HC Deb 05 May 1965 vol 711 cc1339-41
22. Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

asked the Minister of Aviation whether he will call for a special report from the Plowden Committee on the effects of the recent cancellation of the aircraft P1154, HS681 and TSR2 upon the aircraft industry.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

No, Sir.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that one of the repercussions of these cancellations is that some 500 skilled British workers from the aircraft industry have applied for jobs in South Africa, that country having been forced to create its own aircraft and missile industry as a result of the Labour Government's refusal to export there? Is it not a strange paradox that the Labour Government, while depriving them of jobs in this country, should have indirectly provided them with jobs in South Africa?

Mr. Jenkins

I should have thought that that supplementary would have arisen a good deal more relevantly on a later Question, but as it has now been asked I will answer it now. I should not have thought, in any event, this to be an appropriate subject on which to ask the views of the Plowden Committee in an interim report. I have seen reports from South Africa House. I shall be surprised if as many—nearly as many—as that in fact move and take up those jobs. I shall await with interest what happens. In any event, I hope they will not go. There is plenty of demand for skilled labour in useful jobs in this country where we are very short of skilled labour. There is one thing we can afford even less, and that is to employ skilled labour on jobs that are not real jobs and on projects we cannot afford within our national resources.

Mr. Rankin

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, as a member of a trade union closely associated with aircraft workers, I can say that we have no authentic confirmation of the statement that 500 aircraft workers have been offered jobs in South Africa?

Mr. Jenkins

As I have said, I shall await confirmation of this with interest.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

On the contrary, does it not make it more important to ask for an interim report from the Plowden Committee since the right hon. Gentleman said definitely that one of his reasons for scrapping these British aircraft was to move skilled men to what he called more woth-while projects? Since his plans have gone so sadly wrong in this, does he not think it should be reported on by the Committee?

Mr. Jenkins

No. I do not think it is an appropriate subject for the Committee. If the Plowden Committee wishes to give me an interim report on any subject I shall, of course, be glad to receive it, but I do not believe for a moment that the great majority of skilled men released will go abroad, to South Africa or any other place. However, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not wish me to prevent from going anyone who wishes to do so.

Mr. Maude

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are now clear indications—and this should not have been a surprise to him—that skilled workers in the aircraft industry do want, from motives of pride and skill, to work in an aircraft industry, and to see flying the aeroplanes which they helped to produce? Does not he recognise that unless he gets an inquiry made quickly into this we shall lose abroad skilled people, in particular designers, whom we may not be able to get back?

Mr. Jenkins

I am anxious to keep these people in this country, but experience of previous redundancies, quite contrary to what the hon. Gentleman said, is that skills, including design skills, used in the aircraft industry have proved in greater demand and more easily redeployable in other industries than we expected.