HC Deb 05 May 1965 vol 711 cc1345-7
31. Mr. Goodhew

asked the Minister of Aviation what further steps he is taking to ensure that highly skilled workers made redundant by Government cancellations of orders for military aircraft are not lost to industries abroad.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

There is a very strong demand from other industries for most of the skills involved. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour is taking special steps to put redundant workers in touch with this demand.

Mr. Goodhew

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that statements such as he made earlier this afternoon in reference to people who had been building aircraft like the TSR2 as doing jobs which are not jobs are not likely to give them encouragement as to their future in this country? The Minister must try harder to make it clear that we want people who can build good aircraft.

Mr. Jenkins

We want people who can build good aircraft, but we cannot solve the problem unless we have projects well thought out by the Government, and well carried out by firms which provide aircraft for the country at the time when it needs them, and at a price which it can afford.

Mr. Maude

Can the Minister tell us what indications he has at the moment that the most vital skilled workers in the aircraft industry are showing any desire whatever to go into the production and design of anything except aircraft? This is the real problem.

Mr. Jenkins

I do not for a moment think that the great majority of the skilled workers would wish to say that they should use their skills only in a particular direction. Although we necessarily know more about the Hawker Siddeley redundancies, the indications are that redeployment has gone well in the past.

Mr. Soames

The right hon. Gentleman will remember that following the cancellation of these three projects we asked him whether, in collaboration with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, he would pay special attention to following through the careers of these men who were made redundant by virtue of the cancellations. Has the Minister set this operation in motion?

Mr. Jenkins

This is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour who, as I indicated in my original Answer, has taken special steps to deal with redundancies occurring in the factories. Where redundancies occur, I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend will see whether he can report to the House on what has happened to the men, but in the case of the TSR2 it is clearly too early to be able to make a statement.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

I agree with my right hon. Friend that a number of these teams would be willing to work on advanced projects other than aircraft. Will he consider placing contracts for civil research work which will enable certain of these teams to keep together?

Mr. Jenkins

The Government are giving careful consideration to that, but this is a matter primarily for the Minister of Technology.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

With regard to workers lost to industry abroad, in answer to a previous Question the right hon. Gentleman said that his examination of the situation showed that the report of 500 men having gone to South Africa was an exaggeration. From his examination, is he able to say what is a truer figure, so that we can know the actual facts?

Mr. Jenkins

The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. I did not say that my examination showed this to be an exaggeration. I said that I had noticed that this figure had been issued by South Africa House, and I added that I would be surprised if, in the event, nearly as many people moved to South Africa and took up jobs there.