HC Deb 18 February 1965 vol 706 cc1341-2
6. Mrs. Shirley Williams

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what steps have been taken to find alternative work for research and development teams and for operatives in the aircraft and aerospace industries.

Mr. Albu

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation described to the House on 9th February the new military and civil projects inside the aircraft industry which are at present under study. We hope, of course, that changes in the aircraft programme will also enable some operatives and design staff to leave aircraft work for employment in civilian industry generally, where they are badly needed. Departments are making an urgent survey of any special problems there may be in particular localities and for particular classes of skills, where the employment position is not as strong as it is nationally.

Mrs. Williams

Is my hon. Friend aware how favourably this contrasts with the behaviour of the last Government in 1960 and in 1962 at a time when there was redundancy in the industry? Will the Department consider the placing of civil research and development contracts in some of the factories concerned?

Mr. Albu

All these matters are being urgently looked into, but I must point out that there is a great shortage of labour in many branches of the engineering industry. One of the objects of making these cancellations was to get a transfer of resources into industries where they would make some money.

Mr. Edelman

When my hon. Friend talks about special problems, will he say in particular what he intends to do about the great aircraft works at Baginton, near Coventry, where 5,000 men are likely to be made redundant in an area with only 2,000 vacancies within daily travelling distance?

Mr. Albu

I cannot at present make any comment on individual factories or regions. I should very much like my hon. Friend to have a word with me in about six months' time if there has been no change in the situation by then.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Is the Minister aware that many of the highly-trained scientists who have been employed in the aircraft industry will not be content to go into lesser paid jobs and that unless he does something to satisfy these men, we may lose them from the country?

Mr. Albu

As to the highly-trained scientists and engineers, I admit that there may be a special problem and I am taking a particular interest in this. I believe that it would not be difficult to give these people some sort of retraining or re-education and make them valuable in other branches of industry.