HC Deb 17 March 1965 vol 708 cc1254-6
12. Mr. Pounder

asked the Minister of Aviation what proposals he has for maintaining employment at the present level in the Belfast aircraft factory after 1970.

13. Captain Orr

asked the Minister of Aviation whether he will make a further statement about the employment position at Short Brothers and Harland, Belfast, in view of recent Government decisions about procurement of aircraft.

14. Mr. Chichester-Clark

asked the Minister of Aviation how many are now employed at Short Brothers and Harland, Belfast; and what he estimates will be the position in 1970 following recent decisions by Her Majesty's Government regarding Service aircraft requirements.

63. Mr. Kilfedder

asked the Minister of Aviation what estimate he has made of the level of employment at Short Brothers and Harland, Belfast, if no new orders are placed; and when he anticipates placing fresh orders with the company.

Mr. Stonehouse

The total number employed by Short Brothers and Harland, in Northern Ireland at the end of January, 1965, was 7,630. We are urgently considering whether any extra aircraft work can be fed into the company in the immediate future. I would prefer not to comment on the position in or beyond 1970 until the industrial consultants, to be appointed by the First Secretary of State, have reported on the use of Short's facilities in engineering fields.

Mr. Pounder

In view of the fact that employment in Short's after 1970 is likely to depend to a considerable extent on the consultants' report, can the hon. Gentleman tell us who the consultants will be, or, alternatively, have the invitations been sent out and, if not, why not?

Mr. Stonehouse

We cannot yet announce who the consultants will be, but we are certainly considering what can be done in the short term to keep this firm employed.

Captain Orr

Would the hon. Gentleman speed the appointment of the consultants and ask them to report as soon as possible, because until something is done about the long-term future the present anxiety about employment will remain?

Mr. Stonehouse

I am well aware of the anxiety about employment, and I tried to put some of those fears at rest when I was in Belfast three weeks ago.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I realise that it will be some time before the consultants come up with anything new or decisive, but does the hon. Gentleman realise that the anxiety is to keep the present level of employment and that this can be done only by the provision of further aircraft work? Can the hon. Gentleman say anything about the prospects over the Phantom or how soon that might come along?

Mr. Stonehouse

I would rather not comment on a particular proposal, but I can give the assurance that we are considering what aircraft work can be fed in in the short term.