asked about trooping. I understand that it is not relevant in this case. These are scheduled flights, not charter flights. They are directed to the Eastern seaboard of the United States, the Caribbean and South America. The hon. Gentleman asked about special obligations.
§ Mr. Lee
I must apologise to the Minister for interrupting again so soon. I am sure that he is trying to be helpful. I know that at the moment they are running on this route. I asked about the principle when there is an amalgamation between a nationalised corporation and a private firm. If such a development were to take place in Europe, would they be eligible to take part in trooping?
§ Mr. Amery
Surely we must not be too doctrinaire about these things. The hon. Gentleman asks what the position is in principle. I am stating what the position is in practice on this issue. All these things must be judged on their merits. It is a great mistake to try to run every aspect of our economy on doctrinaire lines.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned social and other obligations. My understanding is that all previous obligations of B.O.A.C. are accepted by the merged company in the fields in which it is to operate. As for responsibility to Parliament, there will be accountability to the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries; that Committee will no doubt be able to summon and question B.O.A.C. directors in respect of their stewardship of the B.O.A.C. investment. The Minister will be open to question in the House, subject to the accepted rule that he is not responsible for matters of day-to-day management.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins (Birmingham, Stechford)
Will the joint company pay B.O.A.C. salaries in all cases?
§ Mr. Amery
I should want notice of that question. I do not know the answer. I will write to the hon. Gentleman about it.
As I have said, we want to avoid being doctrinaire on a matter of this kind. The 453 hon. Member for Newton asked what we mean by free enterprise and by competition. He asked what is the exact principle of philosophy behind all this. At the last General Election the Leader of the Opposition advocated public investment in private enterprise. This is private investment in public enterprise. It is not so very different. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
There are other very successful examples of this kind of thing—British Petroleum and, in other countries, the K.L.M. and S.A.S. airlines. I know that this question of nationalisation is a very sensitive subject for the Labour Party, but what we are concerned with is not public enterprise or private enterprise, but British enterprise and getting as large a share as we can of the world air routes and the very valuable foreign exchange which they bring.
Let me now turn to the more serious problem which, I think, faces us in this debate, which is the prospect of some redundancy in certain sections of the industry. This is a very large industry. It is larger by comparison than the whole of the rest of the Western European aircraft industries put together. It represents 10 per cent. of our engineering exports. It is vital to our defence, and, as the hon. Gentleman said, it is a very considerable advertisement for Britain. I was recently travelling in South-East Asia, in a Comet IV, and was able to judge for myself the big impression which this aircraft is making on public opinion in other countries.
The total size of the industry has fluctuated a great deal but, broadly speaking, since 1957, it has been a little above or a little below the 300,000 level. It was 308,000 in 1957, which was the highest figure, and in 1959 it went down to 288,000, and now it is 298,000. There are two closely connected problems, but for the sake of the discussion one can separate them. There is, first, the problem of the design teams, and there is also the problem of the production teams.
The hon. Member for Newton spoke of the problems of Rolls-Royce. I was not notified that the hon. Gentleman was likely to raise that question until just before the debate. Rolls-Royce has had difficulties on the production team side, but it is rather anxious about the design 454 team side. I have a delegation coming to see me, led, I think, by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) early next week, and I shall brief myself in readiness for it, though I cannot give any details about it now.
The issue is really this. Everything depends on the existence of customers. Who are the customers? They are the civil airlines, both the Corporations, and the private operators, the military air forces and the other civil and military customers abroad. Let me take the civil side first. We are at the moment, as the Committee knows, supporting the Hawker Siddeley Trident project and the VC10. I saw the VC10 fly the other day, and it seems to me to be a very promising aircraft. I think that the firm is thinking of developing it. There is also the B.A.C. 111. We are supporting all these projects, which can give a certain amount of work to the design team, but I would be the first to admit that they have passed the peak of their design work.
More important, looking ahead on the civil side, is the question whether this country should undertake the development of a supersonic airliner. We are carrying out a design study with the French Government and French interests, and Government money has been committed on both sides of the Channel. If the decision is taken to go ahead with this project, it will mean a great deal of design work in the early stages and a great deal of production work later. This is one project which hon. Members should keep in mind.
On the military side, as the Committee is aware, in addition to the 10 Belfasts, five VC10s are on order for the R.A.F. as strategic troop transports. One of the possibilities we are now considering as part of the defence review would involve an increase in the long-range transport force, but I cannot at present say what form this will take or whether it will be undertaken.
When I was at the Air Ministry, I took a great interest in the development of the vertical take-off and landing aircraft to operate in the ground attack role, as I told the House on more than one occasion. I am glad to be able to say something about this in connection with the P1154. This is a design submitted by Hawkers, based on the work 455 done and the good results obtained from the P1127. It is a single engine supersonic aircraft, using vectored thrust to give it vertical take-off capability, and also the ability to make full use of any take-off run that might be available.
The vectored thrust engine, which is a British invention, has many advantages. It avoids problems of ground erosion, since the jets need only point downwards at the instant of take-off, and this, in the general concept of vertical take-off, may be useful. We are proceeding with the first stages of the development of this aircraft as a Hunter, and possibly a Sea Vixen, replacement. We are backing the aircraft in N.A.T.O. and hope that other countries will join with us in its full development.
§ Mr. Rankin
While the right hon. Gentleman is referring to the V.T.O.L. aircraft, can he say something about its civil capabilities?
§ Mr. Amery
I have long held the view that in defence the V.T.O.L. will come more and more into plans for aircraft building, but that is all I can say at the moment.
In one particular field we have made a rather important step forward, and it is now apparent that it is possible, on the basis of the vectored thrust engine, to build a supersonic ground attack fighter aircraft. The P1127, as the hon. Gentleman will remember, was not a supersonic aircraft. It was a subsonic aircraft and it did not quite meet the full military requirement: the new one goes some way further, and is a very interesting development.
§ Mr. Amery
There is a N.A.T.O. competition for an aircraft of this kind, and it will have to compete with other contenders for this kind of aircraft. We are backing it in N.A.T.O., and hope that some other countries will join in its full development, but I cannot anticipate the results of the competition. There is also a problem of the tactical transport aircraft to replace the Hastings and the Beverley, but it is not yet decided what kind of aircraft it should be and when it shall be introduced.
456 Summing up what I have said in the field of requirements, we have a number of promising starters, though I must be cautious about them. None of them is a certainty and it is not in my hands to say whether they will be chosen or not. If some of them reach the post, there will clearly be a good deal of design and production work for the industry, and it is against this background that I want to say a word about the problem of Shorts. I myself and the Government as a whole are very well aware of the serious employment situation that prevails in Northern Ireland. Personally, I have long connections with Northern Ireland, and I am deeply conscious of what is happening there today.
A number of hon. Members have been to Northern Ireland to see the Shorts' set-up for themselves, and they talked with our chairman, because we are 70 per cent. holders in this company, Mr. Wrangham.
I had to postpone my visit at the request of the company because it was not convenient for the company at that particular time. I hope to go soon and see the situation for myself. I am advised that on the production side, the 7,000 employment level at present prevailing can be maintained until next summer. The firm is engaged at the moment on two major projects for the Government—the Belfast strategic freighter, of which 10 have been ordered for the R.A.F. and the Seacat Naval Surface/Air Guided Weapon, which is proving a good export, and orders have been secured from Sweden, Germany, Australia and New Zealand.
The immediate problem concerns the future of the design team. Our hopes for exports of the Belfast freighter have so far been disappointed. It is very hard to assess what the prospects of a modified Belfast would be, and in trying to judge the prospects of the design team I cannot add very much to what I said earlier when speaking generally about the design picture. I cannot say now what the Government's decisions are likely to be on the military orders to be placed, and I am sure that no one would suggest that we should order the wrong aeroplane for social or economic reasons. The Committee would not want us to do that.
457 I cannot give a date when the decision will be taken. What I can say is that when I left the Air Ministry we were expecting to take decisions shortly. I am very well aware that the Northern Ireland people will want to have a decision and know as soon as possible what it is to be.
Just before this debate I saw Lord Brookeborough, who is here on a visit with a number of his colleagues, and the predominant impression I brought away from that meeting was their need to know. I shall do all in my power to make sure that the decision is brought about as soon as possible—
§ Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)
I realise that my right hon. Friend has difficulty in giving an exact date on which we can have a decision, but is it likely to be before the Summer Recess, or in the early autumn, or when? I should like him to elaborate on that, rather than leave it as it is.
§ Mr. Amery
I fully understand my hon. Friend's anxiety. I wish that I could help him, but nothing is more difficult than to forecast dates when the decisions that have to be taken concern a number of other people. I am not in a position to forecast what it will be, but I would say that the important thing is to get a decision quickly, because what the Northern Ireland Government need to know is what the future will be, so I undertake that in so far as I am concerned with the matter I shall do all I can to get on with it, and arrive at a decision as soon as possible—
§ Mr. Wigg
As I understand it, Rolls-Royce offered to produce a stage 5 Tyne on payment of a sum of money which I shall not mention. Are the Government reopening negotiations with Rolls-Royce to find out what figure Rolls-Royce will want to produce the stage 5 Tyne? In any case, there is bound 458 to be a trough in which the Northern Ireland workers will be caught. The Minister also said that the Committee would not expect the Government to take a decision on social and political grounds, but this constitutes a major change of policy, for the original decision taken by the Government was for just that reason.
§ Mr. Amery
As so often in other matters, the hon. Gentleman is very fully informed on an aspect on which, frankly, I am not informed at the moment, but I will look at that point, and try to unravel the complexities with the officials of my Department.
As to the latter part of his intervention, what I say is that I am sure that the Committee would not want us to get the wrong aircraft simply because of a very serious situation of a non-military character. I am sure that would be contrary to opinion in the Committee—and also contrary to Northern Ireland public opinion, a part of the United Kingdom that has produced more field marshals than any other. To produce an aircraft that the Services do not want would, surely be illogical. Perhaps the Services will want it, but I cannot anticipate that—
§ Mr. Mason
But the right hon. Gentleman, more than anybody else, should know about this. He has just left the Air Ministry, and should know whether the Royal Air Force, in its discussions with him over the last twelve months, has made it known to him that it is desirous of having more of these aircraft or not, and he should have indicated to Shorts long before now whether the Belfast is to be ordered in greater quantities than ten.
Secondly, there is the question of coming to a decision. How long must these people wait? It is no use the right hon. Gentleman fobbing off his hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) by saying that he cannot say until possibly the autumn or next year. This is not a new problem. The Ministry has had the matter before it for a long time. The right hon. Gentleman may be a new Minister, but the problem is not new, and we cannot afford to await a decision much longer.
§ Mr. Amery
It is all very well for the hon. Gentleman to say that he wants 459 a decision now, but he knows quite enough about how the Government machine works to know that there are many considerations that have to be weighed one against the other.
There is the problem of money, and of the different requirements of the Services over the whole field. The defence budget has to be drawn up with great care, and competing requirements carefully considered. Certain things go forward and others do not. The normal period for arriving at that particular decision is about this summer. I did not tell my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) that it would be in the autumn of next year. I said that I was not thinking in terms of years, but in terms of a relatively short period—
§ Mr. Wigg
Surely the right hon. Gentleman recognises the importance of this matter. On 11th February, 1959, the present Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations put before the House a picture of the Government, by gigantic intellectual effort, an achievement worthy of Christopher Columbus, having found a military use for the Britannic, as it was called. But in an Adjournment debate on 4th May, 1960. it was revealed that this was only political convenience in the Minister's mind.
Since that time the people of Northern Ireland have become the victims of the Government's shilly-shallying. It is absolutely clear that if there is to be an extended version of this aircraft the firm must be able to spread its development costs, and an ex-Secretary of State for Air should know that. If he does not, I can only congratulate the Royal Air Force on his new appointment.
§ Mr. Amery
I reject altogether the hon. Gentleman's insinuation that we did not want an aeroplane of this kind, and I am absolutely clear that the order for 10 Belfasts will be very valuable and useful to the Royal Air Force. It can carry things that no other aircraft available over the time scale can carry. The problem is to decide what is needed next. That is quite a different story, and the decision is one that we cannot anticipate now—
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
My right hon. Friend has summarised very well the various factors that the Government must weigh in coming to a decision on the aeroplane, but have they considered the factor of redundancy in the design team, and Shorts' difficulty in getting it together again? Has he considered as a solution at least an interim order to carry on further design and research to keep the team together pending a decision? This is a vital point, particularly in respect of morale.
§ Mr. Amery
I am very conscious of that and, because of it, I have stressed that the most important thing is to get an early decision. I will certainly think over what my hon. Friend says about an interim design study, but as I understand that that takes some time to get launched I would think it more important to get a decision quickly, if we can.
The Committee has been rightly concerned in the past with problems of air safety. This is a matter on which this country has a very good record, and one to which I personally gave a good deal of thought in my last office. Much depends here on the system of air traffic control. My predecessor and the former Secretary of State for Air, whose judgment I have always found to be extremely reliable, came to the conclusion that if the future requirements for air traffic control in the limited air space over this country were to be met, there would need to be a unified system of control for both civil and military air traffic.
As a first step towards the establishment of such a system, he asked Sir Laurence Sinclair, who was Controller of Ground Services in the Ministry of Aviation, to consider how best to bring together in a single headquarters the existing staffs in separate Departments; the staffs, that is, concerned with policy, planning, and the formulation of operational requirements for air traffic control. Sir Laurence has now produced certain proposals which are being considered by the Departments concerned.
I should have liked to have answered more fully some of the points raised by the hon. Member for Newton, and to have had an opportunity to answer some of the points that I am sure will be 461 raised later. The Parliamentary Secretary will seek to do that when he winds up the debate. He has great experience of the industry, and a deep knowledge of the technology connected with it. The Government, and the Committee, will benefit very much from his co-operation.
My own approach to our problems is plain enough. I want to see a strong aircraft industry, strong enough to support efficient civil operators and powerful military air forces. We have to keep our production in the forefront, and I hope that, in due course, we shall be able to get into space.
The news that the X15 spacecraft was space-borne yesterday is an extremely interesting and stimulating thought. It presents an immense challenge to our scientists and industry. There are enormous financial difficulties, but they must be overcome and it may be that co-operation with France and Europe on the lines of E.L.D.O. and the supersonic airliner offers the best opportunity.
I will try on another occasion to get down to greater detail on how I think these things should be done. I do not wish to delay the Committee by reading undigested Departmental briefs, or by expressing views of my own without a fuller knowledge of the facts. "In God we trust, the rest we check" is a good motto for an incoming Minister. I welcome the debate, not as an opportunity to expound Government policy, but for my hon. Friend and myself to learn from the very beginning of our assumption of office something of the views and feelings of the House of Commons on a matter which we all recognise is of the first importance to our economic life and national security.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
I am sure that hon. Members were rather surprised at the somewhat abrupt termination of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I was disappointed that he should have dismissed the problem of air safety, the subject with which I particularly wish to deal, in a single sentence by dealing only with Air Traffic Control.
I would like, first, to offer my welcome to the right hon. Gentleman on assuming his new office. I would have thought that he might have come to 462 his new job substantially informed, because part of aviation came under his direct observation when he was Secretary of State for Air. He might, as a result, have spoken with a little more freedom on some aspects of the issues facing us. As he knows, changes are taking place in Scotland. His right hon. Friend, his predecessor, had agreed to come to Glasgow and Edinburgh on 24th July next, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept the obligations which go with his new office and keep this appointment.
The White Paper dealing with the future of Scotland's airports has become a burning topic. It has become tied up with the future of Abbotsinch, and there are rumours that Glasgow and Edinburgh, or a consortium of municipalities in the area, should take over the airport at Abbotsinch. It is being hinted quite freely that if they do not see their way to do so the Government will disinterest themselves in the future of Abbotsinch and more or less leave things at Renfrew as at present, although it is incapable of handling the increasing amount of traffic. The alternative would be for aircraft to go to Prestwick.
The following figures show why that should not be done. In 1961 B.E.A. handled 751,000 passengers at Renfrew, an increase of 110,000 over 1960. Up to June this year 389,000 passengers were handled there as compared with 330,000 up to June, 1961, an increase of 59,000. That increase is, of course, welcome, but the increase for this year portends to be even greater than the whole of 1962 and more than the 110,000 in 1961, simply because the three busiest months of the summer—July, August and September—still lie ahead; which in 1960 alone saw 261,000 passengers handled at Renfrew out of a total of 641,000.
These figures reveal that by the end of 1962 there will have been an even greater increase than that which occurred in 1961. It would be unfortunate if anything were done by the Minister to disturb the business which is now being done at Glasgow's airport. It would be completely wrong even to suggest that there should be a transfer of this business to Prestwick. I realise that Prestwick is also doing well and 463 we in Scotland welcome this. Total terminal passengers there last year numbered 198,795 while those in transit numbered about 167,000. This total of more than 366,000 passengers represents good and increasing business.
Although that business exists it would be wrong to do anything to disturb what is going on at Renfrew—other than the transfer to Abbotsinch, which is the proper location. Abbotsinch has an acreage of 773 and is the largest airport in Scotland—double the size of Presitwick. I hope that in coming to his decision the Minister will ensure that nothing is done to harm the future prospects of Abbotsinch and the business which could be done there.
Many people say that it is just as easy to get to Prestwick as to Renfrew. Last weekend I took the trouble to check the scheduled times. The scheduled time to Renfrew is twenty-five minutes from Glasgow. It is five minutes longer to Abbotsinch. The scheduled time to Prestwick is sixty minutes, and since most of the business done at Renfrew belongs to Glasgow and the immediately surrounding area it would be fatal to displace this traffic and transfer it far away from the city, which would be the result if it were sent to Prestwick.
Tribute should also be paid to the business which has been built up by the off-peak services. These show after a full year's operation an average passenger load of 87 per cent. This is better than is provided by the ordinary passenger services; because the fare is only three guineas. Later I shall urge the importance of cheap fares in the expansion of air traffic but I want to speak chiefly about air safety.
As I have said, the right hon. Gentleman merely brushed aside air safety by saying that we wanted to do more about air traffic control. I agree that we want controls but that is not the only problem. I was attracted back to this topic which I dealt with first on 14th February, 1947. Fifteen months later I returned to it in another debate in the House, and from time to time it has been frequently discussed by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee; because it is the important thing in air travel. We must 464 carry passengers safely. We must get more and more people into the air.
§ Mr. Rankin
Yes, we must get them down safely, and the House of Commons has pledged itself that its policy in air travel is safety first, safety second and safety all the time.
The Economist, in an interesting article last weekend, said:The number of people at risk in any single accident is rising rapidly.Tightening airworthiness regulations will not remove one risk peculiar to charter flying—the risk that pilots may be strange to the routes on which they are flying. I raised this issue a week ago last Monday in a Question in which I asked the Minister if he would do some research on the relative safety of jet aircraft and piston-engined aircraft. [Interruption.] I do not want to disturb the consultations between the newly elected, but I should hope that the emotions which accompany promotions have now subsided and perhaps I can now have the attention of the two Ministers concerned.
The Minister, in his reply on that occasion—and I assume that the Parliamentary Secretary will have studied it —said that these large jet aircraft had been in service for only a short time whereas piston-engined aircraft, even the largest, had been in service for a very long time. That was a badly informed answer, for the simple reason that the piston-engined Vanguard came into service only in April, 1960.
§ Mr. Rankin
I am sorry if I was not making the point quite clearly, but I included the turbo-props. As I have said, the Vanguard has been in service only since April, 1960, which is not as long a period of service as that of the Boeing. The Minister went on to say that in the attempt to make flying safer he proposed to apply progressively some of the modern standards of air safety to the older aircraft where they are relevant to the type of construction. This was a rather guarded statement, but anything that increases the safety factor in the air must be welcomed.
465 In 1960 there were 103 accidents to powered aircraft not engaged on public transport, and 10 of these were fatal. This compares with 91 for the previous year, 11 of which were fatal. I agree that the increase is very small but the fact remains that it is there.
In public transport twelve accidents happened to aircraft on scheduled passenger services, six to aircraft on non-scheduled passenger services, and one to aircraft on a scheduled freight service. This compares with a total of 19 for 1959. So far we have no returns for 1961 but recent happenings must be fresh in everyone's mind. The figures I have quoted are taken from an official publication on air accidents which is available in the Library.
On 14th February, 1947, in reply to a debate on air safety, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, as it then was, said:We shall not be satisfied until we reach that high standard of efficiency in which accidents will be things of the past …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th February, 1947; Vol. 433, c. 749.]The simple question I put to the Minister is: are they? Of course they are not. Since those words were spoken, aircraft constructed to fly the Atlantic on three engines have crashed on four. Air accidents from time to time over the years have seen the entire complement of an aircraft killed on the ground; drowned in the sea; or burned to death. For these reasons we simply cannot dismiss this problem as being in any way solved by better forms of air control however desirable those may be.
I agree that many of these accidents were no concern of the Minister's, but the type of machine flown was the type in use in this country and that fact must concern him. The Alitalia airliner which crashed in India a fortnight ago was the fifth big jet accident this year. The death roll to date is 872. We have many villages with populations of that sort, consisting of 800 or 900 persons, and if such a village were suddenly wiped out as these people have been it would have a tremendous impact on people's minds. We cannot merely say that it is a pity and pass by. In the first part of this year 872 persons have been killed in aircraft accidents, despite the fact that fifteen years ago we wore looking forward to the time when we would no longer be troubled by them.
466 It is obvious that we have got to think in different terms about accidents. We still use the formula that they are related to the number of millons of passenger miles flown. But nowadays we have got to regard accidents in terms of human life because of their obliterative effect and because of their finality. As aircraft get larger the risk increases. If a DH Rapide with five or seven persons crashed, it was a pity. But when a jet aircraft crashes with 150 persons on board it becomes a tragedy, and this is the fact that we must face.
It has been estimated in one of our periodicals that if the number of crashes that have occurred so far this year are to be taken as a guide for the future, we can look forward to one major crash per month. We recognise that an aeroplane is liable to accident like every other type of machine, but a fault in the engines of the "Queen Mary" will still leave her afloat. If something goes wrong with the power unit of a jet aircraft she streaks to oblivion like a rocket. She has no crash-worthiness, as the Economist called it last week, or, as I christened it fifteen years ago, "crash survivability". It is the business of our experts aided by our Ministers to find an aerodynamic formula which will supply what I call this missing link in air travel.
I know that many suggestions have been made. We must try to devise some sort of apparatus which will automatically come into effect when an accident takes place. Before the war, when we spoke of the ejector seat the idea was regarded as farcical and we were told that it was impossible. But when war came and it was discovered that while aircraft were expendable highly-trained pilots were not expendable, the ejector seat became a possibility and is now a fact. Perhaps it would be possible to utilise something on the lines of the ejector seat, based on a much larger idea involving a retarding force such as we have in the helicopter, so that at the pressing of a button a windmill device will immediately come into operation, thus using the air as a retarding force to diminish the speed of the aircraft as it heads for the earth. We have got to think in terms of finding something that 467 will slow down this rocket descent of the aeroplane when anything untoward happens in mid-flight.
I should like to know whether the characteristics of the V.T.O.L. aircraft, developed for civilian use, could be introduced into other types of aircraft so that their descent would be sufficiently slowed to enable passengers to land without injury. I trust that experiment will continue so that we can attain this objective of safety for passengers in flight.
In view of what has been happening we are driven back to a comparison of relative safety between scheduled and charter aircraft. That is a point which I raised just over a week ago. It would seem that the proportion of accidents occurring on non-scheduled flights is much greater than that on scheduled flights. The Economist, quoting from "Flight", observed that 40 per cent. of passengers killed in the previous twelve months were flying in charter aircraft, and this is out of all proportion to the scale of the operations which represent about 5 per cent. of world traffic.
This raises another point. Familiarity with the routes which are being flown is essential and, while the pilot of aircraft on scheduled flights gets an intensive route training, this is impossible for the charter pilot. He must, of course, make sure that he has taken all necessary steps to study his route, but who ensures that the airline does its job and sees that in fact he does so? We have no guarantee that, whatever may be the responsibility of the pilot, the airline ensures that the rules are duly observed. This is driving many observers back to a view, which I do not take and which I have rejected for a long time, that the pilot should necessarily be blamed for most of the accidents. Many people believed that the pilot was chiefly to blame until it was shown that the structural weakness in a machine could also be a factor, and this was proved in the case of the Comet and the Electra.
The human factor has been revived by the death last Saturday through thrombosis of the co-pilot of a machine when about to land at Prestwick. One wonders if the medical examination that is supposed to be carried out periodically was, in fact, carried out as 468 thoroughly as it should have been when a person who was about to ground his machine died from thrombosis.
What has been happening in the last few months raises a great many points from which we cannot pass lightly. It is difficult to find any common reason for them; there seems to be no common factor. One point which emerges, however, is that while there have been no accidents to Boeings which are being flown by B.O.A.C.—[Interruption.] I am talking about the last six months; that is my point. It leads us to wonder to what extent supervision and care of the machines plays its part in these accidents.
We need all the airport aids that we possess; and we want to increase them wherever possible. Instability at the landing point, when the pilot is probably most tired after a long flight, say, across the Atlantic, brings us back to the view that automatic aids must be developed to aid the pilot at that stage. As we have seen, fire is always a possibility. We should be told what is being done to render its outbreak less likely than has sometimes been the case.
There are three matters which demand the attention of the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary. The first is that mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman himself concerning the need for a supersonic aircraft. That embodies research. The second is the need to get more people into the air, which necessitates more aircraft and must mean cheaper fares and more work, not only at Short's, in Northern Ireland, but, I hope, at Prestwick, in Scotland. We, too, are calling for aids to ease the problem of unemployment in our midst.
The third point which demands the attention of the Minister is the continuing search for more and more safety in the air. This means greater research on the lines I have indicated, because if we urge more people to travel, we must guarantee that having taken them into the air, we will land them safely at their destination.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
I trust that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) will forgive me if in my contribution to the debate I do not follow him except for his final remarks. I should like, first, to 469 say a sincere word of congratulation to my right hon. Friend the Minister on his appointment and a particular word of welcome and congratulation to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. I am very glad to see a young man with such interest in, and experience of, industry in this key position in the Government. I particularly welcome him today.
Quite a lot has been said in the debate, particularly by the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) in opening, about the future of a firm in my constituency, namely, Short Brothers and Harland. It is in particular in respect of this firm that I should like to address the Committee this afternoon.
If I may be permitted to give a brief resume of its history, this is one of our oldest aircraft-producing firms. It started its life producing balloons at the end of the last century, and 50 years ago it started producing aircraft. In 1910, it produced the Tractor biplane, and as early as 1914 a seaplane, the Canton Unne, which was used, together with other seaplanes produced by Short Brothers, in one of the first bombing raids of the First World War in 1914.
The company went on to produce, in 1920, the Silver Streak, the first aircraft with a stressed skin, which at the time was thought impossible but is now the standard method of constructing aircraft. It produced the first little stressed skin seaplane, the Cockle, in 1923, and it went on to produce other aircraft, including the large four-engined Empire line of flying-boats which were used extensively throughout the Empire and by the R.A.F. all over the world and which, in 1937 and 1938, operating the first regular trans-Atlantic passenger service, carried the colours of this country and raised us to a first-class aviation nation.
Short Brothers and Harland also produced experimental aircraft such the Mayo Composite, with two aircraft one on top of the other, rather like the X15, to which my right hon. Friend has today referred. It was the first example of a mother aircraft launching another in flight. The company produced the Stirling bombers during the war and the Short Sunderland flying boat, which many hon. Members will remember. It also produced the first four-engine jet bomber, the Sperin, after the war in 470 1951, and as well as the Britannia and the SB5, about which a great deal has been written and said in technical journals in recent years. This is a variable geometry aircraft with swept-back wings. In addition Shorts developed the first vertical take-off multiple jet plane the S.C.I, which is still being evaluated and embodies a principle rather different from that to which my right hon. Friend referred when he spoke about the Hawker P1127, a principle which is, perhaps, better adapted to a civil vertical take-off plane requiring more than one engine with a deflected jet and which would carry heavier loads than this support attack aircraft referred to by my right hon. Friend. The work on all the problems of stabilisation and the difficult problems of control connected with this pioneering venture was carried out in Belfast by Short Brothers and Harland.
Hon. Members, on both sides, will appreciate, therefore, that this firm, one of our first aircraft manufacturers, which is so threatened today, has a tremendous history. I stress as my first point that it would be a tragedy to our aircraft manufacturers to allow this firm to go down the drain.
The factory in which the company is situated lies in an area of, unfortunately, high unemployment. In Northern Ireland, we have 7½ per cent. unemployment. It lies beside the great shipbuilding yards of Harland and Wolff and the raw materials can be brought in by boat and landed at the doors of the factory. There is an aerodrome beside the factory from which the aircraft can take off. This is an enormous advantage to Northern Ireland. It is the most suitable type of industry that we could possibly have to help us in our problems of unemployment, because one of our difficulties in attracting industry to Northern Ireland is transport costs.
Here is an ideal industry, producing aircraft, with a long history of production and a fine record. Its work accounts for many man-hours and requires comparatively little material. It is an industry which is essential for Northern Ireland. This has been recognised by the Government. Various Ministers have stressed the importance of Short Brothers to Northern Ireland and have accepted the idea that the aircraft industry is ideal for Northern Ireland.
471 My right hon. Friend for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones), when Minister of Supply, said in the House on 2nd December, 1957:It is the Government's wish that Short and Harland's shall continue as a fully balanced aircraft production unit and everything practicable is being done both by the firm and the Government to this end."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd December, 1957; Vol. 579, c. 3.]His hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said later, on 22nd May, 1958:I assure the hon. Members concerned that all practical steps will be taken to maintain the firm as a fully balanced aircraft design and production unit."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May, 1958; Vol. 588, c. 1619.]Much more recently, my right hon. Friend the then Minister of Aviation, now the Minister of Defence, visited the factory in Belfast, his visit being reported in the local Press as follows:Earlier, the Minister had told leaders of the Federation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions that it was the policy of the U.K. Government to retain Short Brothers and Harland as a balanced and self-contained development, research and productive unit in the aircraft industry …. He said that it was important to the Government and himself to retain a balanced labour force in the aircraft industry here. He felt that it would be a great pity if such a skilled labour force and technical research group as they had in Northern Ireland should be dissipated. Their technical research team in his opinion compared with the best in the world … Mr. Thorneycroft referred to the policy of the British Government in the giving of orders outside the two big mergers in Britain.Shorts is not within the merger.He said the position of Northern Ireland must not and would not be forgotten. His predecessor said there would be two aircraft groups, but that also, on the grounds of public policy, it would be right to step outside these groups in the placing of contracts. Everyone agreed Northern Ireland industry was a ground of public policy to justify stepping outside the mergers.I think it has been accepted, and Ministers have affirmed this continuously since 1948, that it is the Government's intention to retain Short Bros, and Harland. Therefore, it was not without concern that I listened to my right hon. Friend in his opening speech today stating that he could not decide, and that there would be delay in deciding, What kind of transport aircraft was to be ordered. The Government could not make up their mind now. They would have to consider and weigh the possibilities. This is a problem which has been placed before the Ministry many 472 times by the firm, by myself and by my fellow Unionist Members. This is not a new problem.
The position has become so serious that on 15th June, only a month ago, the chairman of the company said that unless further orders were forthcoming the firm would have to close down. My right hon. Friend said that there was enough work for another two years and that there would be no redundancy until next summer. I am informed by the company itself that redundancy in the design staff will start within a month unless further orders are placed. Therefore, I would stress the very great urgency of coming to a quick decision on this vital point. If a decision cannot be taken within a month some type of development work should be placed with the firm, as I suggested in my intervention, so as to justify the firm in retaining its development staff, work such as the ordering of the Tyne 5 would create, a matter which was referred to in my earlier intervention, thus enabling the company to carry on work Which would keep the design team together. Once the design team broke up it would be impossible to get the men back again. Not only would the men go to other firms in England and America but the executives would leave, and when they leave they cannot be replaced.
I wish to stress some other points which have a bearing on the matter. Not only has the work done at Shorts of particular value to the economy of Northern Ireland, but the company has also taken a leading part in apprentice training. If Northern Ireland is to attract new industry it is vital that such training should go on. The company has started a school at the Technical College and at Queen's University, and has initiated a chair of aeronautical engineering. Both the company and individual directors have been very active in advanced education. They have the most up-to-date ideas. Some of their team have gone to America in order to develop techniques and to bring them back to this country to be used in the research and development connected with the study and testing of new aircraft. By so doing the firm has built up the most advanced team in Britain.
This is one of the things that Northern Ireland will stand to lose if the firm is 473 not retained as a balanced unit. It has been suggested that perhaps it would be possible to diversify its activities. The firm has already gone in for diversification. It has produced a very successful missile, the Sea Cat, which sells not only in this country but in many N.A.T.O. countries. The company has produced analog computers, fork-lift trucks and even small carpet sweepers. However, there is a limit to this diversification.
Of eight thousand employees, 6,000 are employed on aircraft production. As the chairman said, the future of these enterprises depends on the success of the aircraft factory. If it were to close down, then the other factories would go and the loss to Belfast would be tremendous. In the past year I have seen 12,000 men laid off from Harland and Wolff in my constituency due to the recession in shipbuilding. A further 7,000 to 8,000 men are threatened at Short Brothers, making a total of some 20,000 men. This is something which could not be faced in Northern Ireland —20,000 men being declared redundant in the course of a year or two.
The history in connection with the Belfast is that the order was not placed until 1960. Negotiations went on through 1959 and finally a fixed price contract was offered to Shorts, the first of its kind to be placed in this country for an aircraft of this size. The Services were getting a very cheap aircraft, one based on the Brittania and on the engines which were in the Vanguard. By doing this the company cut to a minimum the development costs. The aircraft has cost about one-third what it would have cost to develop a completely new transporter, either turboprop or jet. In spite of this, the company has developed an aircraft which meets entirely Army requirements.
My right hon. Friend referred to the delays in production of aircraft and mounting costs. There have been some delays in connection with the Belfast because the Army continually changed its mind regarding what it wanted the plane to carry. The Army has now a plane with a fuselage measuring 12 ft. by 12 ft. There is no other plane big enough to take a Chieftan tank. It is 64 ft. long. Only ten of these aircraft have been ordered, but the Minister consented 474 to the development costs being spread over thirty aircraft. I should like to be told why there is this hesitation in placing further orders.
Of the ten aircraft ordered, how many will be available to meet the strategic needs of the Air Force? I suggest that by the time one or two of the aircraft have been evaluated and used for development and if perhaps another, unfortunately, meeting with an accident, as happens all too frequently these days, we shall be lucky if five or six of the ten are left. Do the Government really suggest that these ten are sufficient to meet the strategic requirements of the British Army towards the end of the 1960s?
The aircraft as it stands is capable of carrying an enormous load. It can carry 45 tons—and I stress 45 tons—for a distance of 1,000 miles, or, if required for a longer hop, it can carry 15 tons for 4,000 miles. The lower freight is the result, of course, of the need to take more fuel.
The plane can carry every piece of the Army's modern mobile equipment. A typical payload would be three Saladin armoured cars with their crews. As a troop carrier, with two decks and dense seating, it will carry 240 men and their equipment for its maximum range across the Atlantic.
The Army has seen the plane. Many staff officers have been to the factory in Northern Ireland where the first two planes are reaching the final stage of construction and they have been very impressed with its capacity and potential. They are, I believe, well satisfied and enthusiastic about the future of this future of this colossal plane.
§ Mr. John Cronin (Loughborough)
The hon. Gentleman will understand that the Army is particularly satisfied because there is at present no efficient long-range strategic freighter of any kind in the Royal Air Force. The Army would be very happy to accept anything, quite apart from the good qualities of the Belfast.
§ Mr. McMaster
I am obliged for that intervention. It emphasises the point. The officers who saw the "mock-up" of the plane at the last demonstration of weapons were extremely satisfied with it.
475 Also the plane is capable of being stretched. Unfortunately, it was suggested in a Press report that the plane could not be developed further. I wish to correct any erroneous impression which might have been given to hon. Members. The engines are set wide enough apart to take much larger propellers than they carry at the moment, on the Vanguard engines. The plane is equipped now with 16 ft. propellers, but it could take 18 ft. or even 20 ft. propellers. It is three years since the plane was developed and it is quite possible, using new techniques and ideas, to develop the plane with the Tyne 5 which, along with the larger propellers, would give it a very much longer range and greater lift capacity. In fact, the estimate—I suggest that it is a reliable estimate—of the capabilities of stretch is that the payload to which I have referred could be increased by 25 per cent. The payload range could be increased by the dramatic figure of 100 per cent., and, of course, the payload range is the vital factor. The take-off length can, with modern devices of laminar air flow, be reduced by 72 per cent. If one reduces the take-off length by 72 per cent., the aircraft is then able to take off from a very short runway indeed.
A civil version of the plane could carry 100,000 1b. across the Atlantic. Alternatively, if it is needed for fuelling purposes for the Army, it could carry 10,000 gallons of fuel. It could take a Chieftain tank in its stretched version for 2,500 miles or, alternatively, as an ultra long-range transport over the longest hop one could possibly have, which would be not more than 8,000 miles, this plane could carry 25 tons in its stretched form.
I suggest, therefore, that there should be no delay in taking a decision. These figures are enough to show that this plane can be developed and stretched so that it will meet the requirements of the Army in the late 1960s and in the 1970s.
§ Mr. Wigg
Does the hon. Gentleman recall that Rolls Royce made an offer to produce the stage 5 Tyne, an offer which lapsed some months ago, and now there is this compelling reason of urgency because, of course, it would still 476 take some time to produce the stage 5 plane, in which case, of course, the difficulty of the company would be increased in selling the extended version because it would come up against competition from aircraft which, perhaps, it would have been a stage ahead of otherwise. The hon. Gentleman obviously has very detailed knowledge. Will he agree that the whole failure here stems from the refusal of the Government to make up their mind on the stage 5 Tyne?
§ Mr. McMaster
Yes, I accept the point which the hon. Gentleman makes. It applies to Rolls Royce and the development of the Tyne 5, which could well have been under way, but it applies also to the Belfast itself. A modern aircraft takes anything from five to seven years in development. I am informed by the factory that, if an order could be placed straight away for a developed version of the Belfast, the development design team could got on with it. It would be a version of the plane which they are building already. Immediately the present ten have rolled off, the company could start at once rolling off the new developed version and in that way several years could be saved. If only a few months could be saved at this vital time in stating the requirement exactly and placing a contract so that the money will be found, the company could get on with the work. I agree that time is absolutely of the essence.
The aircraft has enormous potentialities. I have stressed the Army potentiality. I need say little about the civil potentiality. World trade is expanding rapidly. B.O.A.C. is building up a fleet of transport aircraft. It is impressed with the CL.44, a version of the Britannia which has a much smaller capacity than the Belfast. With the Belfast, B.O.A.C. could build up a fleet of planes operating throughout the world. There is the prospect that the large corporations, B.O.A.C., Pan-American Airways and other airlines in America and even the independent airlines here, such as Gurnard and B.U.A., will require aircraft by the late 1960s or the 1970s to carry freight cheaply. An aircraft like the Belfast is ideal because its capital cost is about half the cost of an equivalent jet. The cost of operation is very much less than the cost for jet aircraft. If one includes as a factor in the cost 477 writing off the initial expense, for the development cost, as I said, is only one-third that for a jet.
I hope that my right hon. Friend or the Parliamentary Secretary will deal with the question about an early order and will deal with the other consideration I have mentioned, having a tactical version of the Belfast as a replacement for the Beverley or the Hastings. As I have explained, by developing laminar flow techniques over the wings, it is possible to reduce the take-off length dramatically. This plane would carry modern radar equipment and all the mobile equipment of the Army. It is surely an ideal plane for this requirement of a tactical freighter.
In fact, the Belfast could be a dual-purpose aircraft. It could operate carrying less fuel as a tactical support aircraft, even bringing tanks up behind the troops, or, alternatively, with larger petrol tanks it could be used as a strategic freighter to fly across the Atlantic. There is here the possibility of enormous saving of cost to the Government by using one plane fulfilling two vital functions required if the mobility of our forces is to be assured in the coming years.
It has been suggested by some people that a jet aircraft would meet the requirements better than the turbo-prop Belfast, but not only would the cost of the jet and its development be two or three times that of the Belfast but the speed would not be very much greater. The United States Air Force has a jet, the C.141, which is 150 m.p.h. faster than the Belfast. A plane could easily be developed even by Short Brothers if an order were placed, a swept wing four-engine aircraft, which would cost about £20 million to develop and which would fly 5,000 miles in 10 hours as compared with the 14 hours taken by the Belfast, but it would be ridiculous to spend an extra £20 million developing a jet freighter in order to save four hours which could easily be lost in loading and unloading on either side of the Atlantic. I cannot understand the delay. It is not clear that we have £20 million with which to order a jet freighter if we wanted it, but even if we had it would be a doubtful economy to design and develop a new aircraft to meet this purpose.
478 I refer the Committee briefly to a speech made by the Commander-in-Chief, General Staff, Lord Mountbatten, to the Air League of the British Empire in December, 1961. He stated, in referring to freighting:The longest stage on an entirely Commonwealth route is that from Vancouver to Christmas Island—3,600 miles. When will we have an aircraft which can take such a distance in its stride at a worth while speed? The experts must answer the questions of load and speed, but with regard to the latter I sometimes think there is a danger of getting the speed parameter out of perspective. The old saying 'more haste, less speed' could well apply if we go for too much speed at the price of space and payload. Thus the subsonic laminar flow solution might well be preferable to a supersonic military transport. It would presumably be less expensive and more likely to have the flexibility of range and pay-load required. In short, a few hours longer in transit might be well worth it if troops arrive properly equipped and in large numbers in the first wave.It is for this purpose that I suggest that the Belfast is best suited. Troops can arrive in sufficient numbers in the first wave equipped with all the proper equipment if there are sufficient Belfasts in the Services to carry them.
Much has been made of the rundown in the aircraft industry. My right hon. Friend referred to it. If he implied that Shorts should look for a rundown similar to that in England, I wish to refer him to these figures. Since May, 1958, when the two large groups were formed, there had been a rundown of the labour force in Belfast of 15 per cent., whereas the labour force in the two groups has increased slightly. There had been a dramatic rise in the labour force to the present figure during the preceding ten years. Between 1949 and 1958, during which we had the Korean war, there was an increase of 65 per cent. in the number employed. But since the regrouping, Belfast has been losing workers and therefore is out of line with the rest of the aircraft industry.
The company has now reached the stage when the chairman and directors are faced with a decision. As I see it, there are two possibilities before them. Either the company can be closed down completely, or it can be effective in doing sub-contracting work, such as the overhaul of other aircraft, as the hon. Member for Newton said. If this 479 happened, I suggest that it would be a tremendous loss of a very famous and great firm which has produced and is still producing some of the best aircraft ever produced in this country—for example, the vertical take-off plane and the Belfast. It is operating in an area of very high unemployment where its loss would be nothing short of a tragedy.
The amount of money involved in its retention is comparatively small. Another ten Belfasts would cost about £25 million spread over three years. There would be a cost to the Treasury of £8 million to £9 million per annum out of a total budget of £300 million in the Air Estimates. All that the Company requires to provide these tremendous freighters—and no one denies that they are required by the Army—is about £8½ million per annum. If the design team is disbanded, it will never be replaced.
I therefore ask my right hon. Friend to consider this matter with the utmost urgency and to place this order within the next three to four weeks.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Mr. John Diamond (Gloucester)
There is no hon. Member on either side of the Committee, I dare say, from whom the speech of the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) could have evoked a more sympathetic response, because he came here to praise the aircraft industry in his constituency. Alas, I come not to praise the aircraft industry in my constituency but to bury it. That is why I am more than sympathetic with everything that the hon. Gentleman has said.
I should like to delay the Committee for a minute or two in order to explain what is going on in my constituency so that the hon. Gentleman will know the next stage which faces him unless between us, and with the help of hon. Members on both sides, particularly of those representing Northern Ireland constituencies, we can stir up the present Ministers into a state of excitement which the previous Ministers certainly did not evince and which, so far, the right hon. Gentleman has been far from evincing.
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will realise that I, for one, am 480 extremely bitter and disappointed. I regard the speech of the Minister as a disaster. For a new Minister to say, "I am not going to say anything to the Committee because I do not propose to read the undigested speech of my Department; I know nothing about this matter because I have been in the Department for such a short time" is a tragedy at this stage. Why cannot the right hon. Gentleman digest the speech of the Department? What is he there for except to learn from his Departmental advisers what is going on?
How is it that a man who two days ago came fresh from his responsibilities as Air Minister cannot give the slightest indication of what is to happen to a problem on which the decision of the Royal Air Force is the crucial factor delaying everything? Does not the Minister realise that it is almost certain that we shall not have another debate on the aircraft industry this Session? There are many other things which we have to debate, including Motions of censure. That means that we are likely to have a debate on the aircraft industry at the earliest in November or December, in nearly six months' time. Yet, when we have an aviation debate at a time when it is difficult to provide time for it, when there is considerable anxiety about very many aspects of the aircraft industry and when 7,000 people in Northern Ireland are threatened with redundancy, the right hon. Gentleman says, "I have got nothing to tell you". I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman left before I said what I had to say. I cannot help that, and I am sure that he will not accuse me of discourtesy. However, I have said it in the presence of the Parliamentary Secretary in the hope that we shall have some assistance before the end of the debate.
Before coming to the problem of Short Bros, and Harland, perhaps I can deal with some of the problems in my constituency. I know that hon. Members do not like listening to constituency points, but, as it is a good example of the sort of problem affecting the aircraft industry as a whole, perhaps I can ask for the indulgence of the Committee for a minute or two while I explain some of the problems.
There is no possible hope of rescuing the aircraft firm in my constituency. We 481 are in the sad position of having had one large aircraft factory close within the last four years and a second is in the process of closing. The first, which employed 6,000 people, closed down some years ago. The second employed 4,000 people. In the first case, a Government factory was taken over. In the second case, the factory is privately owned and there is no evidence of anyone taking it over. Of the 4,000 people employed in the second factory last October, 1,500 are left. The majority of those 1,500 will have gone by the end of December. There is no sign of anyone taking over the factory in order to provide further employment.
Compared with Northern Ireland, unemployment in my constituency is not enormous. But I do not represent a Northern Ireland constituency, and what they stand for in Northern Ireland they do not stand for in England or, I gather from tomorrow's debate, in Scotland. There is a figure of 2 per cent. unemployment in my constituency. Unemployment is three times greater than it was a year ago.
Gloucester is conveniently situated at the crossroads of England and Wales and, naturally, should attract a great deal of industry. It is a considerable achievement on the Government's part that there is as much as 2 per cent. unemployment in Gloucester—achievement in the way I am going to describe in terms of lack of consideration and lack of foresight and lack of interest. Of the 1,500 people who are left, as I say, some 1,200 more will be going by the end of the year. Although we have got so far only 2 per cent. that is because those who have left have been able to find work because of their skills, and because they have been prepared to travel enormous distances and have been prepared to take up any jobs—taking any and however distant jobs they can.
What is to happen to the remainder? They will find themselves in the same sort of position as the workers at Shorts if they get the sack: they will find no other job to go to. This particularly affects the older workers and the unskilled workers. Of those unemployed in Gloucester at the moment 50 per cent. are over 50. Most of those unemployed are unskilled, and yet of every 40 vacancies there is one vacancy only for an unskilled man.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
Just for information, may I ask the hon. Gentleman if he would kindly give me the name of the aircraft factory to which he is referring?
§ Mr. Diamond
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for asking. I should have done that. I have spoken about it so many times in this Chamber that I assumed that the firm I am referring to must be well known to hon. Members. It is best known as the G.A.C.—the Gloster Aircraft Company—and it has the same record of achievement as the aircraft company the hon. Gentleman mentioned, and has had since before the First World War. It made the first jet; it has any number of distinctions, any number of achievements, any number of honours; it made the Meteor and all sort of planes which are world-famous. But, alas, that has gone beyond ability of retrievement.
Skilled aircraft fitters, skilled and able shop stewards, able men and responsible men have gone and have found quite other jobs. The latest example I had a week ago when I got some petrol for my oar in Gloucester. I found that one of those skilled men was holding one end of the pump. I asked him why he was doing that, and he said he was very glad to have got a job after being out of employment for some time. I asked him how long it would take him to train another man in his skill and to the same degree of skill, and he said that it would take 10 years.
I want the Committee to realise that that is the sort of thing which is happening. It is not only a question of unemployment and of what is happening as I have described it, of people taking any sort of a job, and having to travel long distances. This is an enormous wastage of skill, and the country cannot get on and make progress if, having trained men over the years to be skilled, we lose them when they have reached the height of their productive powers and the height of their skills and make no provision for what is to happen to them—and no provision for what is to happen afterwards to replace them.
I understand that there are colleagues of the Parliamentary Secretary whom this may more directly concern, colleagues of his at the Ministry of Labour, 483 but I would nevertheless say to him—I hope it is not a discourteous remark— that I would not have been surprised to have seen at least one of those Ministers from the Ministry of Labour sitting on the Government Front Bench in a debate in which we are considering unemployment and the likelihood of considerable unemployment in the aircraft industry. I should not have thought it beyond the capacity of anybody to have foreseen that the debate would have been concerned with unemployment in the aircraft industry, or beyond the capacity of Ministers to have foreseen it. But they are not here and it is typical of the lack of foresight and the lack of forethought for which I am condemning the Government utterly.
It is no use the Government saying to me that in the interests of efficiency it was right and inevitable that there should be contraction in the aircraft industry. I know that such an argument can be made out. I appreciate these things, as an accountant, and I recognise the force of these figures. I appreciate the argument, but the hon. Member has got experience, and he will agree with me that the matter does not end there and that those responsible should appreciate that. If it is right to say that, in order to make our aircraft industry efficient, companies have to merge, that we have to amalgamate, and that that may mean contraction in certain respects; if it is right to say that, as it may be; if it is right for a group of manufacturers to say that rather than have five factories running at 80 per cent. capacity they will have four running at full capacity and that it is right to have the fifth one closed down—and even though that were to happen in my constituency, I can recognise the force of the argument—it is right to go on to say, what is to be done with the men displaced, what is to be done about their skills?
In a situation in which we require mobility of labour, and we inevitably face that in this modern age, why have not the Government a real policy on mobility of labour and about severance pay for those declared redundant, apart from barking "Object" at hon. Members who bring forward a Bill on a Friday afternoon, as I did? Some hon. Members turn up here in a Friday after 484 noon to bark "Object" at the appropriate time, and that seems to be the Government's policy for tackling such questions.
What is to be done about retraining the skilled men who are declared redundant in the aircraft industry, and about men travelling long distances to other work? What is to be done about providing houses for them and their wives and families to live in, so that they can live where they work instead of having, as they have at the moment to do, to travel miles for hours, using up the whole of their energy? It could be devoted to their work by their having somewhere to live local to the job.
I repeat that none of these remarks can be made about my particular problem because we should have work brought to the workers, which is a much more sensible first thought, if only there were some steps taken to see a new business come along to this factory to employ men and make use of the equipment there and make use of the facilities.
There are other costs beyond these in the profit and loss account. There is the cost of the local services; the cost to the local community; the local welfare costs; the community spirit. All these things should be taken into account, all these social costs, as well as the pure accountancy costs, and they justify the argument that we should bring work to the workers. We have not only one empty factory in Gloucester, but two—though the other is not an aircraft factory—as a result of the Government's lack of foresight and energy.
I do not want to see the same thing that is happening in Gloucester happening in Northern Ireland on a much more devastating scale, and so, if the hon. Member for Belfast, East will permit me I will add my support to what he has said, but I am going to say things which I can say from this side of the Chamber that he could not say from his side.
I say, first of all, that there is no argument that this plane, the Belfast, is not a good plane, and appropriately being produced at a time when it is needed. I draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that of the total cargo which is carried from place to place only 1 per cent. goes by air, and the potential is the remaining 99 per cent., and for that 485 remaining 99 per cent. potential the need, the demand on aircraft freight carriers, is going up. The demand for carrying persons is perhaps going down; the demand for carrying cargo is going up.
Here we have a suitable and the largest cargo carrier. It can carry at a competitive cost. I am told that it can carry at a cost which is approximately one-half of the current European freight charge—one-half. One reckons to be fully competitive if one can do it at 95 per cent. of one's competitors' charges, but to do it at 50 per cent. is such a colossal advantage that one has to have the best possible reasons for not going on with it. I am told—and this is confirmed by the hon. Gentleman— that if we want to carry passengers instead of freight we can carry 250 — 249, to be precise, so let us call it 250 —across the Atlantic at a fare of £30. That is an attractive fare. That is the cost, not the sales price. If the aircraft were fully loaded this is what it would cost per person to transport him across the Atlantic.
This plane, as already demonstrated, could, with its variations, carry the heaviest loads in terms of freight and be capable of landing in circumstances known as short-take-off and landing—S.T.O.L. Notwithstanding its huge size, its huge fuselage and the huge weight it can carry, it is capable of landing in a small field. With all these advantages this plane is a winner.
I turn to the social problem. It is accepted on both sides of the Committee that, having regard to the slackness in the shipping industry, which is the other important industry in Northern Ireland, this firm now represents the king-pin of the economy of Northern Ireland. It employs 7,000 at the moment. As has been well pointed out this represents a portion of some 9,000. So let no one say that the aircraft industry has fallen comparatively with Shorts. On the contrary, the numbers employed in the aircraft industry have gone up somewhat, not in my constituency, but in the industry as a whole in Great Britain, whereas in Northern Ireland they have gone down some 2,000. Therefore, Northern Ireland cannot be asked to make any further contribution what- 486 soever in terms of reduction in the labour force of those employed in the aircraft industry.
This is the particular industry which is demanded by economic conditions in Northern Ireland because of the high labour content in manufacture. Approximately 50 per cent. of the selling price of an aircraft represents labour content as compared with one-third of the selling price of an ordinary article in its labour content. Northern Ireland by virtue of its geographical situation demands the kind of industry where there is a high labour content. The Parliamentary Secretary is looking at me with a fixed look. Obviously I have not made the position clear. If he will look at the trading accounts of his company he will see that the labour content is on the average one-third of the selling price. If he will look at aircraft manufacture, he will see that it is 50 per cent.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation (Mr. Basil de Ferranti)
I have fully understood the point. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the figures he has quoted of my own company are quite wrong.
§ Mr. Diamond
I should not have attempted to quote the figures because I have no knowledge of them. I should not have done so except to explain my point.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
I should be fascinated to know what aircraft is built without employing any raw materials, since the hon. Gentleman has said that it is 50 per cent. development and 50 per cent. labour.
§ Mr. Diamond
I said 50 per cent. labour. Development is not a classification between labour and materials. I do not understand the hon. Member's remark. He is always ready to interrupt. Perhaps he will be a little more hesitant in the future. The point I am making, quite simply, is that 50 per cent. is labour. It is a much higher labour content than in the average article that is produced. That is the answer in the case of Northern Ireland which suffers from inability to compete through its transport charges and so on. I am glad that the point has got over to the hon. Member and I hope that it will be got over to the Government Front Bench, too.
487 My next point will not perhaps be so readily accepted. The number of unemployed during the last 10 years has varied between 6½ per cent. and 10½ per cent. and has averaged practically 8 per cent. I am bound to make the comment that it is a curious political situation which goes on repeating itself and accepting a level of unemployment of 8 per cent. Before I am interrupted again, I must say that one of the ways in which I shall ascertain the extent of the feeling of hon. Members for Northern Ireland, whose sincerity I do not doubt, is the direction in which they march when a Division is called this evening.
§ Mr. McMaster
I do not want to minimise the seriousness of the very high unemployment in Northern Ireland, but it should be pointed out that the population has been increasing in Northern Ireland. The Government have found jobs over the past 10 years for 40,000 people but, because of the increase in population, the level of unemployment remains the same. I appreciate that the situation is tragic but there has been this factor working against us.
§ Mr. Diamond
I accept the fact that, as a result of immigration plus the natural increase, there has been a net increase. This one generally regards as an economic asset and not an economic liability. Germany had an increase in population of 10 million in 10 years, and the greatest increase in production of any Western European country as a result of it.
I come to the Government's attitude. I wanted to put the facts first as to the plane itself, and, secondly, the social background. The Government's attitude I find utterly deplorable, and I say this in case hon. Members opposite are unable, because of their situation, to express their views as clearly as I do. One cannot give an order for 10 plans like this and then sit still. That is an untenable attitude. Either we do not start it, or if we do we go on. If we are not going on, we should make up our minds and say so well in time. The complaint is made by the Government's own employee. He must have found a very sad state of affairs before he was 488 willing to open his mouth. We get the complaint from the Government's own managing director. In an ordinary job a managing director may get sacked by the shareholders if he says things which he ought not to say. He is not a free man. A managing director is subject to the control of his shareholders and in this case the shareholders sit on the Government Front Bench. So when Mr. Wrangham made this complaint, we can take it for certain that he was under considerable compulsion before he made it openly, just as the Prime Minister for Northern Ireland was under considerable compulsion when he came with the delegation to Lobby the Government today.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I understand that Mr. Wrangham, is chairman of the company and that there are joint managing directors.
§ Mr. Diamond
The chairman is one of the directors and they are subject to the approval of the shareholders, and the shareholders in this case are the Government. The chairman would not make a remark like that unless he felt that there was no alternative. There was no alternative for him but to tell the whole world what the situation was, because, presumably, private negotiations were achieving no response.
When they heard from the chairman how dire the situation was the Government ought to have made up their mind a long time ago. When one is in a situation in which there is employment only for 12 months, one ought to make up one's mind. Unless a decision is taken it is quite impossible for a board of directors to run an aircraft firm satisfactorily. In the aircraft industry, 6, 7 or 8 years are involved in the full development of a plane, and one has to plan ahead much further than in ordinary industry. It is quite impossible for the board of directors to run an aircraft industry satisfactorily if they do not know the position more than 12 months ahead. Although there is 12 months' work according to the Government, that means 12 months' work for the last man and not the first man.
The first man concerned is the designer. He will be put out of his job in three months' time unless further 489 work comes in now. The time for making decisions is past, and every single day that the right hon. Gentleman takes in coming to a decision is a day too much. The decision should be taken if not today, then tomorow in the interest both of the efficient production of this firm and the supply of freighters to the Services and of making some contribution towards solving the social problems of Northern Ireland. It is not appropriate for the Minister to say that he is new to the job, knows nothing about it, and had better sit down.
In what I am about to say now, perhaps I shall be addressing my own Front Bench as much as the Government. It is on the question of the amalgamation between Cunard-Eagle and B.O.A.C. I agree with every word my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) said and with the complaints he made. It was a surprise to me to hear the Government say that they did not have to be consulted in an issue like this. This was a major departure from principle. I have not checked up on the Act itself— I freely admit my ignorance—but I heard with surprise that they considered they were not compelled to be consulted by B.O.A.C. before this action was taken.
§ Mr. Cronin
Under the Air Corporations Act, 1949, the Ministry of Aviation has absolute control of both air Corporations and, therefore, full responsibility. If B.O.A.C. failed to consult the then Minister on this amalgamation, it was through negligence on his part.
§ Mr. Diamond
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I hope that he will develop that point if he has the good fortune to catch the eye of the Chair. I dare say he has as good a chance as any of us to do so. I draw attention to the words used by the Minister. The right hon. Gentleman said that there was "no statutory responsibility", and I was astonished to hear Mm say so. Be that as it may, there is no question that the Minister had the responsibility to advise the House of Commons. He had the responsibility but did not exercise it.
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Newton that the terms, as far as B.O.A.C. is concerned, do not stand looking at. B.O.A.C. is a business built up to its present level of activity 490 as a result of the expenditure of about £120 million—the cost of its good will, as we accountants put it. Yet newcomers are given a 30 per cent. share of that activity. What did they pay for it? Nothing. Not one farthing have they paid for B.O.A.C.'s good will.
§ Mr. Burden
The hon. Member is prone to a little exaggeration sometimes. He has not quite looked into the facts of this matter. Cunard-Eagle has very considerable operations in the Western Hemisphere—it runs daily flights from New York to Bermuda—and these will go to the Corporation together with the Atlantic service which has been developing at tremendous speed and with great effect. There is a very great deal of extreme good will for Cunard-Eagle on the other side of the Atlantic—as much as for B.O.A.C, and more in many areas. Cumaid-Eagle has also put in two Boeing 707s.
§ Mr. Diamond
Cunard-Eagle was given credit for the price of the Boeings. It brought them in to the new set-up instead of cash and was given share capital, which makes up the 30 per cent. But it brought in nothing for good will.
The hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) is in a position to be particularly well informed on this topic. He says that what was brought in was Cunard-Eagle's own good will. That may or may not be so. I do not know. I do know that the House of Commons has had no opportunity of considering the matter. This merger may be right or wrong, but until it has been valued no one has knowledge as to whether B.O.A.C. has been given adequate compensation for its share of good will. The hon. Member say that Cunard-Eagle put in more good will than it got credit for.
§ Mr. Burden
Good will, which is so often talked about in business, is a very intangible quality and one which is often exaggerated on one side or the other. The hon. Member is an accountant and I am also in business. I am very sceptical as to what good will really means. It might be interesting to find out exactly what is the position of B.O.A.C. in the world as a great airline in comparison with many other airlines. Then it would be easy to equate the good will in this merger.
§ Mr. Diamond
The hon. Member says that good will is intangible. If he wants further advice as to the value and tangibility of good will, he should consult the Prime Minister, who could tell him a great deal about it.
§ Mr. Diamond
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Newton in criticising the details of this transaction. But as far as the principle is concerned, I am delighted to see a nationalised industry being allowed to expand in an appropriate way by taking a controlling interest in a firm partly privately owned. It is clear that the reason for the merger was that the private enterprise was in difficulties and that the only way out for it was to be taken under the wing of a nationalised industry. Thus I say "welcome" to this device and I want to see more of it.
Nevertheless, although this was perhaps the right thing to do, it should have been done under the right circumstances and with appropriate consultation. These two companies were faced with an impossible situation by the Government, who caused it by opening up unnecessary, additional and destructive internal competition
We are trying to do something about this situation. We shall not get another debate on aviation for a long time, and we do not know if the right hon. Gentleman will be in his post when that debate comes. We want as much out of this debate as we can get. I welcome the development of a nationalised industry taking a controlling interest in a partly privately owned company, but the solution was made necessary by the impossible situation which the Government thrust upon them both.
The impossible circumstances were that the two of them were being compelled to compete against one another internally when competition was unnecessary because there was already foreign competition. As a result, neither was able to plan ahead sufficiently, never knowing what the Licensing Board would do and never knowing whether it was to have three or four or more competitors in the forthcoming years, and therefore never knowing what planes to order or what expenditure to 492 invest in the future, because the future was so unclear. They were therefore compelled to make the future clear by creating this hybrid monopoly.
Let the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the argument has now gone full circle and that by his approval of this merger he has shown that everything said by the Government about the need for competition was the most arrant nonsense. I have been a little critical of the Government in what I have had to say, but I propose to continue to be critical in the hope that they will do something about Northern Ireland, something about Gloucester and something about the aircraft industry.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
At the outset of my speech I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend on his new appointment and to wish him well. In the year or so that he has been Secretary of State for Air he has left a mark at the Air Ministry where he has been more than appreciated by senior officers. The experience he gained there should be invaluable to him in his present post. I should also like to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on his appointment. He has wide experience in industry, particularly of electronics, and the team should be very efficient.
I usually listen to the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) with great interest, for as a rule he presents a balanced and fair case, but much of his speech today, especially the latter part, was somewhat biassed against the Cunard-Eagle set-up, with which I should like to deal later. We are all sorry to hear about the contraction of the aircraft industry in the hon. Member's constituency, but I do not think that any hon. Member would allow the ordering of military aircraft just for the sake of ordering them. We all want disarmament, if we can achieve it, to avoid war and to save the taxpayers' money, and therefore there has had to be a contraction. I would go so far as to say that even now the industry is too large. Somebody has to suffer, but I am sorry if Gloucester has suffered.
My own constituency of Macclesfield has attracted three very great industries to an industrial site. One of them is I.C.I., which is to spend £5 million on its 493 plant. As a matter of fact, there are only just over 100 unemployed in the borough, but these projects are planned to take overspill from the Manchester area. I suggest to the hon. Member for Gloucester that the local authorities and he have to get busy to try to attract industry and to get after the Board of Trade to get development certificates if the situation deteriorates. In these matters it is a question of helping oneself.
There has been some concern in the industry in the last 24 hours over the fact that my right hon. Friend is not in the Cabinet. I fully appreciate that the Minister of Defence will be responsible, but it was suggested in the Press that my right hon. Friend had access to the Cabinet. I should like to be assured about that and to know that he will make full use of that access. I have great confidence in him as Minister, but there is a tremendous amount of work to be done in this aviation business.
I am told that the industry's main complaint is about the series of delays. I appreciate that vast sums of money had to be budgeted for and spent, but the delays seem to go on and on, often in cases where they could be avoided. One example is that of the automatic blind landing equipment with which Britain now leads the world and which the VC10 and the Trident are to have. I am told on the highest authority in the industry that for several months work on this equipment has practically ceased for the sake of £800,000 or £900,000 of the Government's share of development costs. If that is so, it is scandalous, because if we delay the Americans will catch us up, as they so often do with their extra facilities, and we may lose a very profitable market. I hope that this situation will be investigated and pressure applied in the right direction.
This delay affects the de Havilland project, the three jet Trident, in which some of us were fortunate enough to fly last week. I understand that hon. Members opposite are to receive a similar invitation. This aeroplane is quite remarkable. In a comparatively short time the first prototype has already done 150 hours' flying and the second some 50 or 60. However, it has been tailored and designed largely to meet the requirements of British European Air- 494 ways with a range of up to 1,000 miles. That does not meet the requirements of many overseas operators and the Ministry must make a decision about whether the Government, in conjunction with the airframe makers, de Havilland and Rolls-Royce, are prepared to spend the extra money on developing the Trident, a total cost of about £4 million —I understand that the mark number is 1D-25. To stop at this stage would be quite wrong if the expenditure of another £4 million could produce large export orders. The Farnborough air display will be with us in six or seven weeks and a decision should be made before then. This is a pressing matter and I hope that it will receive my right hon. Friend's early attention.
I was very pleased to learn from him this afternoon about the definite development of the vertical take-off—1154. Having seen the 1127 operate, I can say that this is a quite remarkable aeroplane. We again lead the world already, and we must now take the next step. I should like to be assured that what my right hon. Friend has told us does not mean merely the expenditure of a small sum of money on a design team getting out an initial design, for speed is the essence if we are to capture orders from N.A.T.O. and elsewhere.
A matter which has been discussed at great length this afternoon is that of Short Brothers and Harland's, Belfast. With some of my colleagues I was privileged to see some of the facilities at Belfast and I was favourably impressed, especially by the spirit of the design team and the workers as a whole. As has already been said, the apprentice scheme is exceptionally good, probably the best in the United Kingdom.
I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster)—I sometimes call him the hon. Member for Shorts—was very gloomy in what he had to say about the number of Belfasts which might be left out of the ten involved—he spoke about one being written off and so on. I hope that we shall finish up with ten aircraft operating in the right rôle.
This project began three or four years ago. We were told by the then Minister of Supply, my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green 495 (Mr. Aubrey Jones), that this aircraft had good commercial prospects. I interrupted his statement to ask him who had told him that. I did not then get a direct reply, but I imagine that it was the then chairman of Short Brothers and Harland, Sir Matthew Slattery. There are very few indications today of good commercial prospects, but it is in the hands of Sir Matthew Slattery as chairman of B.O.A.C. to place an immediate order if he has any confidence in his own forecast, for he is now chairman of a great corporation and if he will look into the prospects, then perhaps other operators will follow suit.
The Government own 70 per cent. of the equity of this company and the Bristol Aircraft Company owns 15 per cent. This is an untidy arrangement. I understand that the wings of the Belfast are made in Bristol. If Belfast is short of work, it seems crazy for a chunk of the aircraft to be made in Bristol and then freighted to Belfast. It would be better if Shorts took over all the equity and looked after their own affairs completely instead of having a director from another company which is virtually a competitor.
I should have preferred a pure jet freighter to the turbo-prop, because I think that it would have stood a better chance of being sold to the airlines. Pan-American is already operating pure jet freighters. It does this because it simplifies training, the holding of spares, and so on. But, having gone as far as we have, I am satisfied that the Belfast is a first-class aeroplane. With the Commonwealth losing some of its outposts, we shall have to fly supplies and equipment over greater distances, and I think that this aircraft will be desperately needed before long. It is said that we need ten, but I think that we need another ten to do the job effectively.
To place an order for ten aircraft only is not economic, but I imagine that the Government at the time thought that the aircraft would be Mold to airlines to make up to thirty, the break-even point. But that has not happened, and this problem must be faced, because to tackle it piecemeal is not the right answer. We want to see in Northern 496 Ireland industries which will provide permanent employment for the people there, not just temporary employment for two or three years. I hope that something will be done not only to help Shorts but to help the mobility of our forces, which is vital.
I want now to refer to that great national concern, Rolls Royce. Last year Rolls Royce exported £55 million worth of equipment—an increase of £1½ million over the previous year. This was a third of the total aircraft exports— airframes, engines and equipment. It was a remarkable achievement, and considerably better than the exports of several other great industries outside the aircraft industry. In fact its exports amounted to one-fifth of the total exports of the motor car industry, and yet I hear nothing but depressing and gloomy reports about this great company and its poor prospects. It must be remembered that when an aeroplane with a British engine is sold abroad it buys British spares and airframes for about fifteen years. In fact, with an average life an engine consumes about one-third of its original value in spares.
Rolls Royce employs 42,000 people, and has millions of pounds locked up in development work with very few orders coming along. In fact, it is in a precarious position. I said this some time ago with the full permission of the executives of the company, and I say it again. This matter cannot be left to drag on.
We are concerned about the arrangements with the French for the construction of a supersonic aircraft. Good luck to the Bristol Siddeley Company. It has developed well and is to supply with the Super Olympus, but where do Rolls Royce come in? Surely there is a case for Rolls Royce and the Bristol Siddeley Company to collaborate and put their experience into this enormous venture which will probably take ten to twelve years. I am alarmed at the prospects of this great company, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will give this matter his early attention.
§ Mr. Diamond
I support the hon. Gentleman in what he says about the alarming position of this company, but if Shorts do not get an order for a further ten aircraft, Rolls Royce will not get an order for a further ten 497 engines. This was mentioned to us by two Rolls Royce members of a delegation which lobbied us in connection with Shorts.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I was aware of that, and it ties up with the difficulties of the engine and airframe manufacturers.
Many people talk about supersonic aircraft being the aircraft of the future, and I think that Britain is right to participate in the necessary research, but I think a period of digestion is required in the design and development of commercial aircraft. These aircraft now fly at about 620 miles per hour, and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) referred to safety. I think that this factor must be considered in the immediate future. There have been about five unfortunate accidents in recent months with the Boeing 707. When we had troubles and disasters with the Comet, the American aircraft industry attacked the British aircraft industry, and I think that we ought to view the Boeing crashes realistically. I do not suggest that there will be more, but although one hears that it is a comfortable aircraft in which to travel at 40,000 ft., there are many things wrong with it. To have four engines hanging like pods on the wings is not a clever design. It is extremely difficult to position the aircraft over a marker beacon at night to ensure a safe approach on landing. I mention this because we ought to look at these things realistically.
That brings me to the Boeing's British counterpart, the VC10. This is a remarkable aeroplane, with four jet engines in the tail. We saw pictures on television of this great aircraft taking off from Brooklands track with a run of 720 yards for the first time. This is a remarkable advertisement for Britain, and one of the best that we have had in recent years. Are we making the most of it? Are we making the most of this aircraft which gets off the ground and lands with such a short run? No comparable aircraft is being built anywhere in the world.
I hope that when the B.O.A.C. get the VC10 into operation it will capture a considerable amount of traffic, and that other airlines will start queueing up to buy it. I suggest that everything should be done to push ahead with its develop- 498 ment. I understand that Transport Command have five on order, and that there is a possibility of another batch being ordered. If this is so, I hope that a decision will be made soon to enable the factory to put its planning into effect.
What is the position with regard to the Avro 748? There have been many discussions in the House in recent months about this order, and one hears many things said about a new engine having to be developed, or the old engine stretched at great cost, and the order is held up. I should like an assurance from the Minister that we are not going to rely entirely on American design and research for helicopters, which is what we do now. The Westland Aircraft Company has rights to make the Sikorsky in this country, but I should like to see more British effort put into design of helicopters. The French are doing it. They have good helicopters, and I think that we ought not to rely too much on American design.
The export of instruments from this country in 1961 was £37½ million—58 per cent. more than in 1958. This was a remarkable achievement. The aircraft industry is a great one, but it needs tidying up. It must contract where necessary, and get the best possible design teams working on the various projects. We cannot do everything, but let us get our priorities right and decide what ought to be done both for the home market and for exports. I am sure that with British "know-how" and (technology we can more than hold our own with both the Rrench and the Americans.
I want to make a brief reference about the discussions which are taking place in connection with B.O.A.C. and Cunard. I am not happy about this arrangement, but for quite different reasons than were mentioned by the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee). I want to refer to some figures taken from an American publication known as Air Lift. In its issue for 1962 it says that during 1961 the load factor on the North Atlantic for traffic both ways—that is, first-class and economy class—was 47.7 per cent. for B.O.A.C. There are 15 carriers operating on the North Atlantic route, and out of that 15 B.O.A.C. comes twelfth. That is not too good. I thought that the hon. Member, who usually presents a 499 fair case, skated over this aspect of the matter and did not point out that B.O.A.C. presented a somewhat depressing picture.
After all, we know that it lost £14 million last year. If I were fortunate enough to be a shareholder in the Cunard Company I should be very alarmed at this venture. The only airlines with worse records than B.O.A.C.'s on the North Atlantic run were Sabena, which came thirteenth, Air India, which came fourteenth, and Iberia, which was bottom of the list. Something will have to be done, because I am told that in order to break even B.O.A.C. requires a load factor of 55 per cent.
The hon. Member for Newton, like the previous Minister, took a period in the autumn of last year when traffic was down on the North Atlantic route for a few months, owing to a slight recession in America, as a result of which President Kennedy requested Americans to stay at home for the summer, and also owing to the plastic bomb outrages in Paris. But this summer traffic is right up again after that purely temporary phase. The fall in traffic at this time suited B.O.A.C's book, and it appealed against the decision of the Transport Board. But it was not fair to take those few months.
I am not happy about the arrangement, and I do not think that it is in the best interests of British aviation. Cunard's share of responsibility will tend to reduce B.O.A.C's loss. Furthermore, nothing has been said about the Cunard sales organisation in North America. Any hon. Member who has travelled there knows that it has one of the most effective British sales organisations in North America. It could materially help to sell tickets in what is a very fierce competition. But I am told that all the operations and management of this new joint company are run by B.O.A.C.
The other day I was given figures showing that the cost of a flying hour by B.O.A.C. on the North Atlantic run is about £930, whereas the cost of a flying hour by the old Cunard-Eagle, on the Atlantic run to Bermuda, was about £750. I can see why. We have been told repeatedly that there are 3,000 too many engineers on the engineering staff of B.O.A.C. I agree that it has been 500 reduced slightly, but the staff of Cunard-Eagle is only about 1,200 or 1,500. We have seen this sort of thing happen time and again. Jersey Airlines made a profit when it was run by a private company, but when B.E.A. took it over it made a loss because of the growth of its staff. It is very refreshing for a nationalised industry to have a company like Cunard coming in. It should be a breath of fresh air. But I am sorry for the Cunard people. I think that they have made a disastrous mistake.
§ Mr. Diamond
The hon. Member has referred to the cost per flying hour. Since this is not a very valid comparison, can he tell us the comparative loss or profit per flying hour? If the cost rises it does not matter so long as the income rises.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I am told that prior to the merger Gurnard-Eagle was operating on this route and just about breaking even, which is probably more than the Corporation can say.
The purpose of the Civil Aviation (Licenising) Act was to bring more initiative and freedom into British aviation, but this object has been completely frustrated by the merger. The Corporation is operating at a loss, but Pan-American made a profit last year.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
It still made a profit. I imagine that many people would like to merge with a company that is making a profit, but it is a different matter to merge with a company which is making a loss of £14 million a year. Swissair made a profit, as did several other companies which run their businesses sensibly.
It is up to my right hon. Friend to make a quick decision on the licence applications now on his desk, so that the companies concerned will know where they stand. I do not take the gloomy view that the Corporation will be put out of business if a few licences are granted. The growth of air traffic over the last fifteen years has been 14 per cent. or 15 per cent. per annum, and it has been even higher in respect of freight. If we can bring down fares the possibilities axe enormous. I am concerned that Britain should get its share, whether by way of a public corporation or by free enterprise.
501 If one or two independents are licensed to operate over shorter routes and B.E.A. find a few surplus Tridents, arrangements could be made for the independents to take them over. About three years ago B.E.A. took a financial interest in Cambrian Airways of Wales. This is taxpayers' money and nothing was said.
§ Mr. Lee
That was an arrangement freely entered into. My case is that this merger has been forced upon B.O.A.C. by the requirements of the Civil Aviation (Licensing) Act.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
We all expected that the Act would bring about something quite different. I am sorry that it has not, and Chat the Cunard Company has got into this situation. I hope that it will work. I am sure that B.O.A.C. have a great deal to get out of it.
Why was B.O.A.C.'s appeal granted at the time? I have mentioned the fact that the falling off in traffic last autumn was only temporary. We are told that the appeal was granted because of the bilateral implications, and that Britain might have difficulty in negotiating a bilateral agreement with America. But I have been told that the Permanent Under-Secretary informed a Cunard official that the bilateral implications were not part of the request for the revocation of the licence. In that case, I should like to know the reason. When the Air Transport Licensing Board was set up some very eminent gentlemen from all walks of life served on it. They devoted a great deal of time and diligence to the hearing of the case, and yet their decision was reversed. That must be very discouraging.
The new Minister has a great opportunity in dealing with this tremendous industry, but he has a still greater responsibility. We want to create a new climate of opportunity for British aviation. We must live by our exports— exports that in this case do not use a great deal of materials but which use the brains and the "know-how" of our designers and workers. I believe that under my right hon. Friend's direction and that of his colleagues there is a good chance of pulling it off.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), who 502 has frequently had sensible things to say on this subject. I particularly appreciated what he had to say about Rolls Royce, since I was at one time employed by that firm, for five years. I agree with his view of the possibility of collaboration between Rolls Royce and Bristol Siddeley. When I worked for Rolls Royce I was concerned with the development of cooled nozzle guide vanes. We knew that the Bristol Company was doing the same work, but it was not possible for us to come to any arrangement with that firm whereby a quicker development of the project could be achieved.
It is impossible for us to decide about the B.O.A.C.-Cunard merger, because, as the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) has said, we do not have all the facts and figures to enable us to make a firm judgment. Some hon. Members have said that the arrangements will operate to the advantage of the Cunard Company and others have said that they will be of advantage to B.O.A.C. No one has mentioned that B.O.A.C. has partnership arrangements already with a great many other airlines; for example, with Ghana Airways and with Nigeria Airways. Indeed, it has a quadripartite arrangement with the Central African, South African and East African Airways, so that this is not necessarily a wholly new departure for B.O.A.C. to team up with somebody other than the British nationalised organisation.
So far as the profitability of the North Atlantic route goes, I think there are some doubts about this, because at the same time as the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) said that the airlines on the North Atlantic had suffered severe losses, he also said that the commercial advantages were on the side of Cunard. I do not see how we can have it both ways.
§ Mr. Lubbock
That may be, but we have not enough figures to form a firm judgment, and that is the reason why different views have been expressed on both sides of the Committee. 503 This, however, is a question of secondary importance to that of the future of the aircraft industry, and, indeed, of particular sectors of it, on which so much concern has been expressed today. I think that all hon. Members will have very great sympathy with the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster), who made such an eloquent plea on behalf of Short Brothers and Hadamd, a plea which was so extremely well backed up by facts and figures, such as I have very seldom heard.
When we last debated this subject on 22nd March this year, the then Minister said:What concerns the aircraft industry is not the present—not the level of employment now, nor the shortage of workers, nor the load in the factories at the moment…. The problem which confronts this industry is in the design staffs—the brains who are the future of the industry.He went on to say, and this is particularly important in the context of today's debate:Of course, it is true that we cannot take premature decisions simply for the purpose of occupying design staffs. No one would suggest that we should. But, at the same time, we recognise the need for a healthy, long-term future for these priceless design teams, and for design teams of an appropriate size. I do not say that we can keep them at exactly the same size and that we may not need to scale them down, for we must have an appropriate size, but we will do our best to hasten necessary decisions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 22nd March, 1962; vol. 656, c. 597.]I should have thought that one of the objects of the recent crop of redundancies on the Front Bench opposite was to arrive at some sensible policy about the aircraft industry. I had hoped that this afternoon we were to listen to something completely new which we had not had before, particularly as it seems to me that there was an undertaking in the statement by the previous Minister which I have just quoted that decisions about the future of the aircraft industry would be taken as soon as possible.
We have heard from more than one hon. Member today how vital these decisions are to the future employment of thousands of people in Northern Ireland. I think that this statement of the previous Minister betrays a lack of understanding of the aircraft industry, and, indeed, of industry in general, which is to me quite astonishing, because we 504 must realise that design is not the only component of a successful business. We have to have the process planning staff, the jig and tool draughtsmen, the tool-room workers and finally the production departments themselves. In the very nature of the aircraft industry, it is very difficult to keep these separate departments correctly balanced, because of the long-term nature of the product itself and because of the progress from design to finished production in which it is necessary to secure coincidence between the various types of aircraft being produced in any one factory.
I think that the Government have not been honest in this matter of the size of the aircraft industry. They will not admit to us that the industry has become bloated with what I would call the fat of wasteful Government expenditure on defence, and that employment in the industry, through that waste, has risen steadily, and it was more than 300,000 or so at the end of 1961. It is not a question of whether or not we need to scale it down, but of something we shall have to do for the health of the industry, as the hon. Member for Macclesfield informed us.
Even if the Government continue to insist on maintaining an independent British nuclear deterrent, which, as has been said, is neither independent nor British, nor is it a deterrent, there will not be nearly as much military work for the aircraft industry. The Defence White Paper tells us that the existing V-bomber force will, in any case, remain in service until the end of the decade—the end of the sixties—with Skybolt, which is an American missile. I know that there will be orders for the T.S.R.2 and token quantities of the Argosy, the Belfast, the V.C.10 and the Avro 748, but I do not think that these orders, together with the civil ones which we may possibly secure in the latter part of the sixties, can possibly be sufficient to keep the aircraft industry in the style to which it has become accustomed. The Minister talks about the vertical take-off fighter, and speaks as if it were a project on which we almost had the N.A.T.O. orders in our pocket. I am given to understand from my reading on this subject, that the Mirage 3B is the most likely contender to be accepted.
505 I do not believe that there will be opportunities in this country, as there were in the United States, to replace aircraft with missiles. We decided, very wisely in my view, some years ago that we were not going to proceed with rocket vehicles for delivering our strategic nuclear deterrent, and I think we decided that because it was beyond our resources to do this work, so that we are adopting at the moment various foreign forms of air to ground missiles, such as Skybolt and the Martin Bull-pup, which is being adopted by the Royal Navy for delivery by Scimitars, and the French A.S.30 to be used with our tactical force of Canberras.
One of the main objects of technical collaboration with the European aircraft industry, to which several hon. Members have referred, is to achieve economy in design and development, and in production costs as well. All of this will be reflected in a reduction of the numbers employed in the British aircraft industry, and, if this wore not so, there would be no point in the exercise at all; that is, that the only other result we might achieve would be an expansion of production from the same resources which already exist in the civil fields, at any rate. I do not believe that is what we need, because it may not be sufficiently appreciated that with each succeeding generation of aircraft there is a very great improvement in productive capacity, so that an airline can offer a continual increase in seat-mileage without any growth of the number of aircraft in the fleet. As one example the B.A.C. 111 can produce 67 per cent. more seat-miles than the Viscount 810 over a 500-miles stage, mainly because of its higher block speed, so that there will not be a very large market for the replacement of the existing civil fleet.
To return to the subject of European collaboration for a moment, we have already this agreement with the French on the development of a supersonic airliner, and Anglo-Dutch collaboration on the F.28. This kind of measure, together with the rationalisation of the British aircraft industry which has already taken place, will mean better and more economical use of European resources as a whole, and that in turn means a contraction in the numbers employed in order to produce the same end result. I hope that there will not be any further 506 cases of duplication of effort, such as there was with the Avro 748 and the Dart Herald, which were designed for substantially the same market—and, in fact, for substantially the same market as the F.27, a plane that was already on the market several years before. We are now told that on technical merit there is practically nothing to choose between them, although some people believed that there was and that the decision in favour of the 748 was partly political.
I believe that the Government have been mealy-mouthed. I can well appreciate that it must have been difficult for them to admit that they had allowed the industry to grow to an unworkable level, and that some measure of cutting back was inevitable. On 22nd March, the hon. Member for Macclesfield said that the industry would have to be rather smaller and more compact; probably 25 per cent. less than it is today. I noticed that he did not give that figure this afternoon, but I think that it is incumbent on the Government to state by how much the aircraft industry is too large at present, and what plans they have for securing a smooth reduction in the resources we are at present devoting to aircraft production.
That should not be a very difficult problem. After all, what would happen if, by a wonderful chance, we got an agreement on general and complete disarmament tomorrow? Would not the scale of the contraction be very much larger than the 25 per cent. envisaged by the hon. Member for Macclesfield? Yet the recent report on the social and economic consequences of disarmament, produced by the United Nations, stated that all the countries which contributed to the report gave it as their opinion that it could be secured without any great disruption of their economies. I do not want to anticipate what will be said on the subject next Monday, but I hope that it will then be dealt with quite fully.
Today, I have two questions that ought to be answered. First, what efforts are being made by the aircraft firms to diversify into other work so that redundancy may be minimised? That is particularly important for Short Bros. We have already heard something about that firm's efforts, and the hon. Member for Belfast, East has told us that the number employed on work other than aircraft 507 work amounted to only 1,000 out of a total of 7,000 employees.
Diversification is important because, quite clearly from this afternoon's discussion, the firm is desperate because of lack of aircraft orders, and the social consequences of increased unemployment in Northern Ireland are very serious to contemplate. I do not believe that there is a very hopeful prospect of further orders for the Belfast freighter; if there had been, we should have been given some assurance by the Minister today. I believe that he is trying to make up his mind how that news can be broken so as to create the least political fuss.
In those circumstances, the company faces a very bleak future as long as it is confined to aircraft. I do not believe that it could exist on the Sea Cat, or that even if it managed to make a success of the Skyvan that work would be enough to keep 6,000 people employed. What active steps have been taken to encourage Short Brothers to diversify into other products so as to enable those people to stay in employment? I do not care what the product is —it can be agricultural machinery for all I care—as long as those people do not lose their jobs.
My second question, which may be relevant to the first is: will Transport Command be large enough with the aircraft on order, bearing in mind that more and more of our commitments will have to be covered by forces stationed in this country? As time goes on, political considerations will make it increasingly difficult to station forces in such places as Kenya and Singapore, which means that our treaty obligations in the Middle East and the Far East will have to be met by having a substantial airlift capability, so that we can take troops from this country to theatres of operations.
I know that Transport Command have five V.C.l0s on order for the troop-carrying part of its rôle, and that it has ten Belfasts for conveying the large stores, but I doubt whether that is enough. The Americans, whose commitments are not so extended in proportion to ours, have a much larger force of transport aircraft. While I am on that subject. I would say that if the V.C.10 508 could be extended, as we all hope, to meet the London-Los Angeles stage requirements, it would have a very much greater military value in the days when some of the places to which I have referred are closed to us for political reasons.
That brings me to the civil airlines. It is unfortunate that this debate should take place before the appearance of the report and accounts of B.E.A. and B.O.A.C., but I dare say that, in common with the experience of many other operators in the last year, the Corporations have had rather a thin time. We have had too great capacity chasing the volume of traffic available. Nevertheless, one thing that we can be quite certain of is that the traffic will go on growing year by year. That is by no means the same thing as saying that it will become more profitable, because that is a matter largely influenced by the fare structure which, in most cases, is beyond our control.
Does the Minister consider that, in what is probably this temporary era in which demand is not rising as fast as the additional capacity conning into service, it was really wise for B.O.A.C. to acquire the additional Boeings? I believe that it still has two Boeings on order now. Does he not think that it would be a good idea to cancel those two—and save foreign exchange in the process—and replace them later by V.C.l0s? I know that B.O.A.C. still says that it intends to open up the Far East route with Boeings, but is that wise when it cannot even fill its aircraft on the North Atlantic?
I have spoken of fares, and I should like to mention two recent news items of some significance. The first was the rejection of the appeal by British Railways against B.E.A.'s three guinea night flights to Belfast, Glasgow and Edinburgh. The second was the announcement that on those fleets last year B.E.A. achieved an 87 per cent. load factor and carried a total of 27,113 passengers. Next winter, it intends to expand those services—or I have seen unofficial reports to that effect; I do not know whether they are true.
On the other hand, in last week's debate we were told that long-distance passenger traffic was one of the more profitable of British Railways activities. 509 and it therefore looks as though British Railways will have to resign themselves to losing a sector of the traffic that is helping to subsidise the losses ocourring in other aspects of its work.
I do not say Chat it is a good thing or a bad thing that B.E.A. should extend those services, but it certainty proves the necessity of planning transport services as a whole, and not looking at each little sector in total isolation. Was there any consultation between the Minister of Transport and 'the Minister of Aviation before that recent decision? If there was, it certainly did not appear to be so.
I believe that in a few years time both B.E.A. and B.O.A.C. will have extremely competitive fleets of modern aircraft, including the Trident and the VC10. At the same time, the existing fare structure will have the effect of making it difficult for some airlines to continue to operate over the routes where modem jets have been introduced. These airlines may, therefore, have to sell their piston and turbo-prop aircraft —and even the first generation jets— before they have become fully amortised.
A differential fares structure may have to be introduced so that lower fares can be charged where piston or tubo-prop equipment is used. This might enable these machines to be kept in service for a greater length of time. One of the most successful airlines on the North Atlantic route is Icelandic, a non-I.A.T.A. carrier, using, I think, DC 6.Bs. We should, therefore, press within I.A.T.A. for a differential fares structure in favour of the older types of aircraft.
I hope that we shall not be pushed into producing a supersonic airliner too quickly. There are great difficulties to overcome in this new development, many of which are not yet appreciated. For example, it is said that when a B58 bomber flew across America the other day at about 60,000 ft. greenhouse glass panes over a wide area were broken. Surely a similar state of affairs would exist if a number of supersonic airliners were flying over Britain.,
Supersonic flight also presents the possibility of radiation damage to passengers because the higher one goes the stronger is the rate of cosmic radiation. This radiation becomes no longer 510 shielded by the ozone layer, and this could be dangerous to people travelling long distances at great heights. This might be particularly dangerous to pilots, stewardesses and those who must travel in this way regularly.
The economics of airline operation is a mysterious subject, especially to the layman, because even now we are seeing B.O.A.C. adding to its fleet at a time when the load factors are lower than ever before—as low as 45 per cent., one hon. Member has said. It is important that we should examine the future of B.O.A.C.'s operations to see if the aircraft in the organisation's present structure are right for the task to be performed. I particularly ask the Minister in this connection to bear in mind what I have said about the additional Boeings he has on order and to consider in future having a more careful relationship between the Corporations regarding their buying policy and the expected rate of traffic growth.
I am sure that some people might try to distort what I have said about the British aircraft industry. The ex-Minister is very good at that sort of thing. I must, therefore, re-affirm my belief that it has a great future. All that is required is for it to be properly reorganised to a size large enough to meet its commitments and to provide stable and continuing employment for the people in it so that the anxieties which they have undergone these last few years will not always be with them.
The VC10, the Trident, the Argosy and the BAC111 are world leaders in their respective classes, and the same is true of the engines—the Conway, the Spey and the Tyne—all products of what I believe to be the greatest engineering firm in the world. We can take legitimate pride in the products of British engineering and we can feel certain that the industry as a whole will continue to play a vital rôle in sustaining the economy of the nation.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
With my right hon. Friend and his hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary both at the same time taking over control of what is an extremely important Department I should like to offer some comments on a number of different items of 511 policy. The first is the internal policy of that Department because the days are really past when good advice can be given on a technical subject which emanates from a mind unclouded by knowledge.
Such a mind can anise in one or two or both circumstances; first, because the person concerned has never been trained to appreciate the basic language of the scientific subjects, and secondly because, with the best will in the world, if people have been out of contact with modern manufacturing and development processes in an industry in which the rate of technical development is very high indeed, it will be only good fortune if their technical judgment and advice is, in general terms, good and sound advice.
If my right hon. Friend is to ensure that the advice he receives from his Department is technically sound and not obsolescent he will have to turn his mind seriously to the problem of obtaining the services, on short-term contracts, of people in the manufacturing industry. I stress "short-term contracts" because if he took them in as part of his permanent establishment, in 10 years' time he would be back in the same position as he is today; namely, that probably no-one in any senior position in his Ministry has recent knowledge of the industry, the destinies of which are largely controlled by the Ministry.
I should like to draw attention to some of the major controlling factors in the aircraft and aero engine industries both in this country and internationally. If we take the beginning of the significant period—probably about 1955—we find some interesting developments in the aero engine world. Two large corporations in America, Westinghouse and Curtiss-Wright, were driven right out of the aero-engine business by the force of competition. The Allison Division of General Motors, which has absorbed hundreds of millions of dollars in investment from its parent company, was in a precarious competitive position and Orenda, in Canada, was driven out of business.
Nevertheless, the proposition appears to be current in Britain that although America can afford only two-and-a-half engine companies—Pratt and Whitney, 512 General Electric and the Allison Division of General Motors—we in this country, for some reason not apparent to me, can support two. The logic of this I do not appreciate.
In aircraft construction one finds in America last year that the Convair Division of General Dynamics made the largest loss of any American corporation in history—400 million dollars. Canada has had the collapse of the major portion of its aircraft industry as well in the collapse of Avro-Canada. This is the position in the world, not created by the Minister, but the position in which he finds himself.
I turn to the aero-engine industry because, like the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) I also had the privilege to work for Rolls-Royce, though I can claim six years' rather than five years' service—perhaps a rather irrelevant claim. There are some outstanding facts when considering this matter, which should be borne in mind if the decision is arrived at that Britain cannot support two large engine firms when the American economy can scarcely support two-and-a-half of them.
It is interesting to note that in the six years, 1955 to 1961, the value of aero-engine exports from Rolls-Royce has increased by no less than 252 per cent., from £15.7 million to 55 — 2 million. I here want to draw the Committee's attention to a very dangerous generalisation. It may be said with some justification that there are too many people in the British aero industry, but this is not to say that there are too many people in each of the units in that industry. An alternative form of asserting the original proposition is to say that there are too many units rather than too many people in those units.
During the time when Rolls Royce increased exports from £15.7 million to £55 — 2 million its labour force increased only from 30,100 to 41,300. The interesting fact to be drawn from that is that in 1955 it took 1 — 99 employees to generate £1,000 of export trade whereas in 1961 it took only 0 — 75, which one could say is a 62 per cent. increase in productivity in that time, associated with a 252 per cent. expansion in its export trade. I know of no other company in any other industry with a record to match that.
513 If it is considered that British aeroengine exports are valuable to this country—and for the contrary proposition I can see no evidence whatsoever— one of two things has to happen. Either the support of the taxpayer has to be concentrated on the firm which has demonstrated beyond shadow of doubt its competitive efficiency and its productive efficiency—its competitive efficiency by taking away 54 per cent. of the market entirely dominated by major American manufacturers and its productive efficiency in the manner I have mentioned—or public money of a given quantity has to be split between a company which is already, despite this record, desperately short of development capital, and, a company which, with the best will in the world, one can truthfully say has never in its history sold one civil jet engine abroad. To be fair to the Bristol-Siddeley Company and its predecessors, it has sold some military jet engines abroad and a few handfuls of turbo-props but never to my knowledge one civil jet engine.
If it were by any chance the intention of Her Majesty's Government to endeavour to launch Bristol-Siddeley into the civil jet business, which has already claimed Curtiss-Wright and Westing-house as its victims, this can be done only at a degree of public expenditure which can be measured in tens of millions of £s and not in millions of £s. It is very necessary that the Committee, and in particular my right hon. Friend and the Parliamentary Secretary, should never let these basic facts of the situation slip from their memory whenever they may be tempted to make decisions on political grounds which completely ignore the basic economic and competitive realities which I have endeavoured to describe.
I should like to add a further word on the subject of numbers of people employed in an industry. It is self-evident that if one is employing too few people for the volume of business one has at a given moment, the ratio of overtime will increase and costs will increase, but competitive efficiency will decrease. Therefore, although it is manifestly true that the volume of aviation business going in the world, civil and military, is extremely unlikely fully to occupy or even economically to 514 occupy the existing resources for manufacturing, designing and developing aircraft and aero-engines in this country, the decisions arising from appreciation of those facts must necessarily lead to a reduction in the number of units, rather than a reduction of the efficiency of each unit by reducing the number of people it employs and endeavouring to spread the work round everybody. This is not the way to retain 54 per cent. of world markets. This is the way to lose 80 per cent. of what one has won in a period as short as four years.
Penultimately, I should like to make some observations on the subject of rather misleading claims sometimes made in the realm of the alleged conflict between noise regulations and safety. I have noticed a degree of confusion on this. I assure the Committee that the real contradiction is not between noise regulations and safety. It is between noise regulations and profitable operation, which is something of a completely different calibre.
If one knows what the noise regulations are at a given airfield and then one proceeds to order equipment which cannot economically comply with those regulations one has only oneself to blame. If a person buys a very heavy under-powered aircraft it will have a poor rate of climb, and if he does not wish to break the noise regulations he will have to travel at less than the full pay load. Alternatively, if the fines imposed by the airport authority are less than the value of the fares lost by breaking the regulations, unscrupulous airlines will continue to break them, that being the lesser evil.
§ Mr. A. E. Hunter (Feltham)
Is the hon. Member aware that B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. lose hundreds of thousands of £s a year in keeping within the Minister's noise regulations by carrying fewer passengers?
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
I am grateful to the hon. Member. That is precisely the point I was making—that the conflict is between profit and noise regulations. Unfortunately, those who wish to have the noise regulations altered for reasons of profitability cloak their appeal in reasons of safety. They present the case in the manner that the 515 aircraft is being flown less safely at a given weight because of the flight path it has to follow as a result of the noise regulations. This is a completely hypocritical manner of presenting the case. It is time that attention was drawn to it. There are ways of mitigating the noise. A by-pass will generally give less noise with a given thrust. There are also attenuators—which could not be truly described as silencers. These however have a performance penalty and again this is a matter of profitability and not of safety. Lastly, a great deal has been said already about the question of orders for the Belfast.
§ Mr. Richard Collard (Norfolk, Central)
Before my hon. Friend leaves the question of noise and safety, may I assure him that there is indeed a connection and a conflict between noise regulations and safety and that this conflict may be greater in future? If I am fortunate enough to be called in the debate, I will develop that point for my hon. Friend. If not, I will explain it to him later.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is so learned from his personal experience, but I doubt very much that that is the case. I will say why, because the degree of noise depends upon the energy of the noise at its point of generation and the distance and angle between the point of generation and the hearer. This depends on the rate of climb of the aircraft and the thrust selected by the pilot. As long as the noise regulations are known, and are known to be enforced, there is no reason why the operator should not procure equipment which most nearly meets these requirements and is still profitable. If he buys aircraft which cannot meet these requirements he has no one but himself to blame. That I assert very rigidly.
Lastly, on the subject of the Belfast I would merely say that once upon a time the Belfast, I believed, was a purely political aircraft. That is to say, the order placed for it was placed on grounds of the very high unemployment in Northern Ireland and, to a lesser extent, because of the Government's investment in Short Bros, and Harland. Without going into the technical merits 516 of the aeroplane, I would confine myself to saying that I was very impressed indeed both with the manufacturing facilities which I saw at Short Bros, and Harland and also with the calibre of the management there. When dealing with people in the aircraft industry it is very refreshing to encounter people who answer one's questions frankly and who do not deafen one with cries in which truth does not constitute 100 per cent. of the content. This I found very refreshing indeed.
I hope that by the time this debate comes to its conclusion my right hon. Friend and his hon. Friend will have gathered that there is on both sides of the Committee considerable concern not only about the direction of Government policy but about the basis of that direction. In other words, there is no overwhelming evidence that all decisions which are taken, are taken with an adequate degree of technical appreciation. Nor is there adequate evidence that the urgency of taking many decisions, because of consequential events hanging on those decisions, is fully appreciated. If ever there was an industry in which time was valuable to a huge extent in terms of money, it is the aircraft industry. Once an opportunity has been missed, even by a matter of three months, the cost both to the taxpayer and to the foreign exchange situation of this country can be very disastrous indeed.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Mr. A. E. Hunter (Feltham)
I want briefly to support the appeals which have been made from both sides of the Committee on behalf of Short Bros, and Harland. I had the pleasure of visiting that factory with my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee). I have seen the great capacity and scope of that concern for building aircraft. I have seen its trained teams, technicians and craftsmen. I hope very much that our appeal for Short Bros, and Harland will have some impact on the Government and their factories kept in production.
My main point in speaking tonight— is to voice protests made to me by a number of my constituents about the B.O.A.C.—Cunard-Eagle merger. A large number of people in my constituency 517 work for the Corporations, and I have had a number of letters from B.O.A.C. employees protesting against the merger with Cunard-Eagle. Parliament was never consulted or advised. It was done overnight. Employees, whether they work for nationalised or private industry, are annoyed when these deals take place above their heads, and I am sure that one of the reasons for the Government's increasing unpopularity is this sort of take-over bid or type of negotiations. People are working for one firm one day and then, without any consultation, they suddenly find that they are working for a new set-up, after they have spent their years working for a company.
I know of the great interest taken by the employees of B.O.A.C. in the expansion of the Corporation. I have been in this House for over seven years, and time and again hon. Members opposite have referred to the desirability of competition between the Corporations and private independent operators. We on these benches are not against the independent operators. At the same time, we feel that as this country has put so much capital, research and skill into building up the Corporations, they should be given every chance to compete against the severe foreign competition. On the North Atlantic route B.O.A.C. as keen American competition, and B.E.A. is holding its own against all European airlines, but it is keen international competition all the time. We have always maintained that there is very little profit for the airline operators in view of the intense competition. I have heard the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) say that the margin of profit earned by airline operators is very small indeed. Therefore, we have always maintained that our Corporations should have every possible support from us in their competition against American and other international airlines.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
The hon. Gentleman is quite right so far as he goes, but does he not recognise that B.O.A.C. has had its chance? There are two American operators, Pan-American Airways and T.W.A., both operating to Britain. Why should we have fewer operators going to America? Surely we should have equal rights?
§ Mr. Hunter
That is our point. We want to give all our support to our Corporations so that they can hold their own in this international competition. We have always been told by hon. Members opposite that there should be competition from the independent airlines, whether on the North Atlantic route, the European routes or in this country. This merger denies it. Our argument is that the Corporations have this intense competition from the American and other airline corporations.
B.O.A.C. employs large numbers of engineers, electricians, craftsmen, pilots and supervisors, but they were never consulted about the merger. There is elaborate machinery at London Airport for consultation. There are panels and trade union organisations. There is all the machinery by which they could have been consulted and informed of this merger with Cunard-Eagle. It seems to me that the attitude of the Government, as in some private enterprises, is that the employees do not count. It is the people at the top who decide policy only, and that is an attitude which we on these benches do not support.
In all concerns, whether under private enterprise or nationalisation, we want the good will, co-operation and support of the employees. This merger took place without any consultation with Parliament, also no information or statement was made by the Minister until a Question was put down by my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee). This is not the way to win the good will and co-operation of the employees in our great Corporations.
As has been said, Cunard-Eagle wild take a 30 per cent. share and the Corporation will take the two Boeing aircraft which Cuward-Eagle has ordered. Cunard-Eagle applied for permission to operate the North Atlantic route, but B.O.A.C. opposed this and the Corporation's appeal was upheld. When all that was over, however, we now have the merger between B.O.A.C. and the company. The feeling of employees as shown by the letters which I receive is that this is a backdoor attempt at de-nationalisiation so that Cunard-Eagle can get control of B.O.A.C. in the years ahead. That is the opinion of a number of B.O.A.C. employees. This has been denied, but the feeling still exists.
519 I hope that when he replies to the debate, the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to deny what I am saying. [Laughter.] The hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Collard) may laugh, but if he had read the letters which I receive from people who work for B.O.A.C. he would know that that was in their minds. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will make the position clear. As I have said on earlier occasions, I am not against the independent operators. In many cases they do a good job. B.O.A.C. and B.E.A., however, carry the Union Jack for this country, and the House of Commons should give them every possible support. I feel that I am doing my duty in expressing the views of my constituents who have written to me, protesting against the B.O.A.C.-Cunard merger which was done overnight without Parliament being informed.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Collard (Norfolk, Central)
The hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Hunter) will, I hope, forgive me if I do not follow his remarks in detail. As, however, the hon. Member commented that I was smiling at one of his remarks, let me assure him that I found his theory that Cunard would take over B.O.A.C. a little bizarre. I certainly did not intend any discourtesy to the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Hunter rose—
§ Mr. Collard
The hon. Member has made his speech; I am now making mine. I assure him, however, that I did not intend any discourtesy. I merely found his theory just a little comic.
I add my good wishes to my right hon. Friend the Minister in his new and important post and also to my hon. Friend on becoming Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation. My right hon. Friend discharged his last post with great distinction. It is, in a way, almost the nicest post in the Government. Many hon. Members would regard as a pleasant dream the idea that they might become Secretary of State for Air. On the other hand, they might regard the possibility of become Minister of Aviation as something of a nightmare.
Among his other difficulties, a Minister of Aviation will be assailed at almost all 520 times by some of the most brilliant but, at the same time, some of the most tiresome men in the country. He will have to conduct himself according to several different roles. He has a Department which is partly administrative, partly operational and partly technical, a Department which is a purchasing agency—although some might say that it was more of a rejecting agency; a Department which has among its duties the operation of important establishments and, moreover, a Department which is responsible for the safety of flying within the confines of this country. That is toy no means the least of his heavy responsibilities. I am certain that my right hon. Friend's abilities are well equal to this, but I do not greatly envy him.
I wish to make two points, one about hardware and one about humans. By "hardware" I mean the aircraft, with a reference to the aircraft indusitry. When listening to the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) on the subject of the aircraft industry, I could not help remembering that he belongs to a political party which has announced that it would, if it could, immediately abolish the British independent strategic deterrent. It is one of the few subjects on which the hon. Member's party has made positive pronouncements. I do not know what effect that might have on the future of the British aircraft industry, but that is a largely academic point since it would be fatal to the nation.
The manufacture, the development and, certainly, the sale of aircraft is a complex and baffling business. I should here declare an interest which I have declared on former occasions, namely, that I am a director of a company which manufactures aircraft. Apart from that, however, as some hon. Members know, I have bean actively associated with aviation ever since I reached the age of 20.
What I want to say about the aircraft industry and about the hardware, which is part of the responsibility of my right hon. Friend, is that in Great Britain we make the best aircraft in the world. That statement might be disputed, as sometimes it has been, but those who have disputed it have been proved wrong time and again. In 1938 and 1939 it would have been easy to find people, and 521 knowledgeable people, who would say that the Germans were far ahead of us in the design and manufacture of aircraft. How wrong in the event they proved to be!
It is true that the Americans have a large and efficient aircraft industry and that in one way and another they are coming along quite well, but with the devotion of considerably more resources, effort and wealth it is still beyond their power to build aircraft of the quality which we are able to do in this country. Those of us who had the good fortune and duty to fly the products of the British aircraft industry during the war can bear testimony to their toughness and competence. Indeed, if that were not so we should hardly be here.
The products of the British aircraft industry fly all over the world. They enjoy a reputation second to none and they confirm the claim which I have already made that in this country we make the best aircraft in the world. The aircraft industry has had some hard things said about it from time to time, but in the last resort it is by its products that it must be judged.
The aircraft industry has a new look, something which is called "rationalisation". That is a word which I never quite understand, but it is made the excuse for a great many activities. The aircraft industry has a new look which was very largely ascribed to it by the Government. The arguments in favour of this new organisation of the aircraft industry I shall not attempt to state largely because I have never been able to understand them. I shall not weary the House with the arguments against that organisation because it might be thought that I was prejudiced.
There is, however, one point which I must emphasise to my right hon. Friend. In this business of the development and manufacture of aircraft, the men on the shop floor are important, the men who will fly the aircraft and maintain them are important, and even the management and the board of directors are not unimportant, but the essential people in successfully manufacturing an aircraft are the technical staffs and design teams. When an industry is contracting, as the aircraft industry undoubtedly is, it is vital to remember that once the design teams have been allowed 522 to disperse, or even to run down to any great extent, the situation becomes irretrievable. I urge my right hon. Friend to bear in mind that whenever a design team or a technical staff in the aircraft industry is lost or run down, the country loses an irreplaceable asset.
This brings me to Short Bros, and Harland of Belfast, a great aircraft company to which several references have already been made. It may be, as my right hon. Friend said, that the company has work to take it into next year. It has been said elsewhere that it has work to last even longer. I am very sceptical about that because, with such a small production line of aircraft, I think that the company may very soon find itself having actually to dismiss men on the shop floor. However that may be, I am quite sure that without a further order for the Belfast aircraft it will not be possible for this great company to keep its technical staff together and to maintain its very fine design team for more than a few months to come.
Apart from the important and cogent arguments which have been put by hon. Members on both sides about the serious social and economic consequences of such an event for Northern Ireland, I put it to my right hon. Friend that one of the issues at stake in this question of whether or not a further order for the Belfast is placed is whether or not he wishes to maintain in being a great asset, namely, the technical staff and design team of a great aircraft company.
I turn now to the subject of noise in relation to aircraft safety. I warned my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) that I should deal with this matter if I were fortunate in catching the eye of the Chair, and I am glad that he is here to hear what I have to say. I hope to show that there is a conflict between noise regulations and safety. No one hates noise more than I do. On the very rare occasions when I feel vindictive it is usually towards someone who is making a noise unnecessarily.
The subject of aircraft noise and its relation to safety was ventilated in Question and Answer in the House a week or so ago and subsequently my hon. Friend the former Parliamentary Secretary, who has now been translated, was good enough to write to me on the 523 subject. There are rules in this country and at most of the major international airports abroad governing aircraft noise, and there are certain restrictions placed on captains of aircraft in this respect. The rules at London Airport are not particularly stringent—there are more stringent rules at some international airports overseas—but I question whether rules of this nature should be made at all.
There are rules for the conduct of safe flying which have been in force for many years. They are understandable and proper and, in fact, they make for greater safety. I refer to regulations against low flying, against aerobatics at a low height, against disregarding air traffic control rules, and so forth, all of which are essential and which no one would question. But here we come to something new. Even if there is nothing in any of the regulations about noise, which, taken by themselves, could be regarded as specifically dangerous, I submit that the existence of restrictions on the captains of modern aircraft, particularly at the time of take-off, the most critical part of any flight in a modern aircraft, can and in some cases, perhaps, even do today have an adverse effect, if only a slightly adverse effect, on safety.
The rules at London Airport, taken by themselves, are not, I believe, specifically dangerous or in any way such as to reduce flight safety, but if an aircraft is required, in order to avoid a built-up area, to start making a turn, however slight, shortly after take-off, I maintain that the safety of the operation of the aircraft is liable to be impaired. I believe that even at London Airport for some directions of take-off a turn is obligatory on the captain of the aircraft. I am not quite clear at what height he is expected to turn. However, what I maintain with conviction is that it is dangerous to require the captain of a fully laden modern aircraft to make any turn below 1,000 ft. above the ground.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
Surely, the answer is not to order equipment which will not do precisely that, make the turn on reaching an altitude of 1,000 ft.
§ Mr. Collard
I take my hon. Friend's point. Of course, we are dealing with equipment which is already in airline 524 service, and the remarks I have made apply to several modern airliners, particularly the jets. Perhaps I may go on to my more general point which may answer my hon. Friend's objection more precisely.
Because the captain's only consideration when taking his aircraft into the air should be for the safe and efficient take-off of his aircraft, I believe that it can be in some degree hostile to the safe operation of the aircraft if he has to consider restrictions placed upon him not connected with the safe or efficient take-off but connected with the amount of noise which he may make and so disturb people on the ground.
I am expressing a personal conviction, although I have had the opportunity of consulting some experienced and prominent pilots on this matter during the past week. I say again that I have a great hate of noise, but I believe that there is no room for compromise here. If we cannot stand the noise which modern aircraft make in carrying out a safe and efficient take-off, then we shall have to do without the aircraft. But if we want the aircraft we shall—and I say this regretfully—have to put up with the noise and not attempt to (reduce it by putting any restriction on the captain of the aircraft who carries such a heavy responsibility, particularly at the time of take-off.
Those are the two points that I wish to make—firstly, the danger of the disappearance of these priceleses assets in the shape of design teams and technical staffs, with special reference to Short Brothers and Harland, and, secondly, the point, which I know may not be readily accepted but which I believe requires very careful attention, that the captain of an aircraft should have not placed on him restrictions with regard to noise which could in any way affect his capacity, ability and duty to fly his aircraft in the safest and most efficient manner.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
I rise with some hesitation because most of the contributions to the debate have been made by experts on this subject. I do not pretend to be an expert. I have listened with fascination and awe to some of the speeches. 525 It has almost been like the occasions when lawyers debate some detailed legalistic Measure.
I speak only because recently I gave notice, after an unsatisfactory reply to a Question, that I would take the first opportunity to raise the matter, and this is the occasion. I appreciate that the Minister was not responsible for the Answer given, but I hope that he will be able to deal with the matter which I propose to raise.
The Question concerned the exorbitant increase in the cost of air pilots' licences. The former Minister of Aviation announced on 16th April, as part of his overall policy for improving pilot recruitment and training, increases in the charges for flying tests and examinations. In the White Paper published on that occasion, it was explained that one of the purposes of increasing the charges was to discourage the high failure rate among those who wished to become pilots and who took these tests and their inadequate preparation for examination.
I say at once the Minister was justified in trying to secure those ends, but he was not satisfied merely in making extra charges for the examinations when pilots sought to enter the service. He also applied the increased charges to practising air pilots. They have to undergo medical examinations and to take new tests every six months. He increased the charge to existing pilots undergoing medical tests and renewal tests each six months by 333 per cent.
The old rate for the medical examination was £1 and for the licence renewal 12s. 6d. From 28th May this year, the cost of the medical examination was increased to £2 and the licence renewal to £3 10s. The cost for a year now is £11 as against £3 5s. before May this year. That is an outrageous increase.
The second point I wish to make is that the increased charges were made without any consultation with the air pilots' trade union. No approach was made to the British Air Line Pilots' Association, and, when the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor was questioned in the House about this he said that it was outside the scope of negotiation with that Association.
I ask the Minister to reply to this point tonight, and to remember that when 526 I raised it questions were put not only from this side but by hon. Members on the back benches opposite. He has a charge to answer which is causing great annoyance among large numbers of air pilots in this country. I hope that one of the effects of new representation in the Ministry will be a reconsideration of this matter.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Mrs. Patricia McLaughlin (Belfast, West)
I hope that the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) will excuse me if I do not follow the trend of his speech because it is very late and I have a few important points that I wish to put before the Committee. The general tenor of the debate has indicated that there is a strong opinion on both sides of the Committee that there is a need for decision and for a determined and firm policy on aviation and that the aircraft development of this country needs firm decisions and a firm guiding hand to indicate the direction in which it should go in future.
I will not at this late hour endeavour to go into the details about Messrs. Short Brothers and Harland which were so ably put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster). He gave a very satisfactory and clear picture of the history of this firm and the strategic freighter in which this company is so interested. I wish to add and underline a few important points which are affecting this company at the moment.
This must be considered in the context of the way in which requirements for military aircraft are assessed, the time which it takes to assess them and, finally, to get a decision when a decision is needed in a hurry. I was impressed— and I hope that my impression was correct—with the new Minister's feeling of urgency. I hope that when the Parliamentary Secretary, or whoever is to reply, winds up, I shall have the same impression and an answer to one or two points which I wish to raise.
The first point is this. Will it be possible, on these requirements for a new aircraft or a further aircraft required for military uses, to get a decision in a matter of weeks and not months? We have been waiting a long time for a decision. Although the Minister was unable in his speech today to give that definite 527 assurance about an early decision, I hope that by now, perhaps, he will have had time further to consider it, and that we shall get a definite date at which—or at any rate a definite statement on the number of weeks in which—this matter will be finalised. For it is not possible for Short Brothers and Harland to continue indefinitely with promises. The time has come when we have got to have it definitely stated, and that decision must be produced, I again impress upon the Parliamentary Secretary, in a matter of week, and no longer than that.
We have a feeling that there is not at present that sense of urgency and drive which there would be if this country were under threat of wax. If this country were in urgent need, as in wartime, we Should have had this matter definitely decided. We should have decided what to do and how to do it. In a time of as near peace as possible, we seem to have drifted, and decisions are put off day after day and week after week. I make a last appeal for a decision on this.
We have very much in mind the fact that the present Belfast could be developed in so many ways. There are up to 50 variations available at present. As my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East has given so many of the facts and figures about it, the Committee must be very well aware of the very great variety of uses which this aeroplane has and the great possibilities it has in the commercial field in its developed form. I do not want to weary the Committee by repeating all those details.
I must reaffirm here that we believe that the Government have a great responsibility for Short Bros. After all, there is a large investment of Government—of taxpayers'—money in this company, and we cannot have obligations working one way only; they work both ways. I believe the Government have an obligation to maintain Shorts as a fully balanced unit and an obligation to ensure the future of a firm which was planted into Northern Ireland and has thriven there. Despite the many difficulties which have beset it and the aircraft industry, it has proved itself. It has at all levels people young in mind as well as in age, and young in ideas, people who are the most valuable people in our 528 community and who are in great measure responsible for the ideas which are so helpful today to make our aircraft industry worth while.
We must remember this not only in the context of Northern Ireland but in the context of the whole aircraft industry. There are a number of rumours going about that the two great combines may find it possible to develop something different from the Belfast and perhaps to get together with Shorts and have some form of merger or take-over, and that then Shorts would be in the position of a subsidiary, receiving sub-contracts and side bits, and eventually be reduced to a high quality aircraft garage. This is not what Short Bros, was designed for; it is not what Northern Ireland expected; nor can the company exist like that. It must be clearly stated that against the background of aviation and of the aircraft industry today, Short Bros, has an original and special contribution to make, which is highly valuable.
Unless something is done quickly the design team will be run down and there will be a lessening of the thrust and capabilities of the company, and that would affect not only the future work of the people employed there at workshop level but would affect also the future capabilities of the firm. The Minister has taken over only in the last few days, and this debate, which has been thrust upon him, is a very big one for him to start with. But my right hon. Friend proved himself at the beginning, and I am sure that we shall get a satisfactory answer at the end of the debate. One thing I ask for is a definite assurance about this matter. It has been going on for years. In all the seven years I can remember in which we have been discussing this problem, whether from the employment point of view or the aviation point of view, we have hade very time to ask for a reassurance about this company, and we have received it, but this is a time when we can no longer go on leap-frogging like that but must get over the final hummock, and back to level ground. This company must know where it is going.
I welcome the fact that the Minister has said that he will be going to Northern Ireland to see this firm. I am very pleased about this and no doubt 529 the company will be pleased. I hope that he will not, as other Ministers have done, go there, look round, be very impressed, make suitable, happy and helpful comments and then go back and that will be the last that we hear about it. We must look forward to something more than helpful comments. The Government must give a definite guarantee tonight to maintain Shorts as a balanced unit. That would be an enormous encouragement to the company and make it possible for the company to wait the necessary few weeks until the finalisation of the Belfast is brought about.
On the question of research, my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East spoke about many of the different items which Shorts had available. He went into them in greater detail than I can now do All I ask is that the Committee and the Parliamentary Secretary will note again all the different aspects of development of which Shorts is capable and the number of items on which the company is held up through lack of development finance and will be unable to carry on much longer unless there are orders in the future, so that its design team can go on with further research work.
It should not be beyond the bounds of Ministerial capacity to find the means to inject into this company an order or the finance necessary to give it an opportunity to go on developing in the satisfactory way in which it is running, so far as it is capable of doing, in great difficulties. If, through no fault of its own, Shorts cannot continue as a balanced unit it will be a disaster for the whole of the aircraft industry and will be remembered as the "Titanic" was remembered as being symbolic for the whole shipping industry, but it will have far greater repercussions. The "Titanic" went down because it was overcome by natural hazards, but in this case they are man-made hazards. The decision that has to be made is of vital importance.
In every debate in the last seven years requests have been made on behalf of this company and it has had only one firm order for ten Belfasts. It now urgently needs another firm order, but I cannot expect tonight that either the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary will be in a position to say anything 530 definite. We need an assurance first about the company being continued as a balanced unit and, secondly, that there should be a decision as quickly as possible. I assure my hon. Friend that this is a time when there can be no looking back. This is the time when we have to have a decision because the policy for aviation is not a policy of dithering. We in Northern Ireland recognise that the Government have a very heavy responsibility, and we challenge them to accept that responsibility for the company in which they arc the major shareholders and in which so much of Northern Ireland's future is invested.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Middlesbrough, West)
It is a pleasure to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mrs. McLaughlin), who made the point over and over again that the troubles in the aircraft industry are recurrent. This is not something that is just a current crisis in Belfast. It is not only a temporary trouble in Derby or in Gloucester. Before the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary lose sight of the wood because of the trees, I should like to ask some general questions about the aircraft industry and urge the Government to consider them. Have they in fact got the machinery to tackle these problems as they arise? There is a great danger that pleas such as those which we have had from Belfast might also come from Gloucester or Derby. They might be the subject of special pleading, too. Is the Minister able to distinguish special pleading or not? He should think about a comparison with the United States. Have we in this country any organisation comparable with the Rand Corporation, which looks at the general problems of strategy not simply in relation to defence but in relation to research, design and production? These general problems are of vital importance to the aircraft industry.
Investment in an aircraft is necessarily a very lumpy matter. There is not a great deal of research that can be done out of the context of a specific project. One has to treat the project on the basis of a certain type of air-frame and a certain conception of engine. It is immensely expensive, and it is only When some one is willing to back the whole project that a firm can really 531 spend the money needed for research and new ideas.
This sets the aircraft industry rather apart from other science based industries, which are able to maintain a much steadier rate of work by their technical staffs. Once an industrial product has been brought out, it can be mucked about with. It can be added to or modified throughout its useful life. This is not something that one can do in the production of modern airframes or aircraft engines, however. Once an air-frame or engine is built, the technical effort is mainly completed.
We should have better machinery for considering the problems of the aircraft industry. The question is the way it should be done and how it should be regarded. The hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) made the point that it is necessary to attract people directly from the industry itself and that their useful life is only a short term of years because they lose touch. Perhaps we felt something of that in the speech of the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Collard), who seemed a great deal less in touch with the aircraft industry than those who have arrived in the House borne on their slide rules, including perhaps the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) and the hon. Member for Tiverton.
We need this kind of effort not only on the technical level of design of air-frames and engines, but also on the strategic planning level—strategic in relation to production and patterns of travel for civil airlines as well as in relation to future demands of defence.
This is a single whole. It is a problem which can only be tackled by the Minister. I urge him to examine the experience of the United States in relation to the planning of its space programme and its defence programme, and also to look at the enormous institutions it has built to carry out strategic studies. We should see whether our ratio of strategic study effort to technical design effort is not much too small and whether urgent steps should not be taken to remedy it.
If the management of Short Brothers is as good as it is cracked up to be— and I have no reason to doubt it—this would be a very good job for its design 532 team, which could pose some of these big strategic questions about the future of the aircraft industry and its relationship to civil and defence needs and try to answer them.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. John Cronin (Loughborough)
I must first congratulate the Minister of Aviation on achieveing his new appointment and also on his survival. Some of us feel that the Prime Minister treated some of his friends rather unfairly after they had done him good service, but it is in some way in the Prime Minister's favour that, however he treats his friends, he obviously treats his relations well. I should like also to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary. He was a director of a firm which has a special claim to distinction, because it is a firm which developed one of the few missiles produced by the Ministry of Aviation which was really successful, and that is probably a good omen for the future.
I should say a few words about Short Brothers and Harland, although I had intended to devote most of my remarks to the affairs of the British Overseas Airways Corporation. But Short Brothers has played a prominent part in the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray) has spoken about it, as has the hon. Lady for Belfast, West (Mrs. McLaughlin) and the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster), who always takes a very careful interest in the affairs of Short Brothers. In fact, he defends the interests of that firm with a stubbornness and vehemence which must incur our admiration.
We all know that Short Brothers produces a first-class strategic freighter aircraft. We have had a very full description of it during the debate and we know that it should be available in 1963. We also know that it has a very good potential as a commercial freighter aircraft to operate. It is what we need as a strategic freighter for the Royal Air Force and with small modifications it is what we need as a tactical freighter for the R.A.F., because it has a very short take-off and landing capability.
The extraordinary thing is that at present the R.A.F. has no efficient strategic freighter. The Minister, who 533 was Secretary of State for Air so recently, will probably agree with me that the R.A.F. has only one tactical freighter, the Beverley, which is obsolete and difficult and awkward to fly. So there is a great need for the Belfast and it would be available but for the fatal link in the chain, the Government. The hon. Lady the Member for Belfast, West referred to the Government as being like the iceberg which sank the Titanic. That was an apposite simile for the Short Brothers situation.
All of us are familiar with the recent statement of the chairman of Short Brothers, Mr. Wrangham, who said that unless there was a further order, Short Brothers would go out of business. Obviously, if Short Brothers goes out of business, it will not be able to produce even the 10 Belfasts which have been ordered for the R.A.F., and that poses many questions. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will make a note of these questions, because we should like to know something about this matter.
For instance, I should like to know why the Ministry of Aviation made Short Brothers accept this order on a condition that it would sell twice as many again. That was a condition which would not be satisfied. Why was this order made on conditions which precluded its completion? If Short Brothers go out of business, the order will not be completed and what will then happen about modifications and spares for the aircraft which have been ordered, and how will the R.A.F. cope with that? Why was such an order made if the firm is to be driven out of business? If the R.A.F. does not like the Belfast as a transport plane, why was it ordered? Perhaps the Minister can whisper the answer to the Parliamentary Secretary, for it is a question to which we should all like to know the answer. What are the R.A.F. to do for a strategic freighter transport, and how will it get along when it does not now have a strategic freighter?
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us when a decision will be made? The Minister said earlier that it was not a matter of years or even of months, but I remember that during the debate on the Air Estimates in 1961 we raised the question of a strategic freighter for the R.A.F., and the Government have still not made up their minds about it. There was an 534 operational requirement for a strategic firelighter. It was operational requirement 351, and the Ministry has been waiting 18 months to make a decision on this. Why cannot we have quicker action by the Ministry?
We had the same trouble over the V1000, that excellent Vickers aircraft. The Ministry ordered a prototype and four production models in 1955, but this order was later cancelled and the whole project fell through.
§ Mr. Cronin
All this resulted from hesitation by the Ministry of Aviation.
If Shorts close down, about 7,000 people will be unemployed at the factory and probably another 5,000 at the factories of the sub-contractors. This will be a disaster because it must be remembered that in the last 10 years unemployment in Northern Ireland has fluctuated between 10 per cent. and 6½ per cent.
Yesterday my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee), other hon. Members who are interested in aviation affairs, and I saw a deputation from the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. The delegates felt strongly about this problem, but I think that the time has come for Northern Ireland to help itself. If Northern Ireland is suffering from this high level of unemployment, there is one simple remedy. I mean no offence to the hon. Members who represent Northern Ireland constituencies, but all that the people there have to do is to return Labour Members to this House. It is as simple as that. It is time that Northern Ireland learned to help itself.
I turn now to the affairs of the B.O.A.C. The first thing that I ought to do is to help the Minister with his homework. He gave the impression this afternoon that the affairs of the B.O.A.C. were not really his concern. He said that it had got together with Cunard and made an arrangement, and that the Ministry had subsequently been consulted and had approved the arrangement. Similar remarks were made by the Minister of Defence when he was Minister of Aviation.
The Minister of Aviation is wholly and completely responsible for the Air 535 Corporations. There is no question about this, because Section 5 of the Air Corporations Act, 1949, says:The Minister may, after consultation with any of the corporations, give to that corporation directions of a general character as to the exercise and performance by that corporation of their functions in relation to matters appearing to the Minister to affect the national interest; and the corporation shall give effect to any such directions.It is time that the Government stopped trying to abdicate their responsibility for the affairs of the corporations, because they are wholly responsible for them.
§ Mr. Cronin
It is quite clear what is meant. The Minister has full powers to issue directions to the Air Corporations. One tenet of Government policy is to abdicate their responsibility and place it in the hands of businessmen, but the Government have full legal powers to control the Corporations.
I now want to refer to an aircraft which other horn. Members have mentioned earlier—the VC10. This is an excellent aircraft, which has powerful rear jet engines, and will take the place of the Boeing 707. It will make a tremendous difference to our North Atlantic trade. I want to tell hon. Members something of the history behind the ordering of this aircraft. We know that B.O.A.C. has ordered 30 super VC10s and 12 VC10s, but news recently broke in the Press that the Corporation might have to cancel orders for this aircraft because it did not have an aircraft which could make the London-Los Angeles flight without stopping—an aircraft with a range of 6,000 miles.
We were told that the Corporation had asked Vickers to design a special VC10 which could operate over this range, and 'that Vickers had been given until the autumn to produce it, failing which the Corporation would order aircraft from the United States. The importance of this 6,000-mile range aircraft is that it brings in trade from the west coast of the United States.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I am sure that the hon. Member does not want deliberately to mislead the Committee. He is not rendering a useful service to British 536 aviation in what he is saying. It is a question not of designing a new aircraft but of stretching the range of an existing one to meet a requirement which has arisen since the original order was placed.
§ Mr. Cronin
I fully accept that. Perhaps I did not make myself clear. It is a question of adapting the VC10 so that it will have a range of 6,000 males, and I am confident that it will be done. The hon. Member can rest assured about that. But I am concerned with what happened in collection with the ordering of a 6,000-mile range aircraft.
Pan-American Airways has ordered five of these aircraft from the United States, and they will go into service in the spring of 1963. T.W.A. —the principal rivals of Pan-American Airways— has also ordered five, and Air France and Lufthansa have ordered four and two respectively, which will go into service in the spring of 1964. B.O.A.C. has reached the stage merely of asking Vickers to produce a modification of the VC10 by the autumn. That means that we shall be about two years behind our rivals in putting into service an aircraft with a range which will enable it to carry trade from the west coast of the United States, which is about one-eighth of the total of the Transatlantic trade.
There is one particularly unfortunate circumstance about this situation. I am sure that the hon. Member for Maccles-field (Sir A. V. Harvey), who is familiar with technician aviation questions, will agree with me on this. Two years ago it was well known, and was reported in the aviation Press, that the Americans had developed an aircraft with a range of 6,000 miles. But the Ministry of Aviation did nothing about it until this year.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
Surely that is not the job of the Ministry. It is the job of the Corporation to forecast the type of aircraft that it requires for the future. If the business is to succeed its day-today running must be left to the executives of the Corporation and not to the Minister.
§ Mr. Cronin
The ordering of aircraft is a major matter of policy for which the Minister is directly responsible. 537 There is no escaping from that. I will carry the matter a little further. The Corporation has to go to the Minister direct for dollars and for any capital it wants to borrow. In fact, in May last year it went to the Minister in order to obtain capital to buy two Boeings, which did not have a range of 6,000 miles. The Minister must have been fully aware of the situation then. It was mentioned in the aviation Press two years ago. Here we have a clear example where we are behind all our rivals on the North Atlantic trade. We are liable to lose, at least temporaily, one-eighth of that trade. If there is an increased deficit in B.O.A.C., the fault will lie very much at the door of the Government.
Now, we come to the B.O.A.C.-Cunard merger, on which so many hon. Gentlemen have expressed their views. I can only join with my hon. Friend the Member for Newton in condemning the way in which is was announced to the House about three weeks after it took place. This is not the first time that this has happened. On remembers that a few months ago the Fairey Rotodyne was cancelled, and millions of pounds of public money were thrown away, and this information was given in a casual Answer to a back bench Member's Question. There must often be occasions when Ministers have to give disagreeable news to the House, but the honourable and proper thing is for them to come to the Dispatch Box and make a statement. It is time that the Government learned to do this.
One can look at the reasons for the B.O.A.C.-Cunard merger. There is one very obvious reason, to which every hon. Gentleman has referred directly or indirectly, and that is fear of what the Government were going to do. We know that the whole fear of B.O.A.C. was that a licence would be given to Cunard-Eagle to operate on its North Atlantic route. Each daily service given to Cunard-Eagle would cost the Corporation £5 million, and, obviously, no business firm run on commercial lines could possibly stand up to a situation in which millions of pounds of its revenue were being drained away. This would have been the direct result of the Civil Aviation (Licensing) Act, 1960, if the Minister of Defence had not intervened and revoked the licence. But, after he 538 had revoked the licence, Cunard-Eagle decided that they would apply again, as they knew that there would be another Minister and other circumstances, in which there was a very good chance that they would get the licence. Therefore, B.O.A.C. has been driven into this merger simply by the Civil Aviation (Licensing) Act, 1960, of the baneful consequences of which we warned the Government at the time.
British Overseas Airways is run by a first-class Corporation. It is run very well indeed by men of very high quality, but they have the Government sitting on their shoulders like the Old Man of the Sea, and that is their difficulty. That is the explanation of it. The time has come when we have to ask the Government to consider amending the Civil Aviation (Licensing) Act, 1960. I will not develop this theme, because it would be out of order in Committee of Supply, but I hope that the Minister will make sure that he never again allows to pass a situation in which independent airlines are able to take away some of the routes of the Air Corporations and increase the deficits with which we are to be faced, because it is public money which has to be found to meet these unfortunate acts of policy on the part of the Government.
B.O.A.C. has to face very severe competition on the North Atlantic. It has to face Pan-American, which has very large contracts from the United States Government for running the Cape Canaveral base, for freighting and carrying troops, and also T.W.A., which also has large contracts with the United States Army for freighting and carrying troops. These are massive subsidies which are given to Pan-American and T.W.A. and which certainly have no counterpart on our side of the Atlantic. It is very unfair that B.O.A.C should have to face not only this subsidised competition, but also this heavy burden —this menace—placed on its shoulders by the Government.
No other country countenances that. The whole tendency in other countries is to have one airline, and no rivals of any kind except at the fringe. Air France, Lufthansa, S.A.S. are all complete airlines on their own account, and the only two American airlines running in competition are heavily subsidised—
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
The hon. Gentleman should remember the very considerable volume of trade carried from America by Seaboard and Western, and Flying Tigers, in particular. They carry a very large proportion of the air freight trade which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is very remunerative.
§ Mr. Cronin
I know that some of the American freight trade is carried by other companies, but most of it is carried by companies supported by disguised but heavy subsidies from the United States.
I must make it clear that we on this side have nothing against the independent air companies. They have done excellent work up to now, particularly in car ferrying, in trooping and in freight work, and they have not been badly treated. They have reached the stage where B.U.A. has capital assets of £17 million. It has certainly improved its position very considerably since it started, in spite of its apparent handicaps.
What we want to know is what the future is for B.O.A.C. In the Financial Times of 7th June, 1962, one reads:Sir Mathew Slattery remarked at the conference that in principle he would not be unwilling to consider suggestions for similar integration with other shipping companies with air interests.Does that mean that B.O.A.C. is to form similar mergers? It is most important to have an answer to that question. Are we to see B.O.A.C. gradually become a partly privately-owned company? There is no escaping the fact that already one-ninth of it is now in private shareholders' hands.
What will be the future of B.E.A.? We know that there are pending some appeals in relation to licences on B.E.A. routes, and we also know that B.E.A. is likely to have a substantial deficit this year. If those licences are granted, or if there is the threat of their being granted, there is quite a case for B.E.A. to join up with some private company. Is B.E.A. also to be in some merger? We want to be quite certain that there will be no attempt to denationalise the Air Corporations by the back door—and that is something that cannot be dismissed. The Parliamentary Secretary may laugh, but already one-ninth of B.O.A.C. has been denationalised, and that process could 540 continue unless we in the House make sure that it does not continue.
Finally, I address myself to the effects of the B.O.A.C.-Cunard merger in relation to the public interest. As I have already mentioned, there were certain advantages in the merger. It removed a danger from Cunard-Eagle. It also provided B.O.A.C. with two Boeings and the spares, but as B.O.A.C. cannot use its own Boeings sufficiently on the Atlantic, that seems to be rather a doubtful gift. It has secured for B.O.A.C. the Cunard-Eagle routes, but as Cunard-Eagle lost £1¾ million on them last year that, again, is perhaps a dubious bargain. There is, of course, some prospect of freight from Cunard sources but that, again, must be largely —almost entirely—steamship freight. It seems that there are substantial disadvantages to the public interest from the merger. We all know that B.O.A.C. has handed away 30 per cent. of its revenue from the North Atlantic route.
§ Mr. Cronin
Last year was the first time a loss occurred on the North Atlantic route. It was the most profitable route until then, and it increased in profitability each year for B.O.A.C. by about 20 per cent. If the hon. Member for Macclesfield reads the decision of the Air Transport Licensing Board, he will find that that Board estimated that the revenue from the North Atlantic route for B.O.A.C. would increase by 15 per cent. to 20 per cent. each year until 1968.
As I say, B.O.A.C. has handed away 30 per cent. of a substantial revenue for what is a poor bargain. We know, too, that B.O.A.C. is obtaining no share of the Cunard revenue. That all goes to Cunard shareholders. B.O.A.C. receives no share of the Cunard-Eagle revenue resulting from chartering, freighting or trooping. Cunard-Eagle is now indirectly subsidised in competition with B.E.A. by the sister-corporation, B.O.A.C, as a result of the merger.
We know that the Board of the new company now consists of only five B.O.A.C. directors and four Cunard directors—and two of those are concerned with steamships. We also know that B.O.A.C.-Cunard is now committed to selling both sea and air travel and 541 that this rather specious story which has been put around that B.O.A.C. will gain from this association is quite unfounded because Cunard will do the gaining since B.O.A.C. must also sell shipping space.
The important thing to remember is that in the last fifteen years many millions of pounds of public money has been spent on developing the North Atlantic route. The Cunard shareholders will get a substantial share of the results of that investment. B.O.A.C. is public property and everyone in Britain is proud of it. It belongs to all of us as a national corporation and the Government have handed out a large section of it to the shareholders of the Cunard Company.
It seems to me that the Government has failed in a trust. It was his job to look after this nationalised corporation, a large section of which he has handed away. This sort of thing, in principle, has happened time and again. When they have had to make a choice between the public benefit and powerful commercial interests, the Government have always been on the side of big business. We have seen this happen in the arrangements for Independent Television, by the Rent Act and by the unrestricted speculative boom in the property market. Commercial interests are now influencing the Minister of Aviation in a powerful and prejudicial way affecting the whole aircraft industry.
I see no future prospect of the Air Corporations and the aircraft industry competing effectively until we have a change of Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Wholesale political assassination is not the remedy. That is not a change of Government. We want a new Prime Minister, a new Government and an early General Election.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation (Mr. Basil de Ferranti)
I had the good fortune only last week to be called in a debate and I honestly thought on that occasion that I should then be able to knock off until the Recess. However, I now find myself back in the fortunate position of having caught your eye, Sir William, and I should like to thank the hon. Members for Newton (Mr. Lee) and Lough- 542 borough (Mr. Cronin) and many of my hon. Friends who have welcomed the arrival of my right hon. Friend and myself in our present positions.
I thought that the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) rather spoiled this happy atmosphere in that he did not give my right hon. Friend a very good welcome. He said that my right hon. Friend should have taken the trouble to digest his brief, even though he had not had long in which to do it. During the 12 hours only in which I have been able to see my right hon. Friend at work I can assure the Committee that his digestion has been remarkably good. He has been able to absorb a great deal of information. I think that he was being modest in his speech when foe said he had not been able to digest it all.
The hon. Member for Newton was kind enough to mention that I had some small advantage in having some familiarity with the complicated technical language of the Ministry of Aviation. It is true that if I saw an article headed "Semi-active Guidance" I would not necessarily assume it to be an article criticising the Government, or if I saw one headed "Boot-strap Gyro" I would not think that it necessarily had anything to do with the Liberal Party.
However, I face one problem which I feel it is right to mention to the Committee. Although I expect that hon. Members opposite will be anxious to assure me that it will not be long before I return, I must separate the relationship I have with my family business. With due confidence in the future, I am taking steps to ensure that no possible conflict of interest could arise. As for the relationship between my former business and my present Ministry, I wish the business well but would point out that I will put as much effort into the rôle of gamekeeper as up to now I have put into the rôle of poacher.
We have listened to many interesting and valuable speeches which have given my right hon. Friend and I many ideas about the views of hon. Members on the Department and its functioning. I hope that hon. Members whose speeches I do not cover during the short time I have available to answer the debate will excuse me. One speech which we have missed is the speech which no doubt 543 the Committee was looking forward to hearing from the hon. Member for More-cambe and Lonsdale, but having read with great interest a preview of what he would have said I am glad to have this early opportunity of replying to it. I would only quote in reply a card which I once saw in an office in New York. It read: "If you think you know what is going on round here you clearly do not understand the situation".
A most important subject was raised during the debate, more particularly by my hon. Friends who represent Belfast, in two very good speeches. I congratulate particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mrs. McLaughlin) who I thought put the case extremely well. The problem faced in Belfast is fundamentally the problem of Northern Ireland. The fact that there is 8 per cent. unemployment is serious, but it is a Northern Irish problem. I think that fair critics would agree that Government policy has done a great deal to help the underdeveloped areas in the United Kingdom. In fairness, the Ministry of Aviation within its limitations has also played its part, and indeed the hon. Member for Belfast, West accepted this and accepted that a lot has been done. However, this is not to say that the situation in Northern Ireland is satisfactory; 8 per cent. unemployment cannot be regarded by the Government as satisfactory.
From the point of view of the Ministry of Aviation, the present 10 Belfast aircraft that have been ordered meet exactly the need for the R.A.F. strategic freight lift, and this requirement is in accordance with the plans laid down by the Chiefs of Staff. It is future requirements that are now under consideration, and it is to the future requirements that my right hon. Friend will give his urgent attention.
I am glad that points have been raised in favour of the Belfast aircraft. I think it is right that hon. Members should make their points genuine sales points in favour of the aircraft and should endeavour to sell the aircraft on the basis of its price, performance and specification. We have had some very remarkable performances in technical salesmanship during the course of the debate.
544 However, it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Aviation to take a balanced view of its purchases of aircraft. My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) particularly brought this point out. There are many considerations which must be taken into account when a decision is being made to purchase an aircraft. I therefore ask hon. Members not to lose heart over the situation. The matter is being actively considered by the Government at the moment and it will be the very first duty of my right hon. Friend to apply himself to this problem with the greatest possible urgency.
There are always some rays of hope in this situation. I have found in my previous incarnation that, alas, due to the incompetence of statesmen around the world, defence is really a very stable business. I wish that this were not so, but orders keep coming up for defence requirements.
We also understand the points that are being put forward from the point of view of Northern Ireland. The Government clearly realise the urgency of this situation and are doing all in their power to think of ways in which the situation can be assisted. But I must stress that it is clearly impossible for my right hon. Friend to come to a decision today.
§ Mr. de Ferranti
The hon. Member for Gloucester, commenting on my right hon. Friend's digestive capabilities, asked why he could not reach a decision today. It would not be in the best interests of Short Bros, of Northern Ireland or of the nation for rash and rapid decisions to be taken which might well result in the situation worsening rather than improving.
§ Mr. Diamond
This matter has been before the Ministry for a long time. As for the hon. Gentleman's comment about things being worse, there could surely be nothing worse for the board of directors of this company than not to know what the position is.
§ Mr. de Ferranti
The hon. Member has missed the point. I am referring to my right hon. Friend. It would clearly be rash of him to make a decision today. I have said that my right hon. Friend will look at this problem 545 with the greatest possible urgency and that he realises how necessary it is for the management to have an early decision. This he undertakes to do his best to provide.
§ Captain L. P. S. Orr (Down, South)
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend's maiden speech from the Dispatch Box, but could he, irrespective of this decision for which we are waiting, reiterate the pledge given by his predecessors, namely, that Short Bros, will be maintained as a balanced design and production unit in the future, irrespective of this immediate decision?
§ Mr. de Ferranti
If the hon. Member looked at the assurances which have been given on this point, he would see that they have been carefully guarded. If I gave another assurance on the point, I would, no doubt, be carefully guarded myself too. Therefore, I would rather stick to what I have said. It is clear that we are willing to do our best over this problem and my right hon. Friend should be allowed the opportunity to do so. I wish that I could say more.
Many other hon. Members have spoken in the debate and I hope that I may have an opportunity now to pass to the subject of air safety, which concerns the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) particularly. [HON. MEMBERS: "All of us."] As I was about to say, everybody is concerned at this problem. It is important to take a balanced look at it. When the hon. Member goes in his motor car, he is running greater risks than when he goes in an aeroplane. I trust, therefore, that with the interest that he has in safety, he does up his safety belt when he gets into his motor car and practises what he preaches.
§ Mr. Rankin
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that in air travel, we lack one thing that is present in all other forms of travel—what I call crash survivability?
§ Mr. de Ferranti
I accept the point, although I am not really sure what it means.
Up to a point, we are all cowards when we get into an aeroplane. We are, therefore, interested in knowing that everything possible is being done to ensure passengers' safety in the air. Per- 546 haps I may tonight reassure the Committee in the same way that I have reassured both myself and my wife about what goes on to ensure passengers' safety.
The first and most important people are the crew and the pilot. That is not to infer that they are most responsible for accidents—not at all. The important thing is that they should be looked after in every way possible and my right hon. Friend therefore endorses the policy suggested in the recently-published White Paper. This has been followed up in several ways—for instance, through the air training college at Hamble, where the Government have made a contribution of £200,000 to the running costs in the last two years. This provides a valuable institution and will give that incentive to air training and to the careful selection of pilots which will be invaluable to the future health of the industry.
Another important aspect concerning the pilots is route familiarisation. It is a condition of the air operator's certificate that the necessary procedures on route familarisation be carried out. As I know, however, from my brief sojourn in the Home Office as Parliamentary Private Secretary, it is enforcement that matters. In this connection, the Ministry is appointing five more flight operations inspectors who will be able to ensure that the regulations are being fully carried out.
§ Mr. Brockway
Is one of the concerns for the pilots the increasing of the charges for their six-monthly licence by over 300 per cent.?
§ Mr. de Ferranti
In quoting the figure of 300 per cent., the hon. Member is giving a false impression. If I said £11 a year, it might, perhaps, bring it into perspective.
§ Mr. de Ferranti
This is a most important subject which is of interest to the whole nation and I hope that the hon. Member will allow me to continue.
§ Mr. de Ferranti
Various other things can be done to help. These include the provision of various aids. Electronics 547 is coming greatly to the help of the pilot. We have heard about the auto-land system, for example, from my right hon. Friend, who trusted himself to it earlier in the year. In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield, who raised the point, the military requirements of both auto-flare and auto-land are going ahead as planned. Concerning the Trident, however, the auto-land aspect is still under discussion. I am advised that these discussions are unlikely to delay the eventual date of introduction of both auto-flare and auto-land into commercial service. There are considerable commercial problems involved which it would be right to examine fully. Other things can be done to help, as hon. Members know. I assure the Committee that the very greatest consideration is being given in the Ministry to all aspects of the problem of air safety.
The hon. Member for Govan spoke about Abbotsinch Airfield. My right hon. Friend is going to Scotland on 24th July and he will be able to discuss the matter fully then. My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield spoke about the Trident. I can tell him that the Trident 1D and 1E are to go ahead; a decision in their favour has been made. Furthermore, the Dart engines for the Avro 748 are now being discussed with Rolls-Royce and there is a prospect of agreement being successfully reached.
I come now to the merger of Cunard and B.O.A.C. In any competitive system—I know this from my business experience—survival is a continual problem. Hon. Members opposite always think in terms of gross profits being made by big business, but survival is a very real problem, survival both for the company and for the people which it employs. Survival is a real problem in the case of B.O.A.C. and Cunard.
§ Mr. de Ferranti
I am glad that some hon. Members accept the existence of the instinct for survival.
In the airline business there is great competition, but there are economies of scale which are possible by which efficiency can be increased for instance by the full utilisation of capacity and of maintenance facilities, selling effort, 548 services and so forth. It seems to me that in this case the managers of both companies, in their own commercial opinion, have done the right thing. B.O.A.C. has gained Cunard's equipment, personnel, experience and, above all, its enormous standing and sales effort in the United States of America. Cunard, in its turn, will be able to maintain a position based on a long tradition on the Atlantic which it should not be denied.
As I see it, Parliament set up nationalised industries to serve the public. By taking commercially sensible decisions, the managers of these two businesses are serving the public. In both cases, the sensible thing is being done.
§ Mr. Cronin
The hon. Gentleman should make clear to the Committee that B.O.A.C. has said at all times that it would never have contemplated this merger if it had not had the burden of the Civil Aviation Licensing Act, 1960, which was put upon it by this Government.
§ Mr. de Ferranti
It seems to me that, as a result of that Act and as a result of Government action, we have now a much more competitive British airline on the North Atlantic than ever before. The hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) complained about the statute. The statute under which this is done was passed in 1949 when the Labour Government were in power, so that it should hardly give hon. Members opposite cause for complaint.
It has not been possible for me to deal as I should have liked with all the points and important issues which have been raised. I have learned a great deal from the debate. I have realised the difficulty of survival. However, I think that it would not be inappropriate in closing the debate to mention one aspect of the work of the Department about which I feel very concerned. We have heard a lot about what are really short-term problems. They are very real but they are none the less short-term. What we must realise is that, in the longer term, this country's very survival depends upon technology. It has depended upon technology in war in the past and it depends upon technology in peace today. This has probably always been 549 true. Some centuries ago, we made great advances in the wool trade. Today, the Lord Chancellor sits upon the Woolsack. There were Mr. Townsend's famous turnip, which is always quoted to schoolchildren, Watt's steam engine, Faraday's electromagnetic induction and, in more recent times, Professor Williams' cathode ray tube memory.
This is typical of why hon. Members opposite are not getting their points across to the country. [Laughter.] I know that in my constituency and in my business people are looking to Parliament to use technology to bring these benefits to us all. What do hon. Members opposite do? They fool about playing a stupid game of politics— [Laughter.] This is a real point. It may seem amusing here and now, but technology is our very means of survival. The Ministry of Aviation controls a very great deal of this nation's technological resources and, therefore, has a very grave responsibility for our future prospects.
There are so many subjects of importance to the Ministry of Aviation which reflect this position. For instance, there is the problem of supersonic aircraft. This may sound very dull after the great excitements of a true political debate, but it is probably on our success with
§ supersonic aircraft and other technological developments that the incomes of hon. Members' constituents depend. The profits of shareholders are, of course, important because on them depends the employment of employees; and I hope that hon. Members will remember that.
§ These sound dull subjects, but they are of vital importance to us. We must catch some of the excitement of the technical advances which are being made. We must realise what is in store for us. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I was thinking of something else in which hon. Members might be interested, namely, their pockets, which, indeed, will be affected if we are unable to seize the opportunities which are available to us. Certainly my right hon. Friend and I will put forward our very best endeavours to get this Department of ours to play its maximum possible rôle in the life of the nation, and I hope that in so doing we shall have the support of our hon. Friends.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 191, Noes 250.553
|Division No. 249.]||AYES||[9.29 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Dalyell, Tam||Hannan, William|
|Alnsley, William||Darling, George||Harper, Joseph|
|Albu, Austen||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Hart, Mrs. Judith|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hayman, F. H.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Herbison, Miss Margaret|
|Awbery, Stan||Deer, George||Hill, J. (Midlothian)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Delargy, Hugh||Hilton, A. V.|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Dempsey, James||Holman, Percy|
|Beaney, Alan||Diamond, John||Hoosen, H. E.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Dodds, Norman||Houghton, Douglas|
|Bence, Cyril||Donnelly, Dosmond||Hoy, James H.|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Benson, Sir George||Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Blackburn, F.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Hunter, A. E.|
|Blyton, William||Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Boardman, H.||Evans, Albert||Janner, Sir Barnett|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Fernyhough, E||Jeger, George|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W.(Leics, S.W.)||Finch, Harold||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)|
|Bowles, Frank||Fitch, Alan||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Boydon, James||Fletcher, Eric||Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech(Wakefield)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Bradley, Tom||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Forman, J. C.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Brockway, A, Fenner||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Galpern, SirMyer||Kelley, Richard|
|Callaghan, James||Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Chapman, Donald||Gourlay, Harry||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Cliffe, Michael||Greenwood, Anthony||Lawson, George|
|Corbet, Mr. Freda||Grey, Charles||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Cronin, John||Grimond, Rt. Hen. J.||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)|
|Crosland, Anthony||Gunter, Ray||Lubbock, Eric|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mabon, D. J. Dickson|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||MacColl, James|
|MacDermot, Niall||Parkin, B. T.||Snow, Julian|
|Mclnnes, James||Paton, John||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Mackie, John (Enfield, East)||Pavitt, Laurence||Spriggs, Leslie|
|McLeavy, Frank||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Steele, Thomas|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Peart, Frederick||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Pentland, Norman||Stones, William|
|Manuel, Archie||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Strachey, Rt. Hon. John|
|Mapp, Charles||Popplewell, Ernest||stross,Dr.Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Marsh, Richard||Prentice, R. E.||Swain, Thomas|
|Mason, Roy||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Taverne, D.|
|Mayhew, Christopher||Rankin, John||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Mellish, R. J.||Redhead, E. C.||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Mendelson, J. J.||Reid, William||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Millan, Bruce||Reynolds, G. W.||Thornton, Ernest|
|Milne, Edward||Rhodes, H.||Tomney, Frank|
|Monslow, Walter||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Moody, A. S.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Warbey, William|
|Moyle, Arthur||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Weitzman, David|
|Mulley, Frederick||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Neal, Harold||Rogers, G. H. R, (Kensington, N.)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Ross, William||Willey, Frederick|
|Noel-Baker, Rt.Hn. Philip(Derby,S.)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Williams, LI. (Abertillery)|
|Oliver, G. H.||Short, Edward||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Oram, A. E.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Owen, Will||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Padley, W. E.||Skeffington, Arthur||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Slater Joseph (Sedgefield)||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Pargiter, R. G.||Small, William|
|Parker, John||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Irving and Mr. McCann|
|Aitken, W. T.||Costain, A. P.||Hiley, Joseph|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Coulson, Michael||Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)|
|Allason, James||Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian||Craddock, Sir Beresford||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Critchley, Julian||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hobson, Sir John|
|Balniel, Lord||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Holland, Philip|
|Barber, Anthony||de Ferranti, Basil||Hollingworth, John|
|Barlow, Sir John||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hopkins, Alan|
|Barter, John||Donaldson, cmdr. C. E. M.||Hornby, R. P.|
|Batsford, Brian||Doughty, Charles||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Drayson, G. B.||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John|
|Bell, Ronald||du Cann, Edward||Hughes-Young, Michael|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Duncan, Sir James||Hulbert, Sir Norman|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Eden, John||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Bidgood, John C.||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Biffen, John||Elliott, R.W.(Nwcastle-upon-Tyne,N.)||James, David|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Emery, Peter||Jennings, J. C.|
|Bingham, R. M.||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Errington, Sir Eric||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Farr, John||Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith|
|Bossom, Clive||Fisher, Nigel||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Box, Donald||Foster, John||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.|
|Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone)||Kerr, Sir Hamilton|
|Braine, Bernard||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Kimball, Marcus|
|Brewis, John||Freeth, Denzil||Kirk, Peter|
|Brooman-White, R.||Gardner, Edward||Kitson, Timothy|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Gilmour, Sir John||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Glover, Sir Douglas||Leather, Sir Edwin|
|Bryan, Paul||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Leburn, Gilmour|
|Bullard, Denys||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorser, N.)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Bullus, wing Commander Eric||Goodhew, Victor||Lilley, F. J P|
|Burden, F. A.||Gough, Frederick||Linstead, Sir Hugh|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Gower, Raymond||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R.||Longbottom, Charles|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Green, Alan||Longden, Gilbert|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Loveys, Walter H.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Gurden, Harold||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn|
|Channon, H.P.G.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Chataway Christopher||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||McLaren, Martin|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Hare, Rt. Hon. John||Maclead, Rt. Hn. lain (Enfield, W.)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Macpherson, Rt. Hn. Niall (Dumfries)|
|Cole, Norman||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere(Macclesf'd)||Maddan, Martin|
|Collard, Richard||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Maitland, Sir John|
|Cooke, Robert||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Markham, Major Sir Frank|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Hastings, Stephen||Marlowe, Anthony|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hay, John||Marshall, Douglas|
|Cordle, John||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Marten, Neil|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hendry, Forbes||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)|
|Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Rawlinson, Peter||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Maudllng, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Mawby, Ray||Rees, Hugh||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Renton, Rt. Hon. David||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Maydon, M.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Ridsdale, Julian||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey||Turner, Colin|
|Morgan, William||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Morrison, John||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Robson Brown, Sir William||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Neave, Airey||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Roots, William||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Orr-Ewing, C. Ian||Scott-Hopkins, James||Wakefield, Sir Wavell|
|Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Seymour, Leslie||Walder, David|
|Page, Graham (Crosby)||Sharples, Richard||Walker, Peter|
|Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Shepherd, William||Wall, Patrick|
|Partridge, E.||Skeet, T. H. H.||Webster, David|
|Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Peel, John||Smithers, Peter||Whitelaw, William|
|Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Pilkington, Sir Richard||Speir, Rupert||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Pitman, Sir James||Stevens, Geoffrey||Wise, A. R.|
|Pott, Percivall||Stodart, J. A.||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Studholme, Sir Henry||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Prior, J. M. L.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Profumo, Rt. Hon. John||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)|
|Proudfoot, Wilfred||Temple, John M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Pym, Francis||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret||Mr. Chichester-Clark and|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ It being after half-past Nine o'clock, The CHAIRMAN proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 16 (Business of Supply), to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the Vote under consideration.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ The CHAIRMAN then proceeded forthwith to put severally the Questions, That the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the several Classes of Civil Estimates, including Revised Estimates and Supplementary Estimates, and the total amounts outstanding in the Ministry of Defence Estimate, and in the Navy, the Army, and the Air Estimates, including Supplementary Estimates, be granted for the Services defined in those Classes and Estimates: and that sanction be given to the application of the sums temporarily authorised in respect of the Navy, Army and Air Services [Expenditure]:
§ CIVIL ESTIMATES AND SUPPLEMENTARY ESTIMATES, 1962–63
§ CLASS I
§ That a sum, not exceeding £58,143,000 be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1963, for 554 Expenditure in respect of the Services included in Class I of the Civil Estimates, namely:
|1.||House of Lords||178,000|
|2.||House of Commons||1,124,000|
|3.||Treasury and Subordinate Departments||2,474,000|
|4.||Privy Council Office||32,000|
|5.||Post Office Ministers||5,000|
|6.||Customs and Excise||13,933,000|
|8.||Exchequer and Audit Department||378,000|
|9.||Civil Service Commission||397,000|
|10.||Royal Commissions, etc.||324,000|
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ CLASS II
§ That a sum, not exceeding £91,056,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1963, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in Class II of the Civil Estimates, viz.:
|1.||Foreign Service (including a Supplementary sum of £50,000)||13,355,000|
|2.||Foreign Grants and Loans (including a Supplementary sum of £90,000)||9,203,000|
|4.||Commonwealth Relations Office (Revised sum) (including a Supplementary sum of £245,000)||6,225,000|
|5.||Commonwealth Grants and Loans (including a Supplementary sum of £4,178,000)||9,730,000|
|6.||Development and Welfare (Central African Office) (Revised sum)||1,950,000|
|7.||Colonial Office (Revised sum) (including a Supplementary sum of £240,000)||6,184,000|
|8.||Colonial Grants and Loans (Revised sum) (including a Supplementary sum of £1,263,000)||7,883,000|
|9.||Development and Welfare (Colonial Office) (Revised sum)||13,400,000|
|10.||Department of Technical Co-operation||17,898,000|
|11.||Commonwealth War Graves Commission||780,000|
|12.||Central African Office||1,796,000|
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ CLASS III
§ That a sum, not exceeding £88,939,400, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1963, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in Class III of the Civil Estimates, viz.: —
|2A.||Scottish Home Department (Revised sum)||900|
|3.||Home Office (Civil Defence Services)||7,314,000|
|4.||Scottish Home Department (Civil Defence Services)||980,000|
|5.||Police, England and Wales||45,559,000|
|7.||Prisons, England and Wales||14,477,000|
|9.||Child Care, England and Wales||2,756,000|
|10.||Child Care, Scotland||373,000|
|11.||Supreme Court of Judicature, &c.||500|
|13.||Legal Aid Fund||1,544,000|
|15.||Law Charges and Courts of Law, Scotland||334,000|
|16.||Supreme Court of Judicature, &c, Northern Ireland||61,000|
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ CLASS IV
§ That a sum, not exceeding £207,142,800, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on 556 the 31st day of March, 1963, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in Class IV of the Civil Estimates, viz.: —
|2.||Board of Trade (Pro motion of Trade, Exports and Industrial Efficiency and Trading &c, Services)||3,842,000|
|5.||Export Credits (Special Guarantees, &c.)||900|
|10.||Ministry of Transport||2,230,000|
|11.||Roads, &c, England and Wales||89,033,000|
|12.||Roads, &c, Scotland||13,217,000|
|13.||Transport (Shipping and Special Services)||681,000|
|14A.||Transport (British Transport Commission)||80,000,000|
|14B.||Transport (Railways and Waterways Board)||16,125,000|
|15.||Ministry of Power||2,013,000|
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ CLASS V
§ That a sum, not exceeding £255,850,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1963, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in Class V of the Civil Estimates, viz.: —
|1.||Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food||14,552,000|
|2.||Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland||5,176,000|
|3.||Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Agricultural Grants and Subsidies)||51,683,000|
|4.||Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland (Agricultural Grants and Subsidies)||9,081,000|
|5.||Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Agricultural Price Guarantees)||131,524,000|
|6.||Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland (Agricultural Price Guarantees)||19,173,000|
|7.||Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Agricultural and Food Services)||9,836,000|
|8.||Food (Strategic Reserves)||1,474,000|
|9.||Fishery Grants and Services||4,194,000|
|10.||Fisheries (Scotland) and Herring Industry||1,692,000|
§ Question put and agreed to.557
§ Class VI
§ That a sum, not exceeding £1,504,456,500, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1963, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in Class VI of the Civil Estimates, viz.:—
|1.||Ministry of Housing and Local Government||12,331,000|
|2.||Housing, England and Wales||46,139,000|
|4.||General Grant to Local Revenues, England and Wales (including a Supplementary sum of £5,457,000)||349,533,000|
|5.||General Grant to Local Revenues, Scotland||41,114,000|
|6.||Rate Deficiency, etc., Grants to Local Revenues, England and Wales||77,500,000|
|7.||Equalisation and Transitional Grants to Local Revenues, Scotland||13,966,000|
|8.||Ministry of Education||74,481,000|
|9.||Scottish Education Department (including a Supplementary sum of £1,075,000)||13,057,000|
|10.||Ministry of Education (Teachers' Superannuation)||900|
|11.||Scottish Education Department (Teachers' Superannuation)||900|
|12.||Ministry of Health||2,183,000|
|13a.||Department of Health for Scotland (Revised sum)||900|
|14.||National Health Service (Hospitals, etc., Services), England and Wales||265,352,000|
|15.||National Health Service (Executive Councils Services), England and Wales||113,259,000|
|16.||Miscellaneous Health and Welfare Services, England and Wales||24,957,000|
|17.||National Health Service (Superannuation), England and Wales||900|
|18.||National Health Service, etc., Scotland||51,956,000|
|19.||National Health Service (Superannuation), Scotland||900|
|20.||Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance||5,046,000|
|23.||National Assistance Board||123,114,000|
§ Question put and agreed to.558
§ Class VII
That a sum, not exceeding £104,268,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1963, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in Class VII of the Civil Estimataes, viz.:—
|1.||Universities and Colleges, etc. Great Britain (including a Supplementary sum of £5,819,000)||55,323,000|
|2.||Office of the Minister for Science (including a Supplementary sum of £28,000)||101,000|
|4.||Department of Scientific and Industrial Research||12,100,000|
|5.||Medical Research Council||3,742,000|
|6.||Agricultural Research Council||4,330,000|
|8.||Grants for Science||169,000|
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Class VIII
That a sum, not exceeding £3,434,997, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1963, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in Class VIII of the Civil Estimates, viz.:—
|2.||British Museum (Natural History)||403,000|
|4.||Victoria and Albert Museum||378,000|
|5.||Imperial War Museum||43,330|
|8.||National Maritime Museum||66,000|
|9.||National Portrait Gallery||30,000|
|12.||Royal Scottish Museum||69,000|
|13.||National Galleries of Scotland (including a Supplementary sum of £14,000)||54,000|
|14.||National Library of Scotland||65,667|
|15.||National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland||15,000|
|16.||Grants for the Arts||1,353,000|
§ Question put and agreed to.559
§ Class IX
§ That a sum, not exceeding £83,478,900, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1963, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in Class IX of the Civil Estimates, viz.:
|1.||Ministry of Works||4,904,000|
|2.||Public Buildings, etc., United Kingdom||22,920,000|
|3.||Public Buildings Overseas||2,879,000|
|4.||Houses of Parliament Buildings||251,000|
|6.||Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens||757,000|
|7.||Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments||849,000|
|8.||Rates on Government Property||11,070,000|
|9.||Stationery and Printing||10,699,000|
|10.||Central Office of Information||3,724,000|
|13.||Civil Superannuation, etc.||24,800,000|
|14.||Post Office Superannuation, etc||900|
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Class X
§ That a sum, not exceeding £4,757,400, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1963, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in Class X of the Civil Estimates, viz.:
|2.||Crown Estate Office||113.000|
|3.||Friendly Societies Registry||82,000|
|5.||National Debt Office||900|
|6.||Public Works Loan Commission||900|
|9.||War Damage Commission||198,000|
|10.||Office of the Registrar of Restrictive Trading Agreements||106.000|
|12.||Public Record Office||110,000|
|13.||Scottish Record Office||33,000|
|14.||Registrar General's Office||552,000|
|15.||Registrar General's Office, Scotland||58,000|
|16.||Department of the Registers of Scotland||900|
|17.||National Savings Committee||921,000|
§ Question put and agreed to.560
§ Class XI
§ That a sum, not exceeding £47,807,800, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1963, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in Class XI of the Civil Estimates, viz.:—
|2.||Carlisle State Management District||900|
|3.||State Management Districts, Scotland||900|
|4.||Pensions, &c. (India,Pakistan and Burma)||4,114,000|
|5.||Royal Irish Constabulary Pensions, &c||660,000|
|6.||Irish Land Purchase Services||560,000|
|10.||Repayments to the Civil Contingencies Fund||147,000|
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ MINISTRY OF DEFENCE ESTIMATE, 1962–63
§ That a sum, not exceeding £12,280,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1963, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Defence; expenses in connection with International Defence Organisations, including international subscriptions; and certain grants in aid.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ NAVY ESTIMATES AND SUPPLEMENTARY ESTIMATE. 1962–63
§ That a sum, not exceeding £285,194,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1963, for Expenditure in respect of the Navy Services, viz.:—
|1.||Pay, &c., of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines (Supplementary sum)||2,974,000|
|2.||Victualling and Clothing for the Navy (Supplementary sum)||13,000|
|3.||Medical Establishments and Services (including a Supplementary sum of £55,000)||1,566,000|
|4.||Civilians Employed on Fleet Services (including a Supplementary sum of £207,000)||8,777,000|
|5.||Educational Services (including a Supplementary sum of £22,000)||1,952,000|
|6.||Scientific Services (Supplementary sum)||206,000|
|7.||Royal Naval Reserves (including a Supplementary sum of £28,000)||1,252,000|
|8.||Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, &c.:-|
|Section I.-Personnel (including a Supplementary sum of £643,000)||48,906,000|
|Section II.-Materiel (including a Supplementary sum of £2,000)||71,273,000|
|Section III.-Contract Work (including a Supplementary sum of £105,000)||91,627,000|
|9.||Naval Armaments (including a Supplementary sum of £157,000)||25,553,000|
|10.||Works, Buildings Machinery and Repairs at Home and Abroad (Supplementary sum)||155,000|
|11.||Miscellaneous Effective Services (Supplementary sum)||3,000|
|12.||Admiralty Office (including a Supplementary sum of £337,000)||11,073,000|
|13.||Non-sffective Services (including a Supplementary sum of £131,000)||19,864,000|
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ ARMY ESTIMATES AND SUPPLEMENTARY ESTIMATE, 1962–63
§ That a sum, not exceeding £281,320,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1963, for Expenditure in respect of the Army Services, viz:
|1.||Pay, &c, of the Army (Supplementary sum)||5,350,000|
|3.||War Office (including a Supplementary sum of £230,000)||7,120,000|
|4.||Civilians (including a Supplementary sum of £2,170,000)||120,850,000|
|10.||Non-effective Services (Supplementary sum)||250,000|
§ Question put and agreed to.562
§ AIR ESTIMATES AND SUPPLEMENTARY ESTIMATE, 1962–63
§ That a sum, not exceeding £149,020,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1963, for Expenditure in respect of the Air Services, viz:
|1.||Pay, etc., of the Air Force (Supplementary sum)||4,750,000|
|3.||Air Ministry (including a Supplementary sum of £210,000)||6,060,000|
|4.||Civilians at Outstations and the Meteorological Office (including a Supplementary sum of £1,570,000)||46,070,000|
|10.||Non-effective Services (including a Supplementary sum of £220,000)||13,640,000|
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ NAVY EXPENDITURE, 1960–61
§ That sanction be given to the application of the sum of £9,989,092 3s. 6d. out of surpluses arising out of certain Votes for Navy Services for the year ended 31st March, 1961, to defray expenditure in excess of that appropriated to certain other Votes for those Services and to meet deficits in receipts not offset by savings in expenditure from the respective Votes as set out in and temporarily authorised in the Treasury Minute of 13th February, 1962 (H.C. 114) and reported upon by the Committee of Public Accounts in their Second Report (H.C. 210).
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ ARMY EXPENDITURE, 1960–61
§ That sanction be given to the application of the sum of £4,675,101 5s. 7d. out of surpluses arising out of certain Votes for Army Services for the year ended 31st March, 1961, to defray expenditure in excess of that appropriated to certain other Votes for those Services and to meet deficits in receipts not offset by savings in expenditure from the respective Votes as set out in and temporarily authorised in the Treasury Minute of 16th February, 1962 (H.C. 127) and reported upon by the Committee of Public Accounts in their Second Report (H.C. 210).
§ Question put and agreed to.563
§ AIR EXPENDITURE, 1960–61
§ That sanction be given to the application of the sum of £497,875 1s. 3d. out of surpluses arising out of certain Votes for Air Services for the year ended 31st March, 1961, to defray expenditure in excess of that appropriated to certain other Votes for those Services and to meet deficits in receipts not offset by a saving in expenditure from the same Vote as set out in and temporarily authorised in the Treasury Minute of 19th February. 1962 (H.C. 120) and reported upon by the Committee of Public Accounts in their Second Report (H.C. 210).
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported.
§ Report to be received Tomorrow;
§ Committee to sit again Tomorrow.