HC Deb 18 November 1964 vol 702 cc423-5
19. Sir J. Eden

asked the Minister of Aviation if he will make a statement about the Government's policy towards British participation in the European Launcher Development Organisation programme.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

Yes, sir. We are prepared to continue to play our part in the initial programme of the European Launcher Development Organisa- tion. Future arrangements will be considered at a conference of member states in January next.

Sir J. Eden

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that British participation in space development projects of this kind is good, not just for international relations, but more especially for the technological benefits which will follow to this country's advantage?

Mr. Jenkins

Yes, I would. That is why I gave the original Answer, but we have the position that costs have risen and, as I told the House a week or so ago, the French and Italian Governments have asked that this should be looked at.

Mr. Thorneycroft

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he realises the immense amount of work which has gone into trying to get technology going on a European basis, and that all these projects—the Concord, E.L.D.O. and a whole range of defence projects—hang together, and the moment that the good faith of any one Government can be called into question, to some extent all these projects are in peril?

Mr. Jenkins

Yes, of course, I do, but I think I am entitled to answer a question about a project which the French and Italian Governments have asked should be reviewed without the right hon. Member getting very excited about good faith.

Mr. Thorneycroft

I hope that neither the right hon. Gentleman nor anyone else will get excited, but does he realise that the moment one Government starts asking for reviews of contracts honourably entered into, the danger of all other Governments doing the same is very high indeed and a great programme of technological advance in Europe is put at stake?

Mr. Jenkins

Yes, of course. I recognise the principle the right hon. Member is making, but he must not try to put it on a foundation which will not bear it. This review of E.L.D.O. was asked for long before we asked for a review of Concord.

Mr. Shinwell

Can my right hon. Friend recall how often the late Government not only reviewed projects but cancelled them after considerable expenditure? Will he clarify what is the purpose in the construction of aircraft? Is it merely to provide work or is it to provide decent military defence in a practical form?

Mr. Jenkins

My right hon. Friend's questions are always so well phrased that they provide the answers as well as asking the questions.