HC Deb 23 July 1963 vol 681 cc1258-60
Q5. Sir A. V. Harvey

asked the Prime Minister which Minister will now be responsible for civil aviation.

Q7. Mr. Rankin

asked the Prime Minister if he now proposes to appoint a Minister of Civil Aviation.

The Prime Minister

It has been announced in the White Paper on Defence Reorganisation that the Ministry of Aviation is to remain an independent Department, although with closer links with the Ministry of Defence. The Government have also carefully considered in the light of the study of the matter which Sir Frank Lee made at my request whether responsibility for the civil aspects of aviation should remain with that Department. One possibility would be to transfer responsibility to the Ministry of Transport; but it is undesirable to increase the existing very heavy load on that Department. Some advantages might be derived from the creation of a separate Department to deal with transport overseas, whether by sea or by air; but these are outweighed by those of retaining the existing single responsibility for transport by land and sea while the reorganisation of the British ports system and the problems of the shipbuilding industries need special attention. The Government have therefore concluded that responsibility for civil aviation should for the present remain with the Ministry of Aviation.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the aircraft industry today is looked on generally as a leader industry achieving great results in exports, as we have heard recently, and will continue to do so in the immediate years ahead? Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that some of us feel that if the Minister of Aviation moves into the Ministry of Defence building these aspects of the economics of exports could, to some extent, come under the Ministry of Defence, which could be dangerous? Will my right hon. Friend look at this, and, if anything, upgrade the Minister of Aviation to Cabinet rank, equal in rank to the Minister of Defence?

The Prime Minister

It is these considerations which have led us to decide not to divide the Ministry or to transfer it to the new Ministry of Defence. As my hon. Friend knows so well, it is undesirable to divorce military and civil business, whether in production, or, still more, in research and development, and this applies not only to aircraft but to the very complex electronic equipment now needed for the control of air traffic.

Mr. P. Williams

Will my right hon. Friend say whether the latter passage of his last answer means that the Minister of Aviation is now completely, totally, and wholly responsible for overseeing the interests of the automative industry which is of paramount and growing importance to the survival of this nation? If this is so, does not this reinforce the need for this Minister to be in the Cabinet?

The Prime Minister

These are two separate things. The position of a Minister in the Cabinet at any given time is a matter for consideration. What we are trying to do—and it will be debated next week I think—is to decide how to operate the new defence system and what exactly should be the position of the Minister of Aviation in it. I think that at any rate for the next period it is going to be a big job to bring the whole of our defence into a single system, and what we have decided is the right solution.

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