HC Deb 09 February 1965 vol 706 cc212-341

3.58 p.m.

Mr. Peter Thorneycroft (Monmouth)

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: this House regrets the Government's recent handling of the problems of the aero-space industries; urges Her Majesty's Government to reconsider their present policies towards these industries, which appear likely to cause grave damage and to result ultimately in almost total dependence on the United States of America; and further urges that every opportunity be taken of increased co-operation with our European allies. The debate upon which we are about to embark raises some grave matters and is of concern to hon. Members on both sides of the House. It raises matters which on any computation touch the life and livelihood of thousands of our fellow citizens. It touches the bases of technology—and I welcome the fact that the Minister of Technology is present—of defence and finance and, in a sense, of foreign policy as well.

I have had enough experience in the Ministry of Aviation and in the Ministry of Defence to know the almost exquisite complexity of problems of this character and I am not one to say that they are easy of solution. I think that it may help if I say at the outset that there are some things which I am not seeking to assert in this debate. I am not asserting that these are easy problems, capable of a facile solution. I know too well that that is not so. I certainly do not say that no one should ever buy a foreign aircraft because I know as well as right hon. Gentlemen opposite that there are such occasions. [HON. MEMBERS: "The Phantom."] I am seeking to be as helpful as I can. I certainly do not say that the size of the aircraft industry is sacrosanct, nor would the industry assert that, nor indeed, I think, any industry in the country; nor would I say that never in any circumstances should a project be cancelled.

What I shall say is something about the handling of the problems of this industry during the last three months. The Government's handling of the industry has gravely exacerbated the problems with which it was faced. If the Government cancelled all three of the major projects which have been discussed recently this would effectively put an end to our aircraft industry as we know it at present. If they cancelled the two projects which they have in mind, it would be the end of Hawker Aviation as a great firm contributing to major design of aircraft in this country.

I put it with all the emphasis that I can to right hon. Gentlemen opposite that to cancel British production over so wide a field and to give the orders to the Americans would be the gravest technological blunder that the Government could commit.

I want to say a few words about the background, because I think that it is necessary, in order to understand these problems, to know something of their back ground. Our aircraft industry is symptomatic of the problems of many of our industries. That is to say, it is complex, it is increasingly costly in the projects that it undertakes, it requires very large accretions of capital to carry on, and, if it is to be successful, it requires an ever-widening market for the sale of its products—and this is something which is growing in similarity throughout British industry at present.

The relative cheapness of the American aircraft which is often quoted is not because the Americans are cleverer than us. It is because if one has an initial order for 800 aircraft, that is a very different thing indeed from having an initial order of 80. It is as simple as that as to how one spreads one's overheads.

I therefore start from the assumption, which I think is realistic, and even favourable to the Minister of Aviation, that one cannot make all the aircraft here. One will buy over the years some aircraft from the United States of America. I took initial steps towards the ordering of Phantoms for the Royal Navy, and played a major part in the ordering of the Polaris missile, which was a wonderful commercial bargain for the United Kingdom. It saved about £1,000 million in research and development. In that respect, the Nassau Agreement was certainly a very satisfactory one. We shall make others in cooperation with Europe.

Perhaps I might say a word—it is easier said than done today—about co-operative ventures. It is not so easy to get agreement about an aircraft even in one's own country, and once one goes out into the international field one has to get an agreement on the operational requirements, which means that one has to get the air forces of the French, the Italians and the Germans to agree with one's own as to when the aircraft is to come into service. There are all the inevitable and natural pressures which go on in industry all over the Continent, which have to be taken into consideration. Then, of course, one has to enter into an agreement from which neither side can run out, because if either does the other would be left completely in the air.

But these things must be attempted, and the previous Government did attempt them, and the record is rather a proud one. There were the RB162 vertical take-off engine made in co-operation with the French, the stand-off bomb which we make at present with the British aircraft industry and the French aircraft industry combining, and the variable-sweep jet trainer which was under negotiation with France for many months before the change of Government. All these are examples.

Perhaps I might take one of the earliest and perhaps the best examples of the problem in this field—E.L.D.O., the European Launcher Development Organisation. I very well remember spending a great deal of time in Europe seeking to get, by all means open to us, agreement in Germany, Italy, France, Belgium and the Scandinavian countries, if we could get it, to pool the technological effort which is required if we are to stay in really advanced technology at all. I remember the attacks often made upon me in this country and by the Labour Party. I remember the jeers at me as a commercial traveller and the rest. However, I believe that the establishment of this joint technological effort in heavy satellite launchers will pay an enormous dividend to this country and Europe in the years to come.

I believe that it is right that we should seek on a collective basis of that kind to ensure—I say this not in any anti-American sense, but in the friendliest of spirits—that the Americans do not have a complete monopoly in that field. That project is, I hope, going forward, though it will require constant drive by the Government to keep it going forward. These things do not just run on their own, it is a constant effort and struggle to keep them going. I hope that the studies for advanced propulsion which were planned will be going on, too.

The second major effort was the Concord. Our first offer was to the Americans. We offered to go into partnership with them on the supersonic transport. We offered to share with them the possibility of doing a Mach 2 transport, or if at the end of the project study they wanted to go to the Mach 3, to try to do that. We were unable to do that—or, rather, they were. The offer was made in writing and it was made verbally. This illustrates an important problem in aeronautics. It is very difficult for the American Government to undertake the type of co-operation which we are doing with the Continent of Europe. This is not a reflection on the Americans at all. It is part of their set-up, the strength of their aircraft industry, the way these things are established and run over there.

So, in the event, we went into partnership with the French, and, after a long negotiation, successfully concluded by my right hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery), we reached an agreement which, I think, was one of the most exciting technological breakthroughs in this field that has ever happened—a really valuable contribution to combined effort in a very advanced technological field.

I must tell the Government that, of all the things they have done, one that shocked me most was in the early stages when they wrote that off as a mere prestige project. They said that they wanted to release sources for more productive purposes by cutting out expenditure on some items of low economic priority, such as 'prestige projects'. The Government have already communicated to the French Government their wish to re-examine urgently the Concord project. I must tell the Prime Minister that I think that the man who wrote those words had not begun to understand what the modern world is about. He had not even glimpsed the technological adventure that was awaiting him only 20 miles away across the Channel.

These men were co-operating over a vast area. They were willing to expand further and further. They were planning to go ahead with a variable wing project and —something which my right hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North had been initiating—with a swept-wing fighter. All that was placed at stake by one broad sneer about prestige projects. I admit that it was aimed at the Conservative Government, but it missed its mark and hit our best partners and allies on the Continent. It struck a considerable blow at confidence.

I hope that, whatever the Minister of Aviation says or does not say, he will say that he recognises the need for co-operation in Europe on technological problems of this kind. The Concord, E.L.D.O. the swept-wing fighter and the rest all provide an immense area of opportunity and hope for the young men of this country going into science and technology. Now, the Concord is to go on. "Wilson capitulates", as the French newspapers put it. It is no satisfaction to us. We do not mind his capitulating here but we do not like him to be in the position of capitulating abroad.

I hope that, on these other projects, the Government will think much harder and longer than they did when they talked about the Concord. There have been, and still are, very grave rumours current about the Government's plans for the aircraft industry. That is why the House will welcome this debate as an opportunity for the Government to state frankly what their plans are. Those rumours have been spread by a series of Press conferences held by the Secretary of State for Defence, in which he thought aloud. We have no objection to his thinking aloud, or thinking at all. It is not in the spirit of criticism that I say this. It is good for the right hon. Gentleman to see the Press. I remember, however, the bitter criticisms which were launched against the Conservative Administration—particularly against my predecessor—for holding Press conferences in the Defence Department. But that is not an improper thing to do; indeed, it is a good thing.

What I must blame the Defence Secretary for is his blaming the Press for what it printed afterwards. What, otherwise, is the purpose of a Press conference? The Press kept it off the record with one exception. That was a phrase of unexampled intellectual arrogance. It is the sort of phrase that will go down to posterity along with other things the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends have said.

The Defence Secretary has made it clear that the Government want to do a large-scale deal with the Americans, scrapping three British projects—and buying the TFX, the Phantom and the C130. They would buy American instead. These rumours of a large deal to "go American" in the aircraft industry have persisted ever since the Prime Minister returned from Washington. From the moment the Prime Minister came back, study committees have been at work in the Defence Department and they were called upon to make a special study of the C130. Press conferences were called and in the aircraft industry—because these things are known—everyone knew that a package deal was on.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

If the right hon. Gentleman will look up HANSARD of about a fortnight before I went to Washington, he will see that I told the House then that a study of these defence projects had already begun.

Mr. Thorneycroft

That rather bears out what I am saying. It is one thing to study defence problems. It is another to go to America and offer three prize projects of the British aircraft industry and ask to buy American aircraft in their place. The account that the Defence Secretary gave to the Press was, I think, accurately reproduced by the Press.

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Denis Healey)

While we are talking about accuracy, is not the right hon. Gentleman aware—any newspaper man who was present at the conference will confirm this—that I made no reference to any aircraft, with one exception? This was to deny the story in that day's Daily Express that the Government had decided to cancel the TSR2.

Mr. Thorneycroft

There is not the slightest doubt that, from the moment the Prime Minister returned from Washington and from the time of the Defence Secretary's Press conference, stories of a massive deal with the Americans were current in this country. But the Defence Secretary will have a chance of saying what his real intentions are.

I have some questions to ask the Government. I want to take each of these projects separately. If all these planes are cancelled, it is plain that we shall see the end of design capacity in this country. It is clear—and I ask the right hon. Gentleman, if he denies it, to say so—that if we take away the P1154 and the HS681 from Hawker Siddeley we will do such damage to its design staff that, for all practicable purposes, it will be unlikely to design another major aircraft.

I want to consider the problem in human terms as well. What about the men concerned? A great deal has been said about figures. I want to give the figures as I understand them to be. If I am wrong, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will correct me. I understand that there will be a run down at Hawkers anyway, apart from the cancellations, of 4,000 workers. I understand that these cancellations will involve a run-down of approximately another 8,000 and that 2,000 must be added. This last-named figure cannot be attributed to either one or the other cause, but is concerned with overheads applicable to both. This makes a total of 14,000.

These figures indicate that the Hawker labour force was declining anyway, or was about to decline before the Prime Minister made his statement on aircraft policy. I say to the Prime Minister that it is far better that he should state the figures publicly to the House. Men are entitled to know what is in prospect for them. If the Government disagree with the figures I have given, I hope that they will say so and state what their figures are. They have facilities which are not open to me and we should be told frankly and fully so that the aircraft workers and their families know the future and, however difficult it may be, can make the best plans in preparation.

The cutting of these projects is a vast operation. It will be a dramatic and very painful one if it is to be carried through. Whatever happens, it will not leave the industry as is was before. It is not, surely, intended to. I want to ask the Government what their long-term plans are. They have often told us that what is required is central direction, a clear strategic outline of what the Government propose.

Again, rumours are widespread as to what the intentions in Whitehall are. They include talk of a cut, over a period, of 60,000 men. Some say that the industry is to be reduced to about 1½ times the size of the French industry. Apparently that is a good size that has been worked out by someone. That would mean a cut of between 60,000 men and 100,000 men over the period. What is the intention? We are anxious to have an answer. I certainly do not press this unreasonably. The future of thousands of families is involved.

Indeed, the whole career structure for boys is involved, together with the question of whether or not they go into the industry. All hon. Members have had letters from parents about their sons. We are entitled to ask what the long-term plans are. Is it really the intention of the Government, as they have put it crudely, to cut this industry down to size? How can anybody be surprised if, in the first year, 10,000, 14,000, or 15,000 men are bound to go if that is the long-term plan for the industry?

Nor should we forget the other facets of this industry, because the assembly of aircraft is not just the making of the shells. There is the whole engine industry, about which I shall say a few words in a moment. There is also the components industry. We are entitled in this debate to hear what the Government think is to happen to the engine and component industries.

I am rather puzzled by some of the things that I hear said by the Government. When these figures were first published, there were shrill cries of pain from the First Secretary of State. He said that it was all right because other projects were coming in and these workers need not worry. He said that the statement had been made much too soon, and that something else was to be made in their place. What? We ought to be told, because we want to judge the cost. We want to know whether the cost is in the savings which the Prime Minister put forward. We want to know whether they are economically more valuable than the two years' lead which we have in vertical take-off. Is it a prefabricated bingo hall? Or is it another aircraft? If it is, when was the operational requirement thought out? These are matters which we should like to hear about this afternoon. In other words, we would like to be told the plan for the aircraft industry.

Now I turn to the projects. Everything in the Prime Minister's statement about costs and time scale is deeply suspect, and I shall explain why in the course of my remarks. I wish to consider, first, the HS681. This aircraft was designed not at the whim of Hawkers, but to meet a specific operational requirement drawn up by the air staff, and the whole question of the range, the radius of action, the take-off potential, and so on, was considered with the greatest care by the military chiefs of staff before the military requirement was approved, and it had a particular relation to our world-wide rôle.

The Prime Minister says that the C130 is cheaper. It takes between 3,000 and 4,000 yards of solid concrete to get it into the air, so no wonder it is cheaper. It falls far short of the operational requirement in every respect. For years it has consistently been rejected by the air staff. It is utterly unrelated to the rôle which they specify. It is obsolete. It has no conceivable stretch in it, and it is an utterly different aircraft. Obviously, in those circumstances it would be cheaper.

The Government have a right to change the rôle. There is no doubt but that they can switch rôles. They can accept, as they must have done here, a considerable degradation of the operational requirement, an operational requirement critical to our rôle in South-East Asia. They can also, if they like, talk about the time scale, but what has happened during the last three months to alter the thinking about the time scale? It was fully known to the advisers of the Government three months ago, and the HS681 was based on that. If something has happened since then, we are entitled to know what it is.

What sort of C130 is being ordered? Is it being redesigned? If so, what is its delivery date? We are entitled to know that. Is it to be re-engined? I ask that, because the First Secretary of State did not know the answer to that question when he was asked it the other day. Is it to have a new British engine, or a new American one? Will Lockheeds have to rejig to build the new form of C130? Those questions are critical to the time scale. Unless we have an answer we cannot compare like with like.

Even if there was a time lag, even if there was a gap, it would be the most extraordinary solution in the case of this aircraft to go back and buy American. After all, the Argosy is still in production. The production line is running, and there is nothing to prevent these aircraft being produced for this purpose. If, because of a time gap of 18 months, we did the greatest possible damage to the aircraft industry, that would be a most extraordinary solution.

The truth is that this has nothing to do with the time scale. The reason is money. If the Government think that they can do this more cheaply, it would be better for them to say so, to say frankly that it is part of their policy of cutting down the aircraft industry. We know that there is a strong lobby asking for this, and it would be better to say so and face this quite clearly.

I press the Prime Minister further on this matter. If the HS681 is out, and he is prepared to accept a degraded operational requirement, have British firms been offered a chance to quote against that degraded requirement? Has any British firm been asked whether it could meet, on roughly the same time scale, and at anything like comparable cost, the C130's operational performance? If not, I would have thought that this was a monstrous way of treating our aircraft industry.

The fact is that both Hawkers and Shorts have an alternative, and they both wish to put up their alternatives to match the C130. Are they to be given the chance of doing that? One day after the Prime Minister made his statement Hawkers was asked to give the Ministry the specifications of the HS802. Why did the Ministry of Aviation wait until the after the Prime Minister's statement before asking for these specifications? Was it that the Ministry had forgotten to ask? What is wrong with the HS802, or, for that matter, with Shorts' solution to this?

The First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Mr. George Brown)

What is it?

Mr. Thorneycroft

The right hon. Gentleman has been talking about it for hours in the Cabinet. He ought to know what it is.

The HS802 is a transport aircraft with the body of the HS681, and the wings of the Comet. It has a performance below that of the HS681, but it is 100 miles an hour faster than the C130, and I believe that it ought to be considered. Will it be considered, or are we contractually committed to the Americans on the C130? We must have an answer to that, because if we are, the investigations which even now are going on into this potential alternative, and which ought to go on on the Shorts' one too, are meaningless.

I therefore ask the specific question: are we, or are we not, contractually committed? I am not convinced that it is right to order the United States alternative until we have had a serious look at what the British industry can put forward. That deals with the question of transport aircraft.

I now turn to the P1154. There have been two great break-throughs in aeronautics since the days of the Wright Brothers—one in variable geometry, or sweep, and the other in variable thrust. People may say that we should have done more on both. We certainly would have spent a great deal more money if we had. In variable sweep we were in consultation with the French on a variable sweep fighter. In variable thrust we were and still are, two years ahead of the Americans. As has been said: Where we have sometimes fallen down is in our failure to give our scientists their heads and still more our failure to apply the results of scientific discovery in our industrial processes. That was the Prime Minister.

If ever there was a moment when we should use the results of our industrial and technological lead, this is it. Here is the test of the right hon. Gentleman. This is not just his word before an election. This is the test of what the Government means. This is not the easy stuff that he talked about on the B.B.C.; this is the test whether he meant to back British technology or not.

The Prime Minister

In that case, will the right hon. Gentleman say why his Government rejected the great advance for which our scientists were responsible in variable geometry, and sent them packing to work for the Americans?

Mr. Thorneycroft

If the Prime Minister—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] It is a fair question, and I shall answer it. The Prime Minister is quite entitled to say that this country should have done more on variable sweep. He may even be right about that, but is it an answer, if one has not done enough—[Interruption.] I have never known anybody get so excited as the Economic Secretary. Is the Prime Minister's argument that if we have not done enough on variable sweep we should, therefore, sacrifice our lead on variable thrust? If so, it is a lunatic conception of the Prime Minister's.

I return to the question of the P1154. The time scale here is a problem. The P1154 is a complex and sophisticated aircraft. The Hunter is an ageing aircraft, although very useful. It is doing a brilliant job. I put this argument with all the force at my command to our advisers, and I put all the arguments about the time scale, and, knowing them in every detail, they still took the view that the combination of vertical take-oft the supersonic flight was so essential to them that they must insist on going forward with that project. If something has altered since then, the Secretary of State should say so, but that was the position that I knew. That was the advice that I had, and the decision was taken with the fullest knowledge about the time scale and everything else.

A powerful case could be made for the P1154 and the HS681. To cancel both, especially at a time when the future of the TSR2 is still uncertain, is surely an act of considerable unwisdom. If savings are vital—if it is really necessary to cut the budget in this way—my view is that the HS802 ought to be considered. It is certainly better than the C130. To go American without ever giving proper consideration either to the Belfast solution or to the cheaper Hawker solution—both of which would represent substantial savings on the HS681—would be a course of action which could not conceivably be justified.

This brings me to the TSR2. The pledges given by the Government in respect of this aircraft are pretty specific, even if we read the small type. "'Your Jobs are Guaranteed Under Labour,' Wilson tells TSR2 workers"—"Labour Will Not Cancel the TSR2"—"Labour's Plan … Will Expand our Highly Skilled Aircraft Engineering Teams". I wonder whether the Government really do intend to expand them.

The Prime Minister

Since the right hon. Gentleman is quoting an issue of the Daily Express that I recognise, will he read from that same front page the words which that newspaper actually attributed to me and which I said in Preston? They are given a little lower down the page. The newspaper had the honesty to refer to them, even if the right hon. Gentleman has not. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will read it out.

Mr. Thorneycroft

All I have is "Healey's Plan to Save £800 Million". [HON. MEMBERS: "Read it."] The right hon. Gentleman can read it if he wants to. Let him find it.

The Prime Minister

Since the right hon. Gentleman cannot read, I will do it for him. This is what I said in Preston, as quoted on the page from which the right hon. Gentleman has just read: Our position on TSR2 is exactly the same as the Government's. If it works, and does what is expected of it, and at reasonable cost, we shall want it—though not for a nuclear role. We shall want it for its original tactical and reconnaissance role. Why did not the right hon. Gentleman read that out?

Mr. Thorneycroft

The right hon. Gentleman will not find that even in the small print of the pamphlet. The right hon. Gentleman says that he will save £250 million by cancelling the TSR2 and switching to the TFX. [Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Dr. Horace King)

The House has enjoyed itself enough. We are engaged in a very serious debate. I hope that hon. Members will now allow the debate to proceed.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

On a point of order. If a Front Bench speaker quotes, quite fraudulently and deceptively—[HON MEMBERS: "Oh."]—from a speech in a newspaper, when he has the newspaper and the speech in front of him, ought not he to expect a certain amount of protest from the other side of the House?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I would have thought that the simple answer to that is that he has had it.

Mr. Thorneycroft

May I now come to the figure of £250 million? On what is that calculated? Is it calculated on the TFX1 or the TFX2? What price has been offered by the Americans? Unless a price has been offered the figure is, of course, absolutely meaningless. Is the offer a fixed price for an aircraft the development of which is not yet finished? If it is a fixed price, is it a dumped price, that is to say, does it bear any relation to the cost of the aircraft; for it is, of course, well-known that the cost of the TFXs are themselves escalating. It is very doubtful whether the naval version will ever fly or come into operation.

Is a cost comparison of this kind in any way valid? I doubt whether it is really practicable to compare costs quoted by the British industry against costs quoted by the American Government. The United States probably has offered us a most attractive package deal. It would pay the Americans to give us the aircraft in order to put us out of business. There are many men in the aircraft industry in America who would love to see the end of Hawkers, or the end of the British Aircraft Corporation.

What are the consequences if we get out of the business? It is not only a question of military procurement, it is also, of course, the civil job as well. There would not have been a VC10, there would never have been a Viscount, if there had not been military business to base these things on. If we step out—

Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)

The right hon. Gentleman has said that if it were not for the military side, there would never have been a Viscount. Is not it the case that the Viscount is the only civil aircraft which is not derived from a military aircraft?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I do hope—I am glad that the hon. Gentleman asked that question—that the House will seek to understand what I am saying on this matter. The other day the Minister of Technology said it would be much nicer to make freighters than bombers. As a statement, I am not quarrelling with that. What I am saying—I ask the right hon. Gentleman, when he replies, to deal with it—is that if we are to end military procurement effectively in this country there will not be designs from which to make civil aircraft of any kind at all. Unless it is understood by the Government that the threat they are levelling at military procurement is, at the same time, levelled at the civil industry, they have not understood the damage that they are doing.

I want to mention one other thing at which it is levelled—the engine industry. Does anybody think that we shall go on selling aero-engines to the world if we cut out these great projects? The right hon. Gentleman probably thinks so, but he is wrong about this as he is wrong about so many other things. He probably still believes that we could eke out some kind of existence making American models over here. Perhaps for the first round we would be allowed to put in British engines, but do hon. Members think that the Americans would go on buying British engines and that the engine companies could be kept going without British aircraft into which to put their engines? If the right hon. Gentleman believes that, he will believe almost anything.

We should lose the civil industry. We are threatening the engine industry. We are, indeed, threatening the possibilities of co-operation in Europe. Think what is our worth if we have got rid of some of our best designers. Here we face a grave situation. We are faced with the possibility of expenditure ranging between 1,000 million and 2,000 million dollars across the exchanges.

We are faced with a serious degradation of operational requirements. We are faced with the virtual end of the aircraft industry and, with it, in a large measure, the engine and component industries. We are faced with a threat to the civil industry as well. I recognise some of the Government's problems, but I must say that we require far more specific evidence and advice than we have got from them so far before they take this step.

A White Paper ought to be published, setting out in detail the comparative costs so that they may be examined by experts before decisions are taken which go to the very root of British technology; which put at stake the future and the livelihood of thousands of young men in this country and which, perhaps, will deal a fatal blow at an important area of co-operation on the Continent of Europe.

4.46 p.m.

The Minister of Aviation (Mr. Roy Jenkins)

The right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) began in a moderate and even gracious mood by telling us three of the things that he would not claim. He would not claim, he said, that a project should never be cancelled. That was perhaps as well, for the previous Government cancelled 26, at a cost of £300 million.

The right hon. Gentleman said he would not claim that we must never buy foreign aircraft. That was perhaps as well, because he placed the Phantom order. He would not claim, he said—he said all these things as if they were gracious concessions to this side of the House—that there was something sacrosanct about the size of the industry, which, again, was as well, because it ran down by no less than 13 per cent. under his own Administration.

During the course of what I have to say I think that I shall be able to answer a large number of the questions which the right hon. Gentleman put to me. The others, where they fall more in his field of responsibility, will be answered by my right hon. Friend when he winds up the debate.

I wish to apply myself—I shall be able to answer the questions in the course of doing so—to the main burden of the Amendment and of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, which is that the blame for the undeniable problems of the aircraft industry rests upon the recent policies of the Government. Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that is not so and I shall endeavour to show the House why it is not so. The problems were all there well before October and were hidden only by a combination of the carelessness about public money of the right hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery) and the breezy salesmanship of the right hon. Member for Monmouth himself. If I may say so without offence, they operated rather like a pair of motor dealers—one in the back of the shop over-trading with other people's money, and the other in the front of the shop trying to explain away the mileage readings on the speedometers.

The uncertainty was there, too. Anyone capable of looking fact s in the face—and there are plenty of people on both sides of the aircraft industry capable of looking facts in the face—needed no newspaper stories to make them nervous. They knew that no responsible Government could allow the industry—despite its great achievements in the past—to go on as it has been doing recently—

Mr. F. V. Corfield (Gloucestershire, South)


Mr. Jenkins

No. I cannot give way.

What is the essence of the industry's problem? First, it is dependent upon public money as is no other manufacturing British industry. This year my Ministry is paying about £210 million on its own account, largely for research and development contracts, and £325 million on behalf of the Ministry of Defence, largely for production contracts.

These are, by any standards, huge sums of money. They do not all go to the aircraft industry. Some goes to the electronic industries and other associated trades, but the amount which goes to the aircraft industry itself is equal to an annual sum of £1,250—£1,350 if the spendings of the public airline corporations are included—from public funds for every one of the 270,000 people employed in the industry.

Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)


Mr. Jenkins

I should like to go a little further and then I shall give way to the hon. Member.

The sums involved are big, not only in relation to those at the receiving end, but also in relation to those who have to do the paying. The TSR2 programme, for example, even if there is no further increase in cost, would require an average contribution of £15 from every man, woman and child in the country, £50 or so from the average family.

From these circumstances, two things follow. The sums of money are so large as to make major impacts upon the level of taxation and upon the Government's ability to undertake other vital expenditure; and the industry is inevitably and peculiarly linked to Government decisions. No Government can insulate the aircraft industry from occasional periods of uncertainty, unless they are prepared to abdicate both control over public spending and their own essential responsibility for military procurement.

Mr. Goodhew


Mr. Jenkins

I shall give way at the end of this point.

Mr. Goodhew

The Minister made a specific point about the aircraft industry being dependent upon public money; but is this surprising, as it is the Government who are the main customer all the time?

Mr. Jenkins

I do not think that the hon. Member need have striven quite so hard to get me to give way so that he might make that comment.

The second of the 1958 this has deteriorated. It has fallen from over 30 per cent. of industry's problems relates to its export performance. Each year since the industry's output to about 20 per cent. This process has inevitably made still more extreme the industry's dependence upon public funds, to which I have already referred. It has also called more sharply in question the industry's use of resources in relation to its performance. In 1964, it earned 2½ per cent. of our foreign exchange. It provided 2½ per cent. of our exports. But it employed 3 per cent. of manufacturing labour and absorbed about 25 per cent. of our national research and development expenditure, as well as employing 10 per cent. of our most highly qualified industrial scientists and technologists, including 25 per cent. of all the mathematicians in industry. In 1964, the French industry, employing one-third of our manpower, achieved exports only fractionally lower, although it is fair to say that there were some British components in those French exports.

The export prospects for the future are, I am glad to say, a good deal better. In 1965, excluding guided weapons, exports should rise to £150 million. The industry says that they will go up to £180 million. I hope that it is right, but no one can have dealings with the aircraft industry without realising that there is an important distinction to be drawn between hope and achievement. We should never underestimate the difficulty of selling aircraft abroad. There is another point. The improvement, if it comes, will be almost entirely on the civil side, and thanks very largely to the BAC111. The Government will do everything they can to make this very good aeroplane as attractive as possible to customers.

However, on the military side—which is 70 per cent. of the industry—the export prospects are dismal. Canberras and Hunters did very well; 184 of the one and 544 of the other were sold abroad, but no comparable orders have been attracted for the present generation of combat aircraft, and none of the three highly controversial current projects—the TSR2, the P1154 and the HS681—has shown any serious prospect of improving the export picture.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)

Are the guided missiles included in that?

Mr. Jenkins

If the hon. Baronet would listen, he would know that I said that they were excluded.

This brings me to the third of the problems with which the Government and the industry are confronted. The previous Administration bequeathed to us these three major projects—the "three prize projects" as the right hon. Member for Monmouth called them. I took down his words when he used them. The future of the industry looked heavily dependent upon them, and the future of one airframe firm quite excessively dependent—both for its own health and that of the country—upon one of them.

The three projects that were bequeathed to us had three characteristics in common. They were very expensive; they showed, particularly in the case of the P1154 and the HS681, every sign of going into service dangerously late for the R.A.F. requirement they were intended to fulfil—I shall go into this in some detail—and they were geared to a British market almost exclusively.

I shall deal, first, with the question of their expense. The first proposition is that no one should be in any doubt at all that if we had continued with all three projects—I take it that the implication of the Amendment is that we should have done so—the inescapable result, unless we were to slash our other commitments everywhere else—and if we were to do that what purpose would the project serve?—would have been an increase in our defence expenditure, not only in absolute terms but as a proportion of the national income. At 7 per cent., we are already above all our major allies except the United States. But had we gone ahead with all three projects we would, by the late 1960s, have inevitably been driven well above it, and driven, not by the exigencies of the international situation, but by the commitments to the British aircraft industry which were bequeathed to us.

This is an appreciation based solely on our present estimates of cost. Can anybody say that these estimates are too pessimistic? On the contrary, the much more probable hypothesis is that they would have proved a good deal too optimistic. A few weeks ago, the Government were attacked for believing that the total costs of the TSR2 programme for about 150 aircraft might be as much as £750 million. I am now engaged in a difficult negotiation—aided, I believe, by the full good will of the companies concerned—to get a guaranteed price which would keep escalation within striking distance even of this astronomical price. Yet the P1154 and the HS681, because at a much earlier stage of development, would have been much more subject to future escalation than the TSR2 is now. In this field the most pessimistic estimates for the future have a nasty habit of turning out to be too optimistic.

Sir Cyril Osborne (Louth)

Can the Minister tell the House how much public money he hopes to save from this vast expenditure which he has put before us?

Mr. Jenkins

Not at this stage in my argument. I will proceed with the argu- ment which I am trying to set out, I hope in a fairly logical order.

I turn to the question of the time of availability. The right hon. Member for Monmouth said that he did not think that this was a factor at all. I should like to give him some simple figures which, if necessary, my right hon. Friend will amplify this evening. The P1154 was intended, as he knows very well, and as the House knows, as a replacement for the Hunter. But the Hunter ought certainly to go out of service by 1968–69. The P1154 could not possibly have been in service before 1970–71. It might well have been later.

The HS681 was intended as a replacement for the Beverley and the Hastings. The original staff target date was 1966–67. In mid-1964 this was amended to 1968–69. The HS681 was unlikely to have been in full service in 1971; 1972 or even 1973 might have been a more realistic estimate. The TSR2, as a Canberra replacement, offers at least a good possibility of being ready as soon as the American alternative. That is one substantial reason why the option has been kept open. But even here the prospect is for an unfilled gap of at least a year.

The plain fact is, therefore, that even if price did not enter the picture at all, we should have had to make stop-gap American purchases if the R.A.F. were to be kept effectively in the skies in the late 1960s.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

Is the right hon. Gentleman comparing the TFX Mark II with the TSR2? He has said that he is speaking of comparable aircraft and, in the view of most people who have studied the matter, it is the TFX Mark II which is comparable.

Mr. Jenkins

I am making the comparison with the Mark II, but the hon. Gentleman will have noted that I made no time points about the TSR2 as against the TFX. That was the one time point which I did not make. His interjection, therefore, while interesting, was strictly irrelevant to my argument.

I turn to the third point—that these three projects were geared only to a British market. The Opposition Amendment talks of "taking every opportunity to increase co-operation with our European allies". That is admirable. It is entirely in accordance with my own views, and I shall have more to say about this in a few minutes. But what did they achieve in relation to these military aircraft? What collaboration with our European allies was there in any of the projects? What export prospects were there? I am unaware of any.

By far the best chance in this respect lies with the P1127, the plane which was neglected by the previous Administration, but which is being currently tested by a tripartite—German-American-British—evaluation squadron. This is the plane for which we propose—the previous Government did not—to give a firm and large R.A.F. order and for which there is a real prospect of sales to at least one of our European allies. We shall welcome the suggestions of our European allies, of which Germany is the one most concerned here, and their collaboration in the development work which has to be done.

The TSR2, on the other hand, is as firmly geared to an exclusively British market as is a week's holiday at a Butlin's holiday camp. But it is a good deal less good value for money. This is not so much the fault of the contractors—although I think that they had been led to believe that they were dealing with a customer with a bottomless purse—as of the previous Government, which ploughed on regardless. The differences between the price of this plane and that of the TFX—and here at least I agree with the right hon. Member for Monmouth—are a function primarily not of a difference in efficiency between B.A.C. and General Dynamics, but of a difference in the length of the runs. TFX has the prospect of an order approaching 2,000, TSR2 of less than a tenth of that number. The effect on the spread of research and development costs is dramatic.

The lesson of this is that, whatever decision we ultimately take about TSR2, we must never get into this position again, and we must never again place a British aircraft firm in this position. As the Prime Minister told the House last week, the TSR2 will cost approximately 25 times as much as the Canberra, the plane it is designed to replace. What, in the next generation of planes, will be the cost of the TSR2 replacement? One thing is certain: it will be a cost that this country on its own cannot possibly sustain.

Let us not, therefore, have a totally misplaced chauvinism about aircraft procurement. Whatever decisions we had taken in the past weeks, and whatever decisions we may take in the next few months, we are at the end of the road so far as exclusive British manufacture of complicated weapons systems for an exclusive British market is concerned. We can afford to make the products only if others will buy them. The corollary is that we must be prepared to buy some of the products of others. An all-British industry equipping an R.A.F. flying all-British planes is out, whether we like it or not.

These, then, are the central problems of the aircraft industry today. They were not created by the present Government. When I took on my present office I had not the slightest doubt that they were there; and I have not the slightest doubt, either, that it was my duty and that of the Government not to hide them but to bring them to the surface, to face them, and to try to solve them.

Where, then, does the solution lie? To many of the longer-term problems of the industry we must look to the Plowden Committee, which I hope will report in the autumn, to provide us with the answers. This is a most distinguished and valuable Committee—even after the enforced resignation of my hon. Friend the new Minister of State for Economic Affairs, for whom I hope to announce a replacement in the course of a few days—and I know that Lord Plowden and his colleagues are getting quickly to work.

There is no question about the value of this Committee's work being superseded by current decisions. The Committee was never asked to take these decisions; it would have been quite inappropriate. Indeed, when I announced the appointment of the Committee, the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) asked for, and received from me, an assurance that decisions on important projects would not be held up to wait for its report. I myself referred to these decisions as fixed points for the Committee's deliberations. So there is no question of pre-empting its work. But I shall attempt today to deal with the shorter term, and if, occasionally, I stray further into the future, what I say will be subject to reappraisal in the light of the Plowden recommendations.

In the shorter term, some American purchases are inevitable. This is dictated not only by the need to prevent our defence costs rising, but also by the still more compelling need to provide vital equipment for the R.A.F. in the next four or five years. These purchases are miles from meaning the end of the British aircraft industry. By themselves, they do not even mean that it will necessarily be substantially reduced in size. There is a big Comet order coming in, to which very little attention has been paid.

The reduction, and this figure is not challenged by Hawker Siddeley, in the size of the company's labour force by the end of this year, as a result of the decisions we have already announced, is 7,700, but its labour force will rise during the subsequent two years, and I think that there is no evidence to show that by the end of 1967, on these decisions, the industry will be smaller than it is at present.

Lord Balniel (Hertford)

The Comet is made in my constituency. Can the right hon. Gentleman say definitely how many Comets will be ordered, and whether this will involve design work or is purely production work?

Mr. Jenkins

There will be design and production work. It is a substantial order—

Lord Balniel

How many?

Mr. Jenkins

—but it is not normal, at this stage, to give figures. My right hon. Friend will, if he can, deal with the matter further later. All I can say at the moment is that it is a substantial order.

I was saying that the industry will not necessarily be any smaller at the end of 1967 than it is now. I say, frankly, that I do not necessarily regard this as a desirable result. There may be a good deal of wasteful use of labour. As the right hon. Member for Monmouth said, there is nothing sacrosanct about the present numbers employed in the industry. They have fluctuated a good deal in the past. At the beginning of the Korean war it was only two-thirds of the present number. Other countries, it must be noted, manage quite well with a relatively much smaller demand on labour. The achievement of the French industry, with its 90,000 labour force, I have already mentioned. Even the Americans, with their vast military expenditure, their huge home market for civil aircraft, and their dominant position in the civil export trade—manage with an industry which employs only 620,000 people. They have a population three and a half times ours. In aircraft, they employ only two and one-third times as many.

In this country today one of out greatest shortages is skilled labour. If we are to improve our economic performance we just cannot allow that most vital national resource to be used other than to the best possible advantage. I am not convinced that this is so in the aircraft industry today. But there is no point in releasing labour unless it is to be quickly reabsorbed in more productive work. In any changes we shall, therefore, have the fullest regard to where and how far that is possible. We are determined not to leave skilled labour lying idle. If retraining is necessary it will be energetically provided. The aircraft industry is spread fairly widely over the country. Much, but not all of it, is in areas of very full employment. If redundancies are necessary we shall look to the firms to consult fully with us—they live, after all, on public money—and concentrate these redundancies in the most labour-scarce areas.

There is, however, one unit in the industry which exists in an area which is far from labour-scarce. That is Short Bros., at Belfast. Twenty per cent. of the HS681 work was to be subcontracted there. This was a tempting consideration in favour of that plane. Yet it would have been nonsense to have continued a highly expensive project, for which there was no real military requirement, because 20 per cent. of the work upon it would have seeped through to a difficult employment area.

We looked carefully at using the Belfast freighter, a much more direct contribution to the employment problem in Northern Ireland, as an alternative. This, unfortunately, had to be excluded after the most careful consideration both on the ground of a vast cost differential and because of essential unsuitability for the rôle proposed.

I may say that we have looked equally carefully, although necessarily more quickly, at the imaginative last-minute Hawker Siddeley proposal for the HS 802, a Comet wing with a HS 681 fuselage, which was submitted very recently. Here again, there is a considerable capital cost differential, though not as big as with the Belfast, the prospect of higher operating charges, and a two-year delay in availability. In these circumstances, with great regret, and primarily on account of the urgent needs of the R.A.F., we are not able to go back on the announcement of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister last Tuesday about the purchase of the C130. It is not a question of contractual commitments, but of having looked carefully and urgently at this proposal and not being able, with regret, to accept it.

Mr. Angus Maude (Stratford-on-Avon)

Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether the two-year gap in availability to which he referred takes account of the necessity to upgrade the engine of the C130E and, also, if necessary, for Lockheed to rejig its production?

Mr. Jenkins

Yes, and we think that there will still be a two-year gap at the beginning of the period of delivery, and a four-year gap before the last transport would be provided.

The problem of Shorts, therefore, remains. Redundancy will not occur there at once. There was to be no rapid buildup of work on the HS 681 until early 1966. But from then onwards we face a lack of work. In the long run—and I have discussed this with a representative of the Northern Ireland Government, with the Northern Ireland hon. Members here, who were good enough to come and see me, with Short's management and with representatives of Short's workers—the Government believe that the best future for Shorts might be largely outside the aircraft industry.

Aircraft is a volatile business. Single decisions have a big effect. A firm depending largely on sub-contract work in the industry, yet absolutely vital to the employment picture of a particular area, is not really an a happy position. It too often has to beg for its living. That is why my right hon. Friend the First Secretary has announced that a team of consultants, supported by his Department, will make a special investigation. Diversification, accompanied by a good injection of capital, might well be the answer,

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Jenkins

I must continue. [HON. MEMBERS: "Machine tools."] I think I heard hon. Members opposite mentioning machine tools. There is a large export demand for them, a demand which British industry is not fulfilling at present. However, in the meantime, the firm needs some further aircraft work to tide over the intermediate years. We believe that that can and should be provided. A substantial part of the work on the American planes can be done in this country, and we will put our own engines in the Phantom and possibly into the C130, too. We will provide our own reconnaissance pods for the Phantom, and we intend, if price and delivery dates are right, to do a sizeable part of the airframe manufacture as well. This airframe manufacture could provide work for up to 7,500 people by the end of 1967. Part of this work might be suitable for Shorts, at least to tide over the transition to other activities.

Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there will be a severe gap, running, I am told, to 1,000 people next year, 1966? Can anything be done to bring this work forward?

Mr. Jenkins

I have that very much in mind, and we shall apply ourselves as much as we can to it.

There is one other aspect of the employment problem about which I should like to say a word, and that is the problem of design staff, some of whom may be more specialised than most others who work in the industry. There are 14,000 design staff employed by the four main firms, of whom 2,000 may be affected by the changes announced. That does not eliminate the problem, but it puts it in proportion. Perhaps I may add that the number that would be affected if the TSR2 were not to go ahead would be another 1,500 to 1,700.

Furthermore, that does not allow for the new work on the strike trainer and other research and development projects with which I shall deal later, and which we propose to pursue. There is a problem for the design staff, and we are looking at alternative means of employment, but on these figures there is no question of destroying, or coming near to destroying, our design capability. I must remind the House that even design teams are not usefully employed in the industry unless they are designing planes for which there is a real demand.

I turn from employment to projects which, geared to its resources, can offer the industry a successful rôle in the future. We are determined that as far as possible these shall be on a collaborative basis with our allies. That is the only way to escape in the future a repetition of the mistakes of the past.

With whom should we collaborate? Broadly, the alternatives are provided by the United States and by Western Europe—notably France, because she has much the largest industry. But they are not mutually exclusive. The Americans are our major ally. We are necessarily closely linked with them in defence matters and, unless hon. Members are proposing to turn tail on the alliance, we should surely all welcome effective collaborative work across the Atlantic. I am able to make the following announcement, which has been agreed by both Governments.

"The United Kingdom and the United States Governments are planning to expand the existing programme of cooperation in defence research and development. A most interesting and important project being considered would arrange for the joint development of an advanced lift engine for vertical and short take-off aircraft. The project would combine the United Kingdom's considerable experience in the V/STOL engine field with the results of the United States programmes for advanced light-weight engine technology. There are many other important fields for joint research and development now being explored, including other aspects of V/STOL technology, anti-submarine warfare, tactical air defence missiles, Army Ordnance and Field Army Communications."

With the French, we have the incentive of two industries that have a high degree of mutual interest in collaboration, and which are in many respects complementary. Neither industry can be self-suffi- cient without great strain on its resources; both have much to contribute in skill and resources. Already this has led to joint programmes in weapons development, but there is scope for a great extension. It is for this reason that the Prime Minister has already announced the Government's intention of joining with France, subject to satisfactory arrangements, in the study of light strike trainer aircraft.

Both countries need them—the French rather earlier than we do. Discussions have already taken place to align national requirements, and we are proposing now to place studies with British industry to be undertaken in partnership with French industry. This is a project full of promise in which we shall hope to be able to exploit the British variable geometry concept; and if we can reconcile requirements and dates, as I am sure we can, there is promise of valuable and fruitful collaboration and a big international market that can be exploited by the powerful resources of the French and British industries.

We are also studying with France the possibility of collaboration on an airborne-early-warning aircraft; and with France and Holland a new shipborne guided weapon. In civil aviation, too, we believe that we can work closely together.

Apart from Concord, there is much current discussion of an aerobus which would provide cheap travel for larger numbers. I believe that something more flexible than the huge plane the Americans are planning, something much more of a bus in the normal sense of the word, is required. This should have a particular attraction for the European air traffic market. This may be yet another field in which co-operation with the French can be mutually advantageous. I hope shortly to discuss these matters with the French. I am happy to say that M. Jacquet, the French Minister of Transport, is coming to London, at my invitation, early next week.

These developments will, I believe, offer the British aircraft industry a worthwhile future based on realism and foresight, and the opportunity of making, or helping to make, planes for which there is a real demand both at home and abroad. That, if I may speak for a moment to those engaged in the industry—for whose fears about redundancy we have great sympathy—is the only secure basis for the future. No industry can live securely or healthily by forcing its products upon unwilling customers, and this applies just as much if the customer is the Government as if it is a whole series of private individuals.

Yet some hon. Members opposite talk as though the correct rôle of the Government was to be not the customer, but the prisoner of the aircraft industry—forced always to buy to keep the industry at a given size, and unable to end a project that is going wrong. That way lies total immobility of British industry, and a level of defence costs that will strangle the possibilities of social advance.

Provided that skills are not wasted, I do not believe that it is what those who work in the industry want—

Sir C. Osborne

They want jobs.

Mr. Jenkins

That is exactly the point I am making. I hope that it is not what the aircraft companies want, either.

Preside at Eisenhower was not a great phrase-maker, but one phrase of his which remains in most of our minds was spoken when, at the end of his period of office, he warned the American nation against the dangers of … unwarranted influence by military-industrial complexes. We are not going down that road, and I hope that the aircraft companies do not want us to do so.

That is why, whatever the pressures, we must make our defence decisions in what appear to us to be the best interests of the nation as a whole, and stick to them. These decisions, I believe, will give the R.A.F. the planes it needs at the right time; will ease pressure on the Budget; will offer the aircraft industry a thoroughly worth-while future; will redeploy some valuable manpower, and will give us a big push towards closer collaboration both with our European and our American allies.

5.28 p.m.

Mr. Julian Amery (Preston, North)

It is a very good rule when one has a weak case to go over to the attack, and I was glad to see the right hon. Gentleman maintaining the traditions of the Ministry of Aviation in, at least, that respect. I am sure that he will be the first to agree with me that these are extremely complex and difficult issues, on which it is not easy to come to a simple or direct conclusion. I have dealt with these arguments for the last four years, and although I came to certain conclusions I am bound to say that the answers were not particularly easy to arrive at. This is because the problems are in themselves very intricate technically—

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

On a point of order. In order that we may understand the position in this debate, is the right hon. Gentleman speaking as another Front Bench speaker for the Opposition coming in in the middle of the debate, or is he now removed from the Opposition Front Bench?

Mr. Amery

Perhaps I can help the right hon. Gentleman on that point. As he may know, my main concern now is with colonial matters, but as I have been rather closely associated with these issues for the last four years, I thought that it might be appropriate for me to say a few words from the back benches.

As I was saying, these matters are difficult in themselves. They are also rather difficult to handle in terms of relations with the House of Commons, with the public and with the Press. I sometimes used to be taken to task by the Labour Party for what it called "leaks" of information to the Press. When I contrast the trickle of guidance which I sometimes thought it wise to give with the buckets full of official dope which the Minister of Defence has dished out to the Press, like Warren Hastings I am astonished at my own moderation. I think that the right hon. Gentleman went too far in his guidance to the Press, but I hope that his colleagues will be charitable to him. It is not easy to get these things right.

The decisions to cancel the P1154 and the HS681 and to keep the TSR2 under suspended sentence of death are in themselves grave enough. But they are much graver when considered in the perspective of the indications we have had so far from the Government about their policy towards the aircraft industry. I want to look back just a little at the steps they took before they announced these decisions—the steps they took over the first 100 days. Within a very few days of taking office we had the so-called "Brown Paper" and the attack on the prestige projects and on the Concord. This was long before there was any time for the new Minister of Aviation to express a serious opinion on these matters. A few weeks later, again long before the Minister of Aviation had had time to go round the factories or to consult seriously the leaders of industry, we were told that there was to be a review by the Plowden Committee of the whole structure of the industry. It was suddenly assumed, without full inquiry by the Minister, or his colleagues, that things were seriously wrong. The Minister of Defence told us at about the same time that he was to review all our projects with a view to major pruning, particularly in respect of advanced aircraft projects. Following on this, guidance was given to the Press which supported the general opinions of the Government, attacking and denigrating the industry as much as possible.

The first point I want to make, then, is that the decisions announced by the Prime Minister are decisions taken by a Government who have already shown violent prejudice against the industry.

I turn for a few moments to the two projects which are to be cancelled, the P1154 and the HS681. I understand—the right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong—that cancellation orders have already been given to the companies. In 1957 the Government of the day undertook a major reorientation of our strategy. They decided to cut out National Service but yet maintain virtually the same commitments worldwide. The way they proposed to do this was by putting behind the more limited, though better trained, manpower greater machine power in terms of weapons and of mobility and flexibility. In particular, we determined to exploit the great lead which the British industry had in short take-off and vertical takeoff. The P1154, as the House knows, has vertical take-off and supersonic capability. It has a range and pay load which match the stringent requirement laid down by the Staffs. The HS681 had a pay load to support Staff plans for the intervention of substantial forces, if necessary against opposition—an opposed landing. It had the range related to certain bases which we believe we shall dispose of in the 1970s. It had a short take-off requirement of 1,700 ft.

We have been told that these two projects have to be cancelled on two grounds. The primary ground laid down by the Prime Minister was one of operational availability. I want to deal with that first, because I think that the Minister of Aviation—I am sure it was unintentional—was rather misleading in what he said on this score. I take the P1154 first. It is true, as he said, that it was originally intended that the Hunter aircraft should be phased out in 1968. But as early as 1963 the Staffs had already recommended that it could be kept in service until 1969 or 1970 or thereabouts—that is to say, at least a year later than the date given by the right hon. Gentleman. The end of 1969 was the earliest confidential policy date that I ever saw for the introduction of the P1154. In practice, its introduction would necessarily have been to some extent later, because, as the House will realise, all the aircraft of one type are not phased out one day and all the others brought in the same day. The phasing out goes on over several years, and nobody can say with precision that six months or a year one way or the other will lead to the grounding of the remaining aircraft. Of course, there may have been developments such as metal fatigue or something about which I do not know since 16th October. If so, we should like to hear about it.

I can confirm what my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) said earlier. Whenever we suggested to the Staffs, largely on grounds of expenditure but also on grounds of time, that there might be a case for the relaxing of the requirement we were always advised—I am bound to say that I was always convinced by their advice—that it would have been wrong to do so. I am not trying to shelter behind professional advice. I accept my share of responsibility for accepting that advice. I believe that it was sound advice. I believe that it was honestly given.

It must be remembered also that the Hunter replacement is not the only egg in the basket. If there were to be a few months' gap—I do not accept that there would be, but if there were to be—we have other strike aircraft in our power. They would not be the most suitable for the purpose, but both the Buccaneer and the TSR2 could do a great deal in this respect.

I come to the Hawker Siddeley 681, The Hastings, Beverley and Argosy fleets at present discharge the function of the tactical freight. The Hastings will have to be phased out fairly soon. My memory of these matters is that there would still be 30 or more Beverleys in service after 1970. That is quite a substantial number. The Argosies can go on to the mid-1970s. The right hon. Gentleman told us that it would be necessary to phase them out and introduce a new aircraft in 1968–69. The 681 was never expected before 1970 and the bracket for the re-phasing of the transport force that I lived with for four years was between 1968 and 1973.

I give these facts to the House for what they are worth. We would be very ill-advised to be panicked into thinking that six months or a year one way or another is decisive in a matter of this kind. Aircraft can be maintained in service over very considerable lengths of time. It is all a question of the way in which they are flown, of the strain put upon them, and of the repairs and overhaul. One of the great strengths of the R.A.F. has been its ability to maintain its aircraft in service.

I turn to the question of cost. We have been told by the Prime Minister that the savings by cancelling these two projects will be some £300 million. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth in thinking that these figures are suspect. Do they take account of the recovery to the Treasury of direct and indirect taxation on the wages of those working on the projects? It must be remembered that wages are much the biggest element in the building of aircraft, because these are projects where skill much more than raw materials is the essential component. Do these figures take account of the practice of the United States to charge less for the original aircraft and more for spares than we usually do? Do they take account of the fact that, because it is proposed to introduce obsolescent or more old-fashioned aircraft—the C130 and the Phantom instead of the HS681 and the P1154—we shall have to begin to spend on replacements several years earlier than we should otherwise have had to do?

However, let us accept that there will be some saving. What is the sacrifice we are making for that saving? The Government are buying the C130 which needs a 4,000 ft. prepared runway. The right hon. Gentleman says that we may be able to put a British engine into it. I hope we can, but if we do it it will come into service much later. We examined the C130 years ago, of course. It is cheaper. It is cheap at almost any price but we will not get the performance we want out of it. What about the Phantom? It is an admirable aeroplane—I have flown it myself—but it is tied to a very long concrete runway.

What about the P1127? It is a remarkable aircraft and the first vertical take-off aircraft of its kind, but the House must face the fact that as it exists now and as it is likely to be developed in the next few years it cannot become an operational aircraft in the real sense of the term. Its range is very short, it has no vertical take-off with the full bomb payload even with a 22,000 lb. thrust. I hope that the Germans will be persuaded to join with us, but the views of the German General Staff, as I know them, is that this project would be of interest to them only for evaluation and development purposes. I am told that the R.A.F. has only accepted the idea provided that there can be Phantom cover for the P1127, but if one cannot operate a vertical take-off aircraft unless one has long takeoff aircraft overhead one loses all the flexibility. This proposal threatens the whole mobility and striking force of the R.A.F.

Mr. Robert Howarth (Bolton, East)

I am impressed by the point the right hon. Gentleman makes about the Phantom needing more length of runway or take-off. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman was the Minister responsible for ordering the Phantom as a Sea Vixen replacement.

Mr. Amery

I am glad that the hon. Member has made that point. The reason why the naval Staff were prepared to accept the cheaper aircraft was that the Navy takes its runway with it. The aircraft carrier deck with a catapult is like a long airstrip and it is taken wherever the Navy goes. The Navy, therefore, does not need a vertical take-off aircraft. The R.A.F., if it is to operate aircraft near the combat area and at the same time be safe from attack on the ground, wants vertical take-off. That is why the Phantom was not acceptable to R.A.F. strategy. This is why the R.A.F. insisted on vertical take-off and has accepted the subsonic P1127, which is not a combat aircraft, only on condition that there was a long take-off aircraft overhead. But if one flies the two together the mobility of forces must be greatly reduced.

I think that the comment which the Prime Minister and the Minister of Aviation made on the TSR2 had an ominous ring about it. It sounded as though they were digging the grave of the project. I hope that I am wrong. I hope that everybody accepts that the need for this aircraft is unquestionable and that there is no question of non-availability with it, in the sense that the American project is not as far advanced as our own and indeed seems to be in some difficulty at present.

The TRS2 programme has time-wise a pretty good record. It is little more than a year behind schedule, which is pretty good for an aircraft of such complexity. Reports on the trials which I have heard since 16th October have been pretty encouraging. My right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) took the Prime Minister to task for the words which he used. The Prime Minister, before his rather sudden sally out of the Chamber, read out the words "at a reasonable cost" which he had used earlier. It is quite true that those weasel words were used, but they were not underlined for the benefit of my constituents or those of the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Peter Mahon). They were hidden away in his speech and were not referred to at all in the leaflet.

When the Prime Minister talked about "at a reasonable cost" I wonder what he meant, because in a speech at the Mansion House six months before his speech at Preston I had indicated that the development cost would be in the region of £250 million. I saw the other day that the Prime Minister had put the cost at only £50 million higher than that. I also indicated that the production costs would be something over £2 million a unit. The Prime Minister put them at around £3 million and I understand that they are slightly less at present.

The Prime Minister claimed that we would save £250 million altogether if we cancelled the TSR2, but we must look at the broader implications of this. If we cancel the TSR2 and the other two projects there is an enormous blow to the balance of payments. We should be loading the equivalent of £55 million a year over 10 years on the balance of payments. Hawker Siddeleys has already received what is virtually a death blow, and I doubt that it will be ever able to produce a significant aircraft again. The cancellation of the TSR2 and its effects on the B.A.C. would be much the same. It would be an illusion to believe that the aircraft engine industry or the equipment industry, brilliant as they are, could live without the airframe industry. Already in this debate the Minister has had to tell the House that it is his job to take out Shorts and cut its throat.

The consequences to the economy of all this will be grave. At present the British aircraft industry supplies 90 per cent. of our civil and military requirements. According to the Minister we spend about £300 million a year on production. This is an import saving. If we did not have this industry and we wanted to go on operating aircraft we would have to buy the aircraft from abroad. The industry also exports about £100 million worth a year, and if the Government had not stopped it exporting to South Africa it would do better still.

The Minister says that the export record is a dismal one. I do not think that that is acceptable comment. For an industry which produces £300 million worth for the Government to export £100 million worth does not seem to me to be bad. Admittedly the record used to be higher. This was at a time when the Canberras and the Hunters were new aircraft. If we had only waited a little to see what would happen to the new aircraft which we were bringing into service we might have had export orders for them. One does not normally get export orders for aircraft which are under development. People wait and see whether they can fly. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the industry being feather-bedded and a subsidy from the Government of £1,300 a year per worker employed. I am surprised that it is not more because a skilled worker in the industry is not paid much below £1,000.

It is pretty clear that this debate is not just about projects cancelled but about the future of the industry. The right hon. Gentleman said that the decisions taken are not fundamental and that there is the Comet order and perhaps other orders coming along. The fact is that the Government have struck at the only advanced projects of the industry—the Concord, the TSR2, the P1154 and the HS681. Out of four they have killed two, and the TSR2 is under suspended sentence. Only one project has survived.

There is a view that we ought to reduce the size of the industry and specialise in the manufacture of short-range and intermediate-range transport aircraft. This is a view advanced by The Economist and the most damaging thing that I can say about the Minister of Aviation is that we all know that at one time he was tipped as editor of The Economist.

I have studied this matter pretty carefully. We cannot solve the problems of the industry by reducing its size in this way. If we are to have breaks-through in development and design, our designers must swim in a big pool. It is not an accident that we developed a vertical take-off aircraft. It was because Bristol and Rolls-Royce were operating with a wide range of engine developments. Designers are today in disarray. They have lost confidence because they remember the speeches made by the party opposite when it was in Opposition and see what has happened since. Designers of the TSR2 are leaving my constituency. They are going abroad and they will not come back.

We—the Conservative Government—rejected the idea of specialisation. We believe that Britain must remain in the front rank of aero-space development and production right across the board. We produced what I think was a sound programme, both civil and military. But, of course, we recognised just as clearly as the party opposite, and long before, the need for partners.

The right hon. Gentleman talked about partnership with the United States. He knows what has happened. My right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) tried it. My right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) tried it. Lord Watkinson tried it. I have tried it in my own way. Our experience of co-operation with the Americans has shown that one cannot get serious joint development projects going with them, and I should have thought that the Government knew this better than anybody else, for this reason. When they decided to order the C130 and the Phantom, they had in their hands the best possible counter for asking the Americans for some degree of reciprocity.

If there was any chance of reciprocity at all, they could have said to the Americans, "We want to buy these aircraft from you. What will you buy from us?". But I have seen no sign that they did anything of the kind, and I am sure that they would have been the first to tell us if there had been any hope of such an agreement. The truth is that the United States does not need partners in this business. It has an immense overspill of production, and it is this overspill of production which builds up the technological offensive against our own advanced technology and that of the whole of Europe. The right hon. Gentleman must not be surprised if some of us at times think that President Johnson took his right hon. Friend by the arm and made plain to him that if Britain was to borrow a great deal of money from the United States it must not spend it on building up too much competitive effort.

Co-operation with France is quite a different story. We have a record—certainly over the four years when I was associated with these matters—of which we can be proud. The E.L.D.O. was the first great joint project. Then there was the Concord. After that the missile for the TSR2, and the Mirage, which was greatly criticised by the party opposite at the time. For about 12 months, I was in negotiation with the French about the fighter-trainer, which, I understand, was shelved when the party opposite came into office, but which, I am glad to learn, is now to be revived. I was a little surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he hoped that work on this would go forward, "subject to negotiation," and "we could harmonise the requirement." We had pretty well harmonised it. By October, we were very near signature. I do not know what difficulties have arisen since, but I am glad to hear that it is to go forward.

We all want to see co-operation with Europe, but there are certain practical difficutlies. Our airlines and the European airlines, and our forces and the European armed forces, are already largely re-equipped or re-equipping. One cannot change the programmes which have been decided already. What we must do is catch the tide when there are further changes, and this is why the French Minister of Defence agreed with my right hon. Friend and myself that there would be no firm operational requirement issued by either of our staffs until there had first been an attempt to harmonise. But, of course, if one is to catch the tide when the next opportunity comes, at the end of this decade or the beginning of the next, one has to keep in business.

We all agree that no one can reasonably say that one must never cancel a project. No one can reasonably say that we must never buy foreign. As my right hon. Friend said, we decided to order the Phanton in certain special circumstances. But it is a sound principle of common law that a man is supposed to have intended the consequences of his actions. As I have said, the Government have attacked the only four major development projects on which we were at work. They have taken decisions and expressed opinions which, in my view, suggest that they wish to abandon Britain's leading rôle in aviation. They have a "little England" approach to this matter.

From what I have heard from the Prime Minister and the Minister of Aviation, I do not believe that the root of the matter is in them. They do not recognise the extent of the American technological offensive. They do not recognise the vital need for Britain to remain an independent Power in terms of aero-space development. They do not realise the vital need for Europe, if we are to build up the European industry, for there to be a strong British industry around which the development can be built.

A few weeks ago the Prime Minister appealed for a revival of the Dunkirk spirit. I do not know how much he knows of the Dunkirk spirit, but my interpretation of it was a readiness on the part of this country to make sacrifices, to keep Britain's independence and influence in the world. If the Government had come to the House and said that because of the mounting costs we would have to postpone some desirable reform or even increase taxation so that the aircraft industry could be kept going, they would have met with a ready response. What we will not accept, and what the people of this country will not accept, is a policy of surrender.

5.55 p.m.

Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)

I enter this part of the political stratosphere with considerable apprehension. My record in these matters is that I failed to qualify for my pilot's licence, I never took off as a glider pilot, and I never did anything as an ack-ack gunner. My only reason for intervening in a debate which I am completely incapable of understanding in any of its technicalities is that, after my 20 happy years as Member for Oldham, West, 6,000 of my constituents are at this moment demonstrating against the decisions which have been made.

I propose to try to put the matter quite fairly. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation made, I thought, a very fine speech. He said many things which comforted me and one or two, I regret to say, which did not, but at least he enabled me to dispense with some of the criticisms which I should otherwise have made.

In 1950, the large urban district of Chadderton was added, unsolicited, to my constituency. Admittedly, that large urban district is in a conurbation and, of course, there are other industries round it, but within that homogeneous part of my constituency there is only one big source of highly paid employment. I refer to the Hawker Siddeley factory, which we used to know as A. V. Roe, employing several thousand men who have acquired a good deal of esprit de corps in their work.

They are proud of what they did during the war. They are proud of the legends of the Lancaster and the Manchester, proud of the old stories—we have heard them all before—about the night-shift falling out on Berlin the first time the bomb doors opened, and so on. They are proud of much hard work together.

In some respects, they have always been extremely critical of the management, though not on personal grounds. The present managing director, Air Chief Marshal Sir Harry Broadhurst, is a man with a legendary record in the Royal Air Force, a very fine man, un homme sans peur sans reproche. But they criticise the methods of management, and they pass resolutions month after month asking for nationalisation of the industry.

I came into this particular series of episodes and disasters at about Christmas, 1963, when two or three deputations came to see me. One came from people in the local computer industry, who complained about the terrible neglect, under a Tory Government, of the British computer industry, which owed so much to the genius of Manchester, to the technical knowledge of Ferranti, and so on, but which had been allowed to lapse. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for many assurances about the computer industry, which will give new hope to it.

Others said that they came from A. V. Roe and were Labour supporters. They said, "We want to know why we should vote for you at the next election, because all the rumours are that Labour will cut expenditure on war planes". I said, "I hope they do. I am sorry about this, but, apart from the fact that you are Labour supporters, I have never understood why any armaments worker voted Hale".

I am opposed to defence expenditure. I call myself a pacifist in theory, although I quite accept that while British troops are in the field they must have the best possible means of defence. This is always a dichotomy, but one which I have clearly and simply settled for myself; I know where I stand on the matter and I do not have any doubts. I told them that I would certainly urge a Labour Government to cut expenditure on defence. They told me that that was what they expected me to say, and they added, "But we have to go and talk to the boys; would you like to come?" I said that I would be delighted, but that I should first find out more about the position.

We had many discussions and in Liverpool, about last Whitsuntide, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister addressed a private meeting of Labour M.P.s and Labour candidates from the North and North-West, a meeting which I had the pleasure of attending. I must say at once, and without hesitation or doubt, that during the course of a very long speech at that meeting no undertaking of any kind was given by the Prime Minister that he would not cut defence expenditure, or would not cut expenditure on aeroplanes; and he was quite implict that in the discussions going on about Polaris and the Concord and the TSR2 the Government were alarmed about rising costs, and so on.

The Prime Minister gave two undertakings. I know that with his memory he will willingly be able to give his words to the House perhaps more accurately than I can, but we shall not in the least quarrel about the words. His first undertaking was in relation to contracts like the Polaris, and it was that they would not be ruthlessly cancelled without consideration until some alternative form of employment or use of resources was found. The second was in relation to the aircraft industry and it was that a Labour Government would give first priority to the maintenance of full employment in an industry affected by Labour policy and that Labour would promise to maintain full employment in the aircraft industry at the factory, in other words, not necessarily on aircraft, but on other things. That was quite clear.

It is quite clear that, fully remembering that promise, my right hon. Friend has already initiated proposals for the consideration of alternatives. I told all this to my constituents. They heard it somewhat dubiously and said that they wanted more information. I had many discussions with my right hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee), who was then the Minister-designate who might have this responsibility and who is an old friend who comes from the area and who has always been very good. We discussed alternatives; we discussed the possibilities of civilian transport; we damned the last Government about the VC10 and we damned the last Government about allowing so much civil aviation development work to go to Holland and for doing so little to help the civil aviation industry. We did not get complete satisfaction.

Then came the General Election. In Oldham, this takes a slightly different form from normal. I was told that at this election I should not have any visiting speakers, because mine was a safe seat, although it is precisely the same geographically as it was in 1950—not a yard has been put on and not a yard has been taken off, although we have lost several thousand younger men in the drift to the South, which has been hitting Oldham for a long, long time.

I have omitted to mention that there is another important source of employment in the textile machinery making works of Platts, which is on the borders of Chadderton and employs some Chadderton people. I am happy to say that that firm is doing well. On the other hand, any contraction in the aircraft industry affects the electronic firms in Oldham, West, another problem which we have to face.

In an election in Oldham, West, I make one brief speech, saying that, if anyone wants to vote Tory, what's-his-name is quite a good bloke and I recommend him. I say that without any marked enthusiasm and then at the end I congratulate him on being a good loser. In between I wander around with the "missus" and Harry Evans, chatting to old friends and going into back streets and always trying to avoid politics, because I am never happy about politics, having an agnosticism about most forms of politics and always regarding it as a slightly unpleasant and slightly controversial subject which should be avoided if possible. However, the shop stewards of A. V. Roe have never taken that view.

I finished by addressing a meeting of workers just after the monsoon had started, so that in drenching rain I was addressing hundreds of people who were there to listen to me and to support me, although I shall never know why. Now they are demonstrating against a decision and are bitterly complaining about the Lockheed 130, and they have every right to complain that they have not had all the information which they ought to have had and that there has not been an opportunity for consultation and discussion.

It is not part of my job to defend aviation employers, except to the extent that they continue to employ people. I believe that there has been a lack of fairness. All my information comes from the workers. I have no sources of important information. The right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) quite fairly said that Hawker Siddeley designed the HS681 to the re- quirements of the authorities. They designed a brilliant and exceptional plane with new attributes of which they were proud.

It was a very expensive plane, but it was precisely to the requirements of the military advisers who were saying that we must have the smallest take-off ever, short of vertical take-off, and that we must have a braking system of a quite exceptional kind which would allow us to operate from a very small area, as though, instead of fearing the possibility of some trouble with the vast Soviet Union, or China, we were contemplating the possibility of a war with Liechtenstein. This was the design fulfilled and the men were proud of it.

The workers complained that we were constantly told about delays. There was the tragedy of the delay over the Britannia, and we have heard the story all over again. On whose part is the delay? When I investigated the last complaint of this kind at the Chadderton works, I found that about 2,000 alterations had been made to the original plans laid down by these anonymous people who advise the Government and who are responsible for purchasing and ordering and planning. These alterations included new seats for the lavatories, a screw here, a knob there, but also some substantial alterations, including to the layout of the cabin, which itself was one of the great delaying factors.

The other thing which they say is this, "This is a great British industry. It has to compete with the U.S.A., and competing with the U.S.A., however efficient the industry may be, is a matter of the greatest difficulty". We know that the United States aircraft industry can dictate political terms. We know that it can virtually dominate certain markets, whatever we do. Therefore, on the face of it, the decision about the Lockheed 130 needs very real justification.

I hope that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will forgive me for saying, in his absence, that I never much liked the business about the 100 days. The first 100 days was a fairly shabby episode. Perhaps it was a little sad. It was never a question that the last of the Bourbons would send Marshal Hogg to intercept my right hon. Friend between Rugby and Crewe. It is quite true that my right hon. Friend arrived on the Tuileries before the Bourbons had departed. It was sad perhaps that the Emperor suffered from piles on the morning of Waterloo and had difficulty in riding. No doubt the jeep has got over that for the future.

But tie glory of the 100 days was the flight of the eagle. That was a supreme achievement, whether one regards the Emperor as a bad man, or a great man, or however one regards him. My French is bad—I apologise for it—but he wrote in immortal words: La victoire marchera a pas de charge. Those were the words which touched the heart of the muddled Marshal Ney. He said that the Bourbons never wrote like that, even with a box of matches. He said: "This goes straight to the soldier's heart"—L'aigle, avec les couleurs rationales, volera de clocher en clocher jusqu'aux tours de Notre Dame. Every writer has said that it cannot be adequately translated. The nearest is, "An elderly American turbo-prop carrying the tattered Union Jack from precipice to precipice and back." It is not the flight of the eagle, at any rate. It is said, this decision was taken, provisionally at any rate, at the very early stage, because, we are told, Sir Solly Zuckerman was flying to Lockheeds in about November. Was Hawker Siddeley given any intimation of this? Was Hawker Siddeley told? I am not disputing figures. I am asking which figure we are using. We are entitled to some information on that. On the HS681, Hawker Siddeley was talking in terms of £200 million. I think that it was the Observer's correspondent who said that as likely as not it would be £375 million before it was finished. My right hon. Friend says that we can get the Lockheed for one-third. One-third of what—the big figure or the smaller figure? Surely this is material. This was at a time—[Interruption.] This is a serious matter for 6,000 workers, with this record behind them. We used to say, "The Tories talk about transferring jobs as though there was nothing in it". They say, "The skilled man working at Chadderton can get a job on the other side of Manchester. His wife may be working at Ferraiti". But he has a house, and he has on mortgage, and he is paying quite a sum in interest.

I think that the only thing on which everyone agrees is that the Lockheed is wholly incomparable to the HS681.

Mr. David Price (Eastleigh)

Has the hon. Gentleman any figures to show whether the price of the C130, offered to Her Majesty's Government, includes any element of development cost? My guess is that at this stage of its life it is being offered to this country at a dumped price.

Mr. Hale

If the hon. Gentleman proposes that the management should give all these facts to the shop stewards, I would support him. The more we know on the floor, the better—and the happier we would be.

This decision was taken at a time when we were putting a substantial tax on imports and going round explaining it to other countries. It is sad to think that we found ourselves forced to spend on the Lockheed £66 million or £125 million, as the case may be—one-third of A, or one-third of B. This is a grave matter. It means that many thousands of workers must be employed on making goods for export to America to balance those imports.

My right hon. Friend has been very fair. If I had wished to be rude to him, I should have been. I feel strongly about this. He made a very able and helpful speech and gave many assurances which will he appreciated. I am coming, unhappily, to the assurance which he did not give.

The next thing which happened was that Hawker Siddeley said, "If you want an aircraft like the Lockheed, we can produce one better and cheaper—the HS802. We will use the fuselage of the HS681 and the old and tried Comet wings, which are by far the best part left of that aircraft. We can have this aircraft in production by 1968". This is where the workers come in again. They say that all Governments keep on saying, "The real trouble about the British aircraft industry is that it never keeps its contracts. If it says that it will deliver by 1968, we shall not get delivery before 1970 or 1971".

The workers say and I do not know the answer to this; I shall be glad to have it—" Why cannot these chaps be made to sign contracts which are contracts?" In contracts for the building of immense housing estates there are certain contingency clauses for variations in wages, the effect of strikes, and so on. But the houses must be built, and at a price. I know that the matter which we are discussing is one of great complexity, but why could we not build an aircraft—and this is what Hawker Siddeley says it is willing to do—

Mr. Roy Jenkins

In everything that I said about the HS802 I was assuming that the promise about delivery dates, which, I agree, Hawker Siddeley were willing to back to a very great extent, would be kept. But even if it was kept, there was a gap of two years on the first delivery and a gap of four years on the last delivery compared with the C130.M

Mr. Hale

I did not hear every word of that, but I think that I understood the sense of it. I am obliged to my right hon. Friend.

What is said now is: Why 100 Lock-heeds? I understood my right hon. Friend to say that, with luck, some work on the Lockheeds might be done in this country. It did not sound like a very definite promise, but, coming from him. I take it that it meant something. That is something to be going on with. But why 100 Lockheeds? There will not be a simultaneous delivery of 100 Lockheeds. In his statement, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that it was anticipated that over 10 years there would be a saving of £300 million. If we really do need some Lockheeds now, why not buy 20 and say that Hawker Siddeley can produce the HS802 if it is prepared to guarantee delivery at a price for the other 80 that will not be coming through from Lockheed by then?

I have many friends on the Daily Express, which is a brilliantly written paper, but I watch its political observations with the same dubiety that I look at requests to finance the rescue of the missing heir from the Spanish prison. It said, however, that, while there was a possibility of Chadderton suffering, a township which was becoming dormant in the distant United States of America would have a Lockheed factory reopened to make these aircraft for Britain. If that be true, it does not look like a case of excessive speed.

Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

The hon. Member asks why this has been done. Surely, the reason is that if what he wants done were done his right hon. Friend would not achieve his objective of getting the factory closed down.

Mr. Hale

That is nonsense. It was a slightly presumptuous interruption, because I can tell the hon. Member that whatever he says it will not satisfy my shop stewards, who want to know what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister have to say.

I have intervened with great reluctance. I have intervened with feeling, because in my election campaigns I usually keep away from controversy. I am not very bright and not very adroit and I much prefer to talk to friends. One thing which I said at the last election was that in 25 years, in Oldham, no one has ever said that I have broken a promise to the electors. No one, I believe, has ever accused me of breaking an engagement. I went out once with a double fracture of the wrist and once with a fracture of the ankle, which is still screwed together—with, I could perhaps say, a turbo-prop arrangement. I was proud of it. I have committed many follies and some crimes, but I have tried to be honest.

What do I say now? I know—I am not over-exaggerating—that the suggestion is that the first impact will fall upon the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman), who has been so active in this matter. I know that it has been said that we still have 12 to 15 months' work for most of the staff at Chadderton. It is, however, being said, and my right hon. Friend the Minister has virtually confirmed it, that the drawing staff, some of them from Woodford and some from Chadderton, are going now and that the design draughtsmen, the heart and core of the firm, the people without whose genius there is nothing left, may be going.

What is our answer to them? Where is their work at the factory which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has promised them? I know that my right hon. Friend is absolutely sincere about this and that he will do his best. I know that he will make a supreme effort to carry out that promise, as he always does. I have known him intimately for a long time and my respect for him is as great as ever it was. At the same time, I am accountable for the dishonoured cheque that I gave to the electors. I am concerned about it. They are generous people. What they will, say, being kindly people, is that Hale was more a fool than a knave, and it may be that that is the truth.

Mr. Robert Howarth (Bolton, East)

I wonder whether my hon. Friend appreciates that the factories to which he is referring were, I understand, faced with problems of a run-down of design work long before the announcement of these recent decisions by the Government. The Vulcan was berg terminated and Hawker Siddeley, I understand, had already made allowance for the fact that, apart from possible redundancies arising from recent Government action, the firm was faced with having to take out about 8,000 of its personnel.

Mr. Hale

If the hon. Member is referring to Baginton about which I know nothing he may be right, but that is quite untrue of Chadderton. It is quite untrue, on the statements which the workers have made and on statements published in the Oldham Chronicle and by Hawker Siddeley. They have not tried to agitate about Chadderton. They have, in fact, rather tried to minimise the shock. Woodford and Chadderton have their drawing staff. For the moment they have 15 months' work and 20 per cent. of the HS681, whether it was 20 per cent. of either £200 million or £375 million, was to be done at Chadderton.

As I have said, my electors are kindly generous people and they will say, I suppose, that Hale was more of a fool than a knave. On reflection, after 20 years in politics, one could have a worse epitaph than that.

6.26 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)

All of us who have heard the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) will appreciate the strong feelings which he and his constituents hold and the great work that the factory of which he has spoken has done throughout the recent history of the Royal Air Force.

I am sure that many hon. Members will agree with the hon. Member that the speech and the explanations which have so far been given by the Minister of Aviation are not satisfactory and that the least that could he done is for a White Paper to be published by the Government, explaining why they are doing these things and giving facts and figures so that people like the hon. Member's constituents can be properly informed.

At the moment, the House has not been informed. Much as we admire the Minister of Aviation, his speech today fell far below the level of events and far below the seriousness of the situation which faces the country.

The Minister spoke about a gap in the supply of aircraft for the Royal Air Force, and I will detail that presently. What I would say now is that if his policy is pursued there may or there may not be a gap at this moment, but there will be a void of the most hideous sort in the 1970s and total oblivion in the late 1970s and 1980s. That is the sort of policy that we see being put forward.

The Minister advanced two main contentions for the change in the policy for aircraft for the Royal Air Force which my right hon. Friends and I pursued when we were in office. The first was the question of cuts in defence expenditure. The Minister asked how the people could face a cost of £15 per head for the TSR2. If the Government had the guts to ask the people, I think that they would be prepared to spend the £15. I believe that people realise that if this country is to remain with power at all it must remain an air power or nothing.

The Minister talked about finance and Government expenditure on defence. I think that this demonstrates the typical approach of the Government during these 100 days. It is the approach which does not put first things first. The right hon. Gentleman, his right hon. Friends on the Front Bench, and the Minister of Defence, who is not here at the moment, must realise that the only way to reduce defence expenditure is to reduce defence commitments. All that the right hon. Gentleman is doing is tinkering with ironmongery which will save £30 million during each of the next 10 years of a defence bill of about £2,000 million, while, at the same time, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence talk more and more boldly of our defence rôle east of Suez, which undoubtedly is the most expensive we can undertake. This is typical of the approach of the Government.

The Government have appointed a wretched committee consisting of Lord Plowden and other distinguished persons, but they have already taken the decisions for them. What are the members of this committee meant to do, when three or four major projects have been taken out of the aircraft industry? Are they expected to drink beer on the hearse? Are they supposed to do a little ritual dance around the corpse of the aviation industry? What is the function of these distinguished people? Is it to reorganise an industry which is about to be destroyed by these decisions? This is typical of the approach to government by the right hon. Gentleman of 100 days.

I liked the outburst of the hon. Member for Oldham, West in French. It was fine, but, as he said, at the end of the period Napoleon suffered from certain complaints. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite are suffering from the complaint of not being able to make up their minds, and, when they do, of making them up in the wrong direction. This, doubtless, comes from ploughing through the great morass of Tory muddle that was left behind. Doubtless, these few fumbling footsteps, first to the left and then to the right, followed by disorder, order, and counter-order, are due to the fact that they inherited this problem, but, as far as I can see, the policy which they put forward this afternoon will lead to oblivion for the aircraft industry.

I should like to deal with a few of the points made by the right hon. Gentleman, and, first, with the question of finance. The First Secretary of State has said that by the end of 1970 the cross national product will have risen by 25 per cent. I have looked at the figures. During this period the cost of aircraft will rise by far less than this increase of 25 per cent. in the gross national product. The right hon. Gentleman also spoke of the gap which will, or which could, appear between the delivery of the aircraft which we order and the moving into obsolescence of the Hunter and other aircraft, especially the Canberra transport aircraft.

I believe that the Minister of Defence will try to make some startling revelations this evening. I believe that he will try to prove that everything is falling to pieces round his head. Like the boy in Casabianca, he stands on the burning bridge of the Ministry of Defence. With aircraft crashing to the right of him, crashing to the left of him, there he is, the supreme man of destiny, able to do all.

But I, too, have looked at what is likely to happen. I have found that if there is a gap, or any danger of a gap—and I assure the House that as the Minister responsible for the Air Force I was conscious of this danger and I was constantly in touch with my right hon. Friend about it—it can easily be bridged, but if we do not bridge it with our own resources we will be asking the Royal Air Force and the country to invest in aircraft of the second order and second category.

We will find that by 1972 we will look silly with some of these Lockheed aircraft which were designed in 1956. We will look silly when we have to deploy our forces in the Far East with aircraft like the Phantom which was flying in the 'sixties. Because of the imagined gap, we are to equip the Royal Air Force with foreign aircraft which, in a few years' time, will be out of date. This is the fact which the country should know, and which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite should understand.

I believe that the greatest advance which has been made in these matters is the advance in what is called vertical take-off and short take-off aircraft. This applies particularly to this rôle about which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have talked so much, the rôle of the British—and a great rôle it is—east of Suez. The fulfilment of this rôle depends on the full utilisation not of a few large airfields, but of the thousands of Dakota strips in that area. If we do not have VTOL and STOL aircraft we will have to make infinitely greater use of Phantoms to replace these aircraft. It is impossible for the Phantom to use anything but a long runway. It will be impossible to use this aircraft over the battlefield, because the take-off area will be so far back, and, what is more, it will be difficult to disperse these planes.

There will be great advances during the next few years—and we have made some with the French—in weapon design for attack from aircraft to the ground. This is one of the most advanced weapons in the world, which I hope is not being cancelled. However fast the aircraft, however swift the duck, it is a dead duck if it is sitting on an airfield. We must be able to disperse our aircraft.

Looking into the 'seventies—and our aircraft have to last a long time; we cannot change them every three or four years—there are two dangers to the aircraft which does not have a vertical take-off capacity. One is the new type of weapon, and the other is the possible introduction of new types of explosive which are being played with at the moment in various parts of the world.

What do the Government propose to do? On the excuse of economy, and on the excuse that there may be a gap of a few months here, or a month there, they propose to introduce to the Royal Air Force aircraft which are essentially of the second class. We have heard about the Lockheed. The Phantom will be out of date by the middle 'seventies. These are the sort of things being put forward as part of a grand Socialist plan for reforming the aircraft industry and for making it more effective.

I was amazed at what the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon about the one aircraft which he believed was of value for export, the P1127. I am amazed that the Government should suggest giving the Royal Air Force an aircraft which, remarkable though it is, from a military point of view is a toy, unable to carry any weapons, unable to have a great range, and unable to fly above over sonic speed. It is the type of aircraft which I would never have dreamt of offering the air staff, and it is well known that the air staffs of nearly every country in Western Europe rejected it.

The truth of the matter is that if this aircraft is to be accepted a great deal of work will have to be done on it. It will have to be re-engined. The thrust of the engine will not go high enough. It will mean a new engine, a new design, aid more expense, and I believe that the Government would be safer to stick to the P1154.

The great problem today is not aircraft, but t the weapon systems which our aircraft can carry. This is the whole problem, and to talk of aircraft without sufficient power, and without sufficient range, is a waste of time, yet this afternoon the right hon. Gentleman said that this aircraft had valuable export capabilities.

I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft). I am not a chauvinist, believing that we should buy only British aircraft, but what I do believe is that we should support the right type and the best type of British manufacture. This is precisely what I contend the Government have not done. They propose to go ahead with the P1127 and then to produce for Coastal Command a form of Comet aircraft which is out of date and old-fashioned, and which has no conceivable chance of development. This is probably the most nonsensical decision that any Government have ever taken.

What is this aircraft to do? It is purely to fill Hawker Siddeley's books so that that company has some employment. It is a policy that does not pursue any known political objective, except merely to provide employment. The Government have shown a typical piecemeal approach to the whole problem. This is part of the defence problem, and of the much wider economic problem, but they, by what they are doing today, are merely making it certain that the United States will achieve air monopoly.

We have seen what happens when American aircraft are bought. My relations with the American Air Force, and the relations of the Royal Air Force with the American Air Force, have never been better, but behind it is the problem of American industry—the fact that one in eight of its workers in the United States is employed on rocketry and weaponry, and so forth. Those who have been to the west coast of America know that it is not the film stars which are important there any longer but the Shooting Stars, and the rest.

We have seen what has happened when we have taken American aircraft. The German and the Belgian general staffs have seen what happened in connection with the 104. As my right hon. Friend said, "The first model is given to you, but, by heaven, you pay for the spare parts." We have seen this happen before, and it is what is being proposed now. It could mean that our military projects would be mainly of American manufacture. At one point it was even suggested by the right hon. Gentleman that the C130 should be semi-manufactured in Northern Ireland. Could anything be more ludicrous or ridiculous?

It is no good the right hon. Gentleman talking about the great new research organisation that is being set up in the United States. It is no good his talking about American co-operation. The Americans do not need to co-operate; they dominate. Why should they bother about co-operating, with their gigantic industry? We seem to be going to give our lift engine secrets to the Americans. That is the latest stroke of this brilliant Minister. If a European aircraft industry is to be built up, the only firm rock on which it can be built is the British aviation industry. If we destroy this we will destroy the future of West European aviation.

I do not wish in any way to be hostile to the United States, but I say that we must have our power in Europe as they have theirs in the West. What we have had from the Government tonight is a terrifying confession of failure, muddle and misrepresentation. What they are putting before the public is their determination to cut the throat of the British aviation industry.

One final question: what do the Government intend to do about the TSR2? As the New Statesman said in a very good article this week, it is shameful that they cannot make up their mind. It is shameful when the facts are in front of them. I suspect, and the country suspects, that when the storm has died down the Government will cut the TSR2's throat. Before this debate is over we want a straight answer to that question, and also to the question whether any proposal has been put forward by Mr. McNamara and General Dynamics about a special cut price or special low interest rates or hire-purchase terms. We want to know whether the British industry is being told, "Compete with these terms or get out," because this is as effective a way of killing the industry as if someone had been hired from Murder Incorporated—and the baby-faced killer on the Front Bench opposite is the man.

6.47 p.m.

Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)

I do not complain that the three speeches from hon. Members opposite to which we have listened have all come from ex-Ministers in the previous Administration. To some extent I realise that their speeches are apologies for the muddle to which my right hon. Friend has just referred—the muddle with which we were confronted, and the situation which we must tidy up in some way. When we were asked what was to be done with the skilled talents of those workers who might find themselves out of a job, I could not help being reminded of a television programme that I saw last night in which several workers from Coventry gave their views of the present situation.

I do not represent Coventry, but I could not help feeling extreme sympathy for one man who said that he was 55 years of age—an age which I shall attain this month—and that it was unreal and unfair for him to be expected to learn a new skill, or to find employment in a new industry, at his age. We have talked sincerely and logically about the need to find other forms of skilled employment in those industries which justify a change in their structure because of the economic situation of the country. In my belief this will be the first test of our ability to carry out this policy. I was rather interested in an observation made by the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft), when he said that this industry must depend upon the purchasing by the Government of their aircraft requirements, and that that was its fundamental economic basis. I took him to mean by that that he did not think that the element of civil aviation could ever be more than important. He did not think that it could be a dominating influence in the economy of the industry.

This may be true at present, and it could continue to be true, but it is very wrong to assume that it inevitably will remain true. I want to talk a little about the civil aviation aspect of industry, and I make no apology for doing so. So far, although the two Front Bench speakers touched upon the subject of civil aviation, speakers have concentrated on the Government's action in connection with the defence programme. That is logical, and it would be surprising if hon. Members had not taken that line. But we should examine in greater detail the question of civil aviation requirements.

Like many other hon. Members, I have been reading the interesting articles which have appeared in The Guardian during the last week or two. I cannot help feeling that whoever is informing The Guardian—and I strongly suspect that it is S.B.A.C.—has adopted a curiously defensive attitude about the potential export market for this industry and, therefore, the structure of the industry itself. Rather wrily, I have been looking at some correspondence which appeared in The Times in 1957, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) drew my attention, in which it was suggested by the then president of the society that the pattern of defence requirements lies more in the natural evolution of independent alliances between companies with common interests, than in the dry and formal concepts of international regrouping. I realise that he was there talking about the defence pattern, but, as history has now shown, or subsequent events have demonstrated, the pattern of civilian aviation requirements has followed what some of us in 1957 thought would be the case, that is to say inter-Governmental co-operation.

Last night I saw a reference in a paper to an important speech made by a trade union leader about the potential of China. I am not going to bore the House with my personal views about the possible development of trade with China except to say that there are big export markets where, somehow or other, our aircraft manufacturers appear not to be having, a great success. To some extent this is not to be wondered at when one recalls that help for the export trade was singularly not forthcoming from the previous Administration. I wonder whether hon. Members remember what occurred at the time of the loss of a most important civil aeroplane order on offer from the Japanese two years ago. At that critical moment, when every single weapon at the disposal of this nation should have been deployed in an attempt to secure that order, the previous Administration withdrew the air attaché in Tokio.

It may well be said that the Japanese market is a relatively limited one, and that is questionable. What is not questionable is the developing pattern of de- mand for civil aeroplanes in the Far East. New routes are likely to be opened up to connect Europe, through Russia and China, with Japan and there will be routes across the Pacific. I believe that this will result in a demand from people who will start to travel long distances as the economies of their countries improve. All this demonstrates that there is a tremendous future for the right sort of aeroplane for those routes. Yet we read, at monotonously frequent intervals, that we have failed to secure important orders.

The last case occurred a few days ago when it was put out, I believe by American commercial concerns, that we had not secured an order in the Argentine. Are we doing all we should to bring home to those nations who wish to buy aircraft that their balance of trade with this country leaves a great deal to be desired, that at least they have a moral duty to examine that question most carefully and not to subject themselves always to high-pressure American salesmanship? They should see whether they can rectify the balance of trade with this country.

In South America the Venezuelans export to this country three times what we export to their country. In Chile the figure is the same. Brazil exports to this country £3 million worth to every £2 million worth that we export to Brazil. The figure in respect of Uruguay is three to one against us and in the Argentine it is three to one against us. There are other countries where the ratio is far worse. Yet in every country it is rare to find that British commercial aircraft are operating. I went through the international air guide this morning to see what aircraft are being used. Sometimes there is a reference to Viscounts, but more often, practically always, one finds that it is American aircraft which are being used.

It is no use for people to say that these countries do not need to sell their primary products to us. The Argentine is a case in point. That country would not like to give up its export market in this country for meat. Why cannot our salesmanship be more impressive? An earlier Plowden Committee Report referred to the need to instil into our ambassadors abroad the need to exert as much effort as possible in respect of commerce. Yet the previous Administration, as I have said, dispensed with the air attaché at a very important nerve centre of the Far East aviation potential. We can see that there is a growing demand—at least so I am informed by companies and commercial people in the Far East who should know their job—for people of a very senior type at political level who can secure an entry to the departments of foreign governments and approach Ministers at the point where decisions are made.

I was interested in a speech made by the right hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery). As a matter of fact, I did not think that the right hon. Gentleman would dare to show his face in this Chamber this afternoon. I make no apology for referring to him now when he is not in the Chamber. When one realises the criticism levelled against this Government in their endeavour to secure economies in the aviation industry I must say that the right hon. Gentleman is the last person who I should think would speak in this debate. There was Ferranti, and all that exemplifies. There is the wastage which has gone on in the industry and which has not recoiled to the benefit of the workers. On the contrary, they have been led up the path by the previous Administration.

I want to touch on the potential of China. I am informed that technicians from this country have been worried and concerned about the present state of Chinese technical knowledge regarding the maintenance of aircraft and engines. I believe that the future of our civil aviation industry may rest first in establishing important aero engineering maintenance units in the vicinity of that country where the potential is very high indeed and where, despite what has been said to the contrary, there is no shortage of sterling. I think that engineering production established near China would pay handsomely by giving the sort of technical aid which the country needs.

I believe, secondly, that many aircraft companies in this country might be well advised to adopt a more progressive attitude about having "know-how" agreements signed with other countries. This is being done by at least one American company in South America, in Chile, and it is certainly being done between America and Japan where there is an agreement between the Mitsubishi Corporation and Lockheed. They could, I suggest, be phrased in such a way that we could increase our exports, build up good will and collaborate with the countries concerned. I think that in Japan itself the potential is not likely to be lasting. I believe that the Japanese are capable of producing everything they want, but the new lines of communication in the Far East present us with a very big potential.

Another thing I have against the right hon. Member for Preston is that the whole history of his attitude—

Mr. Peter Mahon (Preston, South)

Say "the right hon. Member for Preston, North".

Mr. Snow

The right hon. Member for Preston, North—I apologise to my hon. Friend.

Regarding the whole policy for which he was responsible in connection with B.O.A.C., it is the considered view of many people in business in the Far East and, so far as I know elsewhere as well, that our great aircraft passenger-carrying corporation should be a sort of State demonstrator of what our private industry is capable of achieving. But the decision of B.O.A.C. not to buy the VC10 was, in my judgment, a wrong decision. Hon. Members of this House are, for the most part, amateurs. I think that we must assume that such an important decision was not taken lightly. The fact is that B.U.A. have bought the VC10 and the VC10 itself appears to be attracting better payloads than the Boeing 707. This is a success story. Had it not been for the policy of the previous Government, as put forward in this House day after day by the right hon. Member for Preston, North, and had it been given a chance, B.O.A.C. could have done a much more worthwhile job to sell British aircraft abroad. We never got down to brass tacks about the instructions which had been sent to that corporation.

There is another aspect of sales abroad which needs some attention. I refer to the electronic content of these commercial planes. As I understand it, the BAC111 is equipped with American electronic equipment. That is a deliberate policy, because it was felt, probably quite rightly, that it would make that aircraft that much more saleable in North America. Conversely, other British aircraft are fitted with British electronic equipment, and therefore attract a hostile attitude from America when we try to sell them to countries of, shall we say, a marginal political type.

What has happened to the British electronic industry? I think that this is a matter of great importance to the aviation industry. Can we not stand on our own feet in this matter? Can we not see that our export potential is not jeopardised by our being forced, in many cases, to use American electronic equipment? I believe that many of our military aircraft are far too sophisticated to attract potential buyers among the smaller non-aircraft producing countries. I believe that we should look at that for marshalling our resources of aircraft.

I should like to mention one aspect of civil aviation which never seems to get enough attention. That is the small aircraft. I am told by people in the industry outside the company concerned that the Beagle aircraft is a winner. Yet what steps are being taken by the industry to try to push that aircraft in the overseas market? It needs help at Government level. It needs people of sufficiently high calibre to assist the normal salesmen of these aircraft companies to make sales to Governments who are the major buyers of such light aircraft. It seems to me that we are missing out here in a very worth-while market. When I was listening to the accusations levelled against the Government by Opposition speakers, I could not help wondering how they reconciled their record over the past 13 years with the degenerating position of our aircraft exports.

Giving figures in dollars for comparative purposes, in 1964 the United States is estimated to have exported 1,270 million dollars' worth, France 270 million, the Netherlands, using practically only one aircraft for their export endeavour, 250 million, Italy 80 million and ourselves 280 million. Bearing in mind the extraordinarily favourable position in which we were in the 'fifties in the export market, it seems that our aviation industry has fallen down on the job. Why is it that we have failed to get these export markets? I do not believe that our aircraft are not as good as American aircraft, but I believe that, somewhere along the line, our selling methods fail. For this reason, I sincerely hope that the potential for aviation will be recognised by the industry itself.

Reverting for a minute to South America, one line operating in Brazil links 140 towns and townships. There is a tremendous internal demand in some of these countries, and it is increasing all the time. Other Governments all over the world are beginning to achieve increased sales of passenger occupancy of their aircraft because there are more people financially in a position to travel. I believe that the right hon. Member for Monmouth was not right when he so confidently said that the industry inevitably depended upon service exports. I believe that we can and should look towards the potential of the civil aviation market during the next six, seven or eight years.

7.8 p.m.

Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)

May I, at the outset, make a correction to a question of mine in the House on 1st February, when the Minister of Defence made his statement about metal fatigue in the Valiant wings. I misunderstood what he said because of the noise in the House and put a supplementary question to him, and I regret having done that. I thought he said that the Victor and the Vulcan would be affected, but he said that they would not be affected. I have written to the Minister and I should like to place that on record.

The hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) should inform himself better on one or two aspects of civil aviation. He said that B.O.A.C. ought to buy VC10s. They have bought a number of VC10s. It was the hon. Member's party who, last summer, denigrated this aircraft and criticised my right hon. Friend. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not so."] The hon. Gentleman must look to HANSARD. It is on record. We said at the time that the VC10, given the opportunity to come into service, would prove a remarkable aeroplane. The Chairman of B.O.A.C. wanted to cancel the lot, and he was backed by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, not all of them, but most of them. At any rate, we are glad to have it from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth that the VC10 is now doing better than the Boeing. The Super VC10 will start on the Atlantic route on 1st April, and I have no doubt that we shall see a fine performance. I am told that it is flying ten hours a day and that it has reached almost the daily utilisation of the Boeing 707, which the latter took about four years to achieve.

The hon. Gentleman said that the Beagle aircraft should have had Government support. I do not know whether he is aware of the fact, but a substantial order was placed by the former Government for the Beagle aircraft. The aircraft were flown out to Australia a week or two ago. It is now up to the firm to sell its wares to other countries.

Mr. Snow

If I do not answer every point which the hon. and gallant Gentleman raises, it is not because I agree with everything he says. All I am saying is that the right hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery) never came clean as to what political instructions had been given to B.O.A.C.

Sir A. V. Harvey

No one could have done more for the British aircraft industry than my right hon. Friend. He may have overdone it in some ways, but he did a great deal for the industry, and that is recognised today. It is normal for anyone who follows an hon. Member to refer to his speech. The hon. Gentleman should not be too sensitive about the points I make. He has been here long enough.

The Minister of Aviation made great play today with the fact that there is to be an order placed for a number of Comets, estimated at about 50 or rather more, with the Hawker Siddeley group for Coastal Command. He said that would cover production and design. While allowing a certain number of modifications, where would the design work come in on an aircraft built nearly ten years ago? I do not see how more than a handful of design staff could be used in producing the Comets for Coastal Command. Would not the better thing for Coastal Command be to buy the French Brequet? If we have to place orders abroad, we should give the French an order. The French have been buying British equipment for years. Every Caravelle sold has Rolls Royce Avon engines and a number of hydraulics and other equipment.

I refer to the placing of orders with the United States. We shall get nothing back from the United States in the way of orders. They will take the pickings from here, but they will give no orders. I should have preferred placing a foreign order with the French for their Brequets and carrying on with the HS681, to which I referred.

The right hon. Gentleman talked about the diversification of Short Brothers. The problem of Belfast has worried many of us who have been there to see for ourselves. The costs there are high because of the sea separating Ulster from this country; components have to be shipped or flown back. But how can we diversify a factory into the production of machine tools, as has been suggested, in hangar buildings about the height of this Chamber? These matters must be looked into in great detail in assessing what the plant is suitable for, but we should not tell the workers in Belfast that machine tools could be made in the existing factory. If the Government provide sufficient money to put up suitable plant, all well and good, but it is not easy to utilise existing aircraft premises for other forms of manufacturing. Handley Page have found that out in north London.

Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)

I am surprised to hear the hon. Member say that. I was a toolmaker in Castle Bromwich in 1945 where we were producing Spitfires. In less than 12 months we turned over to producing motor cars.

Sir A. V. Harvey

The hon. Member is going back 20 years. Striking progress has been made since then. In 1945 the competition was not as keen as it is today, when everything must be produced at competitive prices.

The Minister said this afternoon that there are about 14,000 design staff engaged in the industry and that 2,000 would be affected by the decisions already taken on the 681 and the 1154, and that if TSR2 were cancelled 1,500 to 1,700 would be affected. If all three aircraft were cancelled, what would the remaining 10,000 design staff do in the industry? It would be a phenomenal number of design staff to have available when there is no major project in the industry. We want further information about that.

Mr. Norman Atkinson (Tottenham)

Does the hon. Member for Knutsford—[Laughter.] I must apologise for that. Does the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) agree that, following the manufacture of aircraft, Fairey Aviation have manufactured both machine tools and nuclear engineering components in the same place where they produced aircraft?

Sir A. V. Harvey

I accept the hon. Member's apology. I am blamed for many things. The hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport) is a constituent of mine—and a very good one, too.

I know the factory to which the hon. Member referred. Fairey sold out their aircraft business to Westlands. They have a very scientific organisation near Hounslow, and they are using old buildings—although not all of them are old. It can be done, but these are not the type of buildings which Messrs. Short Brothers have at Belfast.

I want to warn the House about this so-called co-operation with the United States. We are told there is a possibility that the Americans will take the vertical lift engine. I am sure that they will. It was admitted in Washington only last week that Britain is at least two years ahead in this project, that the Americans have spent 10 to 20 times more than we have spent on it, and that they are at least two years behind us. Of course they will take it; that is the very thing that Americans do.

Here I blame my right hon. Friend, who placed the prototype order for the Phantom. Why go to America? I do not disagree with the decision, but why say that we will place an order without doing some horse trading and getting an order in return? If the Government place quite a large order for the Phantom aircraft, they must insist on a substantial order being placed in this country.

But the Americans do not do that. There is a tremendous lobbying taking place over there. They go further than that. They go out of their way to prevent the Germans or any other country from specifying British aircraft for N.A.T.O. I have tried to warn the House about this over many years. I admire the Americans and like them in many ways, but they are out to kill the aero-space industry in Europe, and the electronics industry, too. Make no mistake about it. That is their intention, and this is the first step towards completing their plan. I ask hon. Members to be very careful in their approach to this problem.

The first mistake which this Government made—almost the first thing they did when they came into office—was about the Concord. When the Concord project was debated originally—some time ago—the Labour Party did not at that time vote against it. No one would have complained if, on coming into office, they had quietly gone about evaluating this aeroplane to find out what the economics were, the possibility of sales, how accurate the specifications would be and whether the project could be improved in payload in the years ahead. But not a bit of it. They mentioned it in the Queen's Speech and made announcements that the project would he cancelled, and they asserted that it was only a prestige project. That was the clumsiest thing that has happened in this Parliament.

I should like to read out the words used by the Prime Minister on television on 26th October. He had had 11 days to "look at the books" by that time. Where we've sometimes fallen down is in our failure to give our scientists their heads and still more our failure to apply the results of scientific discovery in our industrial processes. Too often, you know, British discoveries have been developed overseas leaving us to pay royalties to their developers or, worse still, to import their products, or ask them to set up manufacturing subsidiaries in this country. If the Concord project had been cancelled, we should have found ourselves buying supersonic aircraft from the United States in the next ten years. B.O.A.C. would have had to have them.

Look what happened about the Concord. The Minister had to go to Paris. He is one of the Ministers who has been pro-Europe in recent years. He had to go there to do the negotiation. But it was left to Mr. Clive Jenkins of the union and his counterpart in the French union to trip backwards and forwards, and we had the two unions carrying on the negotiations on behalf of the Government. It was a miserable affair. And then the Government had to climb down. It damaged British-French relations—there is no doubt about that. Fortunately, there are indications that they are improving. General de Gaulle has spoken to the Prime Minister, and fortunately there is an improvement in that direction. It is very important for us to string along with the French; make no mistake about that. I quite agree that the Concord programme needs very careful watching and very careful costing so that we know the cost as it progresses. I am convinced that the payload of this aircraft will increase in the years ahead. I am convinced of that from talks which I have had with the technical people involved.

I should like to tell the House what the Americans have said about the Concord. It is interesting that the Americans will probably build their own supersonic aircraft because they see the British and French aircraft going ahead. Mr. Robert Hotz, editor of the American magazine Aviation Week and Space Technology—they do not often say complimentary things about British or European aviation—wrote: The Concord programme is the sharp tip of Britain's spearhead technology, pushing the state of the art across a wide spectrum of products, industrial processes and management techniques. To blunt this spearhead now appears to us an act of incredible folly. To justify Concord cancellation on economic grounds is a tragedy of penny-wise, pound-foolish philosophy. That goes for many things which have happened in the last three-and-a-half months. In October the Government took over a difficult balance of payments situation, but the situation was by no means impossible, for half the deficit was from overseas investment. By their methods since then they have lost confidence abroad, and they have also lost the confidence of the British public. They have shown that in recent week, not only in the by-elections, but in the Gallup polls as well.

There is no doubt that the merging of firms in the aircraft industry five or six years ago was helpful to the industry. Larger projects were able to be tackled with greater teams of scientists, and so on. However, the weakness has been in recent years in the Ministry of Aviation itself. In saying that, I am not blaming the officials in the Ministry, because the advance in technology in this industry has been so rapid that it is impossible for men, however qualified 10 or 15 years ago, to keep pace with the progress of the industry. That was brought out clearly over the Ferranti business, when the Minister was quite incapable of costing or of keeping in touch with the project. I hope that, even at this stage, the Minister will seriously consider appointing outside cost accountants as consultants and place them in the factories to watch the projects—that is, if we have any projects left.

I have no doubt that the industry could be skimmed, as it were. Probably 20,000 to 25,000 members of its labour force could be saved, and I dare say that even the motor car industry could save some labour and thus help the economy, possibly by the labour saved being used in the machine tool and other industries.

Unfortunately, we have in the past faced up to the problems of the two air Corporations so that whenever they have wanted an aeroplane it has been tailored to suit their requirements, whether the VC10 or the Trident. However, when we have come to sell those aircraft to foreign buyers, we have often found that they are not suitable because of range and other difficulties.

That happened with the Trident. Had the Mark II been in existence an order would probably have been obtained from Japan. As it was, such an order was lost. Consider the BAC111, an altogether different proposition; an aircraft which has been designed to meet world requirements. The industry is selling it well in spite of American competition.

The TSR2 is in abeyance for a few months, we are told, but after the Minister's speech today I am not at all reassured by his remarks about this aircraft. I had the feeling that he was preparing us for the worst so that when the political climate gets a bit better—though I doubt whether that will happen—the Prime Minister will be able to say, "We have got over the 681 and the 1154, now let us scrap this one". I hope that that will not happen, because the tests on it are going extremely well. The airframe is probably a year behind the original date, but the electronic equipment, which represents rather more than one-third of the whole specification, has been built and tried out in a series of Canberras, has proved highly successful and has done its work well.

Anyone who saw the TSR2 on television last night, flying almost at ground level and at quite high speeds—remembering that it was about its twelfth flight—must have been impressed by this remarkable plane. The specification for the TSR2 and its requirement east of Suez dictates that it should be a long-range aircraft and that it must have great accuracy of bombing. One assumes that only high explosive weapons would be used, for which great accuracy would be required to destroy all targets, even in bad weather, and remit the information back to base.

It has been said that the air marshals have ganged up against the TSR2 in favour of the TFX, but my information is different. I have been given to understand that when they were asked whether they would rather take 30 or 40 TSR2s or the full complement of 140 TFXs, they naturally said they wanted the TFXs. That is what I am told. In this connection, it should not be forgotten that the specification has hardly changed since it was originally written in 1957 or 1958. And do not let it be thought that the nuclear rôle of the TSR2 has cost us Bach a great deal of money, for in reality it represents a bonus, if it is required. It is a tactical strike aircraft, and a small and less sophisticated aircraft would not have the range to do the job or have the same accuracy in bombing.

We are told that the TFX Mark II is probably the replacement, although it is not fully designed or costed. I recall taking part in a television programme on this subject about a year ago when the present Minister of Defence made great play of the fact that the TSR2 would cost £1,000 million. Based on the figures given by the present Prime Minister recently, that figure was probably only about £250 million in excess. At that time the Australians were here and were considering whether or not to buy the TSR2. The Australians thought that if the Labour Party gained power they might take action over the TSR2 and, being uncertain about the future of the aircraft, they did not order it.

The party opposite did a great disservice to the British aircraft industry on that occasion and, while the President of the Board of Trade seems to find my remarks on this subject amusing, I hope he realises that we are speaking of an industry which employs a great number of people.

The TFX is an inferior aircraft, certainly the Mark I, compared with the TSR2. Having said that, let us consider the arithmetic in the Prime Minister's statement. He said that it would cost £750 million to develop and produce about 140 aircraft, that £300 million had already been spent on research and development, and it was admitted later, during Question Time, that £150 million would be the cancellation charges. That comes to £450 million, leaving £300 million to make up the figure given by the Prime Minister. I had hoped that the Minister of Aviation would have told us more about this. Since he is in his place, is he now prepared to comment on the figures? I will willingly give way if he wishes to intervene. It seems that he will not. He should, because the country has a right to know. I have been quoting the Prime Minister's figures and have shown that £300 million is the sum remaining.

Having accounted for the research, development and cancellation charges, £300 million would be left to buy TFXs. I am told that the price to the Australians of the TFX is just over £2 million each; that is, for the Mark I. That would cost £280 million. On the figures we have we know that that would mean a saving of probably £20 million to the Government. What a price to pay to kill this great industry in Britain.

I am alarmed that the Government are not going ahead with this aircraft. Why cannot they tell us, if a satisfactory fixed price can be brought about with BAC, that they will continue with it? Do they not have a duty to do so? Do they not have a duty to the designers and the workers, not only in the industry as a whole but to those whose work has made a tremendous impact on the design world, designing probably the most difficult aircraft ever to be built?

As I said, the TFX Mark II is not yet designed. Indeed, it would pay the Americans to give the TFX to Britain, the whole lot, for we would have to buy spares and so on and, from the moment of acquiring those aircraft, we would forever after be in the clutches of the American aircraft industry. I believe that that is their deliberate policy.

Further, if these cancellations take place aircraft like the BAC III cannot be sold at their present price. There would have to be increases. Naturally, when aircraft of this type are going through the works, with military orders accompanying them, the overheads are met by the various aircraft involved. They all take their share. Obviously the overheads would be increased if these cancellations take place and it would be impossible to produce the VC10 or the BAC III. The Concord power plant would thus cost more because it is the same breed—if not the same, certainly extremely similar—as the Olympus and the TSR2. There is a complication there.

My experience some years ago in the aircraft industry was that we can only retain our top men by getting them interested in exciting projects. They are not content to be transferred to Massey-Ferguson to bring out a new type of tractor at Coventry. They want to work on the very latest thing, just as the chemists do in their line. We shall lose these men to the United States—it has been bad enough in the past, but it will be far worse if the present policy is pursued.

The Minister was far less than fair about the industry's exports. Since 1950 it has exported products worth £1,360 million. The figure was down last year because many deliveries were taking place for the home market—there was the VC10—but this year they are estimated at between £180 million and £190 million, as, against the Minister's figure of £150 million. The Minister went out of his way to give the worst possible interpretation. His figures are based on deliveries taking place in the next few months, and I do not see why he had to go out of his way to belittle the industry's efforts—

Mr. Roy Jenkins

I felt is necessary to put the matter in perspective. I said, which is no more than the truth, that the industry's exports had fallen steadily each year since 1958, but that there was a prospect of an improvement. I said that our estimates were of an improvement to £150 million, and that the industry estimated the figure to be £180 million. I hoped that the latter result would be achieved, but it is rash to say in mid-February that a hope is the same as an achievement.

Sir A. V. Harvey

If the costing of the Ferranti apparatus by the Ministry is anything to go by, I would rather take the industry's figure of £180 million. I do not think that the Minister was present when I said that his Ministry would have to get help on its costings if he was to straighten out these affairs—

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Is it not possible that the reason for this disparity in the figures is that the lack of confidence in the British industry created by the Government's activities with regard to the TSR2 and the Concord have jeopardised some of the orders that the industry expected to get, of which the best example is a £15 million order for the BAC111, which was almost signed up?

Sir A. V. Harvey

I can give another example. Representatives of the Douglas Aircraft Company are in Australia trying to sell the DC9 against the BAC111, and it is reported that they say, "Why buy British aircraft? You will not be able to get spares in a few years' time"—all the result of what has happened since last October. Members of the party opposite have done us untold damage overseas. They must know, and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade must know, how difficult it is today to sell anything abroad. It is competitive, and it is very hard work. There is no fun in exports. It is a tremendous job. I hope that the Government will take note of the difficulties of competing with the Americans. Vickers are very successfully getting orders for the BAC111. They need all the help they can get—not hindrance.

The Plowden Committee is to make recommendations, quite rightly, after these major decisions are taken, but there was no mention in its terms of reference of the requirements of British civil aviation. Can we be told whether the terms of reference included anything relating to British civil aviation?

There will undoubtedly be great redundancy, and I want to refer to the P1154 and the HS681. Britain has a lead of at least two years with the P1154 vertical take-off aircraft. It is estimated by the United States that the Phantom delivery date is 1968. It has to be fitted with a Rolls Royce Spey engine, but the engine, in the form to be expected, is not yet built. I question very much whether the aircraft will arrive in 1968—with all the new modifications that are being made and a virtually new engine being built. Even the modifications for the Fleet Air Arm Phantoms will be considerable, and very costly.

The HS681 is due for delivery in 1970. It has been prepared for take-off with a load of 40,000 lb. of military equipment from a 1.500 ft. unprepared jungle strip. The C130 is a ten-year old turbine propeller aircraft which can take off from a prepared 4,000 ft. strip. I remember being approached by Lockheeds early in the last Parliament. I was asked whether I, with other Parliamentarians, would go to America with my wife at the company's expense, to look at its products. I will not say who went, but I know that about ten Members from each side of the House went across there with their wives and had a fine "jolly" for a week or so at the expense of Lockheeds. I think that it is very regrettable.

I never thought that Lockheeds would succeed in selling this old aeroplane to the Royal Air Force. It is unforgivable to have bought that aircraft. If there had been something more modern, it would have been one thing, but I do not think that hon. Members opposite can possibly accept the decision to buy this old aeroplane, nor do I think that the workers in the aircraft industry can accept it. The Government have not heard the last of that.

Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)

Is my hon. Friend aware that this aircraft will carry only about two-thirds of the load of the Belfast, which is also at present flying?

Sir A. V. Harvey

We have been told this afternoon that the Belfast project is too expensive. I do not know the cost, but I do know that the Hawker Siddeley alternative—the HS802—is, if I may correct what was said a little earlier, rather more expensive than the C130, as would be expected with a new design, but not all that much. It has a longer range than the C130, and could be delivered in 1967 or 1968, as I hear someone say.

It was asked earlier: if we are in a jam, why not hire a limited number of aircraft? I remember suggesting many years ago to the Conservative Government, when we were short of transport aircraft, that they should buy 20 Globe-masters at that time to see them through. Let the Government do something like that, but do not let them give up the complete future of design in our British aircraft industry. The country will not forgive them if they go ahead with this plan.

Rumour has it that when the Prime Minister went to the United States last December—and we are never told what is discussed between leaders of nations—Mr. Lyndon Johnson said to the Prime Minister, "You have economic difficulties in Britain. If you want finance you must cut out these rather exciting ventures in the aircraft industry, such as vertical take-off, and so on. We will take care of that for you." I hope that there will not be a sell-out to the United States for the sake of any long-term loan. I would rather seek taxation increase, or see us going short of anything.

I remember the loan of 1946 which the Government of the day had. I did not object to them borrowing the money, but the terms were harsh. We will be paying it back for another thirty years, and we know that that Labour Government frittered the money away in eighteen months. We have to help ourselves. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to have second thoughts about the projects he seeks to cancel. If he cancels one, at least let him keep the other going at Hawker Siddeleys. To do otherwise will kill the design team.

This is a very important debate, and I ask the Minister of Defence to reassure the House tonight about this great British aircraft industry. Of course it has made mistakes, but so has the American aircraft industry—there are many ventures of the American industry sitting in hangars as uncompleted prototypes. Fortunately, we have made no more mistakes than the United States. Let us pay credit to this great industry, and to those who work in it. Let us try to improve on it, use the skill and technology of which we heard so much from the party opposite last October, and so keep the industry alive.

7.40 p.m.

Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)

The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) is a considerable technical expert in aviation. The doubts he has raised will have deepened anxieties on both sides of the House. Indeed, I say at the outset that I wish that this debate could have been conducted on a non-partisan basis, because this affects the future of a great national industry.

The men who have been filling the Lobbies today—the aircraft workers who have marched in long files—have not needed the inspiration of an aircraft lobby to make them march. They have not needed, as has been suggested in one Sunday newspaper, the prompting of a group of aircraft manufacturers to encourage them to express their anxieties about their jobs. They are concerned about their jobs. They are legitimately concerned about their future.

If the activities of any lobby had to be investigated in this connection, I should have thought that it would have been more proper to investigate the activities of the American lobby, on which the hon. Member for Macclesfield touched, to see what influences are being brought to bear on politicians and, indeed, on the British public and on the Press.

Dr. Jeremy Bray (Middlesbrough, West)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Edelman


Dr. Bray

My hon. Friend is casting aspersions on Members of the House.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Two hon. Members must not be on their feet at once

Mr. Edelman

Then I will give way.

Dr. Bray

My hon. Friend has suggested that Members of the House are in some way under the influence of the American aircraft lobby. Can he produce any shadow of justification for that statement?

Mr. Edelman

I do not need to do any more than to speak of the activities of the Lockheed Company, which were referred to by the hon. Member for Macclesfield. That company arranged a very expensive trip to the United States, not to discourage anyone from liking American aircraft, but, on the contrary, to promote the sale of American aircraft. That is a perfectly proper statement. [HON. MEMBERS: "When was this?"] The hon. Member for Macclesfield referred to the trip which took place a few years ago. It is well known. It needs no further elaboration.

I do not want to be diverted from my main theme. I have mentioned that there is a powerful American aircraft lobby, and no one can deny that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear.") It is perfectly clear. I must say that I for my part found no joy in the announcement my right hon. Friend made this afternoon that there is to be a joint development of the vertical lift engine. Again, the hon. Member for Macclesfield is right: we are handing to the Americans on a plate our most advanced project. Instead of developing our own highly advanced technological project and then in the future perhaps allowing the Americans to buy it or to develop it under licence, thus recouping our investment costs, we are to go in for this completely spurious joint development project in which we, who are two years in advance of the Americans technically, are allegedly to co-operate with them, whereas, in my view, the Americans will have the benefit of our experience and will get it very cheaply. I feel some anxiety about this. I feel anxiety for the workers in my own constituency, who are greatly distressed by the prognosis for the industry.

I did not feel particularly edified by the exchange of statistics which was bandied between the Hawker Siddeley company and the First Secretary. It seemed to me that the statement issued by the management of Hawkers was premature, probably exaggerated, and in any case harsh. The fact remains, however, that in my own constituency of Coventry there are at least 5,000 aircraft workers whose jobs are at risk. In case anyone wants to challenge me on this point, I will quote from the announcement made by the divisional director and general manager. Speaking of the HS681, he said this: If this project is rejected then there appears to be little hope of avoiding a rundown of employment at Baginton"— a factory employing nearly 5,000 men— that will terminate with the closing of the factory. In this connection talks have already started so that the run-down can be achieved with the minimum hardship to people who have served the company faithfully and well. If we are to do away with the HS681 and buy C130s as a so-called stop-gap, one is entitled to ask—stop-gap for what? What air freighter will there be in the 1970s? Will there be one of British design? I doubt it. It will certainly not be made at Baginton. If the HS681, also a modification of the HS681, is disposed of, the design teams will disperse. The technical men will seek other jobs. I am not sure that they will find them, but they will certainly seek them. However, if there is any future intention of resuscitatng the British aircraft industry, either locally in Coventry, or, in my view, generally, there will be the gravest problems. There will be enormous difficulties about recreating the labour force and design staffs which will have been dispersed.

May I quote once again the example of Coventry? I promise to do so only this once. My concern in the matter is not simply a constituency or a parochial one. I am concerned about the future of the British aircraft industry as such, which I regard as being the great technological pacemaker of the whole of our engineering industry. If we do anything in our own generation which will result in this great industry being run down, we shall all bear a great responsibility before the history of our own country. In Coventry, the situation is this. Although there are nearly 5,000 men with their jobs at risk, there are only 280 engineering vacancies for skilled men. I have known the workers of Coventry very closely for 20 years. They are legitimately anxious. They are concerned about employment. However, from my conversations with them in this connection I can say that they are not concerned only about their own employment. They are patriotically concerned about the future of an industry which they regard as being essential, not only to the national economy, but to the national defence.

Mr. A. R. Wise (Rugby)

I ask for this intervention only because I gather that I have no chance whatever of catching the eye of the Chair.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Samuel Storey)

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot rise to an intervention to make a speech.

Mr. Wise

I do not intend to make a speech. I am only asking the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) if he would remind the House, because I believe it would be apposite, that the officials at the Coventry Employment Exchange, with whom I know he has had consultations, have said that it will take four years to clean up the difficulty over these redundancies.

Mr. Edelman

I can neither confirm nor deny what the hon. Gentleman says. All I know that there is a grave problem in the Coventry area. It is useless for hon. Members of whatever party to say glibly that Coventry is an area of high employment. The fact is that there are relatively few vacancies and that there will be a serious employment problem in the area if the Baginton factory closes.

I turn to an associated point. In Coventry last year the Aeronautical Department of the Coventry College of Technology was opened. It cost £100,000 to build and equip. Today, there is great difficulty in finding enough students to fill the vacancies which exist. Indeed, I am told by the principal that after great effort it has been possible to get only half the number of students for whom there are vacancies. This great college is closely linked with the Hawker Siddeley works. There are students on release for sandwich courses who come from the factory and go into the aeronautical department to improve their own technical knowledge. Not only them, but also young people who, in the past, would willingly have entered the aircraft industry, feeling that this was a pacemaker and a leading industry for the future, today are reluctant to do so, because they believe that there is no future in it. They are understandably anxious.

Having said that, let me say that I believe that my right hon. Friend was absolutely right to order as soon as possible an inquiry into the aircraft industry. It is something which I myself have urged for many years. In my view, the aircraft industry has used the Exchequer as a sort of milch cow. It has extracted from the Treasury vast resources which were, in the event, unrequited. Any Labour Minister of Aviation would have had to institute an inquiry.

One of the great problems in this matter is the fantastic escalation of costs. The expression "escalation of costs" has become a sort of cliché, a catchword, but no one has so far tried to probe why there is in this industry such an escalation of costs. The answer must surely be related to the technique of procurement, which is such that, even with, or perhaps because of, the Zuckermann system of procurement, the effect is that great factory shops stand equipped with men, technicians and machines waiting for orders.

Things are largely started as projects, continued from one month to another, and there is always the expectation that a major order will come along, but the result is that one has these factories standing equipped with technicians, machinery and management but producing no effective result simply because of a lack of decision in the Ministry of Aviation or the Ministry of Defence.

In speaking of the escalation of costs, may I say, in parenthesis, that it would be well if my right hon. Friend were to examine his own Ministry to see whether some changes could be made there. I am told that there are over 100 senior principal scientific officers, each drawing a salary of about £3,000 a year. We have very few projects going. I wonder what they are doing. I think that this is a potential economy worth investigating. I understand, also—my right hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong—that although the industry employs, roughly, 250,000 men, the Ministry of Aviation itself has 40,000 employees. If this is true, it seems a fantastic overhead and something which would be worth investigating.

I mention these facts because it is clear that, if there had to be an investigation, the order of batting should have been the investigation first and then the results emerging from it. We do not hang a man first and then put him on trial to see whether he was really guilty.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

Perhaps I may be permitted to tell my hon. Friend that, although the permanent staff of my Ministry number approximately the figure which he gave, this is no way related to the work of the Ministry in relation to the aircraft industry. The 40,000 include the whole staff of London Airport, for instance.

Mr. Edelman

I still cannot help feeling that it is a figure which, superficially at least, deserves investigation.

But, if my right hon. Friend will forgive me, I had gone on from that point and was about to say that I warmly welcome the establishment of the Plowden Committee. I believe that an investigation should take place, but, on the other hand, I am entitled to ask whether the Plowden Committee will have any job to do. What my right hon. Friend took as the fixed points of the aircraft industry are the four projects, the Concord, the TSR2, P1154 and the HS681. They are more than fixed points. They represent the future pattern of the aircraft industry. If at this stage it is decided to cancel major projects, one is not, if I may reject my right hon. Friend's word, preempting but one is determining the future shape of the industry.

All that Plowden will have to do will be to deal with certain left-over remnants and try to re-create them into a pattern. In other words, he will have not a real function, but merely a job of salvage. This would be the negation of a real investigation, and he should be described not as one asked to carry out an investigation but as one asked to do something of a post-mortem.

I cannot help feeling that, in total, though salutary in certain respects, the debate which has taken place not only here but throughout the country, on television, in the Press, and so on, has not in other respects done the aircraft industry, the aircraft workers or Britain as a whole any good. My right hon. Friend said something to the effect—I think that these were his words, or I may be paraphrasing them—that the export prospects of the TSR2 are a "dead duck". I must say that I am not surprised. After all the local denigration which has gone on about the project, who would want to touch it at this stage with a barge pole? For my own part, having watched its progress with other members of the Parliamentary aviation group, and having gone to Weybridge, so to speak, at our own invitation, I must say that, when the TSR2 does go into production—it has done some remarkable trial flights, which are a credit to British aviation—those who have expressed doubts about it may well change their minds. So far from its export performance being negligible, I think that, when we finally examine the costs for the TFX2 and the price of that is established, many people not only here but abroad may want to buy the TSR2 in preference to any of its competitors.

Reverting to the employment situation, I have one regret which, perhaps, I ought to express. I wish that at an earlier stage the trade unions had been brought into the discussion and consideration of these products. It is admirable that the Prime Minister should invite the leaders of the aircraft industry to Chequers to entertain them at dinner and discuss with them the future of their industry, but the people primarily involved are the workers in the industry, and the reason why there is today a ferment of anxiety among the workers is simply that they have not been brought into the picture earlier.

It may well be that, had they been brought into the picture earlier, they might conceivably have taken a view different from the one which I hold, but I still believe that, in an issue of this kind, it is vital that the men actually concerned with the projects should be brought into the picture and given a chance to express their view.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

Is it too late to ask the unions to use their influence with the Government to reverse their silly decision? I am quite certain that the Concord decision was reversed because of pressure from the unions, as my hon Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) said. At the beginning of December, I was at the Sud-Aviation factory, at Toulouse, and people there asked me whether the Concord would be cancelled. I replied that it would not be, because the unions would bring pressure to bear to have the decision reversed. I think that this could happen again.

Mr. Edelman

I can deal quite briefly with the question of the Concord. I am on record as having said at the outset that, when the Concord project was described in the Economic White Paper as a "prestige" project, using that word in a pejorative sense, I was taken aback because I could not help feeling that, in the field of civil aviation at least, the Concord supersonic aircraft was one of our most advanced technological pro- jects and something of which this country should be proud.

When I heard my right hon. Friend say, in announcing the Government's decision to proceed with the Concord, that we should now be going ahead with it because he had felt that we ought to give ear to the French arguments, I could not help feeling that it might have been better had he, at a much earlier stage, decided to go ahead after giving ear to the British arguments, which were equal and comparable to those of the French.

I have been to France and talked with the French trade unions. I saw their faith in the project. I have been in contact with some of the French and British technicians concerned with the Concord. All I can say is that here was a great and inspiring project. It certainly should have been carefully accounted for and kept under close control, and my right hon. Friend was perfectly right to make sure that the rising costs of the project were carefully looked into and steps taken to hold them down.

Having said that, it seems to me that after all the anguish and after all the heartache caused by the original description of the Concord as a prestige product, to go back to square one is to engage in a lot of theory and a lot of activity all to no end. I will say today that in 10 years we shall look back on the decision to go ahead with the Concord as one of the great and vital technological decisions of our times.

I have always been ardently in favour of an Anglo-French co-operation in aviation and I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) recalled a joint letter which he and I sent to The Times in 1957 urging that there should be a kind of functional co-operation with France in aircraft projects.

Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)

The hon. Gentleman has referred to a continuation of the Concord project, but my understanding is that we still have only two prototypes agreed on. Is that correct?

Mr. Edelman

The hon. Gentleman will not expect me to go into that in any detail. It is sufficient that we can all welcome my right hon. Friend's decision to proceed with the project, as he has announced.

I merely say that the decision to go ahead with the Concord sets the pattern and the style of our future co-operation. We, with a great aero-engine industry, and the French, with their much smaller industry but with their great adaptability, have enormous room for co-operation, this kind of functional co-operation between our two countries. In that way, if we are determined to have it, we can have the embryo of a European air industry which would be able to look the Americans in the face.

I want now to turn to what is perhaps the most significant part of my remarks, for I want now to discuss the HS68I, because it is this aircraft which most directly concerns my own constituency. There has been announced the decision to buy the C130 in preference to waiting for the HS681, if I may put it that way. The specification of the C130 has already been decided. It is a relatively slow turbo-prop. The HS681 is designed to give it a speed of 100 knots faster than the C130. The C130 is an obsolescent aircraft. It is an aircraft which requires a long take-off and an aircraft which has virtually nothing at all in common with the OR351, which was the original project.

It is facile to say that because it is possible to buy cheaper aircraft abroad we ought, therefore, promptly to get out of the aircraft industry. It is very easy to say that because aircraft are costly—and they are very costly—we ought, therefore, to buy the fag end of an American production run simply because the Americans are prepared to sell us an aircraft which they ought to give away That is very tempting, but we ought to consider what is the ultimate cost. I could go through the whole range of the invisible loss which we would endure—the loss of employment, the dispersal of technicians, the loss of "know-how", the loss of the ability to proceed with technological activity on the frontiers of knowledge.

All those things are elements which the accountants and statisticians do not put into their books, but, nevertheless, they are real and if we believe that an operational requirement has any purpose at all, and if we are to operate a strategy of arranging our aircraft in such a way that they can operate east of Suez, as has been suggested, it is perfectly clear that the C130 is not the aircraft we need and that the one we need is one with a very short take-off capacity, and fast; in other words, an operational requirement to which the HS681 is the answer.

What is true of the HS681 is equally true of the TSR2. There is a great deal of sleight of hand in this argument. It is expressed in this way: instead of like being compared with like, like is constantly being compared with unlike. In the case of the TSR2, it is said that there is an American aircraft which can be bought more cheaply. When one asks which aircraft that is, one is told that it is the TFX, but when one studies the specification one finds that it is not the TFX which is a comparable aircraft, but the TFX2, which is still on the drawing board. When one asks what is the alternative to the HS681, one is told that it is the C130, but what is being offered is not a comparable aircraft but something totally different.

The idea of the HS802 is not an improvisation or a last minute afterthought, as has been suggested, but is merely the answer to an alternative specification. The HS802, which consists of the modification of the HS681 by introducing the common wing with the Comet Mark 4, is something which the company has put forward in answer to the alternative specification implicit in the fact that the Government are prepared to buy the C130. The advantage of the modified aircraft, the HS802, in the first place is that it is a pure jet, and so much faster than the C130, and because of that the cost effectiveness of the modified HS681 will be as four to three compared with the C130.

If one goes into the question of costs, one will find that even if it can be stated purely statistically that the C130, at presumably near give-away prices, will be cheaper than the modified HS681, if one introduced the element of cost effectiveness, there will be a fairly close balance between the HS802 and the C130.

I am told by my friends in Coventry that if they were given the job they would show that they could produce this aircraft just as quickly as it would be Possible to produce the modified C130 in order to put it into British service. There is one factor which has been overlooked in this discussion and it is that the C130 will not be picked up and brought over here and put into service with the Royal Air Force. It will have to be modified. There is a suggestion that British engines will be put into the C130. That may be admirable, but if that is so, it will clearly mean certain structural modifications. Are we to have American electronics in the system, or are we to have a British system in the C130? If we are to switch over to American aircraft from a major project like the HS681, which would have taken a good deal of British electronic equipment, the cancellation of the HS681 will be a blow not only to the aircraft industry, but to the electronics industry.

These are very serious matters. I am glad that the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) is here. A few years ago, I went to see him, because in 1962 there was already grave anxiety in Coventry, because even then the idea of buying the C130 was being studied at the Ministry of Defence. I went to see the Minister because it seemed to me that if we were to buy that aircraft it would be a very grave blow to the future of the British aircraft industry. I should like to quote a fairly short letter which I wrote to The Times shortly after that visit, because I think that it sums up what was true then and what I believe to be true today.

On 3rd September, 1962, I wrote: At a time when the British aircraft industry is entering into a phase of recession, with thousands of skilled workers and technical staff facing redundancy in the coming year, we write to express our anxiety at reports that the Government contemplate the equipment of the Royal Air Force with U.S. transport aircraft. It is now two years— and this was written in 1962— since Whitworth Gloster Aircraft Ltd., of Coventry, presented its submission to make a transport aircraft to the operational requirement 351. The hopes of large numbers of British workers as well as the future of an important section of the aircraft industry depend on the Government giving contracts for this work to British firms. The economists' argument in favour of a run-down of the British aircraft industry is that the redeployment of the national labour force will benefit the overall economy. In fact, there are already today former aircraft workers of Whitworth Gloster whose skill has been turned from making precision equipment to making vending machines which, normally, could be made by girls. Incidentally, I hope that nothing of that kind could happen again.

My letter continued: May we therefore ask, through you, that the Minister of Defence, during his visit to America, should not yield in the name of defence integration or of financial stringency to the high-pressure demands of the U.S. aircraft companies to supply the strategic freighter which the British industry is supremely able to manufacture itself. To do so will reduce a wide area of our aircraft factories to the status of repair shops. It will mean the waste of skilled manpower. And, above all, it will be a wound to the British aircraft industry from which it will take a decade to recover". I cannot help feeling that the right hon. Member for Monmouth must take a heavy responsibility personally for the fact that there was this inordinate delay from 1960 to 1963 in ordering the HS681. If the HS681 today is not in production, the right hon. Gentleman and the Ministry of Defence of that day must be held responsible.

In any inquiry into this matter, it is absolutely vital that we should know why the great Baginton factory was kept just ticking over, and all the overheads and costs were escalating during the whole of this period and no decision was made. Is it because the Gibb-Zuckerman procedure is bad? I believe that it is and that it should be investigated. Something should be done so that when issues of this kind arise and procurements have to be envisaged there is somebody who can make a decision and who does not hide behind the proliferation of committees to which all these projects have been referred.

Somebody is guilty and must take responsibility for the fact that the HS681 is not in existence today. Having established where the guilt lies, I believe that we must be very careful that no irreversible action is taken today, because there are certain projects in respect of which, if they fall below a critical level, it will not be possible to reverse the process of running down. If that happens, it will be a death blow to the aircraft industry, and my right hon. Friend, enthusiastic about the aircraft industry though he is, will be known not as the Minister of Aviation, but as the gravedigger of the aircraft industry.

For the sake of the aircraft workers who have faith in the Government, and who believe that under a Labour Government their talents and abilities could find scope to raise the British aircraft industry to a pre-eminent place in the world, I ask the Government to think again. The aircraft workers trust my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I hope that he will show that he trusts them.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)

Everyone in the House will agree that the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) has presented his case in a sensible and reasonable manner and that the Government should pay a great deal of attention to what he said. I sympathise with him very much in the position in which he finds himself, with so many workers in his constituency whose livelihoods will be affected by the Government's decision.

My quarrel with the Minister is not so much that he has decided to cancel two projects which some people claim are of crucial importance to the British areo-space industry. It might be possible to demonstrate that the other projects which the industry has in mind might be of greater advantage from the national point of view. This is something about which it is difficult to argue in the House because we have not the detailed knowledge which would enable us to express an opinion. My quarrel with the Minister is more fundamental.

I do not think that before this decision was taken there was an adequate assessment of the military needs. I will come to that point later. I do not think that there has been sufficient appreciation of the danger that we shall fall under American technological domination. And although I was delighted to hear the Minister say that M. Jacquet is to visit London early next week, the Government have shown no sign of accepting the proposals which we made for political initiative on the formation of a European aircraft agency.

I agree with the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) that there has been inadequate discussion of this downgrading of the military requirements. Until this review, it was thought that we needed a vertical take-off fighter and a short take-off and landing freighter for the kind of war in which we would be involved in future in remote areas of the world where even Dakota strips would not be available. Now, as hon. Members have said, we can apparently do with a freighter designed 10 years ago, which is obsolescent in the United States and which comes nowhere near to reaching the original requirement and a fighter which needs acres of concrete runway.

The Minister said that there was no real military requirement for the HS681, but it seems doubtful to me whether this is the real reason for the decision. I wonder whether it was taken purely on the ground of cost. I should like the Government spokesman who is to reply to the debate to give a clear answer to this question. Is it contended now that the specifications of the 681 and the 1154 were unnecessarily sophisticated when drafted, or that for some time to come the forces must make do with weapons and logistic systems which are inferior by the standard of real need? That is the critical question which should be answered. If the first is true, why was not the British industry given the opportunity of tendering to the easier specifications which are now thought adequate for the next few years?

There is something to be said for the Phantom because we have the advantage that both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force will have the same aircraft, and we have been promised that the maximum use will be made of British components, including the engines. I accept the Minister's statement that even if the 1154 had gone ahead an interim type would have been needed to replace the Hunter.

I come to the deplorable decision to order the Lockheed 130. I think that this is deplorable because if it is the type of aircraft which we need the British aircraft industry should have been given the chance to tender against the specifications. Most hon. Members who have spoken made out a case for the 802. I do not intend to repeat what has been said. However, inadequate attention has been given to the claims of the Short Belfast. I apologise to the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. McMaster) for making this point; I am sure that he would have made it had he the opportunity to speak. Both the present Government and the previous one seem determined to starve Shorts out of existence, even though the nation is a 70 per cent. shareholder in the company.

It is all very well for the Minister to talk, as he did in his opening speech, of giving fresh work to the factories of Short Brothers in Belfast to replace what they will lose on the military side. I do not believe that this can be done in the time scale about which we are thinking. The Minister told me in answer to a Written Question this afternoon that there would be negligible redundancy in Short Brothers during 1965. However, he amplified this in his speech by saying that in 1966 the situation would be much worse and that the consultants would take a long time to go into the alternative manufactures which might be capable of using the production facilities available in that company. Once they have reported to the Minister, the decisions which he makes on their advice will not be implemented overnight. It must be realised by people in Northern Ireland that this decision not to order the follow-on Belfast means unemployment in the Short Brothers and Harland factory.

The developed Belfast freighter would do everything that the Lockheed C130E can do and a great deal more besides. It has a slightly better range and a 70 per cent. larger payload. It can use 2,000 ft. grass runways and it can take all the items on the Army's air portability list, whereas the Lockheed C130E can take only about three out of four of them.

I do not think that if the Army had had its way the Lockheed C130 would have been ordered. The Army much preferred the Belfast. It is significant that when the loading trials of the Belfast took place, there were two generals present but only one squadron leader. I feel that the influence of the Air Force is behind this decision.

The Lockheed may appear to be a good deal cheaper, and the Minister remarked that there was a vast cost differential between the two aircraft, but this probably arises from the fact that the Lockheed is being offered at a knockdown price, for reasons which I will go into presently. Even in the short term, however, it may prove to be a bad bargain. In the first place, 10 Lockheeds are needed to do the same work as six Belfasts; and the nation must bear the cost of unemployment pay for the thousands of people who will be thrown out of work in Northern Ireland in 1966.

In the long term, the implications are much more serious. The Americans are not offering us this aircraft at bargain-basement prices because they want to help the Government in the review of prestige projects which was promised in the "Brown" Paper. The Americans' motive is that of the Trojan horse. They want to get into this market so that, ultimately, they can put an end to British competitors in aero-space once and for all.

I agree with the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft). I am not a chauvinist and I do not believe that the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy should never order aircraft from any other source, including America. Here, however, we have a requirement which is within the capability of the British industry. Therefore, the Government should reconsider the Lockheed C13OE commitment as a matter of urgency.

Mr. McMaster

The hon. Member has referred to the Belfast and to the criticism, of which there has been rumour, by the Air Force. Is he aware, however, that all Royal Air Force officers who have flown in it have highly praised its handling qualities?

Mr. Lubbock

I am delighted to hear the hon. Member say that and I hope that the Minister will take note of his remarks.

I should like now to deal with the TFX and the TSR2. I agree with those who have said this afternoon that it is highly misleading to talk about these aircraft as though they were identical in performance and that the only difference between the two is one of price. That is untrue. One of our difficulties in discussing a matter like this in the House of Commons is that, for security reasons, the detailed performance figures of the aircraft are not published. All that I should like to say is that the main difference is one which would have a major bearing on the survivability of the aircraft in certain rôles.

As to cost, the figures given last week by the Prime Minister should not be accepted without the most searching examination. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) referred to these figures and I have been doing some calculations of my own which I should like to put to the Minister, who obviously disagreed with those that have just been put to him. The Prime Minister said that the total research and development cost of the TSR2 would be £300 million and that the total bill, if we had 150 production aircraft, would be £750 million. That means that the production aircraft would cost about £3 million apiece.

My first question to the Minister is whether this £3 million per copy for the TSR2 is based upon present-day costs or includes a factor which allows for escalation in wages and raw material costs to extend over the delivery period If so, will the Minister tell us what this factor is and whether a similar factor has been added to the costs which are being quoted for the TFX?

Leaving aside the question of whether we are talking about the TFX Mark I or Mark II, I will make my comparison on the basis of the TFX Mark I. Since that is not actually the aircraft that we are talking about, I am being generous to the Prime Minister in basing my comparison upon it. The Evening Standard reported last Friday that the contract for the TFX had already risen in price from 6,000 million dollars to 10,000 million dollars and Flight states that the TFX electronic system has gone up in price by 100 per cent. over the original estimates. It seems highly unlikely, therefore, that the Americans would be able to offer us this aircraft at a price any less than that negotiated by the Australians last year. If that were possible, there is still something wrong with the Prime Minister's arithmetic when he claims that the substitution of the TFX for TSR2 would save us £250 million. He must have been using some of the matchsticks left behind by his predecessor.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

I wonder whether, in his assessment, the hon. Member has also taken into consideration the fact that the Government would probably have to pay considerable compensation for some 30 electronic firms who are engaged either directly by contract or in sub-contracting and who must have spent vast sums of money on research.

Mr. Lubbock

I shall do this sum on the basis that there would be no cancel- lation charges. I am being very cautious in this arithmetic. If we paid no more for the TFX than the Australians did, 150 of these aircraft would cost, by my reckoning, £286 million. If we add this to the £300 million research and development estimate for the TSR2, and allowing nothing whatever for cancellation charges, the total bill would be £586 million. That compares with the figure given by the Prime Minister in his speech of £750 million if we had the TSR2. Even on that basis, therefore, being as cautious as one can be, the saving is £164 million and not £250 million. It is important to establish how that arithmetic arose and whether these figures have been, I will not say "cooked", but adjusted in some way to improve the strength of the case.

But that is not the whole story. In thinking about this, have the Government taken into account the burden on our balance of payments which would be imposed over many years? Have they thought about the consequences of can-cancellation for the British Aircraft Corporation? It seems quite likely that this company would go out of business altogether as a producer of civil aircraft and the prospects for the BAC111, which is selling very well in overseas markets, would be totally eliminated.

In Britain, as in the United States, the industry depends upon having about 75 per cent. of its production in the form of military orders and 25 per cent. in the form of civil orders. If a company is deprived of virtually the whole of its military contracts—and that is what we are talking about in the case of the TSR2—it cannot possibly survive on civil work alone, because many of the items of overhead expenditure are indivisible and cannot be reduced pro rata to suit a smaller programme. For example, one cannot have 25 per cent. of a wind tunnel. One must have the whole wind tunnel which is used equally for military or civil work.

The position of Hawker-Siddeley is rather easier than that of the British Aircraft Corporation because it has not got all its military eggs in one basket, and the cancellation of the P1154 and the HS681 ought to be compensated for to some extent by the orders for the Maritime Spey-engined Comet and the P1127, yet on the decisions announced so far Hawker-Siddeley is much more affected than the B.A.C.

That brings me to the question of what the total employment within the industry should be in the long term, and this is something which we have not discussed this afternoon, and on which there has been no statement of policy from the Minister. I think that even the most ardently patriotic of us would have to admit that the aircraft industry has absorbed a disproportionate share of our nation's resources over the last few years, both in capital and skilled manpower, that is, if one takes it in relation to the returns that we get from it, and the Minister's figures this afternoon went some way to show that. But in saying that, I am not being so much critical of the industry but of the defence Departments and the air Corporations which I think have ordered aircraft which could not be easily sold in overseas markets, and the result of that over the years has been short production runs and therefore high development costs per unit.

If we are to be successful in correcting this tendency in the future, there will have to be some reduction in the number of people employed. I can well understand the anxiety of the workers who might be affected, but I think that the Government should now direct their efforts to ensuring that the transition can be accepted with the minimum of hardship, rather than to keeping people in jobs where there may be no useful work for them to do. I agree with those who say that we must avoid taking decisions which would prejudice the work of the Plowden Committee, but we cannot wishfully imagine that any sensible solution could involve the maintenance of an aircraft industry employing more than 270,000 people.

What then is, or should be, the rôle of the British aircraft industry? It has to produce military aircraft to suit the nation's defence requirements. It has to produce civil aircraft for the air Corporations. It must make a substantial contribution to the export drive, and I agree with those who have said that 1964 was not typical. Finally, it must act as the spearhead for new technologies.

I would not place too much emphasis on that last point, because I agree largely with David Fishlock in his article in the "New Scientist" recently where he showed that the benefits attributable to fall-out as it is called in this country, or spin-off as it is called in the United States, have been rather difficult to demonstrate, and where they have been directly attributable to aero-space research they have been rather trivial.

Going through the rest of these headings, it is clear that if we try to achieve them on a purely national basis the British taxpayer will have to pay through the nose, and we will get this increase in the proportion of the gross national product which we are devoting to military aircraft requirements over the next few years to the end of the decade.

There is at the moment a school of thought which favours co-operation with the United States. I think that the new arrangement which has been announced this afternoon for vertical take-off engines could have great dangers for the British aircraft industry. Could it not happen that the "know-how" on vertical take-off in which we lead the world both on deflected thrust and small lift jet engines could be accumulated by the Americans through this arrangement at no cost to themselves? We could not be the gainers from that, unless we were in return receiving some technological benefits from their industry which we have not got at the present time? The V.T.O. engine was the only component of this agreement to which the Minister particularly referred. I think that if this is the answer of the Government and of the party opposite, we must recognise exactly what is involved.

I have already referred to the motives of the Lockheed Company in offering us the C130E at knock-down prices. It is obvious that if the Government pursue this policy which they are beginning to follow no partnership of equals can emerge. The British aircraft industry's rôle will develop into that of subcontractors to the American giants, except in a few limited and well-defined spheres, such as light aircraft, and we can begin to dismantle the design and development teams which have produced world-famous aircraft such as the Viscount, the BAC111, the Canberra and the TSR2.

If, on the other hand—and I believe that this is the solution—Britain continues to move towards Europe, the skill and "know-how" of our major engine and airframe manufacturers will have a central position in the new partnership. And once having recognised this fundamental distinction between the two alternatives which face this country, taking up with the United States, or taking up with Europe, two consequences follow. First, we have to appreciate that competition can no longer be sustained within the boundaries of one nation, and that if we are to meet this threat of American technological domination we can no longer afford the luxury of two major engine and two major airframe producers.

I realise that that is not a popular thing to say to the industry, but I say that its arguments do not stand up to examination, when it is so obvious that the real threat of competition is coming not from within the boundaries of our nation, but from the giants across the Atlantic such as McDonell and Lockheed.

In my opinion, the real opposition to this proposal stems from the subconscious desire felt within these organisations to preserve their corporate identities. Secondly, it is necessary to adopt new machinery for integration of the European aero-space industries. Until recently one could have said that the industrial relationships across the Channel were very good, while the political relationships were mediocre.

The Concord was not initially a Government project, although it suited the Conservative Party to back it when it felt that it would help our negotiations to enter E.E.C. Similarly, the P45 and the 200-seat airbus—projects on which we hope to co-operate with the French, and, perhaps, other Europeans—did not start as Government ideas but as negotiations between manufacturers long before there was any likelihood of Government support. Now there is apprehension in French political circles, as time is in England, about United States technological imperialism. The French had a severe shock recently over Machines Bull—one of the foremost computer firms in France—which has now come under American influence. This was a great blow to French national pride.

For this and other reasons the political climate in France is ready for a fresh approach, and it is up to Britain to take the initiative, because of the damage done to Anglo-French relations in connection with the Concord project when the Government took office. What is needed now is a radical departure from the idea of ad hoc collaboration on a few projects that happen to have evolved along parallel lines in the two countries, and a move towards the formulation of mutually agreeable specifications, both military and civil, at a much earlier stage.

It is purely fortuitous that Britain and France, and also, perhaps, Germany, have requirements for a strike fighter-cum-trainer with variable geometry. Why should not there be this sort of preliminary thinking, planned between us? Why should not other European nations with production facilities participate in these arrangements? B.A.C. and Sud have already discovered that the disadvantages of split production and the language barrier can be very much more than compensated for by the bigger market. Let us consider the 200-seat airbus which has been talked about. It could be sold not only to B.E.A. and Air France, but to AlItalia, K.L.M., Sabena, Lufthansa and, perhaps, S.A.S. If orders from all these airlines could be guaranteed as a result of production—

Mr. Webster

I agree with the point which the hon. Member is making about bringing in these other countries, but if we are to put pressure on other countries' Governments and on our air Corporations to buy the things, we must allow industry to come in on the exercise.


Certainly I hope that I did not give the impression that the industry was wrong in taking the initiative that it did. I merely say that it was pure luck that these projects on which we are now co-operating evolved along parallel lines in the two separate countries. We need some machinery in which industry would participate which would enable us to formulate these general requirements at an early stage. All the European airlines might decide to purchase such an airliner if it were produced jointly in the countries concerned, and then research and development costs could be recovered over a large enough initial production programme to make the aircraft competitive with anything produced in the United States.

Therefore, we on the Liberal bench say that the Government should discuss these ideas with France, as a start, and that a European aircraft agency should be proposed as an initial step towards common procurement policies. Some people will say that the idea of common procurement has not worked so far in N.A.T.O. and that in spite of agreed military specifications, when it came to placing orders for the aircraft national considerations overrode those of cooperation.

Although that is true, all it shows is that we cannot depend on N.A.T.O. type machinery in this new venture, but must give serious consideration to the idea of placing procurement funds in the hands of the central agency. It is not for me to spell out in detail what should be the terms of reference of such an agency or what sacrifices of national sovereignty it would be necessary for us to make as the price of the new arrangements. That is a matter for discussion between the Governments concerned. I am saying that the time is right for a fresh approach of this kind to be made, and that, at any rate in Paris, influential people are thinking on the same lines. It is clear to me and, I venture to say, to many people working in the industry that while some contraction cannot be avoided, the very survival of the industry depends upon our taking this initiative now. In a few months of office this Government could wreck the one chance facing them now which may never be repeated.

8.41 p.m.

Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)

I must necessarily condense much of what I had hoped to say, but I think one point is worth mentioning. I have heard every speech made in this debate, including that of the Minister, and from whichever side of the House hon. Members have spoken, the only person I have heard supporting completely the policy of the Minister was the Minister himself.

That, of course, shows clearly that hon. Members on this side of the House, even though there may be numerical difficulties about the Division figures, can still speak their minds freely. When it comes to the moment of choice we shall, of course, march, quite properly, behind our Front Bench leaders.

I have wares to sell, like most hon. Members who have taken part in the debate. Things which have been said remind me of some ventures that I made in this House shortly after the war, in 1947 the industry which we have been discussing was concentrated largely on what we call the Home Counties. Little of it was outside that part of England.

There have been one or two things said tonight about which I should have liked to say something more severe than I shall in this short speech. At that time I approached a colleague who has now ascended to very high office outside this House—Mr. John Freeman. He was then at the Board of Trade. He may now have a title, I am not sure. I suggested to him that this concentration of the industry was unfair to the rest of the country and that there should be a Government effort to get the industry away from the Home Counties towards the North and into Scotland.

The Government of the day, or at least the Minister, decided on that expansion. We had got the industry moving up towards Preston and the North and out towards Bristol in the West, and into Yorkshire, when, unfortunately, the Tories came to power, which stopped the expansion. At that time we had in Scotland a maintenance establishment employing 500 persons. We also had a youthful industry growing up at Prestwick employing 2,000 persons. During the period round about 1953, the Conservative Government of that time destroyed the maintenance base at Renfrew and completely put an end to that budding part of the aircraft industry in Scotland. At the same time, while they were encouraging it in other parts of the United Kingdom—in Northern Ireland and in England—they refused to give any help whatsoever to the Prestwick development. It gradually disappeared over the years and is now non-existent.

Because of these facts, I was seized of a statement which my right hon. Friend made. He said, and I welcome it, that the industry will not necessarily be reduced, as a result of the policy which the Government propose, below the present level by 1967. He went on to contrast the distribution of the industry in the United States with that in this country, by telling us that at home the industry was spread more widely over this country. I took note of that because I wondered exactly what was meant by "this country", in view of the fact that in the part of the country from which I come—the area which I represent—there is no aircraft industry whatsoever. I want to make it quite clear to my right hon. Friends that this is a just grievance which we have in Scotland. It is my business to ventilate it.

We have the operating side. The maintenance base has gone, and so has the little aircraft centre at Prestwick, with the result that, out of a total of 271,000 who are now employed in the industry at this moment—265,900 in the companies and the Corporations at the airports and in the facility work; over 5,000 in the airports under the Ministry of Aviation and 567 in the headquarters of the Ministry of Aviation at the various airports and the other parts of the industry—13,000 only are employed in Scotland at present. Since the figure of 13,000 was produced and given to me, it has dropped by 1,000. So all we have today is 11,000 persons employed on aero-engines by Rolls-Royce, and 1,000 in the other phases of the industry.

I know that the industry is going through a reformation, but I was assured by my right hon. Friend that that reformation will not affect the total numerical strength of the numbers employed in it. I hope that he will keep in mind the position in Scotland when jobs are redeployed, as they will be, particularly in view of the fact that in Scotland at this moment we have 70,000 people unemployed, which is a very severe figure.

I made a little agreement, to which, perhaps, I should not refer, about the length of my speech. I am sorry that it is somewhat restricted. I want to say this before I sit down.

My own union commonly known as A.S.S.E.T., and the Draughtsmen's and Allied Technicians' Association, who met us last week, have produced a statement which I have in my hand. It is supported by A.S.S.E.T. I should draw my right hon. Friend's attention to two points which D.A.T.A. put forward in the statement, which I believe has been sent to my right hon. Friend. The first paragraph reads: The Draughtsmen's and Allied Technicians' Association, which is the trade union representing the research and design staffs employed in the aircraft industry, expresses its concern at those parts of the Government's statement which plan to replace military aircraft of British design with those of American manufacture. If I understood my right hon. Friend correctly, D.A.T.A. have no reason to fear any such happening. There will be no replacements but a collaboration in the production of aircraft, because costs have reached such a level that it is impossible for any country, other than such huge aggregations such as America and Russia, to go ahead alone. The first collaborators were right hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they put forward the Concord proposals, which were based on collaboration between Britain and France.

The last paragraph reads: It is not in Britain's interest to depend upon foreign suppliers for major items of defence equipment. Such a policy will exacerbate balance of payments difficulties, expose the country to exploitation on services and spares and tend to make Britain a satellite of the United States of America. That is something which I should oppose. But if I have followed my right hon. Friend correctly I have no reason to fear such a happening; because he definitely said that that will not happen. If necessary, I hope that that will be confirmed in the winding-up speech.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Samuel Storey)

Mr. Maude.

Mr. McMaster

On a point of order. You will be aware, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that only about one-third of the Members seeking to speak in the debate have been called to do so. Unlike the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin), I have a big aircraft constituency—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is not a point of order.

Mr. McMaster

Further to that point of order.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

There can be nothing further to a point of order which, in fact, is not a point of order.

Mr. McMaster

I had not reached my point of order. Is it possible, under the rules of order, to extend the debate so that more hon. Members can take part in it and represent the views of their constituents?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am afraid it is not. Mr. Maude.

8.56 p.m.

Mr. Angus Maude (Stratford-on-Avon)

Perhaps the most interesting part of the debate has been, as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) said, the surprising lack of any defence of the Government's policies relating to the aircraft industry by anyone except the Minister of Aviation. The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) felt strongly that the aircraft workers in his constituency had been given a raw deal by the Government. As I understood him, he felt that he had been misled into making them promises which the Government were preventing him from honouring.

Mr. Maurice Orbach (Stockport, South)


Mr. Maude

I have a lot to say and I do not propose to begin giving way at this stage of the debate. The Minister of Aviation referred to the difference between hope and achievement in the aircraft industry. This is something which we can discuss. But if there is a difference between hope and achievement in the industry, there is certainly a difference between promise and achievement in Labour's election campaigns in constituencies with big aircraft interests.

The Prime Minister, in an exchange earlier today with my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneyeroft)—

Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

A very good one, too.

Mr. Maude

—certainly appeared to have accepted a wide interpretation of the new rules of cricket umpiring; that a batsman must leave the crease without a decision if he thinks he is bowled out. However, the Prime Minister was, so far as he went, on a perfectly good point. He said that he had qualified his statement about the TSR2 when speaking to the electors of Preston in respect of such matters as cost. That is right. That paragraph was in his Press hand-out and was reported in the Press, but the point with which he did not deal, and which he did not wait to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth deal with, was the fact that in the leaflet circulated by the Labour Party to the aircraft workers of Preston there was absolutely no such qualification at all. In a borough in which the Labour Party succeeded in winning one seat, it is no good the Labour Party blinking the fact that a flat and absolutely unqualified pledge was given.

Mr. Orbach


Mr. Maude

The hon. Member has not been here for very long during this debate. [Interruption.]

Mr. Orbach


Mr. Maude

I must get on.

Hon. Members


Mr. Maude

Hon. Members opposite cannot take it. [Interruption.] But there is no doubt that they are going to have to listen to this sooner or later. They must hear just what promise was made. It is headed: Harold Wilson tells TSR2 workers, Your Jobs are guaranteed under Labour. Labour will not"— and this is in large letters— cancel the TSR2. There is then a bit about my right hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery), and then—

Hon. Members

Read it.

Mr. Maude

Certainly, with pleasure. It states: Amery knows he will not be Minister of Aviation after next Friday."— [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may laugh, but they should take heed of this, for it goes on: His lie about the TSR2"— which was that the Labour Party would cancel it— is a political gambler's last desperate throw to keep his Parliamentary seat in Preston North. Now we come to it: Harold Wilson himself nailed this lie in Preston last June when he said he foresaw a 'long and useful life for this magnificent aircraft in a conventional role'. It goes on: Who are you going to believe? A discredited Tory Minister—or your next Prime Minister? They know now and, what is more, the adjective "discredited" will in Preston now he put on to the other Minister. It goes on: Labour has big plans for the aircraft industry. Under Labour's plan, your skill will be at a premium and overtime (not short-time) will be the likely order of the day. Let hon. Members opposite tell that in Baginton, Preston, and the other places.

Finally, in a blaze at the bottom, we read: There is a great future for the British aircraft industry under a Labour Government. This was happening in every aircraft manufacturing constituency in the country. In the Hawker Siddeley constituency of Eastleigh, where the Hamble factory is, the Labour pamphlet said: A Labour Government will"— also with no qualifications: reverse the Tory policy of increasing dependence on foreign supplies, e.g., Italian helicopters, the VC 10 and Phantom incidents, and other scandalous decisions of Mr. Amery and his colleagues. Aircraft workers—your future is more sure with Labour. I can only say that the design men at the Hamble factory were told today that their jobs would come to an end this year.

Mr. Orbach

The hon. Gentleman has been talking about Hawker Siddeleys. As he will be aware, I represent a constituency, won at the last election, where live 3,000 workers employed by Hawker Siddeley. That is the hon. Gentleman's first mistake—

Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it permissible for an hon. Gentleman, on an excuse of that kind, to start making a speech?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Hon. Members must not make a speech. They should make an intervention only for clarification.

Mr. Orbach

That is exactly what I want to do, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The hon. Gentleman has said that today a number of designers at the Hawker Siddeley factory in Hamble were given their notice. On Wednesday last the Hawker Siddeley employees at Woodford—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is now going too far. This is becoming a speech.

Mr. Maude

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman did not catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but he cannot make his speech now. The fact is that there are plenty of constituencies in which these promises were made and have been broken, and the workers know it. In fact, when we consider the history of the last three months—

Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)

The last thirteen years.

Mr. Maude

—I am astonished at the moderation with which our Motion is worded. I want gradually to go through its wording to see how it applies to what has happened in fact. It regrets the Government's handling of the aircraft problem. The Minister of Aviation said that the problems of the aviation industry were there when the Government came into power. I would absolutely agree with him that there were serious problems in the industry, and it is to those that I want to address myself—

Mr. Spriggs

And remember that.

Mr. Maude

I know that it is very difficult for hon. Members opposite to find any comfort or cheer at all. None has spoken in support of the Government. Having not spoken in support of their own Government, even if they intend to vote with them, one would have thought that they would have been interested to discuss the problems of the workers they represent. Problems in the aircraft industry certainly existed, but can anyone doubt, after listening to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth and to speeches made by hon. Members on both sides of the House, that the Government's handling of these problems has so far made them worse rather than better? A Government who talk about the need for co-operation with Europe must surely themselves recognise that their handling from the beginning of the Concord project was not exactly calculated to make this a real winner.

With regard to the present decisions—the HS681 and the P1154, to say nothing of the TSR2—the way in which the rumours have got about and Press articles have been stimulated has done more damage to the industry and its export prospects than anything which could be imagined.

Last week the Prime Minister made a speech in which he said that, after considering this for very many hours, he had come to the conclusion that the TSR2 could not be cancelled immediately but that the project should go on while it was further investigated. After 100 days the conclusion come to is that there is to be, at any rate for the moment, no change—[Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman who is now shouting is to remain seated he must contain himself, because there are many hon. Members here whose constituency interests are for their workers.

Mr. Spriggs

But tell the truth.

The Deputy-Chairman

The hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) must not continue to interrupt from a sitting position.

Mr. Maude

After all this time and consideration, the decision was that the TSR2 programme is to go on as it was for the time being. If, after all this consideration, that was the decision, could not this have been done without all the very damaging fuss, flap, rumour and counter-rumour which has come out of the Government's handling of this business?

The Amendment goes on to urge Her Majesty's Government to reconsider their present policies towards the aircraft industry, their present policies being a little obscure, let us say, but we are trying to gather the threads from various speeches which are made. At the moment we have the decisions which have been announced on the HS681 and the P1154. We are not satisfied that the British alternatives to the HS681 have been properly considered or that a convincing case has been made for buying the Lockheed C130E, which, as we all know, represents a down-grading of the operational requirement, which is very large indeed. The Air Force and the Army have never wanted the C130E and have always previously rejected it.

We also state in the Amendment that the Government's present policies are "likely to cause grave damage" to the British aircraft industry. It is to this point that I want to devote the major part of my speech. We are dealing here not, as we sometimes seem to imagine in discussion, with four firms. We are dealing with about 400 firms, when account is taken not only of the great airframe and aero-engine makers but of the component makers and all the electronic industries which are associated with this. The damage which may be done to the British electronic industries and to their export prospects by the Government's decisions is very serious indeed.

I hope that the Government will be prepared to consider their policies in at least one or two respects. I understand, for example, that their package deal for the Lockheed C130E does not even allow a British manufacturer to tender for the custom-built job of flight simulator for the C130E. This is something which the British electronics industry could very easily do, and, if it could be arranged, it would mitigate the damage which would be done to the industry.

If, as my right hon. Friends have said, the Government persist in the cancellations which they have already announced and the cancellation of projects which are under review such as the TSR2, they will be destroying not just marginal projects in the aircraft industry but projects which not only represent the mainstay of two very great companies but the most advanced technological projects of the entire British industry. This is a matter to which enough attention cannot be directed. These aircraft would have made the Royal Air Force the most flexible and, for its size, the most powerful force in the world. Moreover, the technological advantages which would have accrued to this country from carrying on with the projects would have been very considerable.

If the most advanced and most important projects in the industry are cancelled—heaven knows, enough damage has been done to the industry by the denigration which it has received from right hon. and hon. Members opposite and from Press articles which owe some part of their inspiration to the attitudes of right hon. Gentlemen—the design effort of the British aircraft industry will dwindle away almost to nothing. I hope that the Secretary of State for Defence will deal fully with this matter in his speech. I was not satisfied that the Minister of Aviation had made a convincing case or shown a very clear policy for the future about it.

The Minister's speech showed a number of remarkable contradictions. At no point did it appear that he was clearly stating on what ground of policy the contraction of the aircraft industry was to be carried out. He talked about costs, but he must know that figures of costs have merely been canvassed and, in many cases can be no better than estimates. The case on costs is strong, of course, if one makes it in terms of sterling equivalent of dollar expenditure, on the one hand, and sterling expenditure including the whole research and development element in a project, on the other. But this is not a fair basis for comparison, and it has never been. For one thing, there is the strain on the balance of payments involved in the dollar payments for American aircraft.

Secondly, there is the loss of export potential not only in the cancelled projects but in respect of other aircraft produced by the same firms. In addition, there is the factor that, over the years, one can see inevitably creeping up a situation in which we shall not only be exporting very few aircraft but we shall be forced to import an increasingly large proportion from the United States.

This brings me to the passage in our Amendment which deals with the point that the Government's policies seem likely to force us ultimately into almost total dependence on the United States. This is a matter for argument, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will deal with it at rather greater length and in greater detail. The experiences of this country and of others have not been all that happy so far when American aircraft have been bought, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will say something about the record of the Neptunes. No doubt he has heard from his brother Ministers of Defence in Europe about their experiences with the F104. They are not particularly encouraging.

Of course, it can be said that there is a rôle for British firms manufacturing American designs under licence and for British aero-engine makers putting engines into American planes, but do the Government really believe that this will continue indefinitely? Do they really believe that once the United States industry has a stranglehold on the British market because the British industries are dead specifications and future licences will not provide for Pratt and Whitney engines rather than Rolls-Royce or Bristol Siddeley? Of course they will.

Here we come to what is a crucial issue which right hon. Gentlemen opposite, certainly the Minister of Aviation, have not faced. It is an issue on which the country will insist that they explain their position very fully. Are they prepared to see this country dependent for its most vital defence weapons on a foreign country, whether thatforeign country is an ally or not? [HON. MEMBERS: "Polaris."] What hon. Members who so cheerfully cry out about Polaris do not recognise is—and my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth dealt with this and explained it—that Polaris was a very good commercial buy. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) does not realise what a trap he is digging for himself. Can he not see that the fact that we have got an American missile for Polaris submarines makes dependence for military aircraft on the United States much more damaging, not less?

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)


Mr. Maude

This surely should be obvious even to somebody with the naivety of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Loughlin


Mr. Maude

It must be obvious that there is here an issue of principle which hon. Members opposite cannot dodge. They must make up their minds to tell the country honestly—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—yes, their record during the election does not encourage one to believe that they will—to tell the country honestly whether they are prepared to see us entirely dependent in the next generation upon United States aircraft.

This will be true of civil aircraft, too. Civil aviation is expanding enormously. As a great trading nation, this country has always prided itself on being able to provide its own methods of transport communication on a worldwide basis. We did not become a great maritime nation by buying foreign ships, and we shall not become a great civil aviation nation by buying exclusively American air freighters.

Clearly, in defence this is a much more serious matter. I hope that hon. Members opposite will care to reflect a little on the risks to which this puts us. Supposing the supplier happens to take a dislike to the policies of Her Majesty's Government, or one of their successors; hon. Members opposite may care to reflect on the experience of the South African Government and see what lessons may be drawn for this country if it becomes dependent on aircraft and weapons from abroad.

Let us now consider the future of the aircraft industry and, in particular, as co-operation in Europe applies to it.

There has been a great deal of talk about co-operation with Europe. It is, as my right hon. Friend said, an easy thing to talk about, but a dangerous thing to talk about unless we recognise the difficulties involved in it. It involves delicate questions of foreign and defence policy. It involves the fact that, since many European countries do not have a requirement for overseas operations, particularly long-range ones, their specifications may be difficult to match up with ours.

If, however, the Government feel that, as the Minister of Aviation said, it will not be possible for the next generation of military aircraft replacements to be designed and built in this country because they will be too expensive, the answer is that the first stages towards co-operation with Europe in respect of these replacements should be being taken now.

Mr. Healey

They are.

Mr. Maude

We hope that the right hon. Gentleman will tell us, not about one project or another, but what talks are going on with European countries on this basis. It is not only in respect of cooperation with Europe, but in respect of the whole future of the British aircraft industry, if there is to be one, that the next generation of aircraft is important.

There will not be a British aircraft industry with a research, design and manufacturing capacity to co-operate with Europe unless steps are taken now to mitigate the effects of the present position. If hon. Members opposite believe it to be possible, I hope very much that they wilt disabuse themselves of the idea.

It is not possible to have an advanced technological capability in an aircraft industry—I am talking about research, design and development—unless we have a manufacturing capacity to back it up. Designers will not indefinitely do pure research and the aerodynamics or evaluation tests on American aircraft unless they have an industrial backing and, ultimately, a production line in this country which will enable them to see the results of their work in aircraft flying in the air.

Right hon. and hon. Members opposite might reflect upon one other facet of the British aircraft industry, and it is, perhaps, the most important of all. The British aircraft industry, like the aircraft industry of the United States and of other countries, is the technological leader industry of the whole economy. It is no idle words to say that it is the technological spearhead in this country: it is. The interesting thing is that there is no alternative leader industry which can supplant it.

Perhaps the industry of which, in the technological field, one might have had most hopes would have been atomic energy for peaceful uses, but there are reasons why that is incapable of supplanting the aircraft industry as a technological leader industry because the materials that it uses are of so narrow an application that the technological fall-out from it into other industries is much smaller than it is from the aviation and its associated electronic industries.

The effects upon the technology of this country of blunting that spearhead are greater than right hon. Members opposite have yet been willing to believe. They must make up their minds to the fact that the policies which they have been following and that they are continuing to enunciate risk not only the defence of the country, not only the jobs of hundreds of thousands of people, but the chance of the country ever regaining the world technological supremacy which it once had.

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)


Dr. Bray


Mr. Hamilton

Give way.

Mr. Maude

There is no need for me to give way to the hon. Member, because I know exactly what he will say. He has told it to me so often before.

Dr. Bray

Can the hon. Gentleman present one shred of evidence which does not stem from the aircraft industry lobby backing up his arguments on the value of fall-out to other industries?

Mr. Maude

Development in the electronic industries without the backing of military commitments would have been pretty well nil by now. This is certainly true. The hon. Member, I know, is one of the those simple souls who believe that if we contract the size of the aircraft industry we can send skilled aerodynamicists to reorganise the London Docks or London Transport or to produce such things as pots and pans. This is not the view of any leading aerodynamicist of whom I have ever heard.

The future of this country's technology and the future of this country's defence are at stake if the Government's policies are pursued, and it is time that the Government urgently reconsidered them.

9.26 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Denis Healey)

I apologise for asking for a few minutes' extra time. I could easly have answered the criticisms of right hon. Members opposite in half an hour, but it will take me a little longer to answer some of the requests for information which they have put to me.

For a censure debate, today's debate has been a refreshing contrast to the debate of a week ago. I think that it has been very serious and thoughtful in tone. I will try to deal in the same tone with the speeches which have been made from the Opposition benches and from the benches on this side.

The fact is that 90 per cent. of what right hon. Members opposite have said in the debate is quite irrelevant to the most serious problem facing the Government and the Services. I hope that no one on either side will deny that the first responsibility of Her Majesty's Government in military aviation is to see that our forces have the weapons that they need to fulfil the tasks which we give them and have them when they need them. The previous Government failed in this responsibility. Therefore, I am not surprised that the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) gave it such perfunctory attention in his speech.

The Royal Air Force is having to make do—and we all appreciate how magnificently it does make do—with aircraft some of which are inferior in basic performance not just to those in service with the great Powers, but to those in service with quite minor Powers—for example, the MiG21 fighters operated by Egypt, Iraq and Indonesia, which those countries bought from Russia and which were operational in Russia at least four years ago. We cannot meet such competition at the present time except by relying heavily on the superior quality and training of the R.A.F. aircrews and the efficiency of the whole complex radar system under which our aircraft operate.

The Royal Air Force's troubles do not end with the theoretical performance of the aircraft. Some of the aircraft in service have been afflicted by a sorry history of technical problems, which are increased by the fact that often the aircraft have to be operated too hard and too long either because we do not have enough of them, or because we have waited too long to replace them. We recently heard about the Valiant bombers. In the field of helicopters, current operations in the Radfan and Far East have underlined not only shortages in numbers, but the low reliability of certain types, particularly the Belvedere.

Even today the R.A.F. does not have all the aircraft which it needs for its immediate needs. If we look ahead, the prospect is grimmer still. Under the plans of the previous Government there was no prospect that the Hastings and Beverley aircraft of Transport Command would be replaced before 1971 or 1972. This would mean that the Hastings would have been in service for 25 years, and the Beverley for 16 years.

The Hunter, which is now used in a ground attack rôle, has done magnificent service for the Royal Air Force and for our export drive, but, as I have suggested, it is already inferior in performance to the aircraft of several minor Powers, and under the plans of the previous Government there was no chance of replacing it before the end of 1970, when it would have been in service for 14 or 15 years. The same is true of the Canberra. By the time it is replaced this aircraft will have been in service for 15 years.

These long periods of service face us with two deeply disturbing prospects.

First, there is a real danger that some of the aircraft, particularly those continuously in use for operations, may literally fall apart. We have seen what happened to the Valiant bomber, although, on average, the Valiant bomber has only eight years service.

Similar over-use is one of the reasons for our present difficulties with the Belvedere. If we had stuck to the previous Government's aircraft programme, we faced a real danger that the Royal Air Force would literally have no aircraft at all for some of its basic tasks, unless we made an interim panic purchase of foreign aircraft. And even if we assume that the aircraft would somehow hold together, some of them fall short of our real needs today, and it would be criminal of any Government to ask the Royal Air Force to continue flying them for seven or eight years more.

Anybody who cares for the security of Britain, and the efficiency of our Armed Forces, must agree that this is a serious situation, and one for which there can be no excuse. But if there is no excuse, there is a reason. It can take up to 10 years to get a sophisticated modern combat aircraft into squadron service. The seeds of the present crisis were sown about nine years ago. By far the largest responsibility lies with the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) and the members of the Conservative Cabinet who approved his White Paper on Defence in 1957. The present Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Monmouth were members of that Cabinet.

Hon. Members will recall that this historic document, which claimed to announce the biggest change in military policy ever made in normal times", was based on the assumption that there was no future for manned fighting aircraft. It dismissed both bombers and fighters in two sentences. It said: The Government has decided not to go on with the development of supersonic manned bombers. The Government has come to the conclusion that the R.A.F. are unlikely to have a requirement for future aircraft of types more advanced than the supersonic P1"— that is the Lightning— and work on such projects will stop.

Mr. Sandys (Streatham)

What is the right hon. Gentleman complaining about? What I said in that White Paper, if he will not misrepresent it, is that we did not see the necessity for a further generation of strategic bombers to replace the V-bombers because we saw that the ballistic rocket would take their place. That is what is happening. As for the fighter, I really cannot see what complaints there are about the Lightning fighter, which is one of the finest fighters in the world.

Mr. Healey

The right hon. Gentleman has just reminded me that he based the whole of our strategic aircraft policy on the success of Blue Streak. The Defence White Paper of 1957 inflicted a crippling blow on the British aircraft industry. It led the Conservative Minister of Supply to tell the House, in 1958, that employment in the aircraft industry by 1963 would decline from 250,000 to the pre-Korean level of 150,000. These were the words of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones), speaking from this Dispatch Box.

More serious still, the right hon. Gentleman's White Paper was based on a catastrophic failure to appreciate the nation's continuing need for military aircraft—a failure that stemmed not from a serious attempt to foresee the needs of national security but from the then Government's desire to cut defence expenditure at any cost. I suspect that it is the right hon. Member for Monmouth, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, who may carry the real guilt for the 1957 White Paper. In view of what the right hon. Gentleman said today—

Mr. Sandys


Mr. Healey

In view of what the right hon. Gentleman said today—[Interruption.]—it is interesting to reflect—[Interruption.] I know that hon. Members opposite cannot take it, but the country wants to know the facts. It is interesting to reflect that when a Conservative Member told the House in 1958 that the Government intended to cut the aircraft industry by 100,000—[Interruption.]

Mr. Hugh Fraser

On a point of order. Can the right hon. Gentleman's speech be—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Can there be silence? I cannot hear the point of order.

Mr. Fraser

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman's speech be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Speaker

We have enough difficulties without bogus points of order.

Mr. Healey

It is interesting to reflect that when a Conservative Minister told the House, in 1958, that the Government intended to cut the aircraft industry by 100,000 in the following five years we had none of the alarmist predictions that we had today from the right hon. Gentleman about the consequences for technology and the aircraft industry. At that time, of course, the right hon. Gentleman had just resigned from the Conservative Government, not because it was cutting the aircraft industry but because it had not cut defence expenditure enough and was still clinging to the nuclear deterrent.

It was not long before the previous Government had to admit that they had been completely wrong. Two years later, in 1959, a contractor was selected for the TSR2 and the Government began to get to grips with the pressing need to order replacements for the Hastings and Beverleys of Transport Command, and for the Hunter and Sea Vixen aircraft of the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. But in the case of the Hastings/Beverley replacement, it took them two more years to issue a firm operational requirement. Another two years passed before even an order for a project study was placed with Hawker Siddeley for the aircraft now known as the HS681.

Altogether, six years had been lost beyond recall. The case of the Sea Vixen/ Hunter replacement was even worse. It took the air staff three years to formulate its general operational requirement, in 1960. Another three years were spent in attempts to get the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy to agree on a common aircraft. Finally, on 30th July, 1963, the moment of truth arrived. The right hon. Member for Monmouth asked the House for permission to make a special statement. With a fanfare of trumpets he told us: I am now able to announce that the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force have reached agreement on the characteristics of a common aircraft which will replace both the Sea Vixen and the Hunter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1963; Vol. 682, c. 237.] Within a few months the newspapers were full of stories that the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy were at loggerheads. Then there was the blinding moment of illumination when the right hon. Gentleman—

Lord Balniel


Mr. Speaker

If the right hon. Gentleman does not give way when he is speaking, the noble Lord must resume his seat.

Sir Robert Cary (Manchester, Withington)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This reading a document is a negation of debate. May the House have the opportunity to hear a speech?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman's point contains this much of a point of order, that we do not in this House read speeches— [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] We do use notes, and my predecessors have forgiven the somewhat copious use of notes.

Mr. Healey

This story ended in a whimper on 26th February last year when the right hon. Gentleman told the House that it was impossible for the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force to have a common aircraft. He announced that he would give the Royal Air Force, to replace the Hunter, the simplest and most robust P1154 and would go to the United States for the Phantom as a Sea Vixen replacement.

There is an element of mystery about this episode. Why should the right hon. Gentleman have gone out of his way to tell us the year before that the Services would have a common aircraft? Was is really that he had not yet discovered the laws of gravity, as he told us in West Dundee? Or was it rather that, in the end, he had neither the moral courage nor the political authority to stick to the decision he had already announced?

This is not the end of the story. The four years of muddle and vacillation were fatal in terms of timing. By the time the right hon. Gentleman had made up his mind, it was impossible for the Royal Air Force to plan on even starting to obtain the P1154 before the middle of 1970—these are points put to me by hon. Gentlemen opposite—well after the period when the Hunter should have been phased out of service.

The fact is that the right hon. Gentleman left office knowing that continuous failures of decision by himself and his predecessors faced the Royal Air Force with a gap in its fighter aircraft which could be fatal to the nation's security and to the lives of its airmen. He must have welcomed the events of 15th October last as a happy release. He left the new Labour Government to clear up the mess.

This is only half the problem. Successive Ministers of Defence and Ministers of Aviation now sitting on the benches opposite have failed totally to control the costs of aero-space projects and to ensure that their development programme keeps up to time. The House will remember some of the fantastic stories uncovered in the past by my right hon. Friend when he was Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts. It will recall that during the 13 years when the party opposite was in office 26 major projects were cancelled at a cost to the nation of £300 million.

If we look at the three projects now under discussion, we find that the estimated cost of the HS681 has doubled since the operational requirement was first issued nearly four years ago. In the case of the P1154, the estimated cost has trebled in under three years. Both these aircraft are still in the earliest stages of development. If we want to know what this may mean for the ultimate price, let us look at the TSR2.

As the Prime Minister told the House last week, the 1960 estimate had almost tripled by last year, when the best estimate we could make was £750 million. There are still three years of development to go before the R.A.F. gets its first operational plane, and all experience suggests that these estimates may escalate still further. The history of delivery dates is just as bad. In November, 1959, the target date for delivery of the TSR2 to the R.A.F. was September, 1965—this year. Over the next five years it has slipped to mid-1968 and the first flight, without avionics and at low subsonic speeds, was two years late; and this was four years after full development was authorised. On last year's cost figures for the TSR2 it would cost us £250 million more than the TFX, over a 10-year period.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me some questions about the TFX. [Interruption.] I am just about to answer, if hon. Gentlemen opposite will listen. For planning purposes we have assumed that the Americans will put into the TFX the avionics that are in what hon. Gentlemen have called the TFX Mark II. Our calculations have been made very much on this basis, but we have included a very substantial contingency margin. We are still not sufficiently satisfied about the price advantage of the TFX to be able to take a decision now. Moreover—[Interruption.] I hope that right hon. Gentlemen are interested in this point, because it is of great importance, according to them, for the future of the industry.

We have given the British Aircraft Corporation a chance, to see whether it can do better than the current figures for the TSR2 suggest. I hope that it can do so. But I must tell the House that the present Government will fulfil their responsibilities to the R.A.F. and to the taxpayer in a spirit far removed from the flabby indifference to cost displayed by the previous Administration. The past is an appalling story of financial incompetence and irresponsibility, but one of its consequences is that if the present Government decided to keep all three of these aircraft the bulge in expenditure when all three come simultaneously into full production around 1970 would send the defence budget right through the roof.

Over the next 10 years—

Mr. Hugh Fraser


Mr. Healey

I am answering this point. Over the next 10 years we should be spending about £1,700 million on the research, development and production costs of military aircraft. I do not know how any Government would be able to accommodate the enormous sums of money which would have to be spent between 1970 and 1974 without major cuts over these years in public expenditure for civilian purposes. But, in fact, the purely military argument for cancelling the HS681 and the P1154 was irresistible. These aircraft simply would not be ready for the Royal Air Force before their existing aircraft fall to pieces, or become obsolete in terms of conflict, even with a minor Power.

During the last four months we have had to look at every conceivable alternative to the existing projects, in the first place in Britain, and in the second place abroad, in Europe and in the United States. We are satisfied, after a most careful consideration, that the P1154 would best be replaced by a mix of the British 1127, or Kestrel, and the American F4.

The F4, or Phantom, is a flexible aircraft capable of carrying out the wide range of interception, air defence, interdiction and close support rôles which are demanded by the types of operations which we have to undertake overseas. It flies at 1,600 miles per hour and is undoubtedly one of the world's most advanced aircraft. After all, that is why the right hon. Gentlemen opposite ordered it for the Royal Navy. But above all, it is in production now and it can be in squadron service when the R.A.F. needs it. In fact, by buying the American Phantom for the R.A.F. we are achieving the objective—

Mr. Burden

On a point of order. May I ask through you, Mr. Speaker, whether the right hon. Gentleman appreciates the significance of giving these trite figures about American aircraft?

Mr. Speaker

About five times in a Parliament I have to propose to the House the desirability of getting rid of the bogus point of order.

Mr. Healey

In fact, by buying the American Phantom for the R.A.F. we are achieving the objective which the right hon. Gentleman set himself two years ago of having in the R.A.F. an aircraft which could be used off carriers of the Royal Navy, with all the economic advantages and operational flexibility which that may imply. The Phantom lacks only vertical take-off and landing capability, [HON. MEMBER: "Only."] This will be supplied by the British Kestrel, or 1127. This, too, is a first-rate aircraft, and because we shall have the Phantom it does not need to match the speed or range planned for the P1154.

I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery), in what was otherwise a refreshingly serious speech, chose to "knock" this excellent British aircraft. It is a good aircraft now, but we must increase its existing range. I believe that other countries may well find it more suitable to their special needs, particularly in price and date of delivery, than the P1154 could ever have hoped to be. It opens possibilities of co-operation with our European allies which simply did not exist with the P1154.

Mr. J. Amery

The right hon. Gentleman is aware that all our professional advisers and those of many European Powers have said that this aircraft is not an operational aircraft over the modern battlefield. I doubt whether it is possible, even by raising the engines to 22,000 or 24,000 lb. thrust, to make it so. To do so would take as long and be very nearly as expensive as producing the P1154.

Mr. Healey

All I can say is that those are not the views in any respect of my professional advisers, and I will expand on this in a moment.

The case for the C130 as a Hastings Beverley replacement is equally compelling. We have looked at several alternative aircraft, but all of them fail to meet the needs of the R.A.F. either in time or in performance, or in cost.

Let me answer some questions which have been asked. The latest version of the C130—the C130E—can by no stretch of imagination be called an obsolete or obsolescent aircraft. It will not come into service even in the United States until next month and it will still be in service in large numbers in the United States Air Force in 10 years' time. The C130 is also used by the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand Air Forces. This will help a lot whenever we are engaged in joint operations with our Commonwealth partners. It will come into R.A.F. service towards the end of 1966 and we hope to take full delivery of the order in 1967. All of us regret the necessity for these decisions. We are deeply conscious—

Mr. Edelman

Before my right hon. Friend leaves the question of alternatives to the C130, will he say what consideration he gave to the project put forward by Hawker Siddeley for the HS802?

Mr. Healey

This project has been given very serious consideration in the last week or so, but on the basis of the figures given us by the company the delivery of the 802 would not be com- pleted until four years after the delivery of the C130 would be completed, and it would not start until two years after delivery of the C130 would start. The cost differential is quite unacceptable if we are to try to keep the defence budget under any sort of control.

Of course, we should have preferred to buy British planes if we could have got them in time, but I do not believe that any hon. or right hon. Member on either side of the House would want to put our airmen into battle in aircraft which are liable to collapse through fatigue or which are grossly inferior in capability to those of a potential enemy. The R.A.F. themselves, of course, would much have preferred British planes, but I can assure the House that there is not one pilot in the whole of the R.A.F. who would rather be shot down in a British plane than carry out his mission in an American one.

The right hon. Member for Monmouth and the right hon. Member for Preston, North spoke of the views of their professional advisers when they were in office and asked me how and why those views have changed. In principle, I think that we agree that it would be a dangerous practice if Ministers were to publish to the House the views of their advisers. The real difference since right hon. Gentleman opposite were in office is that we now have a Government who are determined to take a far more realistic view of our defence requirements and to make certain that the nation gets value for money.

The decisions of the previous Government led to aircraft which were the ultimate in technical sophistication without regard to cost, to date of delivery or to the possibility of foreign markets for the projects. That was the major reason, after all, for the long list of aircraft cancellations which studded the record of the previous Government, and the industry and the Royal Air Force are determined to end this unhappy record. Moreover, there was a tendency to define operational requirements in terms of the best which the state of the art might make possible rather than, as is now the case, in terms of specific operational needs in specific theatres.

In view of the questions asked by Opposition Front Bench speakers, I must add that the Government's professional advisers are fully satisfied that the decisions which Her Majesty's Government have taken will meet the operational needs of the R.A.F. and, indeed, that it was necessary, for military reasons, to take these decisions. That is the view of my professional advisers.

Mr. J. Amery


Mr. Healey

I will give way in a moment.

The new approach of the present Government has led to the decision that, in fact, the actual need for a tactical transport can be met by the C130 and that it does not require the more sophisticated capabilities of the HS681. I am determined that a similar approach shall be adopted in future in judging the operational requirements of all the three Services.

Mr. Amery

It was the rule and practice, during the time when I was at the Ministry of Aviation, that when an operational requirement was changed or relaxed in any way British industry was given a chance to compete for it as well as foreign industry. Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the relaxations of the requirements for both the Hunter replacement and the Beverley replacement were put to British industry?

Mr. Healey

We have discussed with British industry the new needs as we have defined them.

Hon. Members


Mr. Healey

The basic point is that—[HON. MEMBERS: "When?"]—to develop a new aircraft which does not now exist from scratch is absolutely impossible, on the record of the previous Government, if we are to meet the time requirements of the R.A.F.

Mr. Thorneycroft


Hon. Members

Sit down.

Mr. Healey

I must continue—[HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] Several hon. Members opposite have asked about our position and the country's technological future.

Mr. Thorneycroft


Hon. Members

Give way.

Mr. Healey

It is easy to exaggerate the importance—and I am giving answers to questions which have already been asked from the benches opposite—of a large arms industry to technological advance. The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) referred to the need for military aircraft if we are to go ahead in electronics, but our most effective competitors in the technological sphere are Germany and Japan, neither of whom make any military aircraft—and Japan has no arms industry at all.

I turn to the final criticism which the Opposition have tried to make against us, the suggestion that by deciding to buy two American aircraft we are making ourselves a satellite of the United States and totally dependent on them. This argument comes rather oddly from hon. Members opposite, who, only two years ago, made the future of Britain's strategic nuclear power wholly dependent on the purchase of Polaris missiles from the United States. A year ago they made the Royal Navy totally dependent for its air defence on the purchase of Phantom aircraft from the United States.

Their argument is nonsense, anyway. It does not make any sense, in the modern world, to try to produce every component in one's defence system out of one's own exclusive national resources. It does not make sense to do so even for a single weapon. Consider the TSR2, which seems to have become for hon. Members opposite the symbol of British independence in production. The whole of the TSR2 low-level delivery system depends on American computers. Equally, buying weapons from abroad does not, in itself, imply political dependence. President De Gaulle has proved it. The whole of his independent nuclear striking force depends on Boeing tanker aircraft bought from the United States—

Mr. William Whitelaw (Penrith and The Border)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 306, Noes 301.

DivisionNo.56.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Abse, Leo Carter-Jones, Lewis Finch, Harold (Bedwellty)
Albu, Austen Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Fitch, Alan (Wigan)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Chapman, Donald Fletcher, Sir Eric (Islington, E.)
Alldritt, W. H. Coleman, Donald Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Conlan, Bernard Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)
Armstrong, Ernest Corbet, Mrs. Freda Floud, Bernard
Atkinson, Norman Cousins, Rt. Hn. Frank Foley, Maurice
Bacon, Miss Alice Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Crawshaw, Richard Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)
Barnett, Joel Cronin, John Ford, Ben
Baxter, William Crosland, Anthony Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton)
Beaney, Alan Grossman, Rt. Hn. R. H. S. Freeson, Reginald
Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J. Cullen, Mrs. Alice Galpern, Sir Myer
Bence, Cyril Dalyell, Tam Garrett, W. E.
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Darling, George Garrow, A.
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) George, Lady Megan Lloyd
Binns, John Davies, Harold (Leek) Ginsburg, David
Bishop, E. S. Davies, I for (Cower) Gourlay, Harry
Blackburn, F. Davies, S.O. (Merthyr) Gregory, Arnold
Blenkinsop, Arthur Delargy, Hugh Grey, Charles
Boardman, H. Dell, Edmund Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)
Boston, T. G. Diamond, John Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Dodds, Norman Griffiths, Will (M'chester Exchange)
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics S. W.) Doig, Peter Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.
Boyden, James Donnelly, Desmond Hale, Leslie
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Driberg, Tom Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Bradley, Tom Duffy, A. E.P. Hamilton, William (West Fife)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Dunn, James A. Hamling, William (Woolwich, W.)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Dunnett, Jack Hannan, William
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Edelman, Maurice Harper, Joseph
Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan) Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & Fbury) Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Hart, Mrs. Judith
Buchan, Norman (Renfrewshire, W.) English, Michael Hattersley, Roy
Buchanan, Richard Ennalls, David Hayman, F. H.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Ensor, David Hazell, Bert
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Evans, loan (Birmingham, Yardley) Heffer, Eric S.
Carmichael, Neil Fernyhough, E. Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur
Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Manuel, Archie Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.
Hill, J. (Midlothian) Mapp, Charles Shore, Peter (Stepney)
Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town) Marsh, Richard Short, Rt. Hn. E. (N'c'tle-on-Tyne, C.)
Holman, Percy Mason, Roy Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton.N.E.)
Horner, John Maxwell, Robert Silkin, John (Deptford)
Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Mayhew, Christopher Silkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich)
Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough) Mellish, Robert Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Howarth, Robert L. (Bolton, E.) Mendelson, J. J. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Millan, Bruce Skeffington, Arthur
Howie, W. Miller, Dr. M. S. Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Hoy, James Milne, Edward (Blyth) Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Molloy, William Small, William
Hushes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Monslow, Walter Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Snow, Julian
Hunter, Adam (Dunfermiine) Morris, Charles (Openshaw) Solomons, Henry
Hunter, A. E. (Feltham) Morris, John (Aberavon) Soskice, Rt. Hn. Sir Frank
Hynd, H. (Accrington) Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick (SheffieldPk) Spriggs, Leslie
Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Murray, Albert Steele, Thomas
Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Neal, Harold Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
Jackson, Colin Newens, Stan Stonehouse, John
Janner, Sir Barnett Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Stones, William
Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.) Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)
Jeger, George (Goole) Norwood, Christopher Summerskill, Dr. Shirley
Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St.P'cras, S.) Oakes, Gordon Swain, Thomas
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Ogden, Eric Swingler, Stephen
Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) O'Malley, Brian Symonds, J. B.
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Oram, Albert E. (E. Ham S.) Taverne, Dick
Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Orbach, Maurice Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Orme, Stanley Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Jones, Rt. Hn. SirElwyn (W.Ham, S.) Oswald, Thomas Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Owen, Will Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)
Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Padley, Walter Thornton, Ernest
Kelley, Richard Page, Derek (King's Lynn) Tinn, James
Kenyon, Clifford Paget, R. T. Tomney, Frank
Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Palmer, Arthur Tuck, Raphael
Kerr, Dr. David (W'Worth, Central) Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Urwin, T. W.
Lawson, George Pargiter, G. A. Varley, Eric G.
Leadbitter, Ted Park, Trevor (Derbyshire, S.E.) Wainwright, Edwin
Ledger, Ron Parkin, B. T. Walden, Brian (All Saints)
Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) Pavitt, Laurence Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Wallace, George
Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Warbey, William
Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Pentland, Norman Watkins, Tudor
Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Perry, Ernest G. Weitzman, David
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Popplewell, Ernest Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Lipton, Marcus Prentice, R. E. White, Mrs. Eirene
Lomas, Kenneth Price, J.T. (Westhoughton) Whitlock, William
Loughlin, Charles Probert, Arthur Wigg, Rt. Hn. George
Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Pursey, Cmdr. Harry Wilkins, W. A.
McBride, Neil Randall, Harry Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
McCann, J. Rankin, John Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
MacColl, James Redhead, Edward Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
MacDermot, Niall Rees, Merlyn Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
McGuire, Michael Reynolds, G.W. Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)
Mclnnes, James Rhodes, Geoffrey Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
McKay, Mrs. Margaret Richard, Ivor Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
MacKenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Winterbottom, R. E.
Mackie, John (Enfield, E.) Roberts, Goronwy (Gaernarvon) Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
McLeavy, Frank Robertson, John (Paisley) Woof, Robert
MacMillan, Malcolm Robinson, Rt. Hn. K. (St. Pancras, N.) Wyatt, Woodrow
MacPherson, Malcolm Rodgers, William (Stockton) Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Rose, Paul B. Zilliacus, K.
Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Rowland, Christopher TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.) Sheldon, Robert Mr. Sydney Irving and
Mr. George Rogers.
Agnew, Commander Sir Peter Bell, Ronald Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.) Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm) Braine, Bernard
Allison, James (Hemel Hempstead) Berkeley, Humphry Brewis, John
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Berry, Hn. Anthony Brinton, Sir Tatton
Anstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W. Bessell, Peter Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter
Astor, John Biffen, John Brooke, Rt. Hn. Henry
Atkins, Humphrey Biggs-Davison, John Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)
Awdry, Daniel Bingham, R. M. Bruce-Gardyne, J.
Baker, W. H. K. Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Bryan, Paul
Balniel, Lord Black, Sir Cyril Buchanan-Smith, Alick
Barber, A. Blaker, Peter Buck, Antony
Barlow, Sir John Bossom, Hn. Clive Bullus, Sir Eric
Batsford, Brian Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan) Burden, F. A.
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Box, Donald Butcher, Sir Herbert
Buxton, R. C. Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Onslow, Cranley
Campbell, Gordon Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Carlisle, Mark Hendry, Forbes Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian
Cary, Sir Robert Higgins, Terence L. Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)
Channon, H. P. G. Hiley, Joseph Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Chataway, Christopher Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Page, R. Graham (Crosby)
Chichester-Clark, R. Hirst, Geoffrey Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John peel, John
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin Percival, Ian
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth. W.) Hooson, H. E. Peyton, John
Cole, Norman Hopkins, Alan Pickthorn, Rt. Hn. Sir Kenneth
Cooke, Robert Hordern, Peter Pike Miss Mervyn
Cooper, A. E. Hornby, Richard Pitt, Dame Edith
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame P. Pounder, Rafton
Cordle, John Howard, Hn. G. R. (St. Ives) Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Corfield, F. V. Howe, Geoffrey (Bebington) Price David (Eastleigh)
Costain, A. P. Hunt, John (Bromley) Prior J. M. L.
Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Hutchison, Michael Clark Pym, Francis
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Iremonger, T. L. Quennell, Miss J. M.
Crawley, Aidan Irvine, Bryant, Godman (Rye) Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Crowder, F. P. Jennings, J. C. Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Sir Martin
Cunningham, Sir Knox Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Curran, Charles Jones-Arthur (Northants, S.) Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Currie, G. B. H. Jones Rt. Hn. Aubrey Hall Green) Ridley Hn. Nicholas
Dalkeith, Earl of Jopling, Michael Ridsdale, Julian
Dance, James Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Davies, Dr. Wyndham (Perry Barr) Kerby, Capt. Henry Robson Brown, Sir William
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Kerr, Sir Hamilton (Cambridge) Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Dean, Paul Kershaw, Anthony Roots, william
Deedes, Ht. Hn. W. F. Kilfedder, James A. Royle Anthony
Digby, Simon Wingfleld Kimball, Marcus Russell, Sir Ronald
Dodds-Parker, Douglas King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) St. John-Stevas, Norman
Doughty, Charles Kitson, Timothy Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.
Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Lagden, Godfrey Scott-Hopkins, James
Drayson, G. B. Lambton, Viscount Sharpies, Richard
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Lancaster, Col. C. G. Shepherd, William
Eden, Sir John Langford-Holt, Sir John Sinclair, Sir George
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick,
Elliott, R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Smith, G. J. (East Grinstead)
Emery, Peter Litchfield, Capt. john. Smyth, Rt. Hn. Brig. Sir John
Errington, Sir Eric Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) Soames, Rt. Hn. Christopher
Farr, John Lloyd lan (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Spearman, Sir Alexander
Fell, Anthony Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral) Speir, Sir Rupert
Fisher, Nigel Longbottom, Charles Stainton, Keith
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles (Darwen) Longden, Gilbert Stanley, Hn. Richard
Fletcher-Cooke, Sir John (S'pton) Loveys, Walter H. Stodart, J. A.
Forrest, George Lubbock, Eric Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Foster, Sir John Lucas, Sir Jocelyn Studholme, Sir Henry
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Summers, Sir Spencer
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) McAdden, Sir Stephen Talbot, John E.
Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D. Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty, Taylor Sir charles (Eastbourne)
Gammans, Lady Mackie-George Y. (C'ness & S'land) Taylor Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Gardner, Edward Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Taylor Frank (Moss Side)
Gibson-Watt, David Macleod, Rt. Hn. Ian Teeling, Sir William
Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan McMaster, Stanley Temple, John M.
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central) McNair-Wilson, Patrick Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Magginis, John E. Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)
Glover, Sir Douglas Maitland, Sir John Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Conway)
Glyn, Sir Richard Marlowe, Anthony Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Marples. Rt. Hn. Ernest Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter
Goodhew, Victor Marten, Neil Thorpe, Jeremy
Gower, Raymond Mathew, Robert Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
Grant, Anthony Maude, Angus Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Grant-Ferris, R. Mawby, Ray Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Gresham-Cooke, R. Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Tweedsmuir, Lady
Grieve, Percy Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Van Straubenzee, W. R.
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Meyer, Sir Anthony Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick) Mills Peter (Torrington) Vickers, Dame Joan
Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Walder, David (High Peak)
Gurden, Harold Miscampbell, Norman Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Hall, John (Wycombe) Mitchell, David Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Monro, Hector Wall, Patrick
Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh) More, Jasper Walters, Dennis
Hamilton, M. (Salisbury) Morgan, W. G. Ward, Dame Irene
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.) Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Weatherill, Bernard
Harris, Reader (Heston) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Webster, David
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Murton, Oscar Wells, John (Maidstone)
Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Maccles'd) Neave, Airey Whitelaw, William
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Nicholls, Sir Harmar Williams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)
Harvie Anderson, Miss Nicholson, Sir Godfrey Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Hastings, Stephen Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Hawkins, Paul Nugent, Rt. Hn. Sir Richard Wise, A. R.
Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick Wylle, N. R.
Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard Yates, Wiliam (The Wrekin) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher Younger, Hn. George Mr. McLaren and Mr. MacArthur.

Main Question again proposed.

The Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household (Mr. Charles Grey)

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Committee Tomorrow.

Mr. Reginald Freeson (Willesden, East)

On a point of order. Is it in order to make the kind of remark which was made just after the announcement of the Division figures, Mr. Speaker? The remark was, "Five nigger boys would have got us a Labour defeat".

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I am asked to rule on a point of order. It reveals to me no impropriety whatsoever that I can rule upon. I cannot tell whether it referred to any persons here, or to somebody else.

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