HC Deb 17 March 1965 vol 708 cc1264-5
24. Sir A. V. Harvey

asked the Minister of Aviation what assistance has been given by his Department to the British Aircraft Corporation in its negotiations with Middle East Airlines for the supply of VC10 aircraft.

41. Mr. Raphael Tuck

asked the Minister of Aviation what steps he is taking to assist the export sales of civil aircraft.

Mr. Stonehouse

I have recently discussed export promotion with the Export Council of the Society of British Aerospace Companies and, I am glad to say, our proposals for assisting exports were generally welcomed. Financial assistance is being given to projects which have a promising export potential. We are particularly in close touch with companies about export prospects including the VC10 for the Middle East Airlines. In this connection we have agreed to consider proposals the British Aircraft Corporation may care to submit for our assistance in disposing of aircraft which M.E.A. may have surplus if they purchase the VC10.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his Answer is good only as far as it goes? Is he further aware that a Middle East Airlines representative in London last month stated that the contract was in grave doubt because of the controversy over British military types and the possibility of not getting spares for this aircraft in years to come? Will he do what he can to remedy the situation and to assure these airlines that British spares will be available and that the Government intend to maintain the British aircraft industry?

Mr. Stonehouse

I am not only prepared to give that assurance here; I gave it directly to Sheikh Najeeb when I saw him here a few weeks ago. We are satisfied that the British aircraft industry will be in a position to provide these spares in years to come.

Mr. Tuck

Do the Government propose to give continuing support?

Mr. Stonehouse

Yes. We are satisfied that there is a great future for the export of civil aircraft from the United Kingdom, and we want to give this industry full support in its export drive.

Mr. Onslow

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the most encouraging steps that could be taken would be for B.O.A.C. to take up some of the suspended VC10 orders, thus showing what a splendid aircraft it is proving to be?

Mr. Stonehouse

As the House should know, B.O.A.C. is delighted by the VC10's performance. I hope that this will be an example to all airlines which are now considering buying the VC10.

Mr. Rankin

Although we are anxious to help these airlines and to supply them with aircraft, is my hon. Friend satisfied that Middle East Airlines are in a financial state which enables them to meet the payments, which formerly they could not?

Mr. Stonehouse

I do not believe that there is any financial or technical obstacle to the supply of VC10's to this airline.

Mr. Marten

Would it not help the prospects of exporting British aircraft if the Government said firmly that they would go ahead with the TSR2?

Mr. Stonehouse

That is a consideration that will be borne in mind when the decision has to be made.