HC Deb 22 March 1962 vol 656 cc574-703

3.55 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)

I beg to move, That this House, gravely concerned at the position of the aircraft industry, calls for more efficient planning between Her Majesty's Government and the industry in order to eliminate the uncertainty which now prevails. During the last few years I have been engaged in "shadowing" various "earthly Ministers" and I now find myself elevated—I speak purely in a geographical sense—into the somewhat rarefied atmosphere in which the Minister for Aviation moves and has his being. Perhaps on this, the occasion of my "maiden speech" both this Session and on this subject, it may be appropriate if I start on a non-controversial note—in which both I and the Minister have a vested interest—and salute him with the delightful Irish greeting, "May your shadow never grow less.

The Motion which I now move depicts the anxieties felt throughout the whole of the aviation and aircraft industries by employers and employees. Much of that anxiety stems from the belief, which is indicated in the Motion, that there is a lack of efficient planning between the Government and industry. I notice that the Government have tabled an Amendment to the Motion. The Opposition, the people employed in the industry and, indeed, the employers, would accept the first part of it but I doubt whether the government could obtain support from any section of the industry for the second part, or for the contention that they make. Some people, including the employers, might well ask whether the 1957 White Paper was the first step in the process of promoting competitive efficiency.

We mention the question of planning. I wish to outline where we believe that improvements could be made. This is an extremely wide subject and I do not wish to attempt to cover too much of it, as other hon. Members wish to speak. I will, therefore, try to itemise some of our objections to the Government's lack of policy, and some of the issues which we feel are causing anxiety in the industry, and make some suggestions. In the sense in which we use the expression "need for planning" we believe that experience has shown that there is a need for a far more adequate interchange of information between the Government and the industry, including the need for far greater efficiency in market research.

Looking at the estimates and the methods of estimating, to which I shall refer later, we believe that there is a need for far greater efficiency in the way in which estimating is handled, and to put an end to the tendency of the Government to exaggerate production targets, and of the industry to understate or to underestimate costs. It would appear that the industry is trying to do far too many things and having to cancel many of them, after expenditure on a fairly large scale has been incurred. Therefore, we suggest a list of priorities.

The VTOL strike P1127 is, I understand, still not ordered into full-scale production. On the whole issue of vertical take-off and landing we are hopeful, our technicians and engineers having made such remarkable progress, that the industry will lead the world, to our great advantage from the point of view of exports and the domestic market. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to tell us what is delaying both the SC1 and the aircraft to which I have referred, the P1127, from going into full-scale production.

In our list of priorities we believe that the outstanding success which our industry has achieved in engine production has given us a pre-eminent position in world markets. This is something on which we should concentrate, to ensure that we maintain a very high standard—the standard which we have from our engine makers—in future types of aircraft.

There is a need to concentrate on a short-haul civil jet. Here, I make the same criticism of the number of projects begun without the Government specifying early enough in the life of these projects which of the many developments they believe should be proceeded with. I refer to the life of the projects and not to the life of the Government, which, I hope, is nearing its end.

We are in a commanding position on the hovercraft which would certainly justify a concentrated effort to put it into full-scale production at the earliest possible moment. In our list of priorities we have a question which I hope the Minister will say something about—that of the supersonic civil airliner. I know that he is about to engage in conversations with the French about a supersonic civil airliner, but a great deal of money has already been spent in Britain on getting the general theories right, and I should be grateful if the Minister would say as much as he can on how far we have made progress in the theory.

I know that we cannot begin in terms of an airframe and then try to fit very powerful engines to it. I have a little knowledge of engineering, and I know that we cannot do that. At the moment, we seem to be in a position in which the Government are dithering around on this without anyone being given a clear indication of what is the Government's intention.

We have by no means achieved the correct balance in the industry between production, on the one hand, and research and development, on the other. This is vital in a thousand ways. Certainly, until we have achieved that balance we cannot hope to get the employment targets right, whether we think in terms of numbers or in terms of types of skill.

These are the problems which are causing the gravest anxiety. After the announcement that this debate was to take place, I was surprised by the very large numbers of organisations of shop stewards, trade unions and employers who said how worried they are about the not-distant future unless some of the things which I am suggesting are done.

Turning to the question of contracts, surely it is not necessary to convince the Minister of the need for far better contract procedures than are revealed in the Estimates Committee's Report. I hope that he will say something about the need to develop incentive contracts, as is being done in the United States, to replace either cost-plus or fixed-price contracts, which often are very wasteful or have to be taken back when it is realised that the price is ridiculous. We believe that there is a need for a new look at contracting, especially in incentive contracts for those firms which are obviously doing an extremely good job.

Irrespective of whether the Minister argues that the industry is now rationalised to a degree which has made it satisfactory, I am sure that he will not argue that the sub-contractors have been rationalised at all. We hear of many cases in which the procedure on subcontracting and the results achieved are anything but satisfactory financially. Considering the time factor, they can be a most vital element in holding up delivery dates.

There is a need in this sense to create an effective public control system which at a comparatively early stage can cut out an obviously dated effort—dated in the sense that we know that something better is coming along—or, conversely, can prevent a firm from cutting out a programme on the ground that it is too expensive for that firm to handle, although it may well have great possibilities for the nation.

It should be possible, in the present structure of the industry—and until we hear that Mr. Clore has made a successful bid for the R.A.F.—to make these arrangements, because the vast majority of our customers ore public agencies, such as the Services or the great air Corporations.

While I am going through this list, I will try to itemise some of the issues which we believe threaten the future of the industry, some of which could have been avoided had we looked at them earlier. This includes insufficient export orders for developed aircraft. This of itself results in uneconomic short-run productive effort. Those of us who come from the engineering industry know that if we can achieve a far longer run on this type of project, costs can be slashed by large percentages. We believe that because of this lack of export orders we have reached a position in which uneconomic runs are prevalent in the industry.

I mentioned in another context the belated abandonment of costly projects. Much of this is done after initially underestimating the cost factors. If we start on that kind of wrong foot, by initially underestimating, maybe for devious reasons, and then the true economic costs hit us, there is a tendency for a belated abandonment as costs rise.

We believe that another issue which is of enormous consequence is the failure to make adequate arrangements with European countries while circumstances were so favourable some time ago. We know of the French approach to us. I will try to say a little more about that in a moment. We believe that this failure will put the industry in an extremely difficult position.

There is also excessive competition between types of projects and a complete lack of harmonisation between the Service and civil programmes. We should remember that the greatest success story in aviation, the Boeing, began as a Government tanker, and certainly on a Government programme, and was then taken from that programme to become the great airliner which we now know. That is a lesson. I well understand that the Services like to specialise on craft which are to their particular liking and that the air Corporations would like their own specifications. But we are not looking at the duality of these things half as much as we should. I hope that the Minister will say something today which will give us an assurance on that kind of thing.

New problems are arising which are inevitably inherent in an industry which is developing so technically and rapidly as is the aircraft industry. I suppose that lengthening development periods is one which springs most readily to mind. As the craft are becoming vehicles for far more electronic devices, there is a tendency for development periods to lengthen, and this can disturb the balance between development and production. On the same subject of the intricacies and types of gear being produced for aircraft, it means that cost is bound to increase. It may be that we are reaching a position in which the inadequate resources of the industry are a conditioning factor which is causing the industry not to take the kind of risk which otherwise it might well be able to take.

Perhaps looming over all is the competition of the Americans. These are great problems. I, as a novice, would not dream of trying to criticise the competent people who are handling our affairs in the aircraft industry, but it seems to me that we must develop a far better method between the Government and industry in facing up to these problems if we are to hold our own in the competitive world in which we live.

May I ask the Minister one or two questions on the new approach to aviation? In the international sphere, particularly, we see great changes taking place. The emphasis is on interdependence. How will this work out? I am interested principally in our own industry. Is the British industry to specialise on certain things? I have mentioned engines as being among our great successes. Or are we to have designated to us other types of work in which we have a first-class record? If, under interdependence, we specialise on certain types of projects in which we have excelled, what will be the effect on the remainder of the industry? What will be the effect on those parts which we are not likely to get? The question of shares in a venture of this type is important, and perhaps the Minister would let us know his thoughts about it.

Turning to the question of technical knowledge, if there is to be specialisation on certain parts of the industry it presupposes, does it not, that those who are developing those parts will, by the very nature of their development, get more "know-how" in those regions than those who are not developing them? It seems to me important that we should have a facility for an exchange of "know-how", technical achievement and knowledge throughout all the countries concerned, irrespective of the part of the industry in which they are specialising.

I know quite a number of industries but, looking at this industry, I feel that I have never come across another quite like it. From the economic point of view, I remember arguing on many occasions, especially when referring to exports, that in this country we can never base our prosperity on appeals for increased production unless we define more clearly the type of production on which we want people to work harder. They must be working harder to produce the right things.

The right things for us, in the context in which I am speaking, are commodities which require a high level of technical skill and are very sparing in their use of imported raw materials, for unless and until we effect this kind of conversion, increased exports will inevitably result in an increase in raw materials imports and a continuation of our balance-of-payment problems.

As far as I can see, the aircraft industry is excellently suited to the kind of objective which I have outlined. Over 90 per cent. of the value of our aircraft exports is pure export, compared with an average of 75 per cent. in manufacturing industry as a whole. Certainly, the levels of technical skill available in this country are very high. Very few other nations possess it in such ratios to the working population as we do. It is also the case—I am not boasting about it; indeed, I have certain reservations about it—that we get our very highly skilled labour at a far cheaper cost than do our principal competitors in the United States. This must be a very great advantage to us in the competition.

I know that there are offsets to this. The United States has certain great advantages—large numbers, large home population, indigenous raw materials, and so on. However, it is the case-here is one of the contradictions of this great industry—that, although it is a new and expanding industry, there is not an aircraft industry in the world, I believe, which is self-supporting. The economics of aircraft are all haywire anyway to a simple "bloke" like myself.

I have outlined the virtues of this great new industry in raw materials and skilled labour. Yet by the very nature of its products, it cannot stand on its own feet. I could understand this in older industries, where there might be a need to prop them up with public money, for industries are like ourselves—we reach our peak and then decline. However, I assure hon. Members that I am still on the way up.

Yet this industry has, apparently, never been in an economically solvent state. I suppose that that is in some degree because of the defence element in it in which we tend to hide a very poor economic situation on the civil side. But if we are to have a diminution on the defence side, the economic position of civil aviation will become very precarious indeed. We should begin to look at this.

In my criticisms I do not criticise the industry as such. Indeed, I pay tribute to those who have helped to build it up, irrespective of the job Which they do. Their record is very good indeed. The British industry is second only in size to that of the United States. The annual value of its exports of aircraft, aeroengines and parts from 1955 to 1961 was well over £150 million. [HON. MEMBERS: "Per year."] During the 1950s the industry—

Mr. Philip N. Hocking (Coventry, South)

The value has surely been £1,500 million during the last ten years or so.

Mr. Lee

If I did not say that, I am grateful to the hon. Member.

During the 1950s the industry produced many outstanding aircraft, such as the Comet and the Viscount, and a string of engines which established for themselves world-wide reputations. I understand that during that period more than 40 per cent. of the gas turbine airliners on order or delivered throughout the non-Communist world were British and that 55 types of non-British aircraft were powered by British aero-engines, which proves that there is no lack of knowledge or know-how in the industry.

Since 1957, the yearly value of gross output has been in excess of £550 million per annum, and there are now well over 300,000 people employed in the industry—a most impressive performance by an industry which is now the most vital part of our defence effort, and one upon which we rely heavily for exports.

I believe that much of the apprehension in the industry to which I have referred arises from the fact that it feels that it is now in a most dangerous phase, poised between two generations of civil aircraft. The Comet jets and the Vanguards and Viscount turbo-props are now tapering off. The Argosy freighter seems to be doing very well.

In respect of freighting, would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that one of the things which we could probably do would be to try to make our exporters feel more air-minded in moving their goods? At the moment they are not very air-minded. I believe there is now need for plenty of propaganda about this. I believe that delivery dates, quite as much as costs, will be the factor which will determine whether we can step up our export efforts.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

The point about sending exports by air is very important, but in most cases, or in a great many, the goods are bought f.o.b. London and the people to whom they are exported determine the way in which they shall be sent. It is almost invariably because cost plays such an important part in final distribution costs that they choose a cheaper method. However, a great many more goods are being sent by air if they are light and not bulky.

Mr. Lee

I am sure that the bon. Gentleman is right, but I do not think that we are doing enough. The hon. Gentleman is right when he talks about costs, but I am arguing about the delivery date factor in getting contracts. I believe that we are reaching the point when delivery dates will be an even more important issue than costs themselves. The Government can do far more about this. The other day B.E.A. flew some people out to Gibraltar and had a conference with them about air freight. I should like to see more done.

The Avro 748 has received a shot in the arm following the Minister's decision. What will be the effect on the Dart Herald I do not know. There has been a very large order from B.O.A.C. for the Vickers VC Super 10 and Standard 10–42 aircraft, comprising 30 Supers and 12 Standards, at a cost of £151 million, Other small orders have been given.

I should like the Minister to tell me whether when the Corporations or his Department are looking at cost factors or the number of aircraft to be ordered, or when they discuss these matters with the Services, they ever discuss the subject against the economic point, the break-even point in relation to profitability or loss. I read in the Press today something said by Sir Roy Dobson. It appears to me that it would be a good thing if we look seriously at the economic point rather than merely order as few as we can over a given period until they are proven. If we are to gamble—this £150 million expenditure on one aircraft is a great gamble—when we come to the point of investing we might as well give ourselves a chance of backing a winner rather than a good loser. I think that we may be losing out in some respects in not going as far as we can in guaranteeing the industry that it shall reach the point at which profitability is assured. These axe some of the criticisms which we feel can with justice be put to the Government.

Take the position of B.E.A. In the past, it has financed most of its very huge development costs from the profits made on its international routes. If it is now to be restricted by the Air Traffic Licensing Board and to be threatened by its decisions, none of us must complain if it does not look as far ahead as it has been able to do in the past. In other words, the Corporations cannot possibly spend huge sums of capital in anticipation of increased traffic for themselves at the same time as the licensing board is allowing independents to use the traffic routes which B.E.A. has built up and on the basis of the profitability of which it is spending very great sums of money.

If the demands of the independents are acceded to, by 1965–66 it will probably cost B.E.A. a loss of revenue of about £4½ million. This is a great threat to the industry as such, because had B.E.A. been faced with that kind of threat at the time it put so much into the introduction of the Viscount and the turbo-prop engine itself one of our most vital products might never have been adopted.

While we are arguing, apparently, that competition can be wider and give more benefit, I saw in the Financial Times today: C.A.B. to tackle air competition. Study of European and Atlantic routes. The fact is that in the United States, Civil Aeronatics Board is now initiating a major investigation into trans-Atlantic and European routes in order to cut out as between Pan-American and Trans-World airlines competition which may be damaging to each of them.

This is remarkable. We, with our limited resources, can afford to threaten our two great Corporations with more and more competition which is wasteful and uneconomic, while the mighty industry of the United States has now reached such a position that competition between its two greatest airlines has to be vetoed. We had better begin to look again at the question of competition.

B.E.A. has ordered 24 Tridents. I have not heard of any other sales or export orders. I was told the other day that the break-even point with the Trident would not come until about 120 had been sold.

These are very dangerous days for the aircraft industry, and I hope that the Minister will agree that there is need for a new look at the attitude. I compliment him on his own attitude to the B.O.A.C. decision, but I am very fearful about what might happen to B.E.A. unless he will agree that the independents are not justified in trying to take over some of the most profitable routes from B.E.A., routes on which B.E.A. has spent money.

Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)

The hon. Gentleman has referred to the Trident, which is recognised to be an excellent aircraft, but does he not appreciate that the design and specification have been tailored to suit the requirements of B.E.A. and not the independents and perhaps not foreign airlines? Had they been, perhaps further orders would have been forthcoming.

Mr. Lee

That is one of the weaknesses that I mentioned. But we have specialised in this kind of thing. Naturally, each of the power lobbies will ask for an opportunity to get their own specification. I mentioned the position of Boeing. I think that we have overdone this specialisation to the detriment of our hopes in foreign markets.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

My hon. Friend mentioned 24 Tridents. Are these sales? Have the contracts actually been signed?

Mr. Lee

I understand that they are sales. I understand that there is an option on 12 more, but B.E.A. has not yet taken it up and it will await the decision of the Minister on the licensing point before doing so.

Mr. Wigg

Twenty-four sales to B.E.A. or to whom? I thought that my hon. Friend suggested sales outside this country.

Mr. Lee

No, there are no export orders as far as I know. I understand that this has been the only one.

While we are on the question of exports, I would point out that our exports of military aircraft have simply nose-dived. If one looks at the overall figure of £150 million for exports of aircraft themselves, it looks stable compared with last year and the year before that, but it is a fact that on the military side exports of both combat and non-combat aircraft have collapsed since 1959—from 173 and 77 to 21 and 40 respectively in 1961. This failure of ours to get them away has come, I think, from the almost complete domination now of European markets by the Lockheed F104, to such an extent that it hardly seems possible for us to make a great deal of headway, certainly this year.

This is most peculiar. It is not simply the case that European aircraft industries are unable to get their stuff away. In fact, during the same period the French have built an aircraft industry, and their exports are mounting very well indeed. In 1956 their value was £25 million, in 1958 £30 million, in 1959 £33 million, in I960 £56 million, and for 1961 the estimate is £115 million.

Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

To put the picture into perspective, would not the hon. Gentleman agree that many of the countries to which we sold military aircraft in the 1950s—I am thinking in particular of South American countries, New Zealand and Central Africa—have not yet come to replace them? One would not expect to have repeated those sales yet because the original aircraft have not yet worn out.

Mr. Lee

But if the hon. Member is right about this, it means that this industry is condemned to be seasonal for the rest of time, and that is the point I was making about one generation going before the second generation is ready.

It is not the case that other European industries have done as badly as we have in exports. I instanced the French position and I should like to quote from the Financial Times of 17th August, 1961. It shows gravity of our position. This is what the paper said: There is hardly a major European aircraft and engine manufacturer which is not now linked in some way with the big American companies, and the United States aircraft industry as a whole has well over 100 commercial or financial agreements with companies in France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium and Hol- land—many more in fact than has the United Kingdom. The article then referred to the Lockheed Starfighter and suggested that its success was the direct result of such agreements. It added: Out of a world-wide total of around 1,500 Starfighters to be built outside the U.S.A. on licence, it is estimated that nearly 1,000 will be built in Europe, mainly in West Germany and Holland at an estimated outlay of 2,000 million dollars. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give us some idea how we shall break in on the European position. As it is, we are in the greatest difficulty over the future of exports of combat and non-combat planes and Tridents. We have already heard about the difficulties in estimating expenditure on research and development. I do not want to go over the whole business of how, whenever we start on anything, the estimates seem to go "haywire". I mention only how expenditure on Seaslug, Thunderbird, Firestreak, and Blue Streak rocketed in terms of estimates long before they were ready or were abandoned, as the case might be. What does the right hon. Gentleman propose to do about this estimating problem? Does he propose to follow the recommendations of the Zuckerman Committee on the Management and Control of Research and Development?

I should like to quote from that Report. It says: (a) All defence projects which lead to the development of weapon systems should normally be processed through the following stages:—

  1. (i) the formulation of a draft operational requirement (Staff Target), followed at an appropriate stage by an agreed operational requirement and the initial sketch of a technical specification;
  2. (ii) a feasibility study;
  3. (iii) a project study;
  4. (iv) and, finally, development itself."
I want to contrast this with the Third Report of the Estimates Committee on what has been happening here.

On the Air Supplementary Estimate, the Committee says, on page xiii, in paragraph 42: In the financial year 1961–62 the value of the production target figure arrived at was £101 million. The value of the delivery figure was £43.3 million, which was further reduced by £1.8 million for unallocated shortfall' making the final figure, used in the Estimates. £41.5 million. The Committee adds, in paragraph 43: The striking discrepancy between the production target and the value of expected deliveries has persisted for a number of years. The witnesses, in seeking to justify production targets, which were admittedly very optimistic and acknowledged to be unrealistic… told Sub-Committee G that if the production targets were modified the manufacturers of aircraft would relax their efforts and produce fewer aircraft. I should have thought that that was almost libellous. I know that Sir Roy Dobson has quite a temper. I should like to put that to him, provided that I was on the other side of some wire netting when I did it.

The Estimates Committee added: Your Committee are concerned not only at the persistent recurrence of inaccurate estimating, but also at the implications of a practice which appears to authorise manufacturers to base their preparations and sub-contracts on much larger quantities than those which the House authorises the departments to pay for. They therefore recommend that the whole system of procurement should be reviewed immediately. Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to accept the need for a complete review of the whole system?

I should like to push this matter home by quoting one or two questions and answers reported in the Minutes of Evidence. Gilbert and Sullivan could not have done half as well. For instance, on page 56 of the Report, there is this against Question 491: Could you elaborate on this idea that the programme is perpetually behind? Do I understand it right, that when you come to make an estimate, you do not put down what you have ordered, but the amount you think you are likely to get, which is miles below what you have ordered?—That is right, Sir. Question 492 reads: What sort of difference is there in magnitude between what you expect to get and what you have ordered?—On this vote as a whole, what we reckon is £100 million difference. That was the amount of shortfall we applied when we framed our estimate. I think that the Committee had become a little boggle-eyed at the thought of £100 million being tossed around as the difference between an Estimate and what one got.

Question 493 reads: To get this clear: covering what categories besides aero engines, frames and so on?—The great bulk of this money is, in fact, on the air frame and aero engine programmes where the supply department, the Ministry of Aviation, set the aircraft firms what they call production targets. I emphasise those words "what they call". The right hon. Gentleman ought to look at this sort of nonsense which passes for estimating in an industry which handles such huge sums of public money.

There is a further question and answer which I should like hon. Members to hear. This is Question 498: In other words, you feel it right to put in your estimates—and I am not challenging the wisdom of doing so"— said the very charitable questioner—

only 60 per cent. of what the Air Force would like the manufacturers to produce?—That is right. This, of course, is something that we have been doing for years past; there is nothing new in this particular principle. It is something we have to do to avoid overestimating, in the light of past experience. The questioner went on, in Question 499. to ask: Is it not reasonable to suppose that if, year after year, you cannot get nearer than 60 per cent. of your target, then there is something wrong with your target?—The target is something which is set there for people to try their best to reach, and if you get your target lower you of course will get a smaller achievement still.… But, having said that, undoubtedly there is quite a substantial shortfall element here. It is not fair to the House of Commons that we should be asked to pass sums of this kind when we have so-called Estimates based on the kind of thing that I have just read to the House.

I should like to refer the House to the Rotodyne as an example of lack of decision leading to uncertainty. We all know now that the project has been cancelled. Westlands Aircraft (Fairey Division), where much of the work was done, employs about 2,000 people, including 800 production workers. As recently as two months ago the management were going ahead with retooling and they based their whole floor programme round the Rotodyne. Cancellation leaves them with grossly inadequate work in relation to the floor space, and within a few months workers will be faced with unemployment. Is it true that lack of decision by the Government on inter-city communication and noise has been an important factor in B.E.A. refusing to order the Rotodyne? After seven years of work and £11 million of public money lost, this is a remarkable decision at this stage.

I notice that in the defence debate on 6th March the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) said: When I was Secretary of State for Air, in 1956, I thought that I had put the Rotodyne out of the military programme, which was already overloaded, but three years later my successor rose at the Dispatch Box and talked about the forces having the Rotodyne. At the end of the day, in 1962, we are told that there is no Service or civil demand for it, and that the project is cancelled."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 6th March, 1962; Vol. 655, c. 261.] So, in 1956, it was out, in 1959 it was in, and in 1962 it is out again. Could we have information about this project which was known by the right hon. Member for Flint, West as long ago as 1956 to be an overdone success—if I may put it that way? Why is it the Government have messed about with it and that we have not had a decision to cut it far earlier? The firm which had based its programme around the Rotodyne put out other programmes which could have gone on in place of it.

As to the mergers, the Tories won the 1959 General Election on the virtues of competitive private enterprise. Then the present Minister for part of our Commonwealth relations was given the task of eliminating a great deal of private enterprise from the industry. We had the shotgun marriages because it appeared to him that the structure which the firms had produced was not adequate for the industry.

I have talked about the wasteful nature of our research and design. It is not, in fact, the kind of structure which can deliver the goods we require. I mentioned the French industry, which has been built on 70 per cent. of public ownership. The consortia of the type we have got cannot streamline our research and design especially to the point which the French are now managing to do. When we see the position to which the French have brought about grouping and compare that with the performance of our Government who base themselves on the efficiencies of competitive private enterprise and then treat Handley Page in the way they have done, one can only say that it really is the most disgraceful situation.

It may be that it is Government policy to penalise firms which take Tory propaganda about the nature of competitive private enterprise seriously, because that is precisely what I believe to have hap pened in the case of the development of the Dart Herald.

I have a most interesting letter from an ex-member of the R.A.F. He is a wing commander who confesses that he is a Tory. I should not have thought there were many people around today who confess that they are Tories.

Mr. Burden

Still fewer that they are Socialists.

Mr. Lee

This man points out that the R.A.F. is "hopping mad" about this decision. After all, he is speaking about people who are in a good position to judge, and he says: They believe that the order will cost £5 million more and cannot be delivered for another two years, whereas the R.A.F. undoubtedly need a plane now. That is the kind of criticism we are getting, and it does seem to me that it would be far more honest of the Government if they said to the firms outside the consortia, "Until and unless you obey our instructions you will get nothing whatever in the way of Government orders".

We know that the same position arises so far as Short Brothers are concerned. Here is a firm in which the Government are a major shareholder—with a holding of over 50 per cent. It has been responsible for the development of many very good aircraft indeed, and yet, sited in Northern Ireland as the firm is, and where there is an 8 per cent. unemployment figure, there is more apprehension and fear now in Belfast as a result of the position of Shorts than I care to see in any part of the British Isles.

These are some of the criticisms which we feel are justified in view of the Government's failure to plan and to organise the industry in a competent way. It is an industry, as I have said, in which a very great deal of capital—of public money—is now bound up. It is an industry which is capable of giving us very great service both on the civil and the military side. The Government's failure either to bring in, in a properly co-ordinated way, any degree of public ownership, as the French have done, or to allow private enterprise its head—their failure to do either of those things—has been a very grave handicap indeed to the industry as a whole, and there is now great anxiety in all sections of the industry.

It is because of that that I move this Motion. We feel the Government's record in the aircraft industry is typical of the sloppy, slipshod way in which they have bungled so many of the economic problems which now face the country. In the interests of the people in the industry and the nation as a whole we believe that it is only by the establishment of a far more highly planned industry that the nation can get both ample defence, at more moderate cost, and exports worthy of the efforts which it is now making to improve its economic position.

4.46 p.m.

The Minister of Aviation (Mr. Peter Thorneycroft)

The House is indebted to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) for giving us an opportunity to debate the aircraft industry. He made, with his customary skill, his maiden speech on this matter. He seems to have stumbled on some parts of the truth, but to have stumbled into a great deal of error as well, which I shall try to eliminate in the course of my remarks.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will not take it amiss if I suggest that the actual wording of the Opposition's Motion might be slightly amended in the course of our discussion, and, therefore, I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: commends the aircraft and associated electronic industries, both for their performance in overseas markets and their formidable contribution to our defensive strength, and supports the steps being taken by Her Majesty's Government to promote the competitive efficiency of these industries in the difficult conditions which confront them". The Ministry of Aviation covers a very wide field indeed, the Corporations, the independent airlines, the Air Traffic Licensing Board, with very important questions of air safety, and the rest, but here, I think, we are concentrating principally upon the industry itself. Certainly, that is what the hon. Gentleman concentrated on, and in that I want to follow him. I think that the best thing to do would be to start with the policy. We can go on to see afterwards whether it is working, but let us see if the policy is right to start with.

Mr. Charles Longhlin (Gloucestershire, West)

Have the Government got one?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Yes. I want to start with the policy, as I said, and then we can put up against it any other policy, be it a Socialist policy or a Liberal policy—if we can find one. I had hoped that the Liberal Party would have shown a little interest in this great industry, but not a solitary Liberal member turns up to listen to the debate or to contribute an idea. I thought that we could compare the policies one against another, and see which is right, and then go on from that to see how our policy is working, with all the faults, and so forth. I think that that would be sensible.

What kind of an industry was it which faced my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations about three years ago? An industry of many names, including Bristol, Fairey, de Havilland, Handley Page—a very famous name—Hawkers, many names really famous in aviation; but, on the whole, rather small, rather diverse, and economically not very strong. The question which confronted him was: should it be left like that, or should an attempt be made to merge the firms into larger units?

The decision which was taken at that time was to merge the industry into five major groups, the two fixed-wing groups, the helicopter group, and the two engine groups. At that time the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) welcomed this decision. He said that it was long overdue. I always permit hon. Gentlemen opposite to change their minds from time to time, but that was the view taken by the right hon. Gentleman at that time.

In exchange for the formation of those groups, pledges were given to this industry. They were that, in future, orders should, save in exceptional circumstances, be concentrated on the groups themselves. Pledges were given that increased support would be given to civil projects. They were that we should seek to harmonise—and, I think, rightly—the military and civil requirement, and that we should back all this with a substantial programme of research.

To summarise, we have today an industry which has only fairly recently undergone a major reorganisation and been streamlined in the way that I have described; possibly faced,—I am not talking about some exaggerated rundown—like the American aircraft industry, with the necessity to streamline, to concentrate, in some fields perhaps to become a little smaller, backed by a substantial amount of Government research, by the great publicly-owned research establishments, and investment and marketing on an ever wider basis, sometimes with Europe, and sometimes with the United States. I am trying to summarise the plan at the moment as fairly and as objectively as I can.

The first question the House has to answer is whether that is the right policy. Secondly, if it is not, is there another policy? I have a tolerant and open mind. I have been studying what the hon. Member for Newton has said. It is very difficult to ascertain precisely the Socialist policy for the aircraft industry. Since 1957 there has been some coyness in the approach to their precise proposals, but in that year a pamphlet called "Industry and Society" was introduced, which rather pushed nationalisation into the background.

I do not want to overstate it, but I think that I carry the hon. Member for Newton with me in this. It did not give nationalisation quite that clarity and emphasis which it had had in previous pamphlets. At any rate, the hon. Gentleman made a number of criticisms of it. He said: Perhaps the most vital issues of all are those contained in the executive's pamphlet Industry and Society. This document suggests a new approach to public ownership based on the purchase of shares in a number of large firms.… The trade unions within the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions have for long been working on their 'Plan for Engineering'. Their suggestions include the nationalisation of the aircraft and machine tool industries. Now, the suggestion is, it seems, that the unions concerned should drop their plan after so much time and thought has been devoted to it.… If the acceptance of the document presupposes that the case for public ownership in any industry other than steel and road transport is to be shelved it is hard to see how very considerable sections of the industrial wing of the movement can support it. Is that still the hon. Gentleman's view?

Mr. Lee


Mr. Thorneycroft

At least we know now that the party opposite wants to nationalise the industry, and that all this "boloney" about planning and the rest of it, all these polite phrases, are merely a smokescreen.

The Amendment that really matters is that in the name of the hon. Member for Ayrshire and Bute, although I cannot refer to it because it has not been selected. But this is a case of women and children being pushed in front.

Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)

On a point of order. There ain't no such Member as the hon. Member for Ayrshire and Bute. This is merely a creation of the right hon. Gentleman's fertile imagination.

Mr. Thorneycroft

I apologise for what must have been regarded as a slanderous statement, but I repeat that we had better be clear in our minds what is our policy.

I have stated the Conservative policy. I will discuss whether or not it is working, but we have to be clear about the alternatives. The alternative policy as stated by the official spokesman of the Labour Party is nationalisation of the aircraft industry, and no bones about it. Now we know what we are debating.

Mr. John Cronin (Loughborough)

We cannot have the right hon. Gentleman putting up an Aunt Sally like that and knocking it down. Nobody has said anything about nationalisation of the aircraft industry. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will confine himself to the Motion and the Amendment.

Mr. Thorneycroft

I hope that the hon. Member will refrain from referring to a respected colleague as an Aunt Sally. To do so is to carry things too far, and I therefore rise to the defence of the hon. Member for Newton.

I leave the Socialist policy for a moment, and turn to the policy of the Liberal Party. The aim of the Liberal Party is to sack about 20,000 men from the aircraft industry. It thinks that the Labour Party has been rather mealy-mouthed about the deterrent. I gave the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) notice that I would raise this point, but perhaps my message did not reach him. During his election campaign, he said: The Tories waste hundreds of millions of pounds a year on Britain's independent H-bomb deterrent. The Socialists are split on whether we should have it. But for the Liberals, we say"—

Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)

On a point of order. As I understand, the right hon. Gentleman served notice on an hon. Member who has not yet made his maiden speech, and is proposing to take him to task before he has done so. Does not this outrage all the traditions of the House?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

There is nothing out of order in what has gone on so far.

Mr. Thorneycroft

This is the place for debate. I have this much respect for the hon. Member for Orpington. Whatever else may be said, he must have fought a fine election, and I am sure that he would be the last person to criticise me for saying this.

To go back to the policy of the Liberal Party, is this money to be devoted to conventional arms? Not at all. It is to go to education, teachers, housing, and the abolition of Schedule A tax. That, surely, will strike terror into the heart of a potential enemy. However, it is the policy of the Liberal Party.

To summarise the alternatives, from the Liberal Party we have a suggestion that 20,000 men should be sacked from the aircraft industry, and from the hon. Member for Newton we have a clear-cut statement that the industry should be nationalised. I respect the hon. Member for his views, because that was his belief in 1957 and he is still of that opinion. Our policy is the merging of groups, backed by research and funds provided by the Government.

Mr. Wigg

If the right hon. Gentleman wants to make fun of people and play games by talking about the abolition of Schedule A tax striking terror into the heart of a potential enemy, I hope that he will circulate a copy of the speech he made when he resigned, because I am sure that a potential enemy would be deterred by it.

Mr. Thorneycroft

I would be delighted to circulate my resignation speech. I would have no need to consult the hon. Member for Orpington if I did. His speech has been circulated in the Daily Mirror. I did not publish my resignation speech, but it was a good speech and I do not retract from it.

Mr. Rankin

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us when he intends to deal with the aircraft industry, which is our business today?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I can fully understand the hon. Gentleman's anxiety. This discussion is getting very awkward.

I will now come to how our policy is working out and what the present situation is. It is not a situation of inactivity. The Government are putting about £300 million a year in defence expenditure into this industry at present. In addition to that, they contribute about £9 million in support of the civil side of the industry, together with the purchases from the Corporations, to which the hon. Member for Newton referred.

Taking the military and civil together, a massive amount of public funds is being put into the industry. Employment has actually risen over the last eighteen months, from about 280,000 to about 300,000. That does not mean that there have not been concentrations in particular areas—there have—but, overall, employment has risen.

Seven or eight new aircraft have either taken the air for the first time, or are due to take it either this year or early next year. They include the Trident, with the Spey engine; the VC10, with the Conway; the DH125—the small aircraft with the Bristol Siddeley Viper; the Short Belfast with the Rolls Royce Tyne; the Short Skyvan, a private venture light transport, which should fly shortly; two Beagles; and, some time next year, the BAC111.

That is a picture of activity. I will not argue that they will all sweep the board in export markets, but among them are some very fine aircraft, and the tribute which the hon. Member for Newton paid to the men in the industry must extend to the fact that they produce aircraft with the object of selling. Exports were up on 1960 last year, and reached £150 million. That is supported also by exports from the electronics industry totalling about £65 million a year. I would pay special tribute to the electronics industry, particularly that part of it which is associated with aircraft and missile work. It is an essential and very often vital part of it.

The ingenuity which these firms manage to put into the specialised and very complicated equipment necessary in modern aircraft and missiles is remarkable.

Mr. Rankinrose

Mr. Thorneycroft

The hon. Gentleman must wait a moment. I have given way several times.

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. I think that the hon. Member for Newton said this and put it very fairly. That is why I said that he had stumbled on quite a bit of truth. The problem which confronts this industry is in the design staffs—the brains who are the future of the industry.

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.

The problem is really twofold. One is the technical aspect of starting a project, which begins with the design team. The other is how to stop it if it is not suited to the needs, or if it is not quite up to the needs that have developed. The hon. Member for Newton said that some projects should have been stopped earlier. But these are the two problems which confront us in these matters.

The need is to identify and detail a problem before starting the really heavy work. The design study contract system is specially geared for this. This was referred to in the Gibb-Zuckerman report, which summarised the arrangements which operated in the Ministry when I took over. One of those arrangements is the design study contract.

I am going to place a design study contract with the British Aircraft Corporation for a variable geometry aircraft. This is a very important problem. For those who are not expert in these things I should explain that the gist is that the performance of an aircraft depends a great deal upon the attitude, angle and area of the wings. The ideal configuration of the wings varies with take off, altitude, and whether the aircraft is supersonic or subsonic.

One of the most fascinating problems of aerodynamics is to see how one can alter the configuration of the wings in full flight. We are placing a design study contract for this. I should make it plain that that does not mean that we shall build, or that we shall be committed to building, such an aircraft. What is important is to identify the problems that confront us, so that when a decision has to be taken it can be taken with knowledge of the facts.

The hon. Member for Newton looked a little further into the future and identified some of the other great problems. One was that of a supersonic transport, which is a vast problem, complicated in all its aspects, both technical and economic. But it will happen. There will be one. There is no doubt about that. There will be a supersonic aircraft.

Mr. Rankin


Mr. Thorneycroft

I am choosing my remarks with caution. There will be such an aircraft. The Americans are at work on Mach 3 and we and the French have been working on Mach 2. We have done an immense amount of research. Thousands of wind tunnel hours have been devoted to the study of the configuration.

The brilliant work which we have done, and how far ahead we are in some respects, has been underestimated. There have been break-throughs in many ways—in thin wing delta configurations and the rest. Much of that work has been done at the Royal Aircraft Establishment and by the design study team of the British Aircraft Corporation.

Some months ago, I approached the French. They did not approach us first. Indeed, my predecessor approached them to see if we could work out a joint proposal, without anybody being committed. A great deal of work has gone on between the technical teams of both countries. M. Buron, the French Minister of Transport, is coming here next week. He and I will have further talks with the object of reaching a decision—though not a decision to build a vastly expensive project "off the cuff", just like that, for that sort of attitude cuts clean across what is needed in preparing projects of this character, both civil and military.

We shall see whether we can get down to an analysis of the problems and a detailed proposition in such a form, technically, administratively and financially, as could be presented to Governments for their proper consideration. This is the next step. I am in no way saying that the decision is "Yes" or "No". I am saying that this is the right and proper next step in supersonic transport.

I have sought to show that this is not an industry which is short of projects, or which is inactive in any way. If I may say so, it sometimes does itself a good deal of harm in its public image. The amount of criticism which goes on inside the industry about one another's projects is terrifying. The Press laps it up, quite prepared to publish what everybody says about everybody else's project. A "sucker" is always to be found to believe the lot.

I hope that I shall not be misunderstood, and I certainly do not mean to say, that my hon. Friend, if I may call him that, the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is a "sucker" in any sense of the term—we have too deep a respect for him; he makes valuable and often courageous contributions to our debates—but even he has absorbed a little of this fallacy. The other day, he referred to two brilliant aircraft, the Dart Herald and the Avro 748, as horrible aircraft It just is not true. They are both very fine aircraft. I believe that they will both sell very well and that they will make a contribution to the aircraft industry.

I beg all concerned both in the House and outside in the industry to stop tearing one another to pieces. No other country does it. We do not find the Americans running down their own aircraft. Across the Channel, the French do not do it. Nevertheless, believe me, mistakes are made. Let no one imagine that the only mistakes happen to be made on this side of the Channel. They are not. Dreadful mistakes are made in all sorts of places. But other people do not criticise each other to the extent that we do. In the interests of the industry as a whole and the interests of our country, we could do with a little less of it.

Mr. Wigg

I am content to leave time to show who is the "sucker". Does the right hon. Gentleman know that the F27, which has now flown for half a million hours, can fly further, can carry more, and is cheaper than either the Avro 748 or the Herald, and that 20 companies have assessed the value of these aircraft and are all taking the F27? What is the good of the right hon. Gentleman talking the slush that he has just talked?

Mr. Thorneycroft

The hon. Gentleman forgets that the Fokker happened to be in operation considerably before the other two aircraft and, therefore, not unnaturally, more have been sold.

I shall not debate it with him now except to say that I shall be happy for a demonstration to take place of either the Herald or the Avro against the Fokker at any time anyone likes. I believe that we could make a first-class showing with either of them in contrast to the Fokker. The Fokker is good, too; I do not say that it is a bad machine—it is perfectly good—but I say that these two aircraft are equally good and that I have no doubt that there is a good market for them.

This is the point. If the hon. Gentleman is fearful of competition, then our interests do not lie in decrying British aircraft. It is in our interests for somebody to say something good about British aircraft.

Mr. Wigg

If it is good, yes.

Mr. Thorneycroft

I hone that we shall have a little more of it.

Sir A. V. Harvey

To be fair to the Fokker, it should be said that there is a 30 per cent. or 40 per cent. content in it of British accessories—engines and hydraulics.

Mr. Thorneycroft

That is absolutely correct. I am very glad that my hon. Friend said that.

The Fokker is, of course, an earlier design of aircraft than the Herald or the Avro, and to some extent it is, perhaps, not as good at the moment because it is an earlier design, but in it, as in many other aircraft, there is a very good percentage of British production. That is a good illustration—I am obliged to my hon. Friend for pointing it out—of the valuable work which the whole of the aircraft industry puts in, not only the airframe makers, but those manufacturing equipment and engines.

I turn now to another area of success, the Royal Aircraft Establishment, the Royal Radar Establishment and the National Gas Turbine Establishment. The work done here is very little publicised, and much of it is too complex for debate or, at least, for Ministers to debate. A good deal of it is highly classified and cannot be referred to, but I will cite two examples.

The first example of good work done is in what is called micro-miniaturisation. A piece of electronic equipment, a wireless set, or something like that, which, a few years ago, we could put into a matchbox, we can now put into a thimble. The advances are fantastic, and a very great dead is taking place at these specialised establishments. Another example is in blind landing techniques. Thousands of successful landings have been made at Bedford with the pilot sitting there without his feet on the rudder or his hand on the stick, simply monitoring the figures which come to him. Many of us have taken part in these landings. I will willingly arrange for the hon. Member for Newton to participate in a blind landing at any time he likes. I can assure him that he will be perfectly all right. If he is worried, I will go with him. All manner of work of this kind is going on.

There is another place, not an establishment, where much is being done, namely, Woomera in the desert of Australia, right on the fringe of the Australian outback. It is not altogether realised what an immense contribution this joint project between the Australians and ourselves makes not only to the interests of both our countries, but to the interests of the free world as a whole. It is a magnificent range, with 1,000 miles of range and all the supporting equipment at Salisbury, near Adelaide. We are deeply grateful to the Australian Government and to the Australian technicians working there for all that they are doing in our interest.

Mr. Lee

Does the right hon. Gentleman's offer to me just now include a visit to the Woomera Range, especially when the M.C.C. is in Australia?

Mr. Thorneycroft

If the hon. Gentleman wants to visit anywhere, I assure him that I should be very happy to do anything I can in that respect, because I believe that the more people we can, within reason, enable to see some of these things the better it will be. Indeed, I believe that they would be delighted to see him at Woomera. I remember landing there in a helicopter at about seven o'clock in the evening. Everyone gathered, and, as I stepped out, one of the children said, "Is that Father Christmas?", to which his father replied, "We very much hope so."—which, I thought, was a very quick answer. I do not say that I have been Father Christmas, or that we have given all the money that we should have liked, but it is a very fine effort to which we should pay a great tribute.

I turn now to the Estimates. The hon. Member for Newton, in asking about them, got two sorts of Estimates mixed up, though I do not blame him for that because it is quite easy to do so. The Estimates Committee Report to which he referred related to our procurement Vote. I do not say that we are perfect—no one would believe me if I did—but I can say that, over the past six years, the procurement Vote has totalled £1,000 million and that we have overestimated by one-tenth of 1 per cent. That is the fact. Can anyone show me a firm which can guarantee that its record in financial matters is as good as the record of the Ministry of Aviation on that side of its work?

I do not say that we have done as well as that everywhere. In missiles and weapon systems we have all had trouble. This was dealt with to some extent in the defence debate the other day. Valuable suggestions have been made by the Estimates Committee, the Public Accounts Committee and the Gibb-Zuckerman Committee and others, and some were in operation in my Department before I even got there. But we are constantly considering how we can improve things. I ask hon. Members just to consider what the requirement is. It may be put like this, "We want you to provide an aircraft which will go at near supersonic speed, 200 ft. above the ground, following the contours, without the pilot actually operating any manual controls", which would be impossible in these conditions. "Can you do it? If so, what will it cost?". I am not saying that we should not be able to answer it, but I am saying that we should not have too much contempt for the people who find it a little difficult to answer.

As work goes along, something is found of which no one had thought and there are difficulties which no one had precisely foreseen. That happens in this country as in every other which has anything to do with it, whether in Europe or the United States of America. I am sure that if we looked at some of the estimating in the United States of America, even our Estimates Committee would breathe a sigh of relief for the estimating in this country. Estimating is not easy. It is not easy to foresee problems which have yet to be solved and decide what they will cost. Nevertheless, with humility, I fully accept the advice which is given to me by the various committees, by the House and by everybody else. I can only say that we do our best.

How do we save money? We save money much in the way that the hon. Member for Newton suggested—by cooperation. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air was talking about multi-purpose aircraft—an aircraft to serve a number of different rôles. It will save money to have an aircraft which will serve a naval and military rôle—in which variable geometry is not wholly irrelevant. There is also the possibility of joint civil and military aircraft. We have various committees, for instance, the Transport Aircraft Re- quirement Committee, to examine every requirement and see whether these things can be matched for another rôle and whether an aircraft can be adapted to match another rôle. It is right and proper that there should be such efforts and sometimes, although not always, they are successful.

Above all, there is international cooperation. I have spent a great deal of time on the promotion of E.L.D.O. which is a good example of the kind of co-operation which the hon. Member was advocating. This country in particular and Europe in general has a rôle in space in the years to come. It is an illusion to think that just because other people happen to be a very long way ahead at a particular moment in history, one should drop right out of the race.

I do not think that. If we can cooperate with others, there are great benefits to be derived not only in space, but in the other technological fall-out, with advantages going to the engineering industries. One of the great purposes of E.L.D.O., sometimes against difficulty, has been to see that that knowledge and information is spread as widely as possible in every country which is participating, not only in the firms actually working on the space side, but all the engineering industries, so that the advantages can come to civil engineering.

The hon. Member mentioned the P1127 and the RB162. It would be very nice to place massive orders for all these things, but we have to work within the limits of what we can do. We work much better when we work with other countries. We work with the Americans and the Germans in the P1127 vertical take-off aircraft and with the Germans and French on the vertical take-off Rolls-Royce engine.

I am proud of this industry and I know that the bon. Member for Newton is. It has had failings, but it has had its successes and it is in a position to seize the widening opportunities which are now opening before it.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

On a point of order. Is it your intention, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to call the Amendment to the Amendment, which stands in my name? It is to leave out from the first "industries" to the end and to add instead thereof: but greatly concerned at the position of the aircraft industry and the enormous sums of public money spent on the aircraft industry since the war, especially on military aircraft already obsolete, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to transfer the aircraft industry to public ownership, so that its resources and manpower can be devoted to the manufacture of civilian aircraft which can be used to improve civil aviation in Britain, increase the exports of civilian aircraft and thus provide useful and permanent work for those employed in the aircraft industry".

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

It is not the intention to call the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member.

5.25 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)

I wish to intervene only briefly, and I make no apology for saying that it is entirely on a constituency matter. Even if I were not so concerned today with something which affects many who live in my constituency, I do not think that I would want to use the time of this important debate in the rather light-hearted party banter with which it was started by the Minister. It was all very amusing, but when the lives of many of our people are seriously affected by the changes in the aircraft industry, the best use of the debate is to try to see exactly what is happening and what action can be taken by the Government and the industry itself to improve the situation.

If the principles of the document "Industry in Society", which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned—and I doubt whether he has read it—were operating in Britain today, we would not have had ail the vacillation and ups and downs and hopes and fears which have been borne by the aircraft industry for all these years. I will leave it at that, for I do not believe that this debate is the occasion for that kind of party controversy.

The matter which very much concerns me, as the Parliamentary Secretary knows, is the Government's decision to withdraw support from the Rotodyne project. This project has been a matter of intense concern in Hayes for a number of years, and the recent announcement came as a considerable shock. I do not know whether the story of the Rotodyne is typical of what has happened in other sections of the air- craft industry, but I hope that it is not. It is a tale of frustration and uncertainty, of hopes being raised and dashed and all the time the future of many men has been threatened as a result of the continual changes in policy.

In 1956, it seemed to many people, including many with expert knowledge of aeronautics, that the Rotodyne was something with a potential which could possibly bring striking new developments in air transport and air communication. It was the result of brilliant research team work in the old Fairey Aviation Company. This was the team which had done very fine work on guided missiles and which had produced the Delta II the first machine in the world to exceed the speed of 1,000 m.p.h. and to obtain an absolute world speed record of 1,132 miles an hour and hold it for Britain for more than two years. Dr. Heslop and his team, backed, incidentally, by a tradition of very skilled craftsmenship going back to 1916, have been working not only on this project, but upon the development of an airliner with a vertical take-off.

I well remember the thrill—as many others can, I am sure—which I had when I received a telegram from the firm saying that the Rotodyne had satisfactorily passed its first in-the-air tests, exhaustive tests which had been undertaken at the aerodrome at White Waltham. It is obvious that the characteristics of the Rotodyne gave great confidence for the belief that it was likely to provide a striking new development in the history of aviation. It has many of the advantages of fixed-wing aircraft, but also the great advantage of the helicopter that it can hover and take off and land vertically in a very restricted space. Furthermore, costs of operation are far less than for a conventional helicopter and its speed in the air when in forward flight is greater than that of some fixed-wing aircraft, and twice as fast as a helicopter.

Taking all those factors into consideration, especially the fact that it was a very safe aircraft in difficult (weather conditions, it was hoped that here was a project which the Government would back, and many people were delighted when by 1957 this aircraft had successfully passed its first test.

Development costs in an entirely new design of this kind were bound to be enormous and the firm asked for help and was supported in this by myself and other hon. Members. Negotiations went on for a long time and on 1st December, 1958, when we did not seem to be getting anywhere after more than twelve months of protracted discussion, and when workers were feeling uncertain about the future and some skilled men were leaving for other jobs, which at the time were available, I asked the Minister of Supply whether he would make a statement. I was asked not to press the matter as negotiations were still continuing.

They must have reached a fairly critical point by then, because the then chairman of Fairey Aviation said that the firm was likely to be faced with some redundancy if decisions could not be made fairly speedily. Finally, we reached the satisfactory conclusion that the Government were prepared to give some financial backing to this new and revolutionary design. At the time we were told that B.E.A. was interested and a number of machines were ordered—although there was no firm contract—provided certain modifications could be made. Spokesmen from B.E.A. went on record as saying that they believed that the Rotodyne was opening new possibilities for air transport for short distances between this country and the Continent and between cities in this country.

Then a fresh complication occurred in this unfortunate story. The Fairey Company was taken over by the West-land Company. The workers, who had expressed concern, were to some extent reassured. My hon. Friend the Member for Feltham (Mr. Hunter) and I travelled, not by Rotodyne but by helicopter, to Yeovil, where we saw the directors of Westlands. They gave us an assurance that they had no intention of abandoning the Rotodyne but intended to integrate the research teams, and that, if anything, the Rotodyne would have greater assistance on the research side than it had in the old days.

Furthermore, they said that so far as the position of the workers in Hayes was concerned they would bring in work from Eastleigh, and now helicopters— the Wasps—are being made in Hayes, for which I and others are very grateful indeed. The change to a new company at that time did not seem to imperil work on the Rotodyne. Work went on and has gone on ever since. I have been told that from time to time men have not always been fully employed, but that there was a general expectancy, once the green light was on and certain difficulties had been completed, the Rotodyne would have its chance of a large-scale production.

That was the decision up to a month or two ago. I was told, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) mentioned, that rearrangements had been made on the floor of the factory since Christmas to start work on large-scale production of the Rotodyne. Then, suddenly, we heard that the Government were to withdraw their support from this scheme. I think that this is a tragic decision. There may be some good reasons for it, and I shall listen to them if there are, but it seems to me to be a tragic result not only for the 800 workers directly affected on production and 2,000 altogether, but also tragic for British aviation. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to tell us a little more.

It is an astonishing conclusion, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newton said, that first the Rotodyne was in both for defence purposes and for other purposes, then it was out, and then in again. This story of vacillation in itself raises all kinds of points and it does not give us very much confidence either about the Government's new found enthusiasm for planning or their foresight in regard to defence. I find it very difficult to understand how it was that a previous Minister of Supply and the Minister of Aviation were at one time quite prepared to put considerable sums of public money behind this machine, and then, quite suddenly—I will not say casually, because it may have been as a result of considerable thought—a completely reverse decision was taken. That is deplorable and I hope that we shall get some answers as to how this astonishing in, out, in decision on the Rotodyne arose.

If the machine from the beginning was thought not to be a "starter", I could understand it. I think that not to back it would have been a wrong decision, and that is the view that many of the experts take, but that, apparently, was net the opinion. Who really takes the final decisions in these cases? What is this advice based on? I understood when the Minister made his statement that there were no orders for the machine: apparently B.E.A. has now taken a different view about the Rotodyne. I wonder whether that change by B.E.A. is due to the fact that it feels far more financially vulnerable in the future because of the air licensing procedure than it did in the old days and that it can no longer afford to take a long view about investment in aircraft because it does not know what its commercial position will be in two or three years' time.

It could be—I hope that I am wrong—that the Rotodyne is the victim of a new licensing system, because B.E.A. feels that it cannot be made the hostage to fortune if it does not know what licences are to be granted in two or three years' time. This is a new factor of uncertainty which the Corporations did not have to face a few years ago.

I would also ask the Parliamentary Secretary to say, as I am sure he will, whether there are any steps which might be taken to help to ease the position in Hayes, and whether he can say anything about other helicopter work which may be required. I know that the firm itself—I have had an opportunity of talking with the managing director—regards this as a blow, but that it will try to share it through the whole of the 13 companies of the group, so that its full effect will not be felt in Hayes. I am very glad to hear that.

The Minister of Labour is doing everything that he can, and we hope that people will not be out of work for a long period. A hundred draughtsmen and 12 craftsmen are involved so far. It is not very pleasant for a craftsman who has been many years in the factory, perhaps nearly the whole of its life, to have to leave. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will give us what information he can. I suppose that the Government have made up their mind on this matter and that it is hardly possible to believe that the Rotodyne will be in again. I hope that none of us will live to see, should this machine be flying in a year or two, that it has been taken over by the Americans, which is what, I fear, may happen.

5.40 p.m.

Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)

The whole House will have enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington). I can well understand his feelings and anxieties about his constituents. This must be a great blow and disappointment to the craftsmen in Faireys. The company has gone through many difficulties in recent times, and we are all sorry that there has been this further disappointment. However, one must be realistic. The hon. Member blamed the Air Licensing Board. He said that the fact that independents had been brought in had caused B.E.A. not to place the order. He is wide of the mark. B.E.A. is considering ordering American helicopters. Therefore, independents would not seem to have anything to do with that. About £10 million or £12 million has been spent on the Rotodyne, but local authorities would not accept the noise of this machine. It was quite intolerable. Little progress was made. It was one of those problems which perhaps could not be overcome for many years. This made the project impossible.

Although it has taken thirty years to get to the Rotodyne from the days of the old Cierva Autogyro, it is only five years since the "Flying Bedstead" was flown at Hucknell by Rolls Royce. Today the Hawker P1127 on the same principle is flying at 600 miles an hour. This is the direction in which Britain, which already has a lead, must spend her limited resources in future.

However, we sympathise with the hon. Gentleman. I do not think that the craftsmen, skilled as they are, will be short of work. The type of work which they can undertake is required in all forms of engineering—for instance, hydraulics, and so on, in which Faireys specialised.

Mr. Cronin

I should like to take up two points with the hon. Gentleman. First, surely he appreciates that a vertical take-off aircraft needs engines which are so heavy and powerful that they could not be used as a commercial proposition in the foreseeable future Secondly, the Rotodyne is much less noisy than the helicopter. Considerable progress has been made in reducing the noise.

Sir A. V. Harvey

My impression at the Farnborough Air Display was that it is still very noisy. I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman's point about vertical take-off. I am told that the P1127 could take off in Britain and land in North Africa. If that can be done today, imagine what may be able to be done in five or seven years time. We must recognise that this has a real future.

The hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) said that it was for the Government to decide on projects. I hope that this does not mean that we are to eliminate the companies from deciding themselves if they think they have a good project. At the moment Vickers have the 111. Even before the aeroplane has flown they have sold a number and had a deposit from a well known American airline. This is not a Government idea. Heaven forbid that we shall ever have the Government telling industry what they think industry can sell abroad, because that would not be very much.

The hon. Member for Newton referred to the small orders for exports. He must recognise that the Americans with their great internal airline system, invariably order American-made equipment. This has not happened with the 111, but invariably where American banks and great insurance companies are involved they insist that American equipment is ordered. Therefore, it is very difficult to get in. Britain did it with the Viscount and with the 111. There will be exceptions, and we must take advantage of them.

I was disappointed that the hon. Member for Newton did not give us more information about what the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) referred to in the defence debate, namely, that the Labour Party is to run down the V-bomber force. I was hoping that we should have some guidance today from right hon. and hon. Members opposite about the V-bomber force. As I understand it, quite a number of Mark II Victors and Vulcans have yet to be delivered, although they have been ordered. If they have not been delivered, they presumably have seven to ten years' life ahead of them. If the Labour Party is to run down and get rid of the deterrent, how many years will it take to do this? The party opposite should tell us. They started this hare about the deterrent about a fortnight ago. I appreciate that they have got themselves into some difficulty. They have shifted their ground two or three times since, but the House is entitled to ask for further information, because this has a large bearing on our national defence and is important to the many thousands of workers in the industry.

Mr. Wigg

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman in his search for information. I am always seeking information. It is not true that the Labour Party started a hare about the V-bombers. This animal never came out of its burrow until after the cancellation of Blue Streak.

Sir A. V. Harvey

I listened to the debate, but I should be out of order to follow it up now. The right hon. Member for Smethwick said that it was the intention of the Labour Party, presumably if it returned to power, to get rid of the V-bomber force as the planes wore out. This point requires elucidation. Perhaps the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) will give us some information this evening.

My right hon. Friend, who made a very brilliant answer to the party opposite, referred to self-criticism by the aircraft industry. In free enterprise there will always be criticism, but one should not take too much notice of this. It is five years since I was connected in business with the industry, but from my knowledge of it I do not think that self-criticism does much harm. I have not heard much of it. It is occasionally heard, but no more than there is between Douglas and Boeing.

The real critics are the Americans, who attack the industry in this country and wild go to any length to denigrate the British aircraft. Only a year ago the Lockheed Company extended an invitation to hon. Members on both sides of the House to go to the United States with their wives free of cost to see what was going on, hoping, I imagine, that influence would be brought to bear here. I would not dream of accepting. I was asked, but I think that one puts oneself under an obligation if one accepts such invitations. I do not say this because some hon. Members went. I mention it merely to show the extent to which the Americans will go to influence foreign Parliaments. It is going on all over the world.

Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)

The hon. Gentleman mentioned an invitation which was extended to British Membars of Parliament. Will he say whether the invitation was accepted and how many Members went?

Sir A. V. Harvey

I do not know the exact figures. I think that eight or ten hon. Members went, some with their wives. I emphasise that I do not know the exact figure.

Mr. Wigg

The hon. Member looked at me. I was invited. I also did not go for the same reason as he mentioned.

Sir A. V. Harvey

I can imagine that the hon. Gentleman would not go. He is not the type that would. I have a great respect for him.

Mr. Rankin

I was not even asked.

Sir A. V. Harvey

That does not altogether surprise me. We must recognise that this great aircraft industry, which has been praised by both parties, is going through a very difficult time. However, this was bound to happen. One foresaw when the 1957 White Paper was published that with the rundown of conventional weapons these weapons would become fewer. Any Parliamentarian would be wrong to ask for increased orders for their own sake, particularly for military weapons.

One thing which politicians are doing and should be doing is trying to bring about disarmament, which we hope will be achieved to a large extent. These weapons are becoming fantastically more expensive as the months go by. More electronics are being used. My right bon. Friend referred to the miniaturisation of equipment and how it is being reduced to the size of one's small nail. During the defence debate the numbers of present-day aircraft in the Services was compared with the numbers of aircraft ten years ago. This is not a fair comparison, any more than the aircraft of ten years ago could be fairly com- pared with those operating in the war, when a Spitfire could be bought for £20,000. Today the cost has risen out of all comparison.

The industry is complaining about lack of work. My right hon. Friend referred to the numbers employed in the industry. The Ministry of Labour figures show that some 300,000 are employed in the industry today, which is twice the number employed ten years ago. When the Korean troubles came the industry was developed very considerably, large orders were placed throughout the country and the numbers rapidly increased. The information from the industry differs from that given by the Ministry of Labour by 20,000 or 30,000. This is something which should be looked into so that we can get an accurate analysis. The industry says that it is 11 per cent. smaller in numbers than it was in 1957. That requires verifying, because the figures can be misleading.

Many factories have diversified Although they are actually aircraft factories they are making equipment for coal mines, hydraulics for railways and various forms of high precision engineering in British industry. That is excellent, because the more the aircraft industry can pass on its "know-how" and techniques to general engineering the more likely we are to get exports as a trading nation. It means that the latest designs and techniques can be incorporated in other vehicles and engineering. The engineering industry gains in the form of metallurgy, high grade metals with the lightest structures and miniaturisation.

During the last three years substantial production orders have been placed. The industry ought not to be dissatisfied on that score, but there are very few new projects for aircraft, missiles or engines. This is worrying the industry at present. One has to be fair about this. When the mergers took place—and I am told by those connected with the two groups that this is working far better than they thought it would—the Government did not promise the industry that it would remain at the same size as it was two years ago. I do not think anyone could expect that it would. In fact, the industry will have to be rather smaller and more compact, probably 25 per cent. less than it is today.

My right hon. Friend referred to collaboration with Continental countries. Is there enough with the N.A.T.O. Powers? To do this is necessary to bring the British military operational requirement, the initial requirement, more into line with the N.A.T.O. requirement and with the requirements of Commonwealth countries. The Trident was referred to earlier. We know that there was quite a battle here three years ago about that. It was to meet the specific requirements of B.E.A. De Havillands built it, tested it and did a good job. Now it is not selling abroad well at the moment, though we all hope and expect orders to be forthcoming.

Is Britain getting a fair share of orders from N.A.T.O.? I say that it is not. My right hon. Friend referred to the supersonic airliner. It is common knowledge that whatever we do the French have every intention of going ahead, possibly with Britain, and if not on their own. We are not involved in any way in the space race. We have definitely got to maintain our position with the super aircraft business. I hope that we can have collaboration with the French as my right hon. Friend suggested. It may be that the shell, the fuselage of the aircraft, will be made in France and the engine made in Britain. Britain has great experience in engine manufacture. The export figures are largely due to engine exports of Rolls Royce and Bristol Siddeley. Britain has a wonderful lead in that direction.

I understand—this is only what one hears as one has to pick up information where one can—that the Bristol Siddeley is considered favourably because it could engine the T.S.R.2 and could do both jobs with the same engine. I want to know how Rolls Royce stands in this matter. There is a legend in the world that it is made of money and that the pavements of Derby are lined with gold. That is not so. The firm has millions of shareholders' money locked up in research and development. Unless this great company employing nearly 40,000 is given some real research work, its position will become very precarious in a year or two.

The problem goes further than that. Behind the scenes in all these negotiations between the politicians here and in France we have the Americans at work. There is the pressure of Pratt & Whitney, who would like to keep Rolls Royce out of Europe at any price. Too often we are seen off by the Americans with their high-handed methods. They were great friends and allies in the war. I am in business in America, and I know how they trade. They may be good friends, but they are the toughest people and use methods which, I am glad to say, we do not stoop to in this country. I hope that the British Government will deal effectively with this matter. The real answer to the supersonic airliner question would be a joint effort on the part of these two great countries with Bristol Siddeley and Rolls Royce working together. Both are well-known and are highly respected in France. Something on those lines might be worked out.

I referred to vertical take-off aircraft when commenting on the remarks of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington. Here Britain has a real lead over the Americans and everyone else. Orders have been placed for the Hawker 1127, and now plans and specifications have been provided by the Hawker Company for the N.A.T.O. competition. The Hawker 1154, I understand, will have a speed Mach 2.5, about 1,400 miles an hour, with a vertical take-off. The way to get it into N.A.T.O. countries is not to wait until everyone has argued for two or three years, but for Britain to build it now, to fly it and get it into production. Then we shall maintain the lead which we have with the 1127. Of course, this will cost money, but Britain cam afford to spend money on research when we have an initial lead and want to maintain it for export orders. I hope that something will be done in that direction fairly soon.

The industry has done an excellent job on exports. The amount of materials used which are imported is almost negligible, but this will diminish unless research and development are given to the industry in the very near future. Government establishments and the industry must keep a balance of work for project teams. I think we all agree that these establishments do a remarkably fine job at Farnborough, Malvern, Bedford and elsewhere, but that is not fully recognised. They collaborate well with industry, and the results are good, but Government establishments are equipped to undertake fundamental research and the objective is to supply the basic technical information for use by industry. That is from Farnborough and Bedford.

The other research and development is carried out by the industry itself. This provides work for competent technical staffs. We have a good return on the money invested in research and development, but we have to see that the industry does not Jose in this respect. A number of these highly skilled men are influenced by their wives and can easily be attracted by more pay, and perhaps certain conditions, not only to other firms in Britain, but maybe to North America and elsewhere. We must try to keep these teams here.

I hope my right hon. Friend will forgive me for referring to his Ministry. As I see it, it is still more or Jess a Ministry of Supply. We now have a Cabinet Minister there, and a very good one at that, and we have a good Parliamentary Secretary, but that is not the be-all and end-all. We have the same technical staff at the Ministry. I want to be quite fair to them, because a great many of the technical staff at the Ministry have been there for a great many years. They have grown up with it, but it has been impossible for them to make the same progress as those employed in the industry. They cannot keep in step, and in that they are at a disadvantage. The industry hesitates to be critical of the Ministry, because the Ministry is a customer and the industry does not like voicing its opinions, but it is indeed unhappy, and so are many people in the Services, about the Ministry of Aviation.

One thing I criticise is the continual delays which take place in the Ministry. There may be good reasons for this, but there was the case of the Herald. I do not want to go into the whys or wherefors of that, but as a Conservative I believe in private enterprise. If a company can develop an aircraft as Avro did, I do not think it should be given the order regardless of performance or price. It has taken 18 months to settle this. Now we come to the Vigilant, and there may be queries about that. I understand that the order has yet to be placed, or the contract to be signed. I understand that a fixed price has been given to my right hon. Friend's Ministry. If that is the case, and if there are still technical points outstanding, they ought to be thrashed out. I thought that the order had been placed.

Regarding the Belfast, we are all very pleased that Shorts are making good progress, but I would ask my right hon. Friend whether it is economic for a company to be making only ten of a new type of aircraft. Through no fault of the company, it will be probably the most expensive aircraft ever produced in Britain. The bill may be anything from £40 million to £50 million. Can something more be done for Shorts? The Government are shareholders in this company, and I personally do not believe in a Government holding shares in an industry like this. Could not something be done to give Shorts extra support to enable men and women to be employed in Northern Ireland, which we all want to see? By bringing them in on the mergers we could give them extra strength to do sub-contracting and that sort of work. This is something that should be looked into.

We have at the Ministry of Aviation a Controller, Guided Weapons and Electronics, and a Controller, Air. The Controller, Air, used to be an air marshal or air chief marshal who had close liaison with the Air Ministry, the principal user of the equipment. Today we have a very highly qualified and technical man, and I wonder whether it is a good thing or not to have a Service representative at the Ministry of Aviation. I should have thought that the right thing to have done here would have been to have one executive and two deputies.

One cannot mention names, but I suggest to my right hon. Friend that there are one or two men in his Ministry who are not technical men and have far too much power. They are constantly delaying for the sake of delaying because they want to look into everything. One hears of these delays all the time. I hope the Minister will not take this amiss, because it is not meant personally—in fact, I have said it long before he took over his present office—but I should like to see the procurement of aircraft and electronics done by a procurement department of the Ministry of Defence. The Minister of Defence is the man who decides what the three Services shall have. Otherwise, they would be going round the corner and ordering through another Ministry.

We hear arguments that the same thing is suggested with research and development, and this could well be carried out, and we could have a Minister of State. It will be a very nice job for somebody to do this work, but the question then arises of what is to happen in civil aviation. Here, again, it is a question of dealing through bilateral agreements and so on, with a Minister of State working for the Ministry of Transport. To get aircraft and electronic equipment about six Ministries are involved, including the Treasury, and I believe that the Prime Minister and his colleagues should look into this again to try to sort out some method which will simplify the ordering of equipment. We are told of ventures that have been started and stopped, and it is the same in industry, where a man must be big enough to take the responsibility of deciding when a project will stop. Perhaps the Rotodyne ought to have been stopped two or three years ago; I do not know, but reading the Report of the Public Accounts Committee about development costs rising from £3 million to £30 million, we should remember that the important thing is that the taxpayers' money should be taken care of.

I conclude by saying that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary is doing a very fine job in very difficult circumstances. I think the industry itself is doing a very fine job and every man in it, but they have to be given encouragement and real research and development work if Britain is to retain the position which it has today. Otherwise, we shall lose that position very rapidly indeed, and, in consequence, we shall lose exports.

6.4 p.m.

Mr. John Diamond (Gloucester)

It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), who speaks with very great knowledge and experience of these matters, knowledge which is matched only by his personal courtesy. We are always glad to listen to Mm, and it was a pleasure today to compare the way in which he approached these problems with that of the Minister of Aviation.

The hon. Gentleman wants to see a leading British aircraft industry. So do I, and so do all of us; but the hon. Gentleman is conscious of some of the shortcomings and did not regard this as an opportunity for making joke after joke about it. He is conscious of the shortcomings of the Ministry and the lack of speed in coming to a conclusion, which is so damaging to businessmen, who must plan their production and must have quicker answers to their questions.

The hon. Gentleman is conscious of the gap that is coming, and we know that it is a gap, but the plant is there during the gap and will be idle, and the men and the skilled teams are there during the gap and they, too, will be idle. The hon. Gentleman said, and we all agree with him, that we do not want to retain men in this industry if they are not necessary. We are all seeking disarmament, but this is not the only industry in which there is a shortage of skilled men. There is the same shortage of skilled men in every industry, and there is the same shortage everywhere. The shortage in this country, and I imagine everywhere else, is a shortage of brains, and we must spread them as best we can. It is no use tying men up in any particular industry if there is no need for them there, and we all agree with him about that.

The hon. Gentleman concentrated on some of the problems of the industry, whereas the Minister said he was going to set out what the policy was and would follow this up by explaining how the policy was working so that the House might come to a conclusion whether he was to be criticised or not. The right hon. Gentleman partly said what the policy was. He referred only to the question of co-ordination and contraction of the various firms concerned, and then proceeded conveniently to forget all about it, to ignore all the difficulties and to treat us to a display of his debating hilarity and skill which I could not help thinking was much out of place. I dare say it was as much out of place to four of my constituents who have come from a factory where 2,100 are to be sacked before the end of the year and who were listening to the right hon. Gentleman in the Gallery. I dare say that they, too, thought that it was possibly their lack of a sense of humour that prevented them from laughing uproariously at the jokes which the Minister made.

Why the Minister chose to pick on an hon. Member who has not yet made his maiden speech and to attack him in this way when he had no need to do so, I do not know. He could have criticised Liberal policy and what was said by Liberals in the by-election without naming a new Member who has not yet made his maiden speech and could not reply. Why the right hon. Gentleman chose to do that, I fail to understand. "Anything for the sake of a joke" must be the Minister's motto.

I apologise if I bring a serious tone into the discussion, but I regard this as an extremely serious matter, and so, too, I dare say do the hon. Members from Northern Ireland and the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle). All of us who are involved with men facing the sack in large numbers because of mismanagement, mainly to be laid at the door of the Ministry, take a serious attitude to it. I want to point to some of the things the Minister said he was going to do but failed to do, and, first, I will deal with what the policy was and the extent to which it was carried out.

I hope that nobody will ask me what my policy is. I am not in the Government. I am tracing what the policy is within Conservative philosophy. The hon. Member for Macclesfield said what his philosophy was, and I understand, accept and respect it. We have a Conservative Minister, a Conservative Government and a Conservative majority, and we are just beating at the air to try to suggest Socialist remedies in these circumstances. All we can do is to see what Conservative policy is, and the extent to which it has been carried out. I dare say that I shall carry the hon. Member for Macclesfield with me in a good deal of what I am going to say. I go back to 16th July, 1959, when the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones), then Minister of Supply, gave a clear analysis of the problems facing the aircraft industry. The right hon. Gentleman has continued to give us very clear analyses ever since he has moved from the Government Front Bench and occupied the third bench below the Gangway. They have been clear, helpful and, perhaps, less inhibited than when he was a Minister.

I am not quoting the right hon. Gentleman's words but am giving a summary of what I understood him to say at the time, having listened carefully to his remarks. On 16th July, 1959, he referred to the American and N.A.T.O. problems and to various matters which the hon. Member for Macclesfield has mentioned, but two things in particular emerged. One was that there should be a new structure for the industry based on the closest possible partnership between the State and the manufacturer, with the consumer closely represented. The second was that there should be integration with Western Europe on the example of the Coal and Steel Community so as to provide for economies of scale and appropriate outlets. That was what I got from that debate. I want to examine the extent to which the conclusions which emerged from that debate have been carried out.

Let us deal, first, with this closest possible partnership between the State and the industry with the consumer fully represented. The Government have been far from giving guidance as to a long-term plan. And which industry more than the aircraft industry needs a long-term plan? Everybody knows that every industry must make its plans, but the aircraft industry in particular, by virtue of the time that it takes from the first conception to the time when the aircraft are flying off the airfield, needs a longer-term plan than any other industry.

Far from giving guidance, the Government have shown confusion, because they came out in 1957 with their famous White Paper saying, "No more manned aircraft. We are going into missiles." That has not happened. We are going back into manned aircraft. There was a complete switch of policy in 1957 and there has been a gradual switch back since then. This is the main cause of the lack of ability to plan for the industry.

Consider the guidance which the Government have given in terms of the labour force. The labour force at that time was 250,000. We were told that as a result of Government policy there would have to be a rundown of the labour force to 100,000, a drop of 150,000, over a period ending in 1963. We are now in 1962 and the present number employed in the aircraft industry is either 280,000 or 300,000, depending upon how one defines one's terms and the difficulty of including in the aircraft industry everybody in the electronics industry. It is sufficient to make the point clear that far from the substantial three-fifths rundown, which was the guidance given by the Government, there has been an increase.

Mr. Hocking

Is it not also true that this increase in the labour force is largely supported by the large number of private venture projects that have been fed into the industry over the last few years?

Mr. Diamond

No, it is not true to say it to that extent. The Minister bas made the point clearly that a substantial part of the work in the aircraft industry depends upon Government orders, a much more substantial part than could be accounted for by an increase of from 100,000 to 300,000.

The third way in which the Government have sown confusion is by the board set up under the Air Transport Licensing Act, as a result of which a number of private airlines have been encouraged to apply for licences—some companies have them and some do not—and as a result of which B.E.A. and B.O.A.C. have not been able to plan their long-term requirements with the same certainty. Whereas formerly they had the field to themselves, they no longer have it to themselves. They must estimate what part of the field they must allow to others and, therefore, they can no longer say to our manufacturing industry, "We shall need so many of this and that kind at a certain time."

Mr. Burden

If the hon. Member recalls the situation, B.O.A.C. stated that it had sufficient capacity already to take care of all growth in air traffic over the next six years.

Mr. Diamond

That may be. I have made the point, however—and I am sure that the hon. Member, who is well informed, on these matters will agree—that this is an extremely long-term industry. It is no use dealing with merely the next six years. There is no aircraft which B.E.A. will fly which can be a conception today and be flying off the airfield in six years' time. It takes longer than that.

Those are the three ways in which the Government, far from helping, have sown confusion. Fourthly, far from the policy of close partnership, they have departed from it considerably. This is not because they were pressed into doing so. I wish to read what the Society of British Aircraft Constructors said at the time concerning co-operation with the industry: Instead of leaving the industry to find its own salvation, the Government must play a much more active rôle in planning the industry's future"— this was the manufacturers speaking; they had the sense to realise that it was impossible to work as two separate entities— not only by providing the funds which are unlikely to be forthcoming from private investors, but also by mapping out the lines of future development. The funds were forthcoming. The right hon. Gentleman who is now Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations made a statement in February or March, 1960, announcing the provision of the funds.

I want to read what the Guardian had to say about that on 16th February of that year: Parliament should demand some assurance that they will get a full return. Mr. Sandys, when asked whether the Government contemplated taking shares in the aircraft companies in return for capital assistance"— it was I who asked the question— said that it did not. Why? A share in the equity wth the possibility of capital gains would be an excellent investment from the taxpayer's point of view. The argument that this would involve the State interfering with management hardly applies here, as it is precisely because of such interference that the need for injecting public capital has arisen. The Government are a 70 per cent. shareholder of Shorts. The hon. Member for Macclesfield put the figure at above 50 per cent., but I believe that it is as high as 70 per cent. or even more. They are a controlling shareholder. It is nothing new for the Government to hold shares in the aircraft industry. Therefore, far from having a long-term plan to help the industry, there has been complete lack of planning.

I want to quote what "Interavia" has to say about this. "Interavia" speaks with authority on these matters and had this to say in relation to the Farnborough Show of last year: The complaints among the industry are not directed primarily against the lack of financial support, but against the lack of a firm programme that would enable the companies concerned to make a reasonable long-term plan, as there are limits to the time that missile teams can be maintained in being without a contract. Therefore, as to the first leg of the argument that the closest possible partnership is needed, I am saying that the Government have failed to provide it and have, on the contrary, sown confusion in these four distinct ways and made life a good deal more difficult for the manufacturers and for the workers in the industry.

The next leg of the argument was integration with Western Europe so as to secure exports. Several hon. Members have quoted figures showing how the exports of aero-engines have gone up with commendable speed. Rolls Royce is doing an excellent job, as is the whole aero-engine industry. But total exports presents a different picture. If one takes 1958 as the base year, at which point exports were rising, the present level of British exports is 3 per cent. below that of 1958. In other words, the total of all aircraft materials exported in 1961, including aero-engines—and airframes, which have suffered a remarkable drop—was 3 per cent. below 1958. Exports of aero-engines went up, including engines in the completed aeroplanes, so all credit is due to the aero-engine manufacturers; more credit, in fact, than the figures demonstrate.

Let us compare that with the French figures. We went down by 3 per cent.—and this is what the Minister of Aviation regards as a matter for light-hearted debate and jocularity—between 1958 and 1961 while the French aircraft industry's exports went up by 300 per cent. They have built up their industry from nothing after the war. They achieved a particularly good design in the Caravelle, and they have gone from success to success.

I do not believe that this is a matter that can be lightly glossed over or that the Minister of Aviation can regard a question about whether or not we would nationalise the industry as being such a stunningly good winning point. Has the right hon. Gentleman realised the full implications of the French figures? Have those figures been drawn to his attention? Does he realise that a large part of the French industry is nationalised and that it was mainly the nationalised firms which achieved the great break-through in French aircraft design and manufacture?

The Minister did not make such a frightfully good debating point when the question of nationalising the industry came up. Is he aware that a large part of the capital and practically all the research is provided by the Government? According to Conservative philosophy it seems perfectly all right to use public money for private enterprise, but there must be no accountability to the public for it.

This is most unsatisfactory and, as the situation develops to an even more unsatisfactory pitch, the Ministry does little about it. Far from getting to grips with the problem as presented by the Continent, the Government do nothing. It has already been said that the Americans are getting to grips with this problem. They have their agencies and we understand that the French have come to terms with the Americans and it is thought that the Caravelle may be manufactured in the United States and that instead of having Rolls Royce Avon engines it will have an American engine incorporated in it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] This is what I am informed. Perhaps the Minister can say whether this has been looked into, whether the Government are satisfied that they have nothing to fear and that they can continue in their present complacency.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

I think the hon. Gentleman's information is about 18 months out of date. The project to manufacture Caravelles and replace the engines with General Electric ones was dropped some time ago, and I do not think that there is any danger of it being resuscitated unless, of course, T.W.A. places a substantial order; and even then they would be made in France.

Mr. Diamond

Nevertheless, I repeat the question. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary takes these matters seriously and affords hon. Members a great deal of information. We are all concerned to support, as far as possible, the future of the British aircraft skill, its ability and its workers. This brings me to the subject of the European Coal and Steel Community, which can be cited as an example. Under E.C.S.C. pits have been closed, just as aircraft works have closed down in the aircraft industry. But when the pits have closed down the workers who have lost their jobs have been treated in this way: They had 100 per cent. of their wages for the first four months and 80 per cent. for the next four months. In fact, by the time six months had elapsed—or half way through the 80 per cent. period—90 per cent. of all the workers displaced had been re-employed.

There is a simple principle here; that where there is a redistribution or reorganisation of the industry—which may be necessary, for no one is denying that we all wish to make the aircraft industry more efficient and, to do that, we must look at it as a whole—in the interest of the community and the State the workers should not be penalised. After all, it is not their fault that the industry has to be reorganised. It may be that certain pits had to be closed down in Belgium and elsewhere. Certain aircraft factories may have to be closed down here. I do not know. But the British workers should be treated as well as the coal workers I described.

The hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch will know about workers who have written to me and who are very much concerned about the position. In my constituency 2,100 workers will be discharged between now and the end of this year, starting next month. They are to be discharged although, in due course—we do not know how long—a new tenant will be found for the Gloster Aircraft Company's factory and these men will be needed again.

With all this going on we have the Minister talking about teams and the value of keeping research workers together. What is he doing about keeping these units intact? I know what he says he is doing, but, in fact, he is doing absolutely nothing. I put a question to the Minister asking him what he is doing to keep the men at work until the new tenant is found. The right hon. Gentleman replied: My Department is in constant touch with the Ministry of Labour and the Board of Trade on these matters."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th December, 1961; Vol. 650, c. 906.] We know how to assess an answer like that. Then we had an Adjournment debate, during which the Parliamentary Secretary said: … we are and have been in the closest touch with the Ministry of Labour and the Board of Trade on problems arising from the change in the size or shape of the industry…".—[OFFICIAL REPORT 7th December, 1961; Vol. 650, c. 1712.] I followed that by putting a Question to the President of the Board of Trade to find out what he had done, and when I asked him what steps he had taken he replied, "None". It may be a pleasant picture to see the President of the Board of Trade holding hands with the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary—"keeping in closest touch"—but so occupied that he does nothing and leaves the workers of Gloucester in such a difficult position. The workers about whom I am speaking are threatened with the sack. They know that from next month redundancy notices will be issued. They also know that there will be work for them in due course, but they do not know how long that will be.

All this could have been avoided if the Government had seen fit to plan at the time. When the integration of the industry took place the Government said they knew that it was inevitable that there would be redundancies and that, as part of the integration plan, certain factories would close down.

This is happening in my constituency I dare say there are reasons for it happening, but the present position is that the factory is closing down not through lack of work. Since the close-down decision was taken—whether this is due to another change of Government planning, I do not know—the factory has been overwhelmed with work and all the men have been spending their time shipping out plant and transferring to another factory. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) knows that there are considerable opportunities in his constituency for engineering workers. The work is all being transferred, whereas if full knowledge had existed of what might be required there is no doubt that the men could have been retained. There was a change of plan on the Government's part and that is why the factory had to be closed. The company, Hawker Siddeley, said that and that the Government denied it. I am not in a position to judge. My suspicion is that there has been a further change. I only know that the men are being thrown out of work.

Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)

Some of them are going abroad.

Mr. Diamond

Yes. Some are going to make Fokker aircraft—about 80 or 100 of them. The men are being placed in this unenviable position, and I am sure that every hon. Member opposite as well as we on this side will sympathise with them.

There is so much work in this factory which is being closed that some men are having to work overtime, yet others are being sacked. They say, "Why should we work overtime and our mates be threatened with the sack?" The answer that they get is, "You either work overtime here or we ship the parts to Coventry, or wherever the factory goes, and they work overtime there". All this puts employees in unnecessary difficulties purely because the Government have failed to carry out what they promised to carry out, namely, a long-term plan, and have not had regard to the social needs, as happened in the case of the Coal and Steel Community. If it is proposed to reorganise an industry, which may be necessary in the interests of the nation, the whole burden should not fall on the workers.

6.33 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Gough (Horsham)

Every hon. Member will have the greatest sympathy with the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) and, indeed, with any hon. Member who speaks on behalf of his constituents when they face unemployment. However, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not follow his line of argument.

I have an interest in this matter in that I do a great deal of business with the Hawker Siddeley group on the welfare side, including dealing with its pensions, and I am sure that the employers, as a group, try to do the best they can for their employees. In view of the hon. Gentleman's strictures on my right hon. Friend about his levity, I hesitate to say that one thing which surprises me is how the hon. Gentleman has managed to get four of his constituents into the Public Gallery.

I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) on his maiden speech on this subject. He spoke with commendable humility—in fact, such humility that it was only towards the end of his speech that one realised that he was speaking in support of what is more or less a censure Motion on the Government. If the hon. Gentleman had dealt with this matter on a party political basis—I am glad that he did not, and I have no intention of doing, either—it would have been utterly inappropriate and out of place.

This subject is too serious to start bandying words across the House on a party political basis. I am impressed by the words of Surtees, who said that More people are flattered into virtue than bullied out of vice. We on this side feel that there is a great deal of virtue in the hon. Member and his hon. Friends raising the subject of the aircraft industry because it is a matter on which many of us spend a great deal of time, and, therefore, we are glad to have the opportunity of debating it.

A great deal has been said about the Government's part in this matter. I should like to put my remarks on a fairly high level of principle and to deal first with the industry itself. Because of the steps which the Government have taken in the last few years, the industry has had to face quite a revolution. I do not think that it has been said often enough—I certainly make no apology for saying it now—that the members of the industry have supported the Government in this evolution extraordinarily well, and deserve a big pat on the back. In the 1957 White Paper there was suddenly a change in slant from ordinary aircraft to the missile, both for defensive purposes and as a deterrent. That caused many cancellations. In addition, there was the major reorganisation which brought together a large number of firms to which my right hon. Friend has referred.

A few weeks ago I said some fairly harsh things in the House about certain members of the aircraft industry. I happen to be the chairman of the Royal Aero Club, and I have known many of the people in this industry, both as men and boys, for about thirty years. It gives me great pleasure today to add my word of praise to the way in which they have come together. It is not easy to be brought together in firms, and some of these people, like Sir Roy Dobson and Sir Aubrey Burke, in one group, and Sir George Edwardes and Sir William Verdon Smith, in another, deserve praise. They are setting high standards in their groups which make it possible for these groups to act efficiently. Since I had some harsh things to say about West-lands, perhaps I might be allowed to say how much I regret the decision concerning the Rotodyne. It must have been a very severe blow to Westlands, and I am sorry for the company.

The industry, having been rationalised in the way that it has, is entitled to ask, and we as Members of Parliament are entitled to ask, whether the Government have followed suit and have rationalised themselves. This is not meant in any sense of criticism. This is a very difficult and serious problem, but I think that we all realise that the machine itself is too cumbersome. I wonder whether enough thought is being given to streamlining it so as to overcome the delays. An enormous number of very important Government officials are engaged in this industry.

I was talking to someone in the industry this morning, and I was amazed when he told me that his group—it is one of the big groups—invited no fewer than 1,400 Ministry representatives to Farnborough last year. They were all top-notch people. It is not the £5 a week man who is invited to Farnborough, with a caviare lunch laid on, and that sort of thing. I repeat the question which has been posed today: is the organisation too cumbersome from the Ministry's point of view?

An enormous amount of money is spent in this industry. My right hon. Friend referred to the sum of approximately £300 million a year. As in any industry, the yardstick in this industry is, first, what is the amount of money spent, and, secondly, is it being spent wisely and can it be cut down? My right hon. Friend and the Parliamentary Secretary know that, if they make quick decisions which might give the impression that money is being wasted, no one will be after them quicker than hon. Members on both sides of the House.

The dilemma in the system is that the Government must have an enormous number of committees, which often overlap and which undoubtedly cause an enormous amount of delay. The Minister might start thinking about shedding some of his other responsibilities in order to get on with the job concerning the aircraft industry. In my opinion, this is the most important part of his work.

It is about time that my right hon. Friend might consider giving up being a "station master" and put the airports of this country under a form of authority similar to the Port of London Authority. This point has been put to my right hon. Friend before by hon. Members on both sides of the House. A great deal of the Minister's time is taken up by what I might call "pettifogging" questions, to do with London Airport, Gatwick and the rest of it, so perhaps he might consider that suggestion. It might help.

I am not proposing that we should reduce in any way the money which we spend on research and development. I think that there are certain aspects of research and development which might not be being considered sufficiently at the moment. I should say that, first, we should study the constant increase in the complexity, and, therefore, in the cost, of aircraft. Today, an aircraft is such a fantastically complex piece of machinery that by the time it is built, certainly in the commercial sense, it is almost impossible to make it a paying proposition.

My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) drew attention to the enormous increase in the cost of the fighter. He reminded the House of how much was paid for Spitfires and Hurricanes in war-time. I think that it was about £20,000 or £30,000, and, therefore, one could have bought almost dozens of Spitfires and Hurricanes for the price of one fighter today.

When we are looking to the future, and hoping that the whole opportunity of the aircraft industry will be vastly increased—and concurrently with a reduction in armaments as the result of the normal policy of the world towards a state of peace which we all hope will be the case—I think that one of the first requirements in relation to research and development should be to see whether we might be able to find a way to manufacture some form of aircraft for a commercial purpose. Perhaps it would be a machine which is not quite so fast but very much cheaper.

The only other thing I wish to mention has already been referred to by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington). That is the nuisance of noise. I think that this was the principal reason why the Rotodyne was turned down. Anyone interested in the aircraft industry generally must agree that it is a nuisance. I have heard Lord Brabazon and other people speak about it and it has become almost intolerable. I say that as one who is a tremendous supporter of the aircraft industry. In the middle of the twentieth century we ought to take this matter much more seriously and be more concerned about the appalling noise which we are creating above the earth's surface.

I come back to the problem which faces the industry vis-à-vis the Government, to which I wish to make an ordinary businesslike approach. A businessman would approach any industrial problem by looking, first, at his present market and the opportunities of salesmanship. Also, he would look at what he could offer for the future. As I think was said by the hon. Member for Gloucester and others, by and large the market is provided by the Government, and that is that. Therefore, the salesmanship necessary in that respect is the relationship between the industry and the Government. I am informed, I believe it to be right, that by and large that relationship is good.

We come to the next point which has been mentioned, but I make no apology for referring to it again. It is that the Government cannot provide a sufficient market to keep the aircraft industry going efficiently. That is why the hon. Member for Gloucester has the difficulties in his constituency which have to be faced. We must, therefore, go further afield. I wish to underline what was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield. Many of us, myself included, do not believe that we are—I will not say not making sufficient effort, because we are doing that—but we are not making a sufficiently constructive effort to sell to foreign countries, particularly N.A.T.O. countries and, as will be the case later on, to sell within the Common Market.

Is our salesmanship good enough? I do not think that it is. The reason is plain. Often we are too naïve in the matter. Our salesmanship in the N.A.T.O. countries is left in the hands of Government-sponsored delegations, it is left to civil servants. I am sure that they are exteremely good civil servants; but I know few salesmen who would make good civil servants, and I do not know many civil servants who would make good salesmen. As was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield, we are "up against it" with the Americans.

I expect that many hon. Members will remember President Eisenhower's letter to his ambassadors two or three years ago. He drew their attention to the fact that at that time the United States aircraft industry was the third biggest industry in the world, and he told all his ambassadors that it was up to them to become salesmen. Those of us who served in the Second World War will remember what happened, especially those who served in Italy. I remember only too well that when the Americans were advancing up the Italian peninsula, almost at their forward headquarters they had some of the most peculiar looking officers—disguised colonels and majors, and goodness knows what—with proposal forms in their pockets, and they were doing business.

One hon. Member said that those were not the sort of methods that we ought to adopt. I hope that they are not. But we must realise that we are up against some "tough eggs"; and that if we do not put out our best form of salesmanship against them we shall not get anywhere.

The industry feels that it is rather shut out of the list. Possibly with the best will in the world, some Government-sponsored missions do not like to see what they consider rather hard-boiled and common salesmen from the various groups in their party. But I should like to see much closer integration. I should like the firms to be allowed to send their own representatives to meet the representatives of other countries and to do the job. Then we should know whether we are right or wrong in this matter. Whatever it may be, I believe that at present our salesmanship is not quite good enough.

I mentioned that we are spending an enormous amount of money on this industry, but are we spending it correctly? As a businessman, I like to look at the products which I have, to see which is the best and whether I can concentrate on them. There are two items on which we should concentrate, and they have both been mentioned in the debate. The first is the vertical take-off aircraft. We are four or five years ahead of anyone else in the world in respect of that. I do not know whether I ought to say too much about it, but I believe that we have a new transport aircraft coming along which will be a world-beater as well. These are the two items in respect of which I should say that we are ahead of anyone else.

I should like to pose one other question: where are we behind? Before the war this nation was the biggest manufacturer of light aircraft in the world. The name of de Havilland in those days was represented much more by light aircraft than anything else. Where are we today? But for the fact that Mr. Peter Masefield and his associates are trying to bring forth the Beagle there would not be anything. I was shocked to hear from my right hon. Friend that he has only two Beagles on his programme at the moment.

But for that, we should not have any business aircraft at all. Yet the United States is now exporting annually to Commonwealth countries no less than £30 million worth of light aircraft per annum.

Mr. Diamond

I agree entirely with what the hon. Member said about the Beagle. Peter Masefield and the Beagle Company are anxious to take over the factory at Christchurch, where men are threatened with redundancy, but they are suffering from severe delays because they cannot agree on terms for the factory, which belongs to the Ministry.

Mr. Gough

I hope that the hon. Member and I have been able to put a jerk into this matter.

I was pleased to hear my right hon. Friend say that he was glad to have the co-operation of the Americans and the Germans in the P1127, but are we being a little naïve about it? Are we certain that we shall get our fair share of it? The Government gave an order for six aircraft and then a further order for three aircraft, with three for Germany and three for the United States. What will those three aircraft be used for? Knowing the Americans and their methods, I am not sure that those aircraft will not be stripped down to the last nut and bolt and copied, and possibly four years' advance may easily be lost. I plead with my right hon. Friend not to be too trusting.

If we have something good, then, to use a colloquialism, let us hold our horses and, when we are ready, go into the market with a bang. I remember that not many years ago we were the first with jets, but I do not suppose that many Americans remember that. There was a time when the whole of Europe was flooded with Meteors and Hunters. If we are four years ahead with any development, let us concentrate the money on it, get the timing and salesmanship right and then go to town on it.

On the other hand, let us look at the part of the industry in which we are not so good—the light business aircraft. We can get back our pre-war position in this respect, and it is vital that we should do so, but we are not approaching the problem in the right way. I put down two Questions for oral answer the other day on this subject. One was about Croydon. That is going to the wind. The second Question, which was not reached and was given a Written Answer, asked how many airfields have been closed since the war around the area of London.

The total number is 35. I do not want to make any party point about this, for both parties are equally to blame. We are not air-minded. The reason that Croydon is being closed is that some of my hon. Friends who represent Croydon have been bringing pressure to bear. They do not like the noise and they do not like aeroplanes. They would rather have factories.

The fact remains that if we are to go into the Common Market and to try to capture markets in Europe, we shall have to have more and more business aircraft, and it is no good getting the aircraft industry to build these aircraft if we deny the users the airfields from which they may be used.

It is probable that over the next decade the total annual sum of £30 million will be scaled down. We all want to see that happen. If we can achieve success at the Summit with universal disarmament, it must be scaled down. But we need not be pessimistic about it. There are other things which we can build. If we concentrate on those things at which we are good, and if we build up what is needed for the future—in particular, the lighter aircraft which will be used more and more—then we shall succeed.

All of us, irrespective of party, should ask ourselves whether we are air-minded. Is the nation air-minded? I heard the other day that the Alcock and Brown statue at London Airport—very few people know of it and very few Americans know that Alcock and Brown were the first to fly the Atlantic—is to be put in a car park. That is not the sign of an air-minded nation which is prepared to support its aircraft industry.

We must give a lead from the House. I should like to see the House of Commons Flying Club started again and I should like to see Ministers having their own private aircraft, to support this industry. In addition, I agree with the hon. Member for Gloucester that some support should be given now to the Beagle aircraft. If that is forthcoming, then I am certain that this great aircraft industry, which has been doing a good job, will continue to do a good job.

6.56 p.m.

Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)

The hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) speaks with an incomparable commercial, technical and operational knowledge of aircraft, and I, for one, would hesitate to dissent from anything that he said, but I believe that he has not gone sufficiently below the surface to the deeper political implications of the debate. Our function today is not simply to consider the technical aspects of the aircraft industry, important though they are, but to consider the whole structure of the industry and whether it is the most apt structure for the needs of our times.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) spoke in very moving terms about the difficulty of the aircraft workers in his constituency. I speak rather as a residuary legatee benefiting from his troubles, because much of the work which has been stopped at Gloucester has been transferred to the Gloster-Whitworth Factory in Coventry. There the situation might well justify the general bouyancy which the Minister showed in opening the debate. I believe that we have enough work in connection with the Argosy freighter aircraft to last for at least two years, and among those workers there is no pessimism about their immediate future. But they have a deep concern about the overall picture. It is not satisfactory to them that they should be in full employment while their fellow workers in Gloucester are made redundant. The situation in Gloucester is paralleled by that in Christchurch.

In the course of the debate other hon. Members will refer to the plight of workers made redundant or who can foresee in the district in which they live, which in many cases were formerly areas of light industry, no suitable outlet for their skills. These workers will therefore be forced to move out of those districts or, alternatively, to emigrate. When I say "emigrate", I mean that, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester said, already large numbers of tempting offers are being put out by foreign firms, not only Fokker but also firms in the United States. They are seeking to attract these men of great skill and long experience, many of whom are specialists in their particular kind of tool making, which everyone knows is one of the most important activities in the aircraft industry. They are also attracting, at a different level, designers and draughtsmen. They are all being attracted away.

Mr. Lee

Is it not the case that a number of the people to whom my hon. Friend referred have already gone to the United States and that they played a not unimportant rôle in the development of the Atlas, which Colonel Glenn used for his expedition the other week?

Mr. Edelman

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for reinforcing that point. One of the great tragedies is that it seems likely that much of the British skill developed from apprenticeships onwards will be absorbed in overseas developments in which the British contribution will not be recognised.

I hope that the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christcihurch (Mr. Cordle) will permit me to refer to what is happening in Christchurch, where about 1,400 workers are shortly to be made redundant. They are being enticed by the Fokker Aircraft Company, Which is offering free board and lodging and free flights home every six weeks. These are powerful inducements. It would be of relatively small account, bearing in mind one's views on the movement of labour in the Western world, if it were not ultimately to redound to our detriment. It seems to me, as a consequence, that the words of the Amendment which the Minister quoted so optimistically have an undue bouyancy which does not correspond with the observations of many hon. Members or, as I shall seek to show, with the general attitude of those who are engaged in the aircraft industry, whether as employers or as workers.

The Minister described very touchingly the way in which he landed at Woomera and was immediately surrounded by people who thought that he was Father Christmas. If Father Christmas is considered in the image of a man with a sack who doles out bounty all over the place, then he and his predecessors can be regarded as a sort of Father Christmas who, at the expense of the taxpayer, for many years has been distributing largesse to the aircraft industry for which the country has not had an appropriate benefit. But if we look at the state of the aircraft industry today, the Minister is a Father Christmas with a cloven hoof, because whereas on the one hand he has brought substantial benefit to those who have extracted these subsidies, of very long duration, from the Government, on the other hand, under his administration and following the policies of his predecessor, there has been created anxiety in the hearts and minds of very many workers in the aircraft industry throughout the country.

It is true, as he pointed out, that there seems to be an upward trend in the overall numbers of those who are engaged in the industry, but perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us later how he arrives at the figure of 300,000 alleged to be engaged in the industry. I inquired of the Society of British Aircraft Constructors to see whether I could obtain from them some accurate statistics of those who are employed in the industry, but no one there was able to tell me, simply because the total number of workers engaged is shrouded in all sorts of other activities in which the various firms are engaged. I view the figure of 300,000 with a certain amount of reserve.

Nor do I believe that the estimate of good health in the industry can be made merely on the basis of how many workers are employed in it. We have only to look at the French industry, in which 83,000 workers are employed in all its manifold activities. Last year those 83,000 workers produced exports to the value of over £100 million—not much less than the figure of our own total exports. The most striking thing which one sees immediately is that if one compares the apparent productivity of the French aircraft industry with that of the British aircraft industry, it is obvious that there is something wrong with our productivity.

Mr. Hocking

Will the hon. Gentleman care to say how much of the figure for the French aircraft industry which he has quoted originated in his own constituency?

Mr. Edelman

I am talking about exports and that point is therefore irrelevant. The point is that for some reason or another the French aircraft industry was able to export to that amount.

If we balance what the French are doing against what we have been doing in this country, we must consider why our performance in terms of productivity seems to fall so much below that of the French. I think that there are multiple reasons for this. So many projects have been started and dropped, so much experiment has never come to fruition and so many enterprises have been embarked on which have never come into production that there is clearly something wrong with the planning and administration of the industry.

My hon. Friend spoke—his point has been reinforced from the other side of the House—about the hiatus which is likely to occur when the present generation of aircraft comes to an end and before a new generation appears. In this connection I want to quote a letter which my hon. Friend the Member for Letchworth and my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) and I wrote to The Times on 18th April, 1957, in which we recommended that our own aircraft industry should combine with that of France in order to try to produce for B.O.A.C. and for France an Atlantic non-stop jet airliner capable of competing with American aircraft in an advanced development stage. That suggestion was dismissed out of hand by many aircraft constructors, who believed that we should be able independently to produce something that would accept the American and potential French challenge.

We have now reached the stage when, whereas the Americans are proceeding with the; development of supersonic aircraft and the French seem within reach of producing their supersonic Caravelle, we ourselves are lagging behind. Accepting all the difficulties and technical problems to which the Minister referred, we are nevertheless lagging behind. That is quite certain. We shall be outdistanced because, whereas the Joint Federal Aviation Commission which has been studying the question of supersonic aircraft in the United States expects that the Mach 3 aircraft will fly in 1967 and be in production in 1970, and whereas the French, who have had £70 million for research for the super-Caravelle, are likely to produce an aircraft which will fly in 1965 and be in service in 1968, at present we have nothing comparable with which to challenge them.

Mr. Snow

My hon. Friend has quoted a letter Which he and I and another hon. Friend wrote to The Times in 1957 on the subject of collaboration with (he French—a letter to which we received a very dusty answer from the S.B.A.C. In view of the visit by M. Buron about which the Minister has talked, it was right that my hon. Friend should quote the letter, but I would point out that the should have referred to me as the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth—not Letchworth.

Mr. Edelman

I am obliged to my hon. Friend.

At this point I can perhaps congratulate the Minister on the steps that he has taken in older to promote co-operation with France in this connection. I personally oppose the idea of the Common Market, but I am fully in favour of European integration. I believe that it is possible by division of labour between the United Kingdom and some of the countries of Europe, and by combining our research and technical experience, to produce an integration of our activities which will be of benefit to ourselves and those with whom we work. From that point of view I certainly hope that from the visit of M. Buron there will emerge an effective collaboration which will be in the interests of Britain and France.

Having said that, I have stated the last of the congratulations which I can offer to the Minister. Looking back over his whole stewardship, I can find nothing in it which has remedied the built-in defects of the system of aircraft procurement. I believe that the aircraft industry for several years now, certainly since the war ended, has benefited from the very proper praise which was given to the men—the designers and producers—who before and during the war planned and were able to produce the aircraft which helped us to win the war.

Those were the days when everything went. Those were days when it was very proper that the subject of accountability to the nation should not receive such close scrutiny as we have to give it in peacetime. Indeed, when the great requirement was to drive the German aircraft from our skies, it was natural that the Government should constantly be under pressure, and should yield to that pressure, which required that as much money as possible should be poured into the production of aircraft.

At the beginning of the war I had something to do with aircraft production. I remember how difficult, slow and reluctant certain Government Departments were in those days to give the go-ahead to firms which were interested in research and development. Dramatically, all that changed. Suddenly all the money that was required was made available.

But in those days the aircraft industry as a whole, which even then was a relatively small and tight community, operated on the cost plus system, which has for many years been consistently criticised by hon. Members on both sides of the House. One would have hoped that, despite the Minister's encomium to the estimators in his Department, the abuses which clearly existed under that system might wholly have disappeared. Instead of that, we can see in the case of Blue Steel, for example, now a project which was in the beginning estimated to cost £16 million—

Mr. Wigg

Does not my hon. Friend mean Blue Streak?

Mr. Edelman

—had a final figure of about £60 million. I hope that, when he replies, the Minister will not just brush that on one side. The whole House will want to know how it is, in view of the praise which he offered to his calculators, that a weapon of this kind should have been so grievously miscalculated in its financial implications.

We bandy these great figures about because we are concerned with defence. We are hesitant in offering criticism because it is something which affects the whole country. However, they are very heavy figures, and they deserve much closer scrutiny than the Minister has yet given them. I want to know what his reply has been to the criticism of the Comptroller and Auditor General. I want to know, not only in the case of something which because of its nature makes a dramatic impact on the country, not only in the case of a missile like Blue Steel but also in respect of the many other aircraft which are now being developed, what scrutiny he gives the accounts in order to ascertain where the money is going.

I have already referred to the figure of 300,000 workers in the industry mentioned by the Minister. It is right that my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester and other hon. Members should seek to defend the opportunity of men to work in the industry to which they have been directed. Nevertheless, that does not exonerate the Minister from an obligation to ensure that the money which is poured into the industry is not allowed to become an excuse for inertia on the part of those who at present control the industry.

The essential thing to remember about the industry is that it is not an ordinary commercial activity. If instead of calling these figures "subsidies" we trans- lated them into terms of losses, I wonder what would happen. If we were tonight talking about the railways, for example, I wonder what sort of outcry there would be from the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). Suppose all the subsidies which have been put into the aircraft industry in the last ten years were computed and then translated into losses. From an ordinary commercial point of view, it is obvious that the firms which now operate the aircraft industry have been wholly feather-bedded throughout their existence. Whereas on the one side when it comes to paying out dividends they regard themselves, understandably, as ordinary commercial enterprises, when it comes to making losses they immediately start clamouring for Government support.

I was interested in the hon. Member opposite who, while professing the Conservative philosophy and talking about the virtues of private enterprise, at the same time joined in the general demand coming from the industry for more assistance and more financial support. There were great cries of derision when the Minister made a few derisory comments about an article which my hon. Friend wrote in Tribune. The attitude was that on the Opposition side of the House there are hon. Members who are clamouring for more and more Government support whereas those on the Conservative side of the House are believers in the pure milk of private enterprise.

The fact is that the aircraft industry has not for many years been an industry of private enterprise. It has been heavily subsidised. It has been heavily rationalised, so that today there are only two major groupings. It seems to me—now I state entirely my own point of view—that the ultimate logic of all that is that the aircraft industry should be regarded as a public service both for defence and for transport and that, finally, instead of having two groups, there should be a single group concerned with the tasks which lie before the industry. In other words, I believe that the only way to bring the aircraft industry under public control, with full public accountability, is to nationalise it.

I wholly agree with the recommendation of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions. I believe that the only way in which we can have some idea of where the thousands of millions of pounds which we have been pouring into the industry is going is by bringing the industry as a whole into public ownership.

In the meantime, there are immediate problems to be tackled. There is the problem of the gap to which I have referred, the problem of how Britain can regain the pre-eminence in the aircraft industry of the world which the genius of her designers and the skill of her technicians and workers deserve. I believe that the need of our times is, first, that there should be either a full Ministry or, failing that, a board set up with a man at the head of it capable of the drive, the dynamism and the foresight required to restore the British aircraft industry to the place in the world which it merits. If that is done, we shall have a chance to take our proper place in competition with the United States.

Two hon. Gentlemen referred to the tough and rough methods of American salesmen in world markets. It is proper that that reference should be made. I was astonished when an hon. Member referred to something which I did not know, and perhaps a few other hon. Members did not know. He spoke about invitations from the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation to hon. Members to have a trip, with their wives, to the United States, presumably to examine the installations of the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. That is salesmanship which I should not urge anyone in this country to try to imitate.

At the same time, I believe that we are faced with a ruthless competition which needs all our determination to combat. I do not believe that the Minister, for all his euphoria and enthusiasm, has the qualifications to compete with the Americans on that basis. I do not think that it is a matter of him making elevating speeches. What is necessary is someone inside a Government Ministry who has the authority and power to rationalise the industry fully and then go out into the markets of the world to compete; someone who has the vision and foresight which many men had in the early pioneering days of the aircraft industry; and in that way, and in that way only, will it be possible to restore the British aircraft industry to the position it should occupy in the world, and that is number one

7.21 p.m.

Mr. John Cordle (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)

The hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) and the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) touched on several matters which concern me to a great degree in my constituency, and I am grateful to them for giving me a lead into what I have to say.

I am glad of the opportunity to put before the Minister one of the biggest problems that has faced the people in my constituency for many years. The whole question of the future of the de Havilland factory at Christchurch raises problems which are not merely industrial or economic, but which affect the lives of many hundreds of people in the vicinity. I cannot over-emphasise the urgency of this problem. Since the amalgamation of the Hawker Siddeley group with the de Havilland group and the streamlining and contraction which has taken place in recent months in the aircraft industry, the employees at the factory at Christchurch have suffered considerably.

Their anxiety about the future has not been lessened by the long delay in the change-over from de Havillands to the Beagle Aircraft Company. It seems that no one is accepting responsibility for this uncertainty. Hon. Members know that de Havillands has placed the closure date of the Christchurch factory as 1st July, with the termination of its lease with the Ministry for the premises on 30th September. We are all greatly encouraged to know, and I am sure that the Government are equally pleased, that the Beagle Aircraft Company has negotiated for these excellent and well situated buildings, and is prepared to take some part in absorbing the high grade technical aircraft workers and unskilled labour in the area.

I intervene in this debate to bring to the notice of my right hon. Friend the need to expedite this difficult change-over. I can readily sympathise with and defend the case of the tenant who has to leave a factory which he has rented happily for over twenty years. Obviously, there are numerous tasks in tidying up affairs, and these tasks surround the de Havilland directors at the moment as they get down to the moving of their various tools, jigs, drills and presses to Chester and to Hatfield.

It takes time, and a lot of time, to vacate such premises, and no doubt the directors of de Havillands can defend the case for carrying on to the end of the term, especially as they have to complete their existing orders for Sea Vixen aircraft. But the employees find matters more worrying as they visualise a time of possible unemployment.

The hon. Member for Coventry, North, and the hon. Member for Gloucester mentioned this unfortunate and regrettable gap that is likely to occur due to this slow run-down process. The winding up of one organisation and the beginning of another creates an obvious need for a complete review of the labour force that is likely to be employed by a new company which is not on a Government cost-plus basis, but is on a strictly competitive commercial basis, and has to look at every penny in this hard, cold world of competition.

One had thought that there was an argument for the Beagle Company taking possession of part of the premises while de Havillands began to move out, but on looking closely at this it would be impossible for such a plan to be put into operation because the main assembly hall, which would be required for the new jigs for the manufacture of an executive aircraft—this business aircraft it is producing—is still very much in function with the jigs in operation for the manufacture of the Sea Vixen, and it seems that until the last Sea Vixen and all the component parts have been completed there is no likelihood of the Beagle Company moving in. It is for this reason that de Havillands should make every effort to facilitate a smooth take-over, prompted by my right hon. Friend.

There is also the difficulty of a new company engaging staff when it still does not know the date on which it can take possession of the premises. It seems, therefore, that the workers will find themselves out of a job, and it is on this point that I am most anxious. There are at present about 1,650 employees at de Havillands. Our hope has been that they would be quickly absorbed into the new company and kept together as a team. For the past twenty-three years they have worked well as a team. Their record of good relations between workers and management is without question above average.

The urgent points that I want to make to the Minister are these. First, that he has a responsibility because de Havillands is still running on Government grants and Government orders. Secondly, because of this responsibility, this large factory must not be allowed to die slowly with consequent appalling hardship and uncertainty to the workers of all grades. Thirdly, my right hon. Friend must see that de Havillands does not stand in the way of the Beagle Company coming in to take over the premises at the earliest possible date, so that as many employees as possible at all levels are absorbed in to the new company without loss of time and work. Fourthly, my right hon. Friend must also recognise and appreciate the need for urgent action so that the large potential export orders on the Beagle Company's books are not delayed simply because the company cannot get possession of the premises.

If this change-over can be effected smoothly before the termination of de Havilland's lease on 30th September, the Beagle Company will be able to move in and begin production the sooner on its several types of executive aircraft. With a full production of a minimum of 500 aircraft a year for buyers at home and abroad, the prospect for the employees will be secure, the existing anxiety in the area will be happily relieved, and the national economy improved by vital export orders.

I am fully aware that I have pressed my own cause and the difficulties being faced at Christchurch, but I assure my right hon. Friend that there are many other matters of great importance in this progressive industry. One thing I do not wish to do is to leave the impression in the House tonight that the aircraft industry is on the decline. It is my firm belief that it can have a great future, and that, with the support of the Minister, such a future will be secured.

7.30 p.m.

Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)

The Minister told us that this industry covered a very wide field. I hope that he is proud of the fact and that he will recollect that he has had many predecessors. I have been engaged for a long time in putting questions from the Opposition second Front Bench and in taking part in these debates.

I remember when the Minister of Aviation—it was called Civil Aviation in those days—was the present Minister of Pensions and National Insurance. I remember when the Minister of Aviation was the present Minister of Defence. I remember when the present Minister of Transport was also Minister of Aviation. Then there followed the divorce between transport and Aviation, and the present Minister for somewhere in Africa—I do not know which part—was appointed Minister of Aviation. Now, the right hon. Gentleman follows that long line of Ministers of Aviation in the last ten years. We have had all those Ministers sitting there in charge of what the right hon. Gentleman described as an industry that covers a very wide field.

It is, in fact, the second biggest industry in the United Kingdom. The only one that employs more people than aviation is agriculture. Yet the Tory Government have treated it in the most shameful fashion. They have had a constant flow of Ministers dealing with an industry employing more people than almost any other and concerned with problems of the utmost difficulty. The hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) enunciated very clearly the serious nature of these problems. But they did not just start to confront the industry in the last year or two; they have been with it all the time, yet the Government have been constantly changing the Ministers in charge.

Mr. Hocking

The hon. Gentleman said that the aviation industry was the second largest employer in the country. I understand that it only employs 300,000 people, but he said that it was second only to agriculture in the number employed. That surely cannot be right, because the building industry employs one-eighth of the working population.

Mr. Rankin

I am guided by the figures in the Digest of Statistics. They show that agriculture employs more than 300,000, which is the number we are told are employed in the aviation industry, which takes in not only manufacture and research, but also the operational side.

The Minister should be grateful to me and to the small band of hon. Members on this side of the House who have helped to keep him in a job. Had it not been for us, he would have had little parliamentary work to do. When he came back from his resignation to sit on that Front Bench—I remember the day well—he looked a most depressed man indeed. I think that he was thinking of the long line of predecessors and was wondering how long he would be in the job. Then he saw the Order Paper and observed that there was a small group of hon. Members interested in his job and that they had a number of Questions ready for him. They were all on this side of the House.

Sir A. V. Harvey


Mr. Rankin

The majority were. Some hon. Members opposite me now very rarely have Questions on a Monday. It is not a very popular day. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is deeply grateful to the Opposition for giving him parliamentary work to do, and for keeping him going at a time when he is telling us that he may put 20,000 other people out of their jobs.

That is the introduction to my speech. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite should not be too hilarious. The last time I spoke on the Air Estimates, I had a very carefully prepared speech, but the Minister who introduced those Estimates gave me such golden opportunities to go after him that, at the end of half-an-hour, I had not reached my speech, and it has never yet been delivered.

Mr. Gough

Would it be mischievous of me to suggest that the hon. Gentleman is making a very long speech tonight because so few of his colleagues can fill in the time?

Mr. Rankin

That is a question put to distract me and to provoke me into following a course which I want to avoid. I want to get on with what I have prepared. If the hon. Gentleman desires me to bring in some of my colleagues, then they will be in here quicker than he can say Tweedle-dum or Tweedle-dee—he has his choice.

We have heard a great deal about Christchurch tonight, and I want to say something about it later. Now I have something to say about Scotland, which is not unusual from a Scottish Member. I hope that is not the reason why the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) is departing.

Scotland is now and has for a long time been concerned mostly with the manufacture of aero-engines. Rolls-Royce has a factory at Hillington, on the verge of my constituency, and another one at East Kilbride. Tribute has been paid to Rolls-Royce aero-engines. The company employs about 10,000 men. Apart from that, we have maintenance work, and all together the number of persons employed in maintenance, repair work and engines is only about 15,000.

That is a very small fraction of the 300,000 persons employed in the industry about whom we have been hearing tonight. This afternoon, I put a Question to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury about a fifth university for Scotland. He tried to show in his replies that Scotland has sufficient universities compared with England based on the proportion of those who want a university education, in both countries. If that proportion, applied today on the university side, were applied to the aircraft production side, then, instead of having 15,000 persons employed in the industry in Scotland, we ought to have 40,000. The Minister has been failing in part of his duty.

Scotland is helping to provide the vast sum of money invested in the industry, principally supplied from Government sources. There is £4,131 million of public money invested in aviation. If it had not been for that money, as hon. Members have recognised, the industry would not have been in the state it is now. In my view, as Scotland contributes her share to the money which helps to keep the industry going, Scotland ought to be getting her share on the aircraft production side.

I hope that the Minister will keep this in mind. He will soon have an opportunity of stepping in to do something about it. In a year or so, we shall be moving from Renfrew to Abbotsinch. At Abbotsinch, we shall have the biggest airport in all Scotland, 773 acres. Only a quarter of that will be absorbed by the needs of civil aviation. Therefore, the Minister has the opportunity to see to it that Abbotsinch is used not only for operational purposes, but for manufacturing purposes, also. This would do no harm to Prestwick, whose cause I have often advanced in the House.

We are told that we ought to commend the Government's performance in overseas markets. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"] I am interested to hear those "Hear, hears". On 5th March, I asked the Parliamentary Secretary a Question about the Government's performance in the export of aircraft. In 1959, 430 aircraft, combat, non-combat, civil aircraft and used aircraft, were exported from this country. In 1960, the number fell to 236 and in 1961 it fell to 161. How have the Government the face to ask for commendation of a performance like that? It calls for condemnation, not commendation. They take refuge, of course, as the Parliamentary Secretary did, in saying that the value in 1959 was £154.7 million, in 1960 it was £140.4 million, and in 1961 it had risen to £146.4 million, although still more than £8 million below the value in 1959.

Mr. Burden

The hon. Gentleman has said that the House was asked to commend the Government. In fact, the House is asked to commend the aircraft and associated electronic industries. It is "the industries", not the Government, which is rather different.

Mr. Rankin

That is an old dodge, of course. The hon. Member may take from his face the engaging smile which he always uses when he wants to hide some of his manifest parliamentary deficiencies. That is an easy way of riding off.

During the debate, the Government side have tried to put us in the position of appearing to attack the industry. We are doing no such thing. We have been in very close touch with the industry. I have. We are attacking the Government and the Government's policy. It was not the industry which put the Amendment down, but the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues. The right hon. Gentleman expects me to support him by putting Questions and keeping him in a job when the group behind him are not even present to say, "Hear, hear".

Sir A. V. Harvey


Mr. Rankin

It may be brutal, but it is the truth. Of course, I except the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), but none of the others.

That is a dreadful performance over the past three years; a tremendous decline in the number of aircraft exported. Although there was an increase in the value of exports between 1960 and 1961, there was a decided fall between 1959 and 1961 and the Parliamentary Secretary cannot ride off with his reply that we should be glad that exports increased in value from 1960 to 1961.

Sir A. V. Harvey

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is trying to be fair. He must look at the situation over the past seven or eight years in assessing what Britain has achieved. Vickers had a winner in the Viscount and sold about 400. The airlines have been re-equipping, perhaps far too rapidly, and they have now re-equipped. At the moment, the French are having some success with the Caravelle, but that is running dry We are coming to the next phase, with British aircraft, the VC10, the 111 and the Trident. It cannot be done every year. These things are like fashions, subject to fluctuations. The hon. Gentleman must be fair about it.

Mr. Rankin

I could not help being fair. It is as easy for me to be fair in debate as it is for the hon. Member for Macclesfield to find a reason for this fall in aircraft exports. He concentrated on the fact that aircraft are not consumed very quickly—that was the basis of his explanation—but he failed to point out that his party is deliberately restricting the market to which aircraft might be exported. I am thinking of the Eastern bloc. Nobody has condemned the Americans more than the hon. Member. I have heard him do it repeatedly. He does not like the Americans in the business sense. He thinks that they are "tough guys". There are people who believe that they are tough guys in the political sense, too.

We are now proving that in the case of the export of Viscount aircraft. The Viscount is one of the finest propositions which British skill and workmanship have ever produced. We cannot export it to China, despite the announcement of the President of the Board of Trade at the end of last year, because Standard Telephones, which employs 26,000 British workmen and produces the navigational equipment for the Viscount, to a British design, cannot send that navigational equipment in a Viscount to China. It is an American firm, controlled from America. And subject to an Act of 1917 which still treats China as an enemy. So we are barred from exporting our aircraft to China because of American control which the hon. Member and several of his hon. Friends have deprecated and condemned in respects other than the export of aviation commodities.

Talking about the operational side—and I am glad of the help of the Government side of the House in this respect—reminds me of another Scottish grievance B.E.A. does a magnificent job and provides transport quickly and easily to parts of Scotland which could not otherwise be easily reached. That costs B.E.A. £280,000 a year; and it has a similar loss in respect of the Irish Sea routes—£250,000 a year—making a total loss of more than £500,000.

The Government say Chat B.E.A. has to assume that obligation, despite the recommendation of a Standing Committee of the House, on two separate occasions, that the Government should subsidise B.E.A. in the operation of these necessary services. Instead of subsidising and helping the Corporation, the Government have set up the Air Transport Licensing Board, which will make it even more difficult for B.E.A. to create the surplus which it must have, to pay for these particular services. If it does make losses then the party opposite will howl like hyenas about the way nationalisation fails and has failed in the past.

I come to my main and concluding point. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the supersonic airliner. I think that he accepts its necessity, but he was very vague about his attitude. He seems to think that this aircraft can be built only if he calls in French help. That is a pathetic attitude, but I agree with him that there are difficult technical problems in the transition from the supersonic bomber to the supersonic civil airliner. As he must be aware, the difficulties stem from the requirements which are peculiar to the transport of civilians and to which I want briefly to refer.

First, the fuselage volume must be larger to accommodate passengers. Secondly, each aircraft must have a long operating life in order to be economic. Thirdly, a supersonic machine must be compatible with the airports from which it is expected to operate and with the traffic control system which can be brought into existence at the time the aircraft comes into service. Fourthly, the aircraft must be socially acceptable in the sense that it ought not to cause undue noise at, or in the vicinity of, the airport, or on the routes over which it will be flown. Fifthy, safety requirements are even more stringent than for the bomber and more difficult to realise. Sixthly, the aircraft should have substantial growth potential to avoid large later development costs for achieving increased performance and to escape the difficulties of bringing another completely new machine into operation. I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that those six points fairly well cover the characteristics which this aircraft must embody.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration in America has carefully gone into all these matters and has estimated that proving a supersonic aircraft from start to finish would cost £360 million. It has also taken the view that about half of the necessary research and experience has already been gained, which means that the figure will be out by 50 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman is, therefore, faced with a potential expenditure of £150 million.

It is generally accepted that 14 million man-hours would be involved in completing the first prototype, and that is probably the reason why the British Aircraft Corporation is talking to the French Company, Sud Aviation, because French man-hours work out much more cheaply than British. We recognise that B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. are not very keen about having a supersonic transport in the near future as, naturally, they want to amortise their existing fleets and those aircraft on order by about 1970. After that, I am certain that they would be prepared to take delivery of the supersonic machine.

We must remember that the first airline which uses the supersonic aircraft will have a tremendous advantage over its competitors. Traffic would automatically flow to it at the expense of the others. That would have a revolutionary impact of employment in the British industry and on the advancement of our industry as a whole. It is because the Americans are conscious of this that two years ago there began hearings before a special investigating sub-committee of the Committee on Science and Aeronautics of the House of Representatives—on 17th, 18th 19th, 20th and 24th May, 1960. The Committee took evidence from military agencies, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, from manufacturers and airline operators. As a result, it decided that a supersonic transport should be built with government aid. The United States budget for last year provided for substantial sums to be spent on research and development in this connection, although we know that the Americans are thinking of jumping straight to the Mach 3 type.

However, the hearings made some things clear. Existing traffic control systems and existing large airports will be able to handle a supersonic transport without difficulty. We also know that the Soviet is working on at least two supersonic designs and it may well be that while we in this country are dithering over a West European consortium and the Americans are experimenting with a Mach 3 prototype, the Russians will suddenly start operating, through Aeroflot, a Mach 2 transport of which no one had heard until today, when Aeroplane and Aviation News gave the first intimation of Russian intentions in this respect.

At the House of Representatives hearing, the Director of Development Planning of the U.S. Air Force took the view that the supersonic transport of troops was the natural extension of the existing transportation systems employed within the Air Force; although he plumped for a Mach 3 jet, which would travel slightly faster than a rifle bullet. The American intention is evidently to develop an offshot of the B70 prototype while, at the same time, the Air Force was developing a prototype Mach 3 bomber and plans to expand this development to a strategic bomber force for the inventory. He added: While admittedly not optimised for a transport an additional B70 prototype vehicle could be considered to carry approximately 100 passengers and used to obtain the necessary data for the final design and operation of an optimised transport. He concluded with the words: In summary, the Air Force considers the development of a supersonic transport to be technically feasible and a desirable national objective. I am asking the Minister of Aviation to consider this decision. He may be familiar with it—I do not know. But it has been regarded, as a result of research into the project, that it is a desirable and a possible national objective. Of course, its effects on employment, on exports, and on the operational side would be of such a powerful nature as to lift this country out of the pool of despondency that it is now in and restore it once again to the lead that it had in former days in this industry.

8.5 p.m.

Mr. Philip N. Hocking (Coventry, South)

The Opposition today have stated their case very clearly. They have also told us in no uncertain terms what their policy is to be. They intend to nationalise the aircraft industry. Not only would they nationalise the manufacturing side of the industry, but they would like also to draw very tight rings around the operating side of it. I can only say that in my constituency and in the City of Coventry generally, where aircraft have been manufactured for a very long time, those views will not be taken very kindly.

I listened to the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman), whom I do not see in his place, with considerable interest. He spoke of the two or three years' work that the industry could look forward to in Coventry as a result of the construction there at the present time of the Argosy freighter. It may be that there is sufficient work in the factories and on the shop floors, but my information is that the design teams and those who work in the drawing offices have not this amount of work before them. I was also disturbed to hear him run down the British aviation industry in the way he did. He compared the British aviation industry with the French aviation industry and suggested that the French industry was much the better. This is his usual line of attack. I have listened to him speak in a number of debates on a number of subjects, and on every occasion his answer has been that the industry must be nationalised.

Mr. Diamond

My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North is not in the Chamber, but I am. I heard him say roost distinctly that he regretted that the exports of the British aircraft industry did not compare favourably with the exports of the French nationalised aircraft industry.

Mr. Hocking

The hon. Gentleman did say that, but in general he ran down the British industry, as he has frequently done on other occasions with regard to the motor car industry, man-made fibres and chemicals. His answer in each case is "nationalise it." I am beginning to think that he always makes the same speech no matter what subject we are debating.

The aircraft industry is rather like the curate's egg—good in parts but bad in others. The industry is at the present time exporting and earning for this country £150 million a year. This money is earned largely from the sale of aeroengines and components, particularly components such as hydraulic systems and landing gears. The French Caravelle has been mentioned. It is significant that quite a large proportion of that aircraft is made in this country.

The hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) rather suggested that our aircraft industry should go on selling various specialised parts to other people throughout the world. This is not a very satisfactory way for the British industry to develop. We are at present exporting a large proportion of components and aeroengines largely because these products have been tried previously in British aircraft and airframes. Yet today this is the very part of the industry which is not very satisfactory.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) suggested that we should produce a supersonic jet airliner. I spent Monday of this week talking to a large number of aircraft manufacturers. I talked over the weekend to many of my friends who went to school with me and who work in these factories. None of them seemed to think that this was a practical proposition. They said that it would be impossible to operate it on many services. I am told that the Americans have tried this and have had a successive run of broken windows as a result. It certainly would not be a scrap of use to B.E.A., though the hon. Gentleman suggested that it would be.

If the industry is short of work from the point of view of airframes, there is a method in which it can be put right. We should try to develop a transport aircraft to an even greater extent. We should allow the companies to develop this aircraft and give them support orders. We should purchase them and allow the Royal Air Force to fly them in Transport Command.

We heard this afternoon how the Boeing 707 was developed for civil use from a military aircraft. This country appears to practise the reverse operation. The military version of the Comet was developed from the commercial version. The military version of the Argosy was developed from the original commercial version. We should reverse this process and give support orders to a number of firms to develop a transport aircraft to be used by the Services. From it a reasonable civil version could be developed. This would help the industry considerably.

Another point to which attention should be paid by the Government is export sales. On Monday morning I talked to one of the leaders of the industry. He told me of the difficulties the industry is having in organising sales overseas. Not having been engaged in the industry or in its financing, I mentioned the E.C.G.D. He told me that this is not a scrap of good to the aircraft industry, and that in any case it would operate only for three years. He said that in some cases today British firms were giving credit up to seven years. I am told that the Americans are giving credit for as long as ten years. It is clear that if we are to earn money in the export market through our aircraft industry, which makes a valuable contribution, attention must be paid to the whole question of credit and the amount of time for which credit is given. I urge the Government to make special arrangements so that our aircraft manufacturers can have a chance to compete with the Americans in the export market.

My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) mentioned how aggressive the Americans were in getting orders for their aircraft. I asked the gentleman to whom I spoke on Monday why the Americans managed to establish themselves on the Continent of Europe to the extent that they do. He said that they definitely got this business through their air attachés, who went out deliberately to sell American aircraft. Why on earth cannot British air attachés do the same for this country? Is it unreasonable to expect them to press the claims of British manufacturers throughout the world? I hope that my hon. Friend who is to reply will give some information that the Government have this in mind.

If, as it appears will be the case, the industry is in for a hard and tough time in organising itself on its present basis, we must pay attention to these details. I believe that the whole battle must be won at home. We cannot just sell aircraft overseas. The Government must be prepared to give some form of support order to the various companies on the lines I have suggested.

However, although my right hon. Friend this afternoon gave a very clear indication of the Government's policy, I believe that there are other things to which they should pay attention. They should say how much money they are prepared to spend on the development of aircraft over, say, seven years. It is utterly wrong to expect the aircraft industry to continue on a shoe string or on the basis of very short term intentions. The Government should give a clear lead and help in selling the aircraft overseas.

Hon. Members opposite may well argue that I am advocating the provision of public money to assist private companies. There is no earthly reason why the Government should not take a share, as I understand that they do at present, of the profits earned through participation and development, Without this lead I believe that the industry will begin to disintegrate. We have heard about the number of people who are leaving the industry now and going overseas, some to Europe and some to North America. Morale can quickly become low. If the Government prove to people in the industry that they have a firm intention to ensure that we have a healthy aircraft industry in this country and prove it by deeds, people will be prepared to remain and develop a very vital interest.

We have a difficult task in trying to win our way in the world and sell our goods. It is clear that we have superior knowledge in the industry and we can benefit by the brains that are in it. I hope that the Government will during the next few years give a clear lead and help to sell these brains overseas.

8.19 p.m.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

When the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) was delivering his delightful speech I mellowed so much that I almost threw my speech away. He brought back to my mind that it is just forty-four years ago yesterday that his distinguished kinsman, General Sir Hubert Gough, and his troops bore the brunt of the German break through. He was subsequently subjected to an act of great injustice and I hope that the hon. Member will take to him the compliments of those of us who are old enough to remember the black days of March, 1918.

Mr. Gough

I am grateful to the hon. Member for those words. If I may keep in order, in addition to conveying that message to my aged and distinguished uncle, I remind the hon. Member that at that time the products of Bristols, Faireys and, I think, Hawkers were used very much in that great battle.

Mr. Wigg

I now turn to the Minister. I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) in his strictures on the right hon. Gentleman, whom I regard as one of the most polished and finished politicians in this House. He is second only to the Prime Minister. When in a difficult position, and the ice is thin, he keeps running and even covers the water, after the ice has melted, at such a speed that he gets to the other side. This afternoon was a typical tour de force, for I suppose it can be said that he got away with it. He painted the usual picture of a Conservative Adminstration grappling with great difficulties and, finally, after spending several hours with wet towels round their heads, coming to the House with a solution.

The solution was the same on 15th February, 1960, when the present Minister for Commonwealth Relations, having "busted up" the Armed Services, tried his hand on the aircraft industry, on which he performed a similar operation. He came to the House and gave us and the country his new plan. I remember the occasion with much amusement, and I have cogitated on it since. I have waited for this moment to refer the House to the Adjournment debate which I initiated on 7th February, 1956. I then pointed out that the situation which faces the country now is not exclusively the product of the maladministration of the Conservative Party. Some of my colleagues had their part in it also.

At that time there were no fewer than 157 projects of which 18.6 per cent. had come to an untimely end and only 16 went into production. In that debate I forecast what the Government ought to do. That was to limit the number of contractors to five and to make the other remaining nine sub-contractors. I had the pleasure on 15th February, 1960, of finding that what I said in 1956 on this issue, as on the many other issues of defence, being adopted by the Government as though it were their own original thought.

Since then, the Minister and his predecessors have sat back and said, "The situation is now very difficult. It is beyond our capability. It is a question of world forces and there is not much we can do about it." We heard the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon describe the policy and say that he would show how it worked out so that the House could make a comparison, but he did not do anything of the kind. Having made a rumbustious attack on us to divert attention, he carefully avoided a comparison between the policy and its application.

How it will work out can be put in the simplest of simple terms. There are 300,000 workers in the aircraft industry in this country. In the French aircraft industry there are 83,000. Our exports represented 418.6 million dollars in 1961. The French, with roughly a quarter of our labour forces, had an export figure of 348 million dollars during the same period. If one thinks that that is the case for complacency and that everything in the garden is lovely, one should remember that the Financial Times on 9th November, 1961, pointed out that our exports this year are likely to fall off and are unlikely to expand again. That is a very serious position.

I come to this problem, as I did in 1956, for a very simple reason. I believe that a healthy aircraft industry is absolutely essential to the well-being of the Armed Forces of the Crown. That is my first approach and, going on from that, I believe it absolutely essential to the well-being of the economy of the country. The two are related.

Here I go back to the point I make in every defence debate. The complex problems of the aviation industry cannot be solved by one party alone. The problems have to be moved on to a basis where they can be looked at not from the point of view of one party or the other seeking to score this or that point, but from the national point of view. This afternoon the Minister challenged hon. Members to say what they would do about it. I always try to think constructively, whether on problems of the Army or of aviation. So I always start my researches these days by taking a look at what is happening in the United States. It is quite clear that everything is not lovely at the moment in the United States aviation garden, but note what happened there and what happens here.

Today, in this debate, speaker after speaker on both sides of the House has given the aircraft industry a pat on the back. It depends where one's constituency happens to be and whether aircraft are produced there. The hon. Member for Coventry, South (Mr. Hocking) did it to score a point against my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry North (Mr. Edelman) in order to get the right headlines. He wished to extol a particular part of the aircraft industry in his constituency. This is all part of the technique, but see what happens in the United States. I have with me a copy of a report of the Task Force on National Aviation Goals which contains, on the first page, the letter which the President of the United States wrote on 3rd March, 1961, to the Chief Administrator of the Federal Aviation Agency. He said: Dear Mr. Halaby, In your capacity as Administrator of the Federal Aviation Agency, you are requested to develop for my consideration a statement of national aviation goals for the period between now and 1970. The last sentence of Mr. Kennedy's letter read: I look forward to receiving a report by June 1. The letter from the Chairman of the Task Force to the Administrator was dated 1st September, 1961. It lays down in the most careful terms the considered opinion of experts drawn by the Government over the widest possible aviation field, Republicans and Democrats alike, financial experts, experts of all kinds who look at the problems of the American aircraft industry and lay down principles on which that industry should operate during the next decade. It points out that in the past, as with us, many reports have been submitted, and that they have not always been acted upon. It said: we are confident that the strong executive leadership of the Administration, coupled with wise legislation and enlightened and unselfish co-operation by the aviation community, should bring to fruition the tremendous, and as yet unachieved promise which aviation holds for our continued national progress and growth. If that is the approach of the President of the United States, and he can get results within six months, why cannot our Minister of Aviation do the same? Why cannot our Minister face up to the fact that a trend has set in which may cause the aircraft industry to collapse. Informed opinion holds that in many of our traditional fields—in the field of light transport aircraft, for example, as was mentioned by an hon. Member opposite this afternoon—we need a working party or to use the American term, a task force, which would have a look at the British aircraft industry and state the goals which have to be achieved over the next ten years in civil and military aircraft alike.

This is sheer common sense and yet, from the inquiries I have made, I do not believe this American report has ever been considered by the Minister of Aviation or by the Secretary of State for Air. I think that they are far too political to look at a bread-and-butter approach like this. Perhaps when the Parliamentary Secretary replies he will be good enough to tell the House what consideration he has given to this report, which covers every aspect of the problems which are worrying the American aircraft industry. There is a section on subsonic aircraft and it stresses that subsonic aircraft will be the backbone of the American aircraft industry until 1970. It deals very extensively with the supersonic transport and there is a great deal on this subject in Which hon. Members who have spoken this afternoon on this problem would be interested.

I wish that the hon. Member for Coventry, North was here, because it points out the dangers of associating with the French and relying upon the super Caravelle. For the Americans have reached the conclusion thus to go for Mach 2 aircraft means that by the time it is achieved, Mach 3, relying not on aluminium but on quite different materials, will sweep the board. They are quite confident that the Mach 3 aircraft, if it can get over the difficulties of the sonic boom, is the horse to back. These are very big problems, and, with very much regret, I have reached the conclusion that the Government's approach to the supersonic problem has again been a rather dilettante affair, and that they have not got down to the fundamentals.

There are seven things that ought to be done, in my view. First, there ought to be a determination of the feasibility of the project as a whole. That is absolutely essential. Secondly, in order that the Government and their advisers can get to grips with the environmental problem, they should ask the Americans to loan them a B58, or have one seconded to this country, so that the necessary examination can be made of the problem by actually using the Hustler. The third thing to be done, on which absolutely nothing is happening at the moment, is that there ought to be an examination of the parameter problem. At that point, the Government can then begin to start writing out their requirements, and that should lead to a competition to establish the best air frames and engines and other essential parts. The sixth stage is that the Government should start to select the prime contractors and the first and second tier sub-contractors. The seventh and final stage is that of ordering the prototype.

The Government have nibbled at the first stage, the feasibility of the project, and they have done a little bit in regard to looking at air frames and engines. And they have done little towards the sixth—having their eyes on the contractors—and there is beginning to be a little dispute between Rolls-Royce and Bristol-Siddeley as to who should make the engines. I am afraid that the Government will drift on this problem in the same way as they drifted into Blue Streak and many other problems, so that what money is available will be absorbed into something which, in their view, will hold out great prospects, only to find that they have been overtaken by events and that they will have to cancel it. Surely, what we have to do is to be less ambitious and start with a policy which matches the existing situation.

I am entirely at one with the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) that on its own the Ministry of Aviation as at present constituted—this involves no personal criticism of either the Minister or his Parliamentary Secretary, for they are not responsible for the legacy they have inherited—cannot solve this problem. If the aircraft industry is to be saved from collapse, the Ministry must bring in the best brains that the country can find to provide speedily the kind of solution that the Americans found in a few months last year.

If I am pressed as to what I would do, in my view the immediate job would involve the cancelling of three or four products. The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) will not be surprised if I mention one of them right away. I would cancel the Belfast. I am sorry for the hon. Member and for the people of Belfast, as well as those of Gloucester and of Christchurch, who work in the industry, but, sooner or later, they will be brought face to face with the economic realities. This is one of the reasons why I protest against what I and other hon. Members including hon. Members opposite, describe as political aircraft. Political aircraft, like political soup kitchens, are no substitute for the courage and clear-thinking which are required to deal with the problems which face the aircraft industry.

Therefore, I would cancel the Belfast. I would cancel the Seaslug. Our old friend the NA39, now the Buccaneer, should be looked at afresh. Where there are signs of backing a winner like the Bloodhound, the Government should go at it. It is quite wrong to blame the Government merely on the basis of their failures. In this game, there are bound to be failures, whoever runs the Administration.

My complaint against the Government is that they do not back any winners. They ought occasionally to bring one of them off. If the French can produce the Caravelle, the Mirage and the Mystere, we ought to be able to do something like that occasionally. We ought to be able to tackle these problems and produce those things which are within our compass and go on from there. Of course, the Americans and the Germans will be tough, but what is the good of coming down here and whining about it? We must think clearer and be even tougher. That is the answer to the problem, but we cannot do it if the industry has its hands tied behind its back.

I believe that the ice is very thin. Before long, if the Government go drifting along, the country will get a great shock about the stability of quite large elements inside the aircraft industry which I do not believe will be able to bear the strain indefinitely.

Rolls-Royce has been treated scandalously. Rolls-Royce stands for the best traditions and courageous planning and production of unequalled thoroughness. The name of Rolls-Royce stands for quality and for all that is best in British industry. I believe that Rolls-Royce has been driven into a corner. It will have to compete with Pratt and Whitney, not only in America, but it must also compete in Europe. In the ultimate, whether our aircraft and components can be sold depends upon price.

The fundamental question is whether the profit margins which are available to the British aircraft industry, of which Rolls-Royce is a part, are sufficiently large to enable firms like Rolls-Royce, in the long run, even to stay in business at all. That is the problem that faces us. Surely the fundamental problem here is whether in four or five years' time Rolls-Royce will still exist. That puts the matter into the right perspective when hon. Members talk about their constituency problems.

It is my belief, from the inquiries I have made, that Rolls-Royce has reached the position which now faces it because it has committed its own resources. on launching new projects to the extent of nearly £50 million; and it is committed to finding £20 million or more even to complete its existing projects.

I believe that the Minister has received one representation after another, not only from Rolls-Royce but from other sections of the aircraft industry, pointing out that the stage has been reached when these companies are being prevented from achieving the fullest exploitation of the position they have won for themselves. They have achieved this position on their merit in the markets of the world and they cannot maintain it unless there is further Government support.

This is a problem which goes far beyond the many issues which have been raised. Rolls-Royce—and I deliberately emphasise this firm again—cannot continue on the basis of the February, 1960. policy unless increased support is given to its existing projects. That must be done and the House tonight is really fiddling with the problem by putting forward Amendments and Amendments to Amendments. It is fiddling while the old ship becomes waterlogged and is in grievous danger of sinking. That is a fact and the Government must face it.

We have talked tonight as if something has just descended upon us. The Minister set the tone for this. But throughout the debate I have heard not a word of reference to the White Paper, The Supply of Military Aircraft, Cmd. 9388. That was published in February, 1955, and that gave a warning about military aircraft in the period to come. One could see from that White Paper that we were standing at the watershed. One could even see the effect of the Labour Government's decision not to develop the interim fighter. That decision had a strong effect on the future of the aircraft industry. That White Paper mentioned the Javelin, the P1, the V-bombers and the rest of the line.

It is idle to engage in a controversy about the future of the V-bomber. The question is whether there will be a V-bomber, a fighter force, or even an aircraft industry in five or ten years from now if the Government, of their own volition—whether they recognise the facts or not—have destroyed the economic and financial basis on which this industry exists. If the foundation of this industry cracks—as I believe it is doing—I forecast that, compared with the goals at which the Americans are looking for the end of this decade, the goal for the British aircraft industry will be this: there will not be an industry unless the Government really face up, not to the picture they like to paint, but to the facts as they really are.

8.44 p.m

Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)

When I listened to the opening remarks of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) I thought that we should get a clear analysis of the Opposition's view of the state of the aircraft industry. I hoped that he would propound some immediate and long-term solutions to the industry's difficulties. All he did, however, was to tear the industry to pieces—the airframe and other sections of it—without attempting to put anything in its place.

The hon. Member for Dudley mentioned my constituency and the aircraft workers of Short Brothers and Harland. This firm has brought great benefit to Northern Ireland. The training schemes which it has initiated have done much to help our serious unemployment position. But I should like to stress immediately, in answer to the remarks of the hon. Member for Dudley, that orders placed in Northern Ireland have been placed there not for a political reason, but on merit.

My right hon. Friend, in opening the debate, made particular mention of variable geometry aircraft as a way of breaking into the future and of developing an aircraft capable of supersonic flight of the order of Mach 2 or Mach 3. The first variable geometry aircraft was built in Belfast. The planners and designers in Short Brothers designed the SC1, the first vertical take-off aircraft to go through the transition from vertical rise to forward flight and then back to the ground again. It first flew in 1958 and completed its transition tests in I960.

In addition, in Northern Ireland we are producing the Belfast air freighter and the Skyvan. We have diversified and are producing the Seacat, for which we have received many orders from N.A.T.O. countries, and such other electronic equipment as analogue computers.

I wish particularly to say a few words about vertical take-off. Ever since the beginning of aviation, scientists have been concerned with the problems connected with runways. Runways have become longer as the aeroplanes have become heavier and faster. It is apparent that, with the very fast aircraft of the future, a new solution will be required. It was suggested during the Bleriot lectures in Paris, as long ago as 1954, that the ideal solution for a very fast supersonic aircraft, would be to rely not on the wings, which create a great drag at high supersonic speeds, and the flaps, landing carriage and all the other equipment amounting to about 10 per cent. surplus of the aircraft's weight when flying at full speed, but on the modern little engines which can be, and have been, developed by Rolls-Royce with a power thrust about sixteen times their own weight and which virtually lift the aircraft off the ground and transfer it to forward flight.

It is being more widely accepted that in such a project, in which Britain clearly leads the world, we in this country have the opportunity of continuing the research and development and of retaining the lead in aircraft production which we have had since the beginning of the century.

Mention has been made of the fact that we developed the first jets. Rolls-Royce developed the special vertical take-off engines. There are many military applications for a vertical takeoff aeroplane. The immediate application is as a fighter-reconnaissance plane, and such a project, the Hawker P1127, has been extremely successful. There is an order for nine of them at present, and there is every expectation that there will be further orders.

We must consider how this particular development can be used in future. From the military point of view, it could be used in connection with observation planes, and even with transport planes to bring equipment to unprepared pieces of land which could easily be made ready. Such planes would be less vulnerable to enemy attack. They could carry and move both men and equipment at will. It could land on a piece of ground—ordinary good turf would do—or on a piece of concrete no bigger than the aircraft and take off again. This is the prospect for five or ten years ahead. The time has come for the Ministry of Aviation to place further development contracts for such aircraft.

In answer to Questions which I put to him, the Minister said that the evaluation tests on the existing two SC1s are not complete and that there is no operational requirement for such planes. How can there be when there is not sufficient aircraft for the military commanders and the defence staff to see how they work? If we are to retain our lead in this important sphere, I suggest that the Minister should consider giving more and immediate support to the idea of a multi-jet vertical take-off plane in addition to the Hawker single jet system which is very limited in its application.

Such a plane could be used by the Army and also by the Navy. A modern aircraft carrier could be equipped with helicopters for anti-submarine work, and vertical take-off planes for observation and reconnaisance. In this way, the policy of the Government, as expressed in the Defence White Paper, of reducing the number of types of aircraft could be carried out and the same plane could be used from an aircraft carrier and with troops in the front line for reconnaissance work.

I wish to say something about the order for the Belfast freighter. This aircraft has been especially designed and tailored to meet the needs of the Army and the remarks of the hon. Member for Dudley, the attack which he launched on this aircraft, is completely unmerited and unwarranted. The plane will be capable of carrying equipment which no other plane in the world can carry and its capacity, load and range will be much greater than any comparable competitor.

Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)

My hon. Friend has heard the attack on the Belfast freighter by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and he will recall that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, after visiting Belfast, changed his view and is now a strong supporter of this aircraft. Would my hon. Friend consider inviting the hon. Member for Dudley to visit this constituency and examine the plane, and then perhaps the hon. Member for Dudley might change his mind?

Mr. McMaster

Certainly. I regret that the hon. Member for Dudley appears to be about to leave the Chamber. If he would consider finding out a little more about this aircraft I am sure that the firm of Short Bros, and Harland Would give him the same welcome as was given to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Wigg

I make it a practice never to accept the invitations of aircraft manufacturers.

Mr. McMaster

If the hon. Member cares to make speeches without first having ascertained the facts—

Mr. Wigg

On the contrary. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have thrashed out this subject over and over again. I should be willing to come to Belfast and to debate it with him, or perhaps he might like to debate it with me in my constituency. There have not been any purchases of the Belfast, and neither will there be.

Mr. McMaster

Lack of time prevents me from following up this matter and I regret that I cannot produce all the detailed facts which I have in my possession to answer that point.

With an order for only 10, when Transport Command now needs 25 or 30 strategic air freighters, it is difficult for the firm manufacturing the plane to quote a price. If the Minister of Aviation increases the order, as I feel sure that he will, the price will be halved. How can representatives of the firm who go abroad seeking orders quote a firm price when the price can vary very much once final orders are placed?

I hope that the Minister is considering other variations. There is a demand for a tactical freighter and it is the policy of the Government to reduce the number of types of aircraft. A variation of the Belfast could carry upwards of 250 troops, with arms and equipment, over a short distance, and I suggest that this would meet the requirement for a tactical freighter. But, as in the case of the SC1, time is of the essence, and unless these orders are placed quickly it will prejudice the obtaining of orders from abroad. There are many inquiries both in this country and in the United States in respect of this transport aircraft.

I conclude with some comments on long-term planning. It is essential that the Minister should think ahead. The number employed in the aircraft industry has increased from 280,000 to 300,000 over the past eighteen months, and the industry is reasonably satisfied with the immediate future, but to keep design teams together it is necessary to think of the suggestions which have been made tonight in respect of vertical take-off, transport and supersonic plans and to plan for ten years ahead.

My right hon. Friend spoke about interdependence. He urged the aircraft industry to rely more and more on interdependence. But in certain fields in which we have a lead it is essential that our secrets should not be given away too readily either to Continental or to American competitors just for the sake of the word "interdependence". Let us have interdependence by all means, but let us make sure that we exploit the advantages of the lead which we have at present.

8.56 p.m.

Mr. John Cronin (Loughborough)

The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) made an eloquent speech on behalf of the products of Short Brothers & Harland. I reassure him, I, too, think that the Belfast is an admirable aircraft—and I am sure that the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) will also be pleased to hear that. But we should keep our enthusiasm a little under control until the aircraft has flown. With that qualification, I say that I am sure that it is a very good aircraft.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House will join me when I say that we ought to express deep appreciation of the excellent work done by designers and teams in the British aircraft industry and the skilled workmen who support them. I join the Minister of Aviation in expressing appreciation of part of the work done by his Department. I refer to the Royal Aircraft Establishment, the Royal Radar Establishment and the National Gas Turbine Establishment. They do first-class work and the country has every cause to be proud of them.

But I propose to pay no further compliments tonight. I wish to make three points. First, there has been excessive expenditure on guided missiles, with some mediocre results; secondly, the policy of the Ministry of Aviation during the last two years has caused a serious decline in the competitive powers of the aircraft industry; and thirdly, the Government have no satisfactory plans for the industry for the future.

Turning to the first point, in a Question I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to let me know the cost of these various missiles and he told me in reply that it would be contrary to the public interest to let me know it. I am not quarrelling with that, but it seems that the public interest coincides with the Government's political interests, which no doubt is a happy coincidence for them. From time to time, however, we hear some facts about the missiles.—rather like rooks projecting out of the water at half-tide—particularly when we see the Reports of the Public Accounts Committee and of the Comptroller and Auditor General. This is practically the only information which we have about the cost of missiles.

I will refer briefly to some of these missiles. I will not take up the time of the House about Blue Streak, for hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that that was a monolithic miscalculation which, as the Minister told us, has cost £90 million so far. Sea Slug is a missile which has been developed over the last fifteen years and which so far has cost us £70 million. It is a missile which will be fitted to some ships which have not yet been built—guided-missile destroyers—and it will be an anti-aircraft missile with a range of twenty to forty miles. The only Objection to this heavy expenditure is that this missile has been developed for aircraft which will very soon cease to exist—in other words, aircraft which bomb ships direct or at a very short range. Already the United States has a guided missile which can be fired from an aircraft at a range of 500 miles, and it is unlikely that the Russians are far behind them. One feels that Sea Slug, which has cost £70 million, is of rather dubious value to the Army.

I turn to Thunderbird. This has cost us a mere £40 million, but it is simply an anti-aircraft missile, and to a very large extent it duplicates the functions of another missile, Bloodhound. Parallel development has been taking place. The Minister shakes his head, and it is true that Bloodhound and Thunderbird are different in as much as one is for the Army and one is for the R.A.F.; but the only essential difference is that they are manipulated by personnel wearing different uniforms. The development was started by separate firms.

The cost of Thunderbird was £40 million in 1960. I do not know the cost of Bloodhound, for it is one of those secret matters which the Minister keeps locked in his bosom. I turn to Fire-streak. This is a missile which has cost us merely £23 million. It is an air-to-air guided missile fired by one aircraft at another aircraft. In other words, it replaces the guns of an aircraft. This missile is fitted to our Lightnings, Javelins and Sea Vixens, and it has only one disadvantage: it can be fired only when the aircraft is actually in pursuit of its victim. It cannot be fired at an aircraft which is approaching it, or at another aircraft which is broadside on to it. It seems to me that that, again, is of very limited value. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Government are purchasing different missiles which can be fired at aircraft from all directions.

Lastly on the matter of missiles, I refer to Blue Steel, which had cost us £60 million up to September, 1960. That is a guided bomb which is fired from an aircraft and has a range of 150 miles. If we are fortunate, Blue Steel will be in service at the end of this year or the beginning of next year. Again, this has a disadvantage. American bombers now have as standard equipment a missile of a similar nature which has a range of 500 miles.

So I suggest that a very large amount of missile construction and development work has gone on for immense sums of money with a very limited amount of profit to this country. In spite of the Minister's reticence in this matter, I suggest that his Ministry has spent about £600 million on missiles in the last ten years and that about £200 million of that sum has just been money poured down the drain—roughly the equivalent of six groundnuts schemes, if another unit of measurement is required.

My second point concerns what I regard as the baleful effects of the Government's policy on the aircraft industry. The Minister is in a light-hearted mood this evening. He was even more lighthearted when he made his speech. I am a little surprised at his complacency, because if one looks at the figures for aircraft exports the position is a little depressing. In 1958 we exported £98 million worth of aircraft, but in 1961 the figure was only £58 million. This decline in exports is even worse than it seems, because during the time that our exports have been declining the airlines of the world have been stocking up with new jet aircraft to bring their fleets up to date. So we have been having a shrinking share of the world's market.

As I thought the Minister would be interested, and as I am not very good at adding, I asked the very excellent statistical department of the Library to prepare some figures—I shall give the Minister the report—of the proportion which we have of the world's exports of aircraft. It appears that in 1958 we exported 20 per cent. of all the aircraft of the Western world, excluding Communist Russia and the satellite countries

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

On what basis?

Mr. Cronin

In value. In 1960 the figure had dropped to 10.6 per cent. I am glad that the Minister is looking a little more serious, because these are very grave figures. This is an extraordinarily rapid decline. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us what the Government propose to do about it, because if our aircraft exports decline at this rate we shall very soon have none at all.

One wonders what the reasons are for the decline. First of all, in terms of time I suppose that the earliest one was the 1957 White Paper, which took all the emphasis off building aircraft and insisted that missiles would replace all fighting aircraft in the future. It was a gigantic blunder. Hon. Members on both sides of the House are thoroughly familiar with this matter, and I do not propose to develop it.

The attempts of the present Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations at integration of the aircraft industry were not entirely helpful. He encouraged firms to integrate, or perhaps one might say he menaced them into integrating. But now the Minister is in some difficulty because he is obliged to spread his orders evenly among these firms irrespective of the merits of designs. Consequently, firms outside the consortia know that they are going to be discriminated against. Hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House were very displeased about the question of the Dart Herald and the Avro 748, which is a typical example.

The Minister and his predecessors have on numerous occasions failed to support obviously useful aircraft. I will go into the military examples shortly, but I should like briefly to mention the Fairey Rotodyne which my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) discussed earlier. This has been recognised on all sides as a tragic failure on the part of the Ministry. Quite apart from the activities of the Ministry of Transport, it is obvious that with the congested condition of our cities a reasonably equipped vertical take-off aircraft which can take off from the centre of a city and go to another one has a big future. It is quite certain that the Fairey Rotodyne will be developed by the Americans in the near future. No doubt there have been many desirable opportunities for economy, but I suggest that on this occasion the Minister really threw away the baby with the bath water.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Will the hon. Gentleman say why British European Airways were not prepared to place orders for the Rotodyne?

Mr. Cronin

I do not sit in with the board of directors of British European Airways, and therefore I cannot answer for the decisions made by them. Nevertheless, I think that it was generally recognised by the aircraft industry that this was a first-class development.

Sir A. V. Harvey

It was too noisy

Mr. Cronin

It was not too noisy. It was much less noisy than the helicopter and progress was being made on reducing the noise still further.

The Civil Aviation (Licensing) Act, I960, has had the effect of causing the big Corporations to be rather doubtful about how many big jet aircraft to order. For instance, the B.O.A.C. has a gigantic order for 42 VC 10s. This is a staggering financial commitment and has to be considered against the background of not knowing to what extent profitable routes will be retained. This will cause both the Corporations to look over their shoulders. It will have the effect of making them dubious about placing orders for new aircraft, and will also have the effect of causing further uncertainty in the industry.

The Minister and his predecessors have caused havoc in another section of the aircraft industry. I am referring to private flying. Private flying could be a profitable part of the aircraft industry in this country. It is a branch of the industry with great export potential. At the moment only about 1,000 private and executive aircraft are registered in this country. In the United States the figure is 68,000, and they had 7,500 new registrations last year.

What is the reason for this? It is simply that the Minister of Aviation and his predecessors have carried on a system of persecution of private and executive aircraft. No private plane can be flown in a controlled zone unless the pilot has an instrument flight rating, which involves passing a technical examination and doing a lot of theoretical work. The pilot has to write extensive papers on complex technical matters.

Further, control zones are becoming wider and wider. Prohibited zones in which private aircraft cannot operate are also being extended. Only recently the Royal Air Force has decided to prohibit private planes from flying within a 15-mile radius of Lyneham, and this has disrupted the normal route between London and Bristol and Cardiff.

Taking it further, the Ministry has made regulations about radio equipment. This is desirable, and one appreciates that careful consideration has to be given to matters of safety, but one can fly anywhere in the United States or in France, provided that one has a radio with five frequencies. In this country one cannot fly even if one has a radio with 40 frequencies, so rigid are the requirements of the Ministry of Aviation. The Minister and his predecessors have had a deleterious effect on the civil side of the industry.

I turn now to military aircraft. Hon Members on both sides of the House will remember the days when countries all over the world used to queue for our Vampires, Meteors, Hunters and Canberras. All these planes were initiated by the Labour Government. If one drove down towards the south of France, Meteors and Vampires flew over one's head.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

I was under the impression that there was a Coalition Government during the war and also that some of the aircraft the hon. Gentleman has mentioned were actually in service during the war.

Mr. Cronin

I am not prepared to accept that correction. Vampires, Meteors and Hunters have been developed since the war. All these aircraft were initiated by the Labour Government. But they are all subsonic aircraft, and the time came for transonic and supersonic aircraft and when other Governments wanted imports of supersonic aircraft from us.

The aircraft manufacturers produced some excellent machines. The Hawker 1083 was a supersonic fighter which was to have been displayed at the Farnborough Air Show in September, 1953, but its development was cancelled in the previous July for no clear reason. The Supermarine 545 was cancelled in 1955 when almost ready to fly. The Avro 720 was cancelled in 1956, and the Saunders-Roe 177 in 1957. All these were excellent fighters with speeds of Mach I to II. The Hawker P1121 was meant to be a replacement of the Canberra, but that was cancelled in 1958.

Each cancellation was initiated by the Ministry of Aviation withdrawing its support. As a result, since the days of the Vampire, the Meteor, the Hunter and the Canberra, we have had no fighters and strike aircraft which we could export. I think the Minister will agree that we have no such aircraft to offer on the world's markets.

Of course, we will now have a supersonic fighter, the Lightning, but it is our only supersonic fighter and it is a very poor show among the masses of supersonic aircraft which the Russians showed at Tushimo and the French showed at Le Bourget. Our record has not been very good.

It would not be courteous of me to comment, but I shall read an extract from the official magazine of the Royal Air Force, the Royal Air Force Flying Review, for September, 1961. This is a responsible magazine read by Royal Air Force senior officers. It referred to Vampires, Hunters and Meteors and said: Their supersonic successors have long been caught up in ministerial vacillation and policy changes and consigned to limbo. It added: The fault is not that of British aircraft manufacturers but that of short-sighted politicians who failed to see the need of consistent planning. That is the view expressed by the periodical of the Royal Air Force.

The Government have no satisfactory plan for the future of the aircraft industry. It would appear that they have no planning organisation to co-ordinate civil and military and export requirements. There is a committee for defence research and a committee for civil transport requirements, but no committee to co-ordinate both sides or which will also take exports into consideration. If the Government have made some changes, we should be glad to hear of them.

The Minister has made no attempt to start an investigation into the possibilities of planning. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) told us how President Kennedy, as one of his first acts, insisted on an investigation into the next ten years of United States aviation, including future possibilities and existing opportunities. No such investigation has been ordered in this country. There is to be no attempt to co-ordinate aircraft requirements for the Commonwealth airlines and Air Forces.

The Minister, with that charm of his, has been trundling Blue Streak all over Europe. What attempts has he made to go to Commonwealth countries and ascertain their requirements? As far as one knows, none at all.

I come now to the question of export credits. One of the reasons why we cannot sell our aircraft as effectively as the Americans is that the Americans can always offer better credit terms, I inquired from the Export Credits Guarantee Department and was told that it would guarantee export credit for five years for small aircraft or seven years for jet aircraft. The various private financial institutions in the United States will give much longer guarantees. As a result, we lose orders. Can the Minister tell us any other reason why most of the countries of Western Europe have Lockheed F.104 fighters? Is there any other reason why Qantas and Air India stocked up with Boeings instead of Comets, at a very much higher price? It was simply because there have not been satisfactory export credit arrangements.

I come now to the Minister's plans for space. There is no need to discuss in detail the recent tremendous advances in space technology, but there are certain purely practical considerations which should be emphasised. There is obviously a need to handle a very large increase in transoceanic facilities for telephones and telegrams. Communications satellites can do this at very much lower cost. It has been estimated that one could make telephone calls from the United States to anywhere in the world at 10 cents a call once there was a communications satellite system. The Bell Company, the private corporation which runs all the telephones in the United States, has said publicly that it expects that its revenue from communications satellites in 1970 will amount to billions of dollars. There are, of course, other uses for communications satellites, apart from telephones and telegrams—the broadcasting all over the world of television programmes, facsimile transmissions of mail, newspapers and magazines, and similar facilities.

I ask the House to consider what action the Minister is taking in this respect. We understand that we are to have a European space vehicle produced in co-operation with France and Germany. This space vehicle is to make use of Blue Streak, which has already cost £90 million. The Minister told us the other day that a further £70 million would have to be found, of which our share would be £26 million. Thus, our total share will be about £120 million out of a total cost of £160 million. We are paying two-thirds of the cost and having about one-third of the credit. I do not know whether there is any special reason for that, but it does not seem to be a very satisfactory bargain.

The first European space vehicle launching is to take place at Woomera in four or five years. The first space vehicle launching in the United States was in 1958 and in Russia in 1957. The United States already has twenty-five satellites in orbit and three communications systems working already, with five expected this year. Our very first trial, which may not be successful, is to be in 1967 at the earliest. I suggest that the Minister and his predecessors may well have been Rip van Winkles for all the help they have been in developing this very important project.

The Government's economic policy has caused a steady deterioration in the competitive power of British industry as a whole. We have learned from this debate today that the British aircraft industry has suffered not only from this but from an uninterrupted series of miscalculations by the Ministry of Aviation. The present Minister is an amiable person and a very able debater, but he staggers under the burden of his political philosophy. He cannot effectively direct the future of British aviation, and the same applies to all the occupants of the Treasury Bench. They are probably all very good men according to their lights, but now the men are dull and the lights are dim. A complete change of Government is urgent and imperative if British industry and particularly the British aircraft industry are to maintain their competitiveness in the world of the future.

9.26 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation (Mr. C. M. Woodhouse)

As I was saying when I was interrupted at the end of our last debate on aviation, our care in the Ministry of Aviation is for the health and prosperity of the whole aircraft industry, and by that we mean its viability and competitiveness to stand on its own legs. But that is not our only care. This debate would have served to remind me, if I needed any reminding, that in the Ministry we have an enormous range of responsibilities.

We have responsibilities to the employees and manufacturers of guided weapons, aircraft and electronic firms, to the Armed Services, the Corporations and other customers, to private fliers. We have responsibility for the management of many airports and for advice and financial aid to others; for technical services in the air and on the ground and for the conditions of operation of everyone flying in this country—the corporations, the independents, the foreign operators, the private fliers, the gliders, the parachutists. We have a responsibility for the quality and standard of the pilots and aircrew and a very important responsibility for research and development at our own establishments. We have a responsibility even for the location of statues of eminent men in British aviation in the past—and I am glad to tell my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) that he is misinformed about the intentions of London Airport. We also have a responsibility for the safety of the travelling public and to the non-travelling public for mitigating the nuisance to their convenience, caused by flying. Finally we have a responsibility which everybody forgets—we have an over-riding responsibility to the taxpayer.

I mention all those responsibilities because of the strictures which have been made by one or two hon. Members about the size of our Ministry. Almost all those responsibilities have been mentioned one way or another during the debate, and my right hon. Friend dealt with some of them. Some have been covered in our recent debates on defence and the Air Estimates, and others in our debates on safety and licensing a few months ago. Some will be dealt with in future debates, such as the future of some of the airports which we own and of which we intend to divest ourselves, and on the state of the Corporations.

In this short time I cannot hope to deal with all the remaining points which have been raised in the debate, although I assure hon. Members that I am amply armed to do so. I cannot do so partly because there is insufficient time and I do not want to be rescued again by the courtesy of the Opposition Chief Whip from forfeiting a Supply Day because I had overrun time; partly because many of the points—although not as many as I had expected—fell somewhat outside the fairly narrow range of the Opposition's Motion; and partly because many were in the nature of supplementary questions to Questions already put in the House and which could properly be filled in at Question Time or on Adjournment debates of which we have had some interesting examples in the fairly recent past. What I want to do today is to make a case in answer to the debate, which is something one cannot do at Question Time.

I propose to confine myself mainly to the fairly narrow limits of the Motion, but I wish first to make one or two important exceptions to deal with points of detail which have been raised. The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) and one or two others have referred to the Rotodyne. I have almost nothing to add to the statement made by my right hon. Friend in answer to a Question on 26th February, but I should like to sum it up in this one sentence—the reason why the Rotodyne was cancelled was that neither B.E.A. nor the R.A.F. was prepared to order it B.E.A. on the grounds of its economics.

I know that the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington is very interested in the subject of noise, and strong objections to the Rotodyne were raised by the London County Council when it was thought that it would operate from what I must now call a helicopter station in Central London. I can assure hon. Members that the Westland group will not have any difficulties as a result of this cancellation and the effect on employment will not be significant. I can also assure hon. Members that there is no truth in the story that it was first cancelled and then restored to the programme and then cancelled again, nor in the story that B.E.A. has now changed its mind and wants it.

Mr. Lee

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that his right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) was entirely wrong when in the defence debate the other day he said that when he was Minister he had cancelled the project and was astounded to see that three years later it had been resuscitated?

Mr. Woodhouse

It is true that it was taken out of the defence budget, but it was never cancelled as a civil project. It is just possible that my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) slightly misremembered what happened in 1956.

I turn, secondly, to the Vigilant. It is true that we could sign contracts for the Vigilant tomorrow if there were no such things as the Public Accounts Committee or the Estimates Committee; but there are. There are also certain snags connected with the fuse of the Vigilant. I would say that these snags had nothing whatever to do with my Ministry, but hon. Members can seek information elsewhere about them if they like. We hope that these will be cleared up in a short time and that it will than be possible to get down to a firm order. It is better to wait until the snags are cleared up than to order speculatively this extremely important weapon before it is absolutely in the clear.

I want to say a word about the light cargo aircraft, and the choice between those two horrible aircraft, as the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) called them, from which description I heartily dissent. They are the Avro 748 and the Herald. There was practiceally nothing to choose between them on technical merit. On balance, they were just about even. One had it in some respects and the other had it in others. On costs it is impossible to make a perfect comparison which could be done only at the contract stage. Only one of them is going to contract stage. Our view is that, taking the requirements as a whole and considering all the implications, in the financial context the difference in cost between the two would not be very much, and for that reason the principle laid down by my right hon. Friend's predecessor in 1960 naturally prevailed. When all the factors were so nearly equal, if it was a political decision in those circumstances to prefer the aircraft which would serve best to promote the long-term health of the industry, the opposite decision would also have been a political one and, in our view, a foolish one.

Mr. Burden

Did not Handley Page submit a fixed price When it tendered?

Mr. Woodhouse

That question would be better tabled for answer at Question Time. I cannot answer it at the moment.

The Government's critics seem to have proceeded from the conclusion that the wrong decision was made and then to seek the facts to justify their conclusion. The Government proceeded from an examination of the facts to the conclusion, and I do not see how the conclusion could have been different.

I want to deal with the proposal to abolish the Ministry of Aviation, if I have correctly understood one or two of the points which have been made. It would be perfectly feasible to abolish the Ministry of Aviation and leave all the Services to make their own arrangements with the industry, place their own orders, and get on with it on their own. They would then need a specialised staff for the purpose. They would inherit them in a series of chunks from the Ministry of Aviation, where they would indeed find first-class staff who could not be replaced in any other quarter on the market. They would in the process abolish one Minister, one Parliamentary Secretary and one or two senior civil servants, and probably create three new Parliamentary Secretaries running three new offices.

The Services would then find that they had overlapping interests in joint requirements. They would want to know how to co-ordinate these. The industry would not co-ordinate them for the Services. The industry's interests would be to get more orders. So the Services would form a liaison staff to co-ordinate them. They would then have the same experience with the civil operators—the Corporations and the independents—and they would need another liaison staff to co-ordinate that aspect. They would find the same thing in the context of inter-dependence with out Allies and they would need another liaison staff to co-ordinate that. In the end, some bright person would decide that it would be a good idea to bring all these staffs together in one building and perhaps call it the Ministry of Aviation, only it would be about 50 per cent. larger than it was when it was dissolved.

Sir A. V. Harvey

My hon. Friend is treating this matter in a very light-hearted way. Those of us who offered criticism—I hope constructive criticism—suggested that the Ministry of Defence might deal with this matter. My hon. Friend has completely ignored this aspect.

Mr. Woodhouse

No, I was coming to that. The Minister of Defence would certainly not welcome taking on an additional responsibility of this kind. If a war were to break out it would be quite impossible for the Minister of Defence to manage such a dual responsibility. Dealing with the possibility of war is the primary responsibility of the Minister of Defence.

It was also suggested that we should farm out more of the research and development work from the Ministry to the industry. I remind the House that at present we place contracts for research and development with industry to the extent of about six times the value of the contracts we carry out in our own establishments. We have from time to time discussed with the industry whether it would be possible for it to take over more of the research and development work, but no practical ways of doing it have emerged.

The fact is that much fundamental research work is cheaper because it is done centrally for the whole industry. If it were done by industry on its own, it would naturally be done in small packages, much of it would tend to be duplicated, and problems of patents and protection of technical secrets would arise which would pose difficulties which are averted by having it done centrally. I have no doubt that this is what the industry prefers.

I want now to refer briefly to the comparisons which have been made between our industry and that of other countries, particularly France and the United States.

Mr. Gough

I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) in saying that my hon. Friend has been much too specious and light-hearted in dealing with the suggestion to abolish the Ministry of Aviation. He said nothng about the question of airfields and relieving his Ministry. I suggested this because I was hoping to help my right hon. Friend relieve himself of duties which are not compatible with his main responsibility.

Mr. Woodhouse

I do not doubt that my hon. Friend intended to be helpful. I wish to make it clear that we have arrived at this arrangement after a good deal of trial and experiment. We very much doubt whether it would produce economies to dismantle the present arrangement in any of its aspects.

I turn now to the comparisons which have been made with other countries, particularly France. It is certainly true that the French industry has been doing very well. We do not grudge the French that. We want to co-operate with them. We should not want to cooperate with them if they were not successful. There is no evidence in any statistics known to us to support the reports which have appeared in the Press that the French aircraft industry has already overtaken ours in its export figures.

As for the rest of Europe, it is a fact that our industry is more than twice as large as the whole of the rest of Western Europe's put together. Size of course is not the only condition of success, but it has a very important advantage as is obvious from the points made about the industry in the United States. The advantage which the United States has is not only that of having an industry twice as large as ours in manpower and very much larger in capital resources, but also in that it has the six largest airlines in the world and consequently a vast domestic proving ground for its equipment and a better chance of demonstrating the worth of that equipment to the world. I say this to suggest that it would not be right to argue that anything which the United States does is necessarily the proper course for us to imitate.

Mr. Edelman

As the hon. Member, I believe, made an elusive reference to something I said in the course of the debate, may I intervene? He said, and it is perfectly true, that there are no statistics to show that the French industry has overtaken Britain's in exports, but is it not true that the French aircraft industry with 83,000 workers in 1961 had exports of £115 million compared with our industry of 300,000 workers and exports of £149 million? Does that not suggest that there is a difference in the productivity of the French industry? Does it not also indicate that a great deal of money has been invested in the British industry which has probably been fuddled out in the form of dividends at the other end unproductively?

Mr. Woodhouse

No, I think it suggests that a country which by skill and good fortune gets a good aircraft or two, as the French have done, forges ahead. That is what we have done in the past and shall do again.

I had reached the point of comparison with the United States and was suggesting that it was not always an appropriate course for us simply to imitate what is done in the United States. I have in mind the reference made by the hon. Member for Dudley to Project "Horizon" which I have read and which has been closely studied in my Ministry. We look upon it as an extremely valuable assemblage of what without disrespect I would call recognised general truths, but it is no substitute for aircraft orders, and that is what the industry wants in the United States just as much as in this country.

I turn to the general criticisms which have been made of the industry and the Ministry. Before launching into them I have a preliminary comment to make about them. It is that many if not most of the criticisms which have been made have been mutually inconsistent. They have blamed us for wasting public money on obsolete and unnecessary equipment and also for causing unemployment in running down the industry by not spending more. They have accused us of lagging behind the United States in building up relationships with European firms and also with making agreements which give away our secrets to foreigners. We are blamed for cancelling promising projects because they do not meet immediate requirements like the Rotodyne and with forcing customers to take what we decide they want, and not what they think they want.

We have been blamed for wasting money by cancellations at an advanced stage through trying to do too many things, and we have also been blamed for losing our best brains to the United States and workers from the industry to Europe by refusing to venture into new fields. We have been blamed for handicapping the industry by restricting the independent operators and also for crippling the Corporations by giving the independents a free hand. We have been blamed for always getting our equipment late and, therefore, when it is obsolete and also for culpably exceeding our annual estimates by getting equipment too early.

Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)

Has it occurred to the hon. Gentleman that his Ministry is capable of making all these mistakes at the same time?

Mr. Woodhouse

The point I was seeking to make is not to evade any of these criticisms by leaving them to cancel each other out. The purpose is to emphasise two points. The first is that there is a very real difficulty in recon- ciling diverse interests in aviation. It is perfectly easy to satisfy one requirement or interest if we are prepared to let the others go by default, but that way leads to ruin. What can be done is to strike a balance between needs and requirements which are in themselves perfectly legitimate but incompatible. It is a balance which is bound to leave some people dissatisfied, but a balance which has to be struck by any Government. Others might strike a different balance, but they will still have to strike some balance.

My second point is that the Opposition in order to oppose does not need to strike any balance at all. It can, so long as it is in opposition, go on making its own case and criticism and cheering the incompatible but constructive criticisms which my hon. Friends on this side of the House make. It can even pursue, like the Liberals at by-elections, both kinds of criticism simultaneously. It can use any stick with which to beat the Government, but it can only do so in the long run at the expense of the industry, because these criticisms are not, although hon. Members say so, merely criticisms of Government policy, but are also damaging to the industry itself.

I want to refer to one or two of these before I conclude, and I will refer first to the criticisms of the consequences of the policy of mergers and the closure of factories and run-down of employment to which it has led. This process of contraction was implicit in the policy announced by my right hon. Friend's predecessor two years ago, and that contraction was naturally bound to come at what I might call the periphery, interpreting that term either geographically as meaning the outlying factories remote from the centre of each firm in the industry, or alternatively peripheral in the nature of the functions which particular factories perform. For instance, the Gloster-Whitworth factory to which the hon. Member for Gloucester has referred in the debate, is making aircraft, and is also making fire engines and slot machines, and, therefore this, naturally, would be one of the first to go in the process of contraction. The fact is, as the House knows, that over the last few years the number of men and women employed in the industry has actually gone up, and it is not surprising that the new policy has taken two years to work itself through.

It is true that there is some question of the basis of the statistics. We have talked on Ministry of Labour figures of a little over 300,000 men in the industry. It is possible that these figures include men at some factories not engaged on aircraft work, but they also probably exclude men at other factories which are not mainly engaged on aircraft work but where there are a few workers who contribute to the aircraft industry, so that, on balance, I do not believe that the figure is very far out.

In the five main groups, the total figure is pretty accurately known to be a little over 180,000, and of these about 17,600 are the design staffs—about 6 per cent. of the whole. The indications are that there will be a decline, beginning with design staffs and going on to production staffs, but it will not be an uncontrolled decline, and it will not be a decline dictated by the Government. The decisions will be taken by the companies concerned in the light of the fullest information that we can give them about intended Government orders and requirements in the future, with their own assessments of the civil and overseas markets.

The same thing applies to the closure of particular factories. For the last two years, the five main groups have shed, or are in the process of shedding, about two and half million square feet out of 30 million square feet—about 8 per cent.—but half a million square feet are coming back into the aircraft industry through the take-over of Beagles from de Havillands at Christchurch. I am glad to assure my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christ-church (Mr. Cordle) that there has been no delay due to any default on the part of the Ministry of Aviation in promoting that take-over. We are anxious for it to go forward as quickly as possible.

I should like to say a brief word on the subject of exports, on which many hon. Members have spoken, including the hon. Member for Loughborough, who referred to the need for easier credit facilities. Selling aircraft abroad is, of course, the business of the industry and not of the Government, but the Export Credits Guarantee Department is already giving substantial assistance to our manufacturers. We do not want to engage in a credit race because there would be no advantage in doing so, but E.C.G.D. is always prepared to match in respect of particular aircraft types the terms of backing known to have been given by Government agencies to foreign manufacturers in respect of aircraft which are competitive.

Of course, a foreign manufacturer is always free to offer any credit terms he chooses if he takes the risk himself or can get private backing, but we know of no case in which orders have been lost to a British manufacturer solely or mainly because of the credit terms offered, although we will certainly look at any case that is brought to our attention.

Mr. Cronin

I agree entirely that the E.C.G.D. will match the credit given by any official Government organisation. The gravamen of our case, however, is that the Americans are outselling us because they get credit from their finance institutions which we cannot get from our finance institutions. In that way, we lose a large number of orders.

Mr. Woodhouse

This is a matter for the finance institutions and not for the Government. I can speak only for what is done on behalf of the Government by the E.C.G.D.

The figures of sales abroad have been quoted a good deal during the debate, and I do not intend to go over them again. I want to look a little bit at the future prospects. In the immediate present, the principal airframe groups have firm orders already on their books for between 80 and 90 transport aircraft in the home civil market, for nearly 100 in the export market and for nearly 100 to the Royal Air Force. I exclude from those figures options and letters of intent, and also engines, which are doing much better still, but I include the Viscount sale to China, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin), whom I assure that the contract is firm and will be honoured.

As my right hon. Friend has said, during the next twelve months eight completely new aircraft will fly in this country for the first time. Looking further ahead, there are many developments in which, as many hon. Members have pointed out, we are leading the world. My right hon. Friend referred to micro-miniaturisation and blind landings, which eventually will make the fog at London Airport a major national assett. I should like to refer to vertical take-off and, in particular, to the Rolls Royce plastic lift engine which is being developed for vertical take-off aircraft. Research in variable geometry has also been referred to by my right hon. Friend. I shall return in a moment to the supersonic jet.

I insist that this is not a depressed industry. It is not in decline, it is not in a crisis, but there is real danger of talking ourselves into a crisis and it is a danger to which many people are unwittingly contributing, including some sections of the Press—with honourable exceptions, particularly our technical Press, which is the finest in the world—some Members of Parliament and some members of the industry itself.

I do not claim that the Ministry of Aviation is faultless, but it is at least innocent of this complaint of damaging the industry by persistently trumpeting failures and misrepresenting successes. Hon. Members opposite claim that they are criticising only the Government and their political heads, but how can it be called merely criticising the Government to call our bombers obsolete and inefficient, the Belfast, the Avro 748 and the Herald as horrible aircraft and to attack our missiles? These are attacks on the whole industry, because the foreign buyer does not say to himself" This or that is a bad aircraft which I will not buy". He says to himself that British aircraft are bad aircraft and he will not buy them.

That is the consequence of the attacks which are called attacks on the Government but which are not so seen by anybody who works in the aircraft industry, by those who work in the establishments of the Ministry of Aviation or by the foreign customers, who are interested not only in the facts but what they believe to be the facts and who are more likely to take us at our valuation if it is bad rather than good.

My right hon. Friend has already referred to the unfortunate remarks of the hon. Member for Dudley on this subject in the debate on the Air Estimates. I do not want to go any further into that point, but I must recall one thing the hon. Member for Dudley said in the same debate when he was talking about the sales of aircraft abroad. He said: When the Government announced these figures, true to form they found one figure which was up their street and, accordingly, the Parliamentary Secretary stated that he was glad to note that in 1961 sales were up in value over 1960…".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th March, 1962; Vol. 655, c. 1022.] The hon. Gentleman then proceeded to pour scorn on the figures. I would draw attention to the hon. Member's suggestion about figures having been chosen to suit the case. They were, in fact, selected for us by the form of the question put by the hon. Member for Govan who manages to combine being a very patriotic Soot with being a strong supporter of the British aviation industry. I would ask the hon. Member for Dudley, if he were here, what he thought should have been the answer to that question. Should they have been false figures to suit his case? If the hon. Member for Dudley wanted the figures to be bad in order to damage the Government then, in fact, he would have been damaging the aircraft industry.

I turn now to the supersonic airliner. This is a project which may or may not eventually come to fruition as a joint Anglo-French venture. Our part in this, in any case, will not be a secondary or contributory part but a parallel one, and I am not referring only to the engine but also to the airframe. That is not the impression given by much of the propaganda one reads not only in the foreign press but also in our own.

No one can blame the French for wanting to make it appear that the supersonic airliner is a development of their Caravelle—what they call a "Super-Caravelle". But I am sorry to hear this idea echoed in this debate and in our own Press, though I was glad to see a more accurate account in the Financial Times today. Some hon. Members may have seen at the Paris Air Show last year a model of the so-called "Super-Caravelle". I could understand anyone from our establishment at Bedford exclaiming, like Henry V at Agincourt: I was not angry since I came to France until this instant". because the model was extremely similar to or was a replica of one designed at Bedford in 1958. As I say, no one would blame the French for wishing to steal our thunder. But I do not see why hon. Members or the British Press should wish to help them to do this.

There is nothing difficult about defining our policy for the aviation industry. It is to lead it back to a state of viability and competitiveness and, once again, to have an industry which will be renowned throughout the world and the pride of everyone who works in it, which is what we as a nation deserve to have. What we in the Ministry are doing, will be doing and, indeed, intend to continue to do is to achieve what has already been amply outlined by my right hon. Friend, although it does not depend only on us.

It will not be achieved until the whole industry and the whole British aviation—and I am using these terms in the widest sense—is pulling together in the

national interest. This will not be achieved so long as some critics—there are not many but it does not take many to damage our good name—in Parliament, in the Press and even in sections of the industry persistently denigrate our efforts, products and prospects and help our competitors under the transparent guise of attacking the Government.

We do not resent criticism, but let it be informed and constructive criticism and, if I may use an old-fashioned expression, let it be pro-British criticism. Much of what we have heard today—and I hope this is the last time that I shall make this comment—has not fulfilled those three criteria, and I ask the House to support my right hon. Friend's Amendment to the Motion.

Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 206, Noes 268.

Division No. 134.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Alnsley, William Flnch, Harold Jones, Jack (Rotherham)
Albu, Austen Fltch, Alan Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Fletcher, Eric Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)
Awbery, Stan Foot, Dingle (Ipswich) Kelley, Richard
Baird, John Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Kenyon, Clifford
Beaney, Alan Forman, J. C. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Lawson, George
Bence, Cyril Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh Ledger, Ron
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Galpern, Sir Myer Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Benson, Sir George George, LadyMeganLloyd (Crmrthn) Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)
Blackburn, F. Ginsburg, David Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)
Blyton, William Gooch, E. G. Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)
Boardman, H. Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Lipton, Marcus
Bottomley, A. Gourlay, Harry Loughlin, Charles
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics. S. W.) Greenwood, Anthony Lubbock, E.
Bowles, Frank Grey, Charles Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Boyden, James Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) MacColl, James
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Mclnnes, James
Brockway, A. Fenner Griffiths, W. (Exchange) McKay, John (Wallsend)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Grimond, Rt. Hon. J. Mackie, John (Enfield, East)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Gunter, Ray McLeavy, Frank
Callaghan, James Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
Castle, Mrs. Barbara Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Cliffe, Michael Hamilton, William (West Fife) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Hannan, William Manuel, Archie C.
Cronin, John Hart, Mrs. Judith Mapp, Charles
Crosland, Anthony Hayman, F. H. Marsh, Richard
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Healey, Denis Mason, Roy
Darling, George Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (RwlyRegis) Mayhew, Christopher
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Herbison, Miss Margaret Mellish, R. J.
Davies, Harold (Leek) Hewitson, Capt. M. Mendelson, J. J.
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hilton, A. V. Millan, Bruce
Delargy, Hugh Holman, Percy Milne, Edward
Dempsey, James Holt, Arthur Mitchison, G. R.
Diamond, John Houghton, Douglas Monslow, Walter
Dodds, Norman Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Moody, A. S.
Donnelly, Desmond Hoy, James H. Morris, John
Driberg, Tom Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Mort, D. L.
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Moyle, Arthur
Edelman, Maurice Hunter, A. E. Mulley, Frederick
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Hynd, H. (Accrington) Neal, Harold
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Oliver, G. H.
Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Jeger, George Oram, A. E.
Evans, Albert Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Oswald, Thomas
Fernyhough, E. Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Owen, Will
Paget, R. T. Ross, William Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)
Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.) Royle, Charles (Salford, West) Thornton, Ernest
Parker, John Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E. Thorpe, Jeremy
Parkin, B. T. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Timmone, John
Paton, John Skeffington, Arthur Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Pavitt, Laurence Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.) Warbey, William
Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield) Weitzman, David
Peart, Frederick Small, William Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Pentland, Norman Smith, Ellis (Stoke. S.) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Plummer, Sir Leslie Snow, Julian Wigg, George
Popplewell, Ernest Sorensen, R. W. Wilkins, W. A.
Prentice, R. E. Spriggs, Leslie Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Steele, Thomas Williams, LI. (Abertillery)
Probert, Arthur Stewart, Michael (Fulham) Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Pursey, Cmdr. Harry Strachey, Rt. Hon. John Williams, W T. (Warrington)
Randall, Harry Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall) Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Rankin, John Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.) Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Redhead, E. C. Swain, Thomas Woof, Robert
Reid, William Swingler, Stephen Wyatt, Woodrow
Reynolds, G. W. Symonds, J. B. Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Rhodes, H. Taverne, D. Zilliacus, K.
Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Robertson, John (Paisley) Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.) Mr. Charles A. Howell and
Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.) Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline) Mr. McCann.
Agnew, Sir Peter Cunningham, Knox Hocking, Philip N.
Aitken, W. T. Curran, Charles Holland, Philip
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.) Dalkeith, Earl of Hollingworth, John
Allason, James Dance, James Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John
Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Hopkins, Alan
Arbuthnot, John Deedes, W. F. Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.
Ashton, Sir Hubert de Ferrantl, Basil Howard, John (Southampton, Test)
Balniel, Lord Digby, Simon Wingfield Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John
Barber, Anthony Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. Hughes-Young, Michael
Barlow, Sir John Doughty, Charles Hulbert, Sir Norman
Barter, John Drayson, G. B. Hurd, Sir Anthony
Batsford, Brian du Cann, Edward Hutchison, Michael Clark
Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate) Duncan, Sir James Iremonger, T. L.
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Eden, John Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Bell, Ronald Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) James, David
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Emery, Peter Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm) Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Berkeley, Humphry Errington, Sir Eric Johnson Smith, Geoffrey
Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J. Kaberry, Sir Donald
Bidgood, John C. Farey-Jones, F. W. Kerby, Capt. Henry
Biffen, John Farr, John Kerr, Sir Hamilton
Bishop, F. P. Fisher, Nigel Kershaw, Anthony
Black, Sir Cyril Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Lagden, Godfrey
Bossom, Clive Forrest, George Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Box, Donald Foster, John Langford-Holt, Sir John
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt, Hon. J, Fraser, Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone) Leather, E. H. C.
Boyle, Sir Edward Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Leavey, J. A.
Brewis, John Freeth, Denzil Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Gammans, Lady Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Gardner, Edward Lindsay, Sir Martin
Brooman-White, R. Gibson-Watt, David Litchfield, Capt. John
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Gilmour, Sir John Longbottom, Charles
Browne, Percy (Torrington) Glover, Sir Douglas Loveys, Walter H.
Bryan, Paul Goodhart, Philip Lucas, Sir Jocelyn
Bullard, Denys Goodhew, Victor Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Bullus, Wing Commander Eric Gough, Frederick McAdden, Stephen
Burden, F, A. Gower, Raymond MacArthur, Ian
Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.) Grant, Rt. Hon. William McLaren, Martin
Campbell, Gordon (Moray A Nairn) Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R. McLean, Neil (Inverness)
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Hall, John (Wycombe) Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)
Cary, Sir Robert Hare, Rt. Hon. John McMaster, Stanley R.
Channon, H. P. G. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.) Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Harris, Reader (Heston) Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Maddan, Martin
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Harvey, Sir Arthur Vera (Macclesf'd) Maltland, Sir John
Cole, Norman Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.
Collard, Richard Harvie Anderson, Miss Markham, Major Sir Frank
Cooke, Robert Hastings, Stephen Marshall, Douglas
Cooper, A. E. Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Marten, Neil
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Henderson, John (Cathcart) Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)
Cordle, John Hendry, Forbes Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald
Corfield, F. V. Hiley, Joseph Mawby, Ray
Coulson, Michael Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Critchley, Julian Hirst, Geoffroy Mills, Stratton
Crowder, F. P. Hobson, Sir John More, Jasper (Ludlow)
Morrison, John Robeon Brown, Sir William Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Thomas, Peter (Conway)
Neave, Airey Roots, William Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter
Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Oakshott, Sir Hendrie Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey) Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Orr, Capt. L. p. S. Russell, Ronald Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth) St. Clair, M. Turner, Colin
Page, Graham (Crosby) Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Page, John (Harrow, West) Scott-Hopkins, James van Straubenzee, W. R.
Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale) Seymour, Leslie Vane, W. M. F.
Peel, John Sharples, Richard Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis
Percival, Ian Shaw, M. Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Peyton, John Shepherd, William Walder, David
Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswlck) Walker, Peter
Pilkington, Sir Richard Smithers, Peter Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Pitman, Sir James Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood) Wall, Patrick
Pitt, Miss Edith Spearman, Sir Alexander Ward, Dame Irene
Pott, Percivall Speir, Rupert Webster, David
Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch Stanley, Hon. Richard Wells, John (Maidstone)
Price, David (Eastleigh) Stevens, Geoffrey Whitelaw, William
Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.) Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.) Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Prior, J. M. L. Stodart, J. A. Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Profumo, Rt. Hon. John Storey, Sir Samuel Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Proudfoot, Wilfred Studholme, Sir Henry Wise, A. R.
Pym, Francis Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury) Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Quennell, Miss J. M. Talbot, John E. Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Ramsden, James Tapsell, Peter Woodhouse, C. M.
Rawlinson, Peter Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Woodnutt, Mark
Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.) Woollam, John
Rees-Davies, W. R. Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, moss Side)
Renton, David Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Ridley, Hon. Nicholas Teeling, Sir William Mr. Chichester-Clark and
Ridsdale, Julian Temple, John M. Mr. F inlay.
Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley) Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret

Question put, That the proposed words be there added:—

The House divided: Ayes 260, Noes 201.

Division No. 135.] AYES [10.12 p.m.
Agnew, Sir Peter Chichester-Clark, R. Gammans, Lady
Aitken, W. T. Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Gardner, Edward
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.) Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Gibson-Watt, David
Allason James Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Gilmour, Sir John
Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian Cole, Norman Glover, Sir Douglas
Arbuthnot, John Collard, Richard Goodhart, Philip
Ashton, Sir Hubert Cooke, Robert Goodhew, Victor
Balniel, Lord Cooper, A. E. Gough, Frederick
Barber, Anthony Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Gower, Raymond
Barlow, Sir John Cordle, John Grant, Rt. Hon. William
Barter, John Corfield, F. V. Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R.
Batsford, Brian Coulson, Michael Hall, John (Wycombe)
Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate) Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Critchley, Julian Hare, Rt. Hon. John
Bell, Ronald Crowder, F. P. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Cunningham, Knox Harris, Reader (Heston)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm) Curran, Charles Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)
Berkeley, Humphry Dalkeith, Earl of Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)
Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald Dance, James Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)
Bidgood, John C. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Harvie Anderson, Miss
Biffen, John Deedes, W. F. Hastings, Stephen
Bishop, F. P. de Ferranti, Basil Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel
Black, Sir Cyril Digby, Simon Wingfield Henderson, John (Cathcart)
Bossom, Clive Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. Hendry, Forbes
Box, Donald Doughty, Charles Hiley, Joseph
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. Drayson, G. B. Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)
Boyle, Sir Edward du Cann, Edward Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)
Brewis, John Eden, John Hirst, Geoffrey
Bromley-Devonport. Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshaiton) Hobson, Sir John
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Emery, Peter Hocking, Philip N.
Brooman-White, R. Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Holland, Philip
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Errington, Sir Eric Hollingworth, John
Browne, Percy (Torrington) Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J. Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John
Bryan, Paul Farey-Jones, F. W. Hopkins, Alan
Bullard, Denys Farr, John Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.
Bullus, Wing Commander Eric Finlay, Graeme Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John
Burden, F. A. Fisher, Nigel Hughes-Young, Michael
Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.) Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Hulbert, sir Norman
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Forrest, George Hurd, Sir Anthony
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Foster, John Hutchison, Michael Clark
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Fraser, Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone) Iremonger, T. L.
Cary, Sir Robert Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Channon, H. P. G. Freeth, Denzil James, David
Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Peel, John Stodart, J. A.
Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Percival, Ian Storey, Sir Samuel
Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Peyton, John Studholme, Sir Henry
Kaberry, Sir Donald Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)
Kerby, Capt. Henry Pilkington, Sir Richard Talbot, John E,
Kerr, Sir Hamilton Pitman, Sir James Tapsell, Peter
Kershaw, Anthony Pitt, Miss Edith Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Lagden, Godfrey Pott, Percivall Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)
Langford-Holt, Sir John Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch Taylor, Frank (M'ch'str, Moss Side)
Leavey, J. A. Price, David (Eastleigh) Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)
Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.) Teeling, Sir William
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Prior, J. M. L. Temple, John M.
Litchfield, Capt. John Profumo, Rt. Hon. John Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Longbottom, Charles Proudfoot, Wilfred Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Loveys, Walter H. Pym, Francis Thomas, Peter (Conway)
Lucas, Sir Jocelyn Quennell, Miss J. M. Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon, Peter
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Ramsden, James Thornton- Kemsley, sir Colin
MacArthur, Ian Rawlinson, Peter Tilney, John (Wavertree)
McLean, Neil (Inverness) Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Ree-Davies, W. R. Turner, Colin
MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty) Renton, David Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
McMaster, Stanley R. Ridley, Hon. Nicholas van Straubenzee, W. R.
Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley) Ridsdale, Julian Vane, W. M. F.
Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley) Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis
Maddan, Martin Robson Brown, Sir William Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'Jebone)
Maitland, Sir John Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Walder, David
Markham, Major Sir Frank Roots, William Walker, Peter
Marten, Neil Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey) Wall, Patrick
Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald Russell, Ronald Ward, Dame Irene
Mawby, Ray St. Clair, M. Webster, David
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan Wells, John (Maidstone)
Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Scott-Hopkins, James Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Mills, Stratton Seymour, Leslie Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
More, Jasper (Ludlow) Sharples, Richard Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Morrison, John Shaw, M. Wise, A. R.
Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Shepherd, William Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Neave, Alrey Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick) Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard Smithers, Peter Woodhouse, C. M.
Oakshott, Sir Hendrie Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood) Woodnutt, Mark
Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Spearman, Sir Alexander Woollam, John
Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth) Speir, Rupert
Page, Graham (Crosby) Stanley, Hon. Richard TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Page, John (Harrow, West) Stevens, Geoffrey Mr. Whitelaw and Mr. McLaren.
Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale) Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Ainsley, William Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John Hewitson, Capt. M.
Albu, Austen Edelman, Maurice Hilton, A. V.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Holman, Percy
Awberry, Stan Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Holt, Arthur
Baird, John Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Houghton, Douglas
Beaney, Alan Evans, Albert Howell, Denis (Small Heath)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Fernyhough, E. Hoy, James H.
Bence, Cyril Finch, Harold Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Fitch, Alan Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Benson, Sir George Fletcher, Eric Hunter, A. E.
Blackburn, F. Foot, Dingle (Ipswich) Hynd, H. (Accrington)
Blyton, William Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Irving, Sydney (Dartford)
Boardman, H. Forman, J. C. Jeger, George
Bottomley, A. Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics. S. W.) Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, s.)
Bowles, Frank Galpern, Sir Myer Jones, Jack (Rotherham)
Boyden, James George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Crmrthn) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Ginsburg, David Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)
Brockway, A. Fenner Gooch, E. G. Kelley, Richard
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Kenyon, Clifford
Callaghan, James Gourlay, Harry Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.
Castle, Mrs. Barbara Greenwood, Anthony Lawson, George
Cliffe, Michael Grey, Charles Ledger, Ron
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Cronin, John Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)
Crosland, Anthony Griffiths, W. (Exchange) Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Grimond, Rt. Hon. J. Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)
Darling, George Gunter, Ray Lipton, Marcus
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Loughlin, Charles
Davies, Harold (Leek) Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Lubbock, E.
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hamilton, William (West Fife) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Delargy, Hugh Hannan, William MacColl, James
Dempsey, James Hart, Mrs. Judith Mclnnes, James
Diamond, John Hayman, F. H. McKay, John (Wallsend)
Dodds, Norman Healey, Denis Mackle, John (Enfield, East)
Donnelly, Desmond Henderon, Rt. Hn. Arthur (RwlyRegis) McLeavy, Frank
Driberg, Tom Herbison, Miss Margaret MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
Mallalieu, E L. (Brigg) Plummer, Sir Leslie Swingler, Stephen
Mallalieu, J. P. W.(Huddersfield, E.) Prentice, R. E. Symonds, J. B.
Manuel, Archie C. Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Taverne, D.
Mapp, Charles Probert, Arthur Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Marsh, Richard Pursey, Cmdr. Harry Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Mason, Roy Randall, Harry Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Mayhew, Christopher Rankin, John Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)
Mellish, R. J. Redhead, E. C. Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)
Mendelson, J. J. Reld, William Thornton, Ernest
Millan, Bruce Reynolds, G. W. Thorpe, Jeremy
Milne, Edward Rhodes, H. Timmons, John
Mitchison, G. R. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Monslow, Walter Robertson, John (Paisley) Warbey, William
Moody, A. S. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Weitzman, David
Morris, John Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.) Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Mort, D. L. Ross, William Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Moyle, Arthur Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Wigg, George
Mulley, Frederick Skeffington, Arthur Wilkins, W. A.
Neal, Harold Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.) Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Oliver, G. H. Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield) Williams, LI. (Abertillery)
Oram, A. E. Small, William Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Oswald, Thomas Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Owen, Will Snow, Julian Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Paget, R. T. Sorensen, R. W. Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.) Spriggs, Leslie Woof, Robert
Parker, John Steele, Thomas Wyatt, Woodrow
Parkin, B. T. Stewart, Michael (Fulham) Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Pavitt, Laurence Strachey, Rt. Hon. John Zilliacus, K.
Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)
Peart, Frederick Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Pentland, Norman Swain, Thomas Mr. Charles A. Howell and
Mr. McCann.

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House commends the aircraft and associated electronic industries, both for their performance in overseas markets and their formidable contribution to our defensive strength, and supports the steps being taken by Her Majesty's Government to promote the competitive efficiency of these industries in the difficult conditions which confront them.