HC Deb 20 May 1963 vol 678 cc12-4
17. Mr. Edelman

asked the Minister of Aviation whether he has now concluded his arrangements for the allocation of contracts for the OR 351, otherwise known as the AW681; with whom these contracts have been placed; and whether he will give an assurance that the work in connection with these contracts will be primarily executed by the Whitworth Gloster works in Coventry.

Mr. Marten

Contract negotiations with Hawker Siddeley Aviation Ltd., for the initial design work and project study in connection with the Hastings/Beverley replacement aircraft are in progress and should be completed very shortly. As my right hon. Friend explained to the House on 5th March, 1963, the whole resources of Hawker Siddeley will be available to the project. I understand it is their present intention that a substantial proportion of the design and development work should be carried out in Coventry.

Mr. Edelman

I welcome that reply, but will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind the rumours which have been in circulation—that the work may be diverted from Coventry? Will he also bear in mind that as 3,000 aviation workers in Coventry have already been made redundant this year, his statement will be widely welcomed, particularly as the whole future of Coventry's great and efficient aircraft industry depends on the bulk of the work on the AW681 being placed there?

Mr. Marten

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have visited the factory and I saw the union leaders concerned. I will certainly bear in mind what he has said. It should be remembered that at this stage it is primarily for Hawker Siddeley to work out where to place its work.

Mr. McMaster

Will my hon. Friend also bear in mind the Government undertaking to place part of the work with Short Bros. and Harland in Belfast? Will he see whether anything can be done to give that firm part of the design work in view of the threatened unemployment in the design team and the Government's 70 per cent, holding in that company?

Mr. Marten

The Government gave an undertaking that certain work would be carried out there, but employment of the design team is a different question.

Mr. Cronin

Is it the case that the Minister took two years to make his decision about Operation Requirement 351? Is that not why 3,000 people will be redundant in Coventry this year?

Mr. Marten

It was not only one Minister but a number of Ministers who considered that there were a variety of tactical reasons why a certain design should be well studied before an order was placed. In that connection I am certain that the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition about exports to South Africa have not helped the aircraft industry as a whole.

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