HC Deb 18 November 1964 vol 702 cc413-7
7. Mr. Edelman

asked the Minister of Aviation what indemnities Her Majesty's Government are required to pay to British and French aircraft manufacturers and sub-contractors and to the French Government under the provisions of the Concord agreement of 29th November, 1962, in the event of Great Britain renouncing the contract.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

The Agreement of 29th November, 1962, between the British and French Governments does not provide for payment of indemnities in the event of termination. Payments to contractors are a matter for the Government concerned; in the case of contractors and sub-contractors to my Department, cancellation charges would be determined in accordance with the terms of the relevant contracts.

Mr. Edelman

Has my right hon. Friend taken note of the view of both partners in this Anglo-French project, as cancellation would not only cause heavy financial losses but also incalculable losses in terms of good will? In those circumstances, is he prepared now to say that it is the intention of the Government to proceed with this project in one way or another?

Mr. Jenkins

No, Sir. We are very hopeful of coming to an amicable arrangement with the French Government and I am sure that my hon. Friend, who I know is a great believer in Anglo-French collaboration, will do everything he can to help us in this respect.

Sir J. Eden

In the general review of this project which the right hon. Gentleman is embarking upon, has he given full consideration to the cost of its cancellation not only to the aircraft industry but to other industries supplying equipment to this project? Since he must have done that, could he indicate what that figure is?

Mr. Jenkins

I am taking into account not only the direct but the indirect effects of my review, but I am not in a position to give detailed information to the House.

Mr. Rankin

My right hon. Friend said that he was quite sure that he would come to an amicable arrangement with the French Government. Will he clarify that a little and tell us what sort of arrangement—to discontinue or continue with a supersonic aircraft?

Mr. Jenkins

No, Sir. We are discussing this matter with the French Government and the nature of our discussions must necessarily be confidential.

Mr. Maude

Is the Minister aware that, while we welcome his assurance that he is hopeful of reaching an amicable agreement with the French Government, we would welcome an assurance that he will not come to any decision which is not amicably arranged with the French Government? Will he also bear in mind that, whatever indemnities may or may not be payable, no idemnity could conceivably make up for the shock to international relations which such a cancellation would cause?

Mr. Jenkins

Amicability is necessarily a two-way process, but I remain hopeful.

15. Mr. Channon

asked the Minister of Aviation if he has completed his review of the Concord project; and what have been his conclusions.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

Not yet, Sir.

Mr. Channon

Would the Minister agree that, whatever the decision he comes to, it will be in the very best interests of everyone that he should be able to come to a conclusion very speedily, because there is so much uncertainty in the industry as to what decision the Government are about to come to? Will he tell the House when he thinks it likely that he will be able to announce his decision?

Mr. Jenkins

I had the impression that I was being accused by some of the hon. Gentleman's friends of having come to too speedy a conclusion on this issue. I have not come to a conclusion, but I hope that it will be possible to do so in the fairly near future.

Mr. William Clark

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the cancellation of international agreements may affect other exports we have to the countries concerned? Would he further agree that this is particularly important in the case of South Africa, where our total exports are £200 million a year?

Mr. Jenkins

I do not think that we were proposing to export the Concord to South Africa.

17. Mr. Rankin

asked the Minister of Aviation what consultations he has had about the future of the Concord aircraft with interested representatives of employers and employees; and with what result.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

I have had discussions with the chairmen of the companies in charge of the United Kingdom's share of the project and with representatives from both Bristol and Coventry of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, the Draughtsmen's Allied Technicians Association, and the Association of Supervisory Staffs, Executives and Technicians. Their views will be borne fully in mind by the Government in the course of the current review.

Mr. Rankin

While thanking my right hon. Friend for the steps he has taken to familiarise himself with the views of all those who are concerned on the industrial side, may I ask if he will take into consideration the fact that the operators are equally concerned? Has he had any approaches from the British Airline Pilots Association, or has he offered to meet that association? If there has been no such offer, will he consider meeting it or its appropriate representatives?

Mr. Jenkins

I should be happy to meet the officials of B.A.L.P.A. on this or other issues when the occasion arises.

Mr. Hopkins

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is a matter of great importance to Bristol, both for management and employees in the industry? A great deal of time has been spent on design study, not only of the engine but also of the whole project of Concord. Will he kindly not lightly dismiss the great deal of good work which has been put into it?

Mr. Jenkins

Yes, indeed, I am aware of the importance of this project to Bristol. That is why I have taken an early opportunity to have discussions both with the management and trade union sides of those employed in the Bristol factories concerned.

20. Sir L. Heald

asked the Minister of Aviation whether he has now been informed of the reaction of the French Government, following his expression of the views of Her Majesty's Government on the Concord project at a meeting with M. Jacquet and other Ministers in Paris; and whether he will make a statement before taking any further action.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

I would refer the right hon. and learned Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) on 16th November. I am not yet in a position to make a statement.

Sir L. Heald

The House will quite understand that the reply of the French Government requires serious consideration, but would it not have been better if that serious consideration had been devoted to the matter before the Minister's disastrous visit to Paris?

Mr. Jenkins

I think that this problem requires serious consideration at all stages. I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Gentleman takes quite such a depressing view of my visit to Paris as he does.

Mr. A. Royle

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he will not abandon or delay the Concord project without the agreement of the French Government?

Mr. Jenkins

I have nothing to add to what I have already said. We are in close exchange with the French Government and I am very hopeful of an amicable outcome.