HC Deb 04 March 1963 vol 673 cc11-3
23. Sir A. V. Harvey

asked the Minister of Aviation to what extent he has approved sub-contract work from Vickers Aviation to Sud-Aviation for the manufacture of VC10 components.

Mr. J. Amery

This was a commercial transaction for which my approval was not needed.

My Department was, however, informed and made no objection to the proposal.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Can my right hon. Friend explain how this sub-contracting of work to France squares with the statement he made last summer that, when the order for the VC10 was placed, orders for the doors and components would be placed with Short Brothers and Harland, which so far has not received any of this type of work at all? Is it not right to give business at home to firms which really need it rather than place it abroad?

Mr. Amery

I think that my hon. Friend is confusing two quite distinct propositions. The VC10s on which work is being sub-contracted are aircraft being built to the military order which was announced last July. The sub-contracting to Sud-Aviation of France was decided, I think, in 1961; it was part of a wider commercial deal and was, if I may so describe it, a preparatory essay in the kind of co-operation which has made possible the deal on the Concord supersonic airliner. It was in preparation for that, and it was quite distinct from the sub-contracting on the military or Royal Air Force VC10s on which work is going to Northern Ireland.

Mr. Lee

Has the Minister's Department any say in this kind of allocation? We understand the theory of interdependence, but when we have parts of our own aircraft industry which need work —Short Brothers and Harland has been mentioned, and, as we understand it, parts of the VC10 may well be made by Short—is it not of great national concern that this kind of work, if it is to be allocated at all, should go to our own aircraft industry?

Mr. Amery

We could, of course, have made representations to the firm had we thought right, but, at the time, in view of the interest then being generated in the supersonic project and in view of the importance of verifying the ability of the British and French industries to work together, we thought it right to make no objection. I stand by that decision.

Mr. McMaster

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is considerable concern in Belfast at the delay in placing the military sub-contract work for the VC10, and would it not have been an admirable way of filling the blank if, after objecting to the placing of the work abroad, my right hon. Friend had insisted on its going to Short Brothers like the military work?

Mr. Amery

I think that my hon. Friend is confusing two things. This decision was taken about eighteen months ago. The sub-contracting of the VC10 work to Northern Ireland relating to the Royal Air Force VC10s was deoided on only six or seven months ago. Work on determining exactly what proportion of that contract should go to Northern Ireland is at present in progress, and a decision will be taken very soon.

Mr. Jay

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Minister of Defence stated on 10th August that sub-contracts for the VCIO would go to Short Brothers and Harland and that firm has received no confirmation of these sub-contracts? Is he or is he not now saying that they will definitely be placed?

Mr. Amery

I, naturally, confirm that they are going to be placed. There is no doubt whatever about that. There is, naturally, a good deal of discussion between the Ministry and the two firms as to exactly what work is to be done where.

Sir A. V. Harvey

I accept what my right hon. Friend has said—he has made it fairly clear—but can he say what subcontracted orders have been placed by Sud-Aviation with British companies to bring about the desired co-operation?

Mr. Amery

I do not know offhand of any reciprocal arrangement, but I will look into the point and let my hon. Friend know if I have any information.